Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Brain Salad Surgery

ON THIS DATE (39 YEARS AGO)November 19, 1973 – Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Brain Salad Surgery is released.
# Allmusic 4.5/5
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)

Brain Salad Surgery is the fourth studio album by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, released on this date in November 1973 and the first under their Manticore Records imprint. It reached #11 on the Billboard 200 Top LP’s chart.

LINER NOTES from the DVD-A of Brain Salad Surgery
written by Jerry McCulley

“Rock critics and rock musicians think of Emerson, Lake & Palmer as pompous and pretentious,” a gleeful Carl Palmer, drummer extraordinaire, explains. “Which we are! We’re not a straightforward rock band – we are a saber-rattling band!” So much for regrets.

If you’re looking for safe, critic-approved, politically correct pop music enlightenment, boy did you get the wrong catalog number. (1971-77) Emerson, Lake & Palmer – ELP to you – were perennial contenders for Most Critically Reviled Rock Band on the Planet. But in 1973 and ’74, only The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Led Zeppelin were bigger concert draws – and none of them were playing Copland, Mussorgsky, Ginastera, or Brubeck. Or anything remotely resembling ELP’s own complex, manic – and yes – bombastic, largely Hammond- and Moog-driven compositions, for that matter.

The fourth studio album by the union of keyboard prodigy/The Nice alumnus/world-class showman Keith Emerson, seraphim-voiced King Crimson refugee Greg Lake, and Crazy World of Arthur Brown/Atomic Rooster survivor Carl Palmer, the Buddy Rich of Birmingham (UK), Brain Salad Surgery is arguably the band’s finest album, and one of the much misunderstood prog rock era’s defining works. The title came courtesy of flamboyant former Atlantic Records promo man cum ELP road manager/Manticore Records president Mario Medious (a black martial arts enthusiast whose Manticore memo pads were inscribed “HNIC” – “Head Nigger in Charge”!) Medious had nicked the title from a slang lyric in Dr. John’s 1973 hit “Right Place Wrong Time” to replace the album’s quaint working moniker, Whip Some Skull On Yer (if further explanation is required, check your Webster’s under “fellatio”).

Building on the momentum of their eponymous debut in the UK (September 1970), Tarkus (June 1971), Pictures at an Exhibition (November, 1971, originally UK only), Trilogy (August 1972), and the band’s seemingly relentless cycle of rehearsal and touring, BSS represents the most crystalline example of ELP’s tensile amalgam of jazz, classical, folk, and rock influences and, notes Greg Lake frankly, perhaps the band’s most satisfying period of collaboration. “The days in which Brain Salad Surgery was made were what I would term ‘the healthy days’ of ELP. As opposed to when everything became fragmented, compartmentalized, and ego-driven.”

“A lot of the good stuff on Brain Salad Surgery happened at a point when our creativity was at its very best,” concurs Carl Palmer. “We’ve never really topped that era.”

Though barely two years old, ELP was already filling arenas in America and stadiums in the UK and Europe. By the end of 1972, the band’s success had enabled Emerson, Lake & Palmer to negotiate their own label imprint, Manticore Records, and turn an abandoned Odeon cinema in Fulham, London, into a multilevel rehearsal and production facility, Manticore Studios. “After Trilogy we toured extensively,” notes Lake, “and I think we undertook a search for ideas. Rather than the way that the first albums had been made, which was very much a question of each person sitting in their own room thinking of ideas in solitude, I think Brain Salad Surgery represented creating an album out of a collective inspiration. That was the motivation behind buying this cinema to rehearse in, to try and do something with more of a live, rather than preconceived, feel.”

But, admits Keith Emerson, there were practical concerns as well: “We’d been looking for ages for someplace to rehearse. We were playing in little church halls and had the local neighbors complaining that it was too loud. One guy even complained that when he sat in the bath, we were causing the water to produce waves.” He sent ’round a local copper and a petition and that was it, we were out of that place. It got impossible; we played in the back of a restaurant where mice were running around chewing the cables.”

The converted theatre quickly became the focal point of ELP’s writing and rehearsing of the new material, as well as preparing its ever expanding stage show. “I recall that [BSS] was rehearsed upstairs in the foyer, as it were,” Carl Palmer remembers. “The downstairs area was used for bands [Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull among them] to go through production rehearsals; we rented that part of it out. We stored our own equipment downstairs, and then we had our workshop and rehearsal facilities upstairs. In the back of the balcony area, where the concession stand would be, is where we rehearsed.”

Peter Sinfield, a compatriot of Greg Lake from his King Crimson days, was soon brought under Manticore’s wing to both complete the solo album he’d started and add his unique articulation to the lyrics for the new album. By early 1973, ELP had worked up the complex arrangements of “Karn Evil 9:1st Impression” and “Toccata” sufficiently enough to try them out before live audiences on the five-week European tour they were preparing to embark on at the end of March. Most of the album was recorded at Advision studios in August and September, produced by Greg Lake, with Geoff Young and Chris Kimsey handling the engineering. “Nothing came quickly,” recalls Lake of the album’s intensive rehearsals and sessions. “It really was laborious, most of it. It was very much like building a house one brick at a time. And sometimes you’d put up a wall and take the whole bloody thing down again. It was a laborious and complicated process. And it was complicated because we were searching, that’s the truth of it.”

But, recalls Greg Lake with amusement, the band weren’t the only ones doing the searching. “I remember being in that converted cinema one night when the customs and excise people came rushing in and proceeded to tell us that we were under arrest – for drug smuggling! We thought it was one of those strip-o-gram, practical joke kind of things. They said, ‘We know there’s been drugs smuggled in your equipment,’ and we told them, ‘You must be out of your minds, we don’t even do drugs.’ We lied a bit! They said, ‘We’ve got two of your people locked up in prison, and we’re here to search the equipment.’ We told them to search all they wanted. The bottom line was that a couple of guys who organized the transportation of our gear had actually been drug smugglers! They had built secret compartments into our road boxes and were smuggling cocaine. And there we were in this bloody theatre with all these customs police around us. Frightening!”

No charges were brought against the band, and the incident still remains something of a troubling mystery in Lake’s mind: “The authorities never told us the exact outcome of their investigation. I believe one roadie ended up in prison, and the other essentially vanished I’d heard the police believed he’d had plastic surgery and fled to South America. We never really got the whole story.”

Brain Salad Surgery opens with ELP’s take on “Jerusalem,” “which is basically a hymn that everybody sang in school and is played at the end of every Royal Albert Hall Promenade concert in England,” notes Keith Emerson. With suitably Anglo-centric, Christian-mythic lyrics by poet William Blake, it had long since become a revered British anthem second only to “God Save The King.” ELP’s arrangement was both stately and restrained, but such was the institutional reverence for the hoary hymn that “Jerusualem” was nonetheless rejected as a single release – largely, the band claims, due to conservative and hypersensitive grumblings from the BBC.

“I actually first attempted to do a version of ‘Jerusalem’ with The Nice”, recalls Emerson, “but the rhythmic element never came together satisfactorily. Both Greg and I wee very fond of the song.” Or at least most of it, opines Greg Lake: “The lyrics are very bland except for one line, ‘Bring me my bow of burning gold/Bring me my arrows of desire.’ The rest of the song was all waffle. But when it came to that line, it was a moment that you had to sing the song for.”

Notably, the track features the debut of the prototype Moog Apollo, the first-ever polyphonic synthesizer. “I don’t like putting myself across as ‘Yeah, I was the first to do this!'” Keith Emerson insists. “I was just pleased to have a close working relationship with [synthesizer pioneer] Bob Moog, who recognized me as the first musician brave enough to take his beasts on the road.”

“Toccata,” Keith Emerson’s ferocious adaptation of the fourth movement of modern Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera’s 1st Piano Concerto, 4th Movement (with a “percussion movement” credited to Carl Palmer) represents on of the band’s finest efforts at classical/rock synthesis. “I originally head the Ginastera piece when I was with my former band, The Nice,” Emerson recalls. ” We were playing in Los Angeles, doing one of these television spectaculars with a big orchestra, and while I was down in the dressing room, I heard these incredible sounds.”

“I ran upstairs and a pianist was hammering away at the piano; I grabbed him afterwards and said, “what the hell was that you were playing?! It turned out to be the Ginastera piano concerto. When I heard Ginastera, I understood where some of Leonard Bernstein’s music had come from, it evoked all of West Side Story.

“When I got back to England, I bought the music and went through it. It was a part of my music appreciation; I guess it’s provided inspiration for other works I’ve written.” Indeed, Emerson had enthused about the concerto and his hopes to record it in interviews as early as 1971. “But I didn’t really think seriously about playing it with the band until Carl said that he wanted to have a drum solo which would be a little different than just putting it on to the end of another number. I rang him on the phone and played it for him, and he said, ‘That’s amazing!’ We had a group rehearsal and I played it for both of them on the organ, and that was the start of it.”

“We’d pushed it to the limit,” Keith says of the band’s adventurous musical stance in early 1973, “and I thought the fourth [studio] album was the time to try and approach this piece of music. It was very testing for all of us. Greg didn’t read music, and Carl read it to a certain extent, but he wasn’t able to apply piano music to paying drums. So it was really like going through the whole thing bar by bar. It was music by mathematics for them. Carl learned it really by counting, and if you watch any videos of ELP playing ‘Toccata’, you’ll see his lips move as he’s counting: ‘1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8!'” Though “Toccata” had received onstage workout on the European tour, it didn’t receive Carl Palmer’s crowning flourish until being recorded at Advision in September.

“‘Toccata’ was the first recording where we used electronic drums,” Carl Palmer recalls. “Drum synthesizers didn’t exist then, so we hired a guy named Nick Rose from the University of Electronics in London. He came up with an idea that would enable me to trigger electronic sounds from a normal drum by placing another microphone inside the drum, apart from the mike which picked up the acoustic signal. In doing that it would trigger a small synthesizer the size of a cigar box. There were eight little ‘cigar box’ synthesizers which were preprogrammed; you couldn’t really change the sound of them, except with an octave divider switch which I had on the floor. I could punch it in to change the sound.

“In the middle of ‘Toccata’ there’s a section with all these ‘atmospheric’ sounds. Everybody would automatically think it was the keyboard, and even to this day a lot of people aren’t aware it was drums. But it was totally unreliable, you couldn’t really move it from one end of the room to the other without it going wrong, so it was really hell to tour with.”

Greg Lake recalls “Toccata” as a good example of the dilemma he often faced in his dual role as both band member and ELP’s producer: “It was a piece of music conceived to be performed by an orchestra. When you reduce it down to three people, you’ve got a problem. You can imagine: you’ve got a percussive element, a melodic element, and a harmonic element. Who carries what to the best advantage? That’s the real issue. I know from producing all the early ELP records that that is the essence of any interpretation by a small number of people of a piece written for a larger number of people. Then comes the question of overdubs: you can track and track until you’ve got a hundred-piece orchestra, but then you come to the question: ‘How do we do it live?’ So you think, if we’re going to make this record, maybe we’d better make it so that we can record it live. You come down to trying to work out an arrangement in which three people can perform a symphony, or a classical piece of music, live. That’s the arrangement you end up with.”

But “Toccata” was fraught with more than mere musical complexity. “It suddenly came to our consideration,” says Emerson, “do we have the rights to put this music on our new album? I called up Ginastera’s publishers, and their initial reaction was ‘Sorry, Ginastera will not allow any adaptation of his music. If you care to call him, here’s his number.’ I phoned him in Geneva and his wife, Aurora, said, ‘You must come to Geneva – tomorrow,’ so I rang up my manager and said, ‘We’re off to Geneva tomorrow!’ We flew to Geneva, then drove up to his apartment block. The maid let us in, and we walked through a lavish hall setting and into the living room. There, standing at attention and dressed in a suit, almost like a bank manager, was Alberto Ginastera, ready to receive us. I was very nervous meeting the guy. Here’s an international composer, very well respected and her is, in his eye, a rock ‘n’ roll band playing his music.

“We desperately needed to get ‘Toccata’ on Brain Salad Surgery If we didn’t the release date would have had to have been pushed back, and we’d have had to come up with another idea. It really all hung on the permission of Ginastera and his publishers.

“I discussed with him what I’d done, then held my breath and let him listen to it. He played it on a tape recorder, and after the first five or six bars, he switched the tape recorder off and looked across at his wife in sort of disbelief and said, ‘Diabolic!’ I thought he meant it was diabolical – that it was bad! Because he’d been playing the tape recorder in mono, and we had a stereo tape, I jumped up and switched the deck to stereo. But he wasn’t concentrating on that, he was completely bewildered by the music. He wound it back to the beginning and played it again. At the end, he said, “That’s incredible! You’ve captured the essence of my music, and nobody’s ever done that before.’ I didn’t know what to say; I could’ve fallen through the floor. At that moment nothing else mattered to me. The other criticisms of the band meant absolutely nothing.”

But Ginastera’s permission to release “Toccata” wasn’t the only fortuitous element Brain Salad Surgery gleaned from Switzerland that year. Prior to recording the album, ELP had played Zurich in mid-April, and a Swiss business associate of the band eagerly introduced Keith Emerson to a popular local artist, H.R. Giger.

“He was an extraordinary, fascinating person.” Keith Emerson says of meeting the airbrush surrealist and master of the macabre. “But he lived his life on another level. He was obsessed with surgical procedures, skin diseases, unborn fetuses. I went back to the hotel and said to Greg and Carl, ‘You’ve got to come meet this guy, he’s weird!’ They were a little reluctant to do so, as anything apart from music, such as art direction, they wanted to have some control over. Amazingly, they came.”

“As I recall,” a still bemused Carl Palmer recalls, “Giger had an electric chair in the hall and a couple of arms hanging on the wall which were joined together at the elbow with a syringe coming out of it. You have to understand that Giger really wasn’t known then, Alien wasn’t out. He was known in Zurich and the depths of the art world, but he wasn’t a household name outside of Switzerland. He wasn’t very talkative, but he was keen on the group’s music. The meeting was very brief, we were in and out in an hour and a half. And the first thing he produced is what you see on the cover.”

“Giger’s wife was the model for the inside cover,” Keith Emerson says of the woman who committed suicide not long after. “Her lips keep reappearing in his artwork, even after her death.”

“The mid-’70s were full of attempts to shock the public,” Emerson says of the band’s choice of artist. “You’d do it on the stage, in artwork, and do it in your music; try to push the limits. We chose this artwork because it pushed album cover art to its extreme.” But the band soon found they’d gotten more extremity than they’d bargained for; Giger’s original ghostly woman cover image featured one of the artist’s recurring motifs situated just beneath her chin – an erect penis.

“We presented the whole ‘Full Monty’ to our record company in England,” a chuckling Keith Emerson recalls, “and they came back and said we can’t print that because its pornographic. We had to get back to Giger and say, ‘Thank you for agreeing to supply us the art work, but we’re going to have to get rid of that penis!’ The conversation was quite funny” ‘I’m not going to get rid of the penis! The penis is part of the picture!’ He finally relented and we had a very adept artist turn the penis into a shaft of glowing light!”

On ELP’s tour that spring, Greg Lake had been trying out a pair of new acoustic ballads, “You Can Sing My Song” and “Still … You Turn Me On.” The latter was recorded at Advision in September, becoming the latest example of ELP’s successful formula for relieving the otherwise manic dynamics of its albums (“Lucky Man” on their debut, “From The Beginning” on Trilogy). Lake says almost dismissively, “It used to be a thing where as a balance to the record I would write an acoustic song.” Ironically, Lake’s ballads, the least typical aspect of ELP’s music, often garnered the band their greatest airplay and widest public exposure.

“We’ve had success through Greg’s ballads,” notes Carl Palmer. “Without those we probably wouldn’t have sold the amount of records that we have. The problem was when we had something which was a commercial hit, it wasn’t dark. We had love songs that were hits, so it was a rather diverse situation; people were always waiting for the next ‘C’est La Vie’, ‘Lucky Man’ “Still … Your Turn Me On,” or “From the Beginning.'”

“Still … You Turn Me On” was an obvious single choice, but the band nixed its release, both because Palmer didn’t play on the track and because the band felt it didn’t fairly represent the album or the band’s general direction. Manticore nonetheless pressed up single copies of “Still…” for radio stations to distribute free of charge to fans.

“Benny The Bouncer” a good-natured honky-tonker also featuring the new Moog Apollo, represented yet another aspect of ELP’s album formula. “You know what happens,” says Lake, “you make your first album, and you look at the tracks from your first album that were a success, and you say maybe we should adhere to a formula that was successful. There’s no disgrace in repeating the formula, providing the quality and artistry of it are sound. ‘Benny The Bouncer’ was done in the tradition of [Trilogy’s] ‘The Sheriff’ or ‘Are You Ready Eddy!’ [from Tarkus] – an amusement.”

“‘Benny the Bouncer’ is like a vaudeville song,” notes lyricist Peter Sinfield. “Those kinds of songs were almost an apology for the rest of the bombast, the huge we-will-play-bigger-and-faster-and-better-than-everyone-else sentiment. That, with Greg’s folk songs, somehow balanced it out.”

“Pete was always in the background ever since the demise of King Crimson,” Keith Emerson says of Sinfield’s relationship with ELP. “He’d actually started off doing the lights for King Crimson and gradually got drawn in to contribute to the lyrics. He was always part of Greg’s past.”

“Actually, I started off as Ian McDonald’s songwriter partner,” corrects Peter Sinfield. “After he joined Giles, Giles & Fripp with Greg Lake (to form King Crimson), I hang around during rehearsals writing words – before, after, and along with all the music. In between I did the sound, built the lights, fetched, carried, and did a spot of coproduction; anything to be part of that extraordinary ensemble. Greg was there and we did the fairly infamous first album The Court Of The Crimson King. It’s very peculiar going from lyric-writing-roadie to jack-of-all-trades co-owner of a band, which is what I did!”

“I was halfway through making a solo album when I got a call from Gregory, who flattered and seduced me,” Sinfield remembers, “So I said I’d finish my solo album with him.” But there was a catch: “Greg said, ‘You have to help me with this thing I’ve started”, which in the end turned out to be “Karn Evil 9.”

“‘Karn Evil 9’ was a logical extension of ‘Tarkus’, the first ELP ‘epic,'” Keith Emerson says of the three-part suite that comprises nearly two-thirds of the album. “But whereas ‘Tarkus’ was my dabbling in fourths and fifths, ‘Karn Evil 9′ dealt with counterpoint, which has always been a fascinating vehicle for me to try and write in. The beginning of “Karn Evil 9’ is counterpoint – but then I gave up!

“The moment I got together with Greg and Carl, they said, ‘That’s very clever – now let’s get on with the song!’ So you’d be promptly shoved forward. I’d go into the studio and kind of take my lead from Duke Ellington, another one of my heroes, he’d get into the studio and dish out the parts, and if a certain musician is coming through with a certain idea, he’d change right away – ‘you play that, that’s good!’ Even though I went into the rehearsals with a set idea, if something happened in the studio I’d say, ‘Great! Let’s use that.”

Not surprisingly, the three-part musical centerpiece of Brain Salad Surgery was also the subject of the album’s initial recording sessions (“1st Impression” at Olympic Studios, London, in June; “2nd Impression” and “3rd Impression” at Advision in August). But, notes Keith Emerson, the thematic concerns of “Karn Evil 9” had undergone nearly as much evolution as its music: “The actual title was probably Pete Sinfield’s. I had this idea about a planet that I wanted to call ‘Ganton 9.’ And Pete said you can’t call it that, ’cause there’s a Ganton Street in Soho, just down the road! Pete listened to the music I’d written and said it sounds like a carnival – it’s all happy! So we went carnival, hmm, Karn Evil. Bang! That’s it – end of story!”

Emerson’s initial concept concerned a planet to which all manner of evil and decadence had been banished. “Yes”, chuckles Sinfield when reminded of Keith’s original notion. “it’s called ‘Earth!'” Sinfield, who has since teamed with Andy Hill to become a successful – if unlikely – writer of pop songs and ballads for the like of Cher (“Heart of Stone”), Diana Ross, and Celine Dion (Think Twice”, a #1 hit in eight countries), claims an unlikely source of inspiration for the lyrics to “Karn Evil 9” – musical satirist/Harvard professor Tom Lehrer. “Lehrer is a big hero of mine, and I can hear little bits of Lehrer and pieces of Vonnegut and other things that I’ve absorbed along the way. The best bit in it is “Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends…’ which ELP of course used for years.”

And if one doubts the prophetic power of Lake’s and Sinfield’s lyrics, ponder “Where the seeds have withered, silent children shiver in the cold/Now their faces captured in the lenses of the jackals for gold” during the next media foray into Bosnia or the South Bronx. Or consider “Performing on a stool, we’ve a sight to make you drool, seven virgins and a mule” when sampling the exploitative TV wares of Jerry, Jenny, Montel et al.

Carl Palmer remembers that the band’s converted cinema played a crucial role in the development of “1st Impression”: “When we played it, it happened to be a very big-time, explosive arrangement. The reason was ‘Karn Evil9’ was one of the things we rehearsed downstairs on the main stage, because nobody was renting it. We’d been playing it upstairs in the smaller room for about a week or so; out of the blue we decided to take the gear downstairs and try playing this particular piece down there. On the big stage it just took off!”

After the piano and percussion interlude in “2nd Impression”, “Karn Evil 9” took what turned out to be another prophetic turn. “I had this idea of a computer theme which was not there originally,” Sinfield recalls of “3rd Impression.” Keith wrote the rest of the music around that idea, that’s my recollection. He had bits and pieces of music, and that’s where I cam up with this idea of man and what he’d invented and how it ironically takes him over.

Rather like [chess master] Gary Kasparov and the computer – which [unlike the protagonist of “3rd Impression”] Kasparov beat by the way!”

“I spent six years in computers before I became a songwriter,” Sinfield says, explaining part of the inspiration for the final movement of “Karn Evil 9”. “I think they were IBM 360s, massive things like you see in the old ’50s films with the tape going ’round. It had 64K of memory, which is not a lot really. We used to be able to fuck up the program by putting it into a loop so we could continue our poker game I’ve always been fascinated with artificial intelligence versus natural intelligence because one is born of the other, and it goes around in an odd circle.”

Keith Emerson’s brief career in banking also involved computers – and his own rationale for cyber-sabotage. “I used to put nicks in the punch cards, and while they were sorting that out I’d go chat up the typists in the next room. But it was reading Melody Maker on the job that got me fired!”

“The whole premise of ‘Karn Evil 9’ was the influence that computers would have upon civilization,” claims Greg Lake. “Now that sounds extremely passe; everybody’s got a laptop now. But at that time no one had computers. There were lines like ‘Load your program/I am yourself’ that were extremely prophetic, because now of course you do have programs that are yourself, that are customized to you. But at that time computers were used almost exclusively in banks or institutions. The concept of a personal computer was barely dreamt of.”

“It was the start of computer technology, and already we were being accused of using computer technology in our instrumentation to the point that some people actually believed that when we played onstage it wasn’t us!” notes Keith Emerson. “That’s why I programmed the Moog to get into a sequence a the end of ‘Karn Evil 9′. When we did it live I had the moog turn around, face the audience, and blow up [courtesy of pyrotechnic charges] while we left the stage. It was like saying, “This is computer technology and it’s taking over.’ You’ve got to understand that when that was coming out Johnny Rotten was looking at it and saying, “This is something we don’t want to be part of!'”

“ELP was so bloody dark and aggressive,” Greg Lake says with relish. “When the whole punk rock thing came out we used to laugh at them. Because if you’re taking about aggression – real aggression – that’s ELP. This was a truly aggressive band; aggressive to each other, aggressive in the music, aggressive in performance, aggressive in stage production. It makes Johnny Rotten look like a fucking walk in the part!” Emerson expresses unusual fondness for thelate-’70s punks who delighted in savaging his own music, but is still bemused by the type the spiked hair and safety-pin set got for their antics: “Particularly so when we’d all done it ourselves, all the throwing up in airports and that sort of stuff. We were far worse than the Sex Pistols. Far worse!”

By the time Brain Salad Surgery was released in America on November 19, 1973, ELP were already back on the road in America, hauling with them what was then the largest and most elaborate stage, sound, and lighting system to date in rock – all 36 tons of it! Carried in the band’s semi-trailers was the first discrete quadraphonic PA system, driven by a 30-channel board, a massive four-laddered lighting proscenium, and some of the most spectacular musical equipment yet produced.

For some of the larger gigs, Keith Emerson piloted a ‘flying piano’ rig that levitated the instrument, then spun it in 360-degree loops! “It was the decadent ’70’s,” says Carl Palmer of his contribution of the band’s cartage. “I got approached by British Steel, who asked if I wanted some help making drum cylinders, which they did. Because they were steel, they could’ve been an eighth of an inch thick, that would have been plenty. When they turned up they were half an inch thick! It took two people to lift the bass drum. Then we started dealing with reinforced stages to take the weight of it, because none of us ever thought of the transportation problems. It weighed a ton and a half, I think. But that was including the rostrum (which revolved), two large gongs, and a 16-inch diameter church bell.” The steel megaset currently resides in a small building on Ringo Starr’s English estate.

Brain Salad Surgery and its accompanying 1973-74 world tour turned out to be the high-water mark of ELP’s career. Engineers from Wally Heider Recording Studios capture the band’s February 1974 dates at the Anaheim (California) Convention Center for their three-LP Welcome Back, My Friends, To The Show That Never Ends – Ladies and Gentlemen, and the band concluded their American tour by headlining the California Jam before some 200,000 people.

“In terms of personal, emotional intensity I doubt those shows will ever be surpassed,” Greg Lake says proudly. “I’ve been onstage when there were moments when the intensity was 100 percent, and you can’t communicate with an audience any more than that. It’s balls to the wall. That was the majesty and impressiveness of ELP. It was a strange band because it had the capacity to deliver this sort of impact. But it also had the flaws and weaknesses that allowed light to shine through.”

Onstage, EL&P usually overcome the shortcomings of their records — insufficient intensity and lack of worthy material — by working hard and busting their asses to play with incredible tightness (witness Pictures at an Exhibition). In the studio, their vision and grandiose schemes dilute the tightness, resulting in things like Brain Salad Surgery, on which their shortcomings outweigh undeniable moments of brilliance. The result: another sadly uneven album from a group with technical gifts equal to that of any British trio.

Save for an occasional blast like “Lucky Man” or “Take a Pebble,” songs have not been EL&P’s strong suite. When Lake is good as a writer, he’s very good; when he’s off, he has a tendency toward overblown lyrics. Hence, lines like “Do you want to be the lover of another/undercover/ you can even be the man on the moon,” which drag the conceptually sound “Still You Turn Me On” to near-farcical proportions. And variation or no, each EL&P disk has contained a needless nonsensical whimsey like this one’s “Benny The Bouncer” — each a terrible waste of the band’s talent and the listener’s time.

Two shorter, instrumental-based pieces fare better. One, an adaptation of Albert Ginastera’s First Piano Concerto, Fourth Movement, was rearranged by Keith Emerson with an eye toward the piece’s inherent violence. The result so moved Mr. G. that his unsolicited review is printed in the liner notes. Enough said. The other, an adaptation of the old Englishe hymn “Jerusalem,” is pulled off with particular aplomb by Lake, whose interpretative vocals often take him beyond the limits of less impressive lyrics.

The real meat of this platter, though, is the “Karn Evil 9” suite whose three movements compromise roughly a side and a quarter of the disk. Another tour-de-force where EL&P pull out all the sonic stops, this time around the theme’s of a tripart epic battle between man and his surroundings. Emerson’s keyboards whiz and speak, Lake and Carl Palmer hustle to keep perfect, imaginative time. Nonetheless, it’s but a shell of its onstage self — where here they cook, in concert EL&P’s presentation of this number boils over and vaporizes.

This LP only convinces me that EL&P really ought to record all their material in concert, for short of that I fear we’re doomed to more albums like Brain Salad Surgery, — another record that shows this fine band to mixed effect.
~ Gordon Fletcher (January 3, 1974)

Side one
“Jerusalem” – 2:44
“Toccata” – 7:22
“Still…You Turn Me On” (Lake)– 2:53
“Benny the Bouncer” (Emerson, Lake, Peter Sinfield) – 2:21
“Karn Evil 9” (Emerson, Lake, Sinfield) – 29:41
“Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Pt. 1” (Emerson, Lake) – 8:37

Side two
“Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Pt. 2” (Emerson, Lake) – 4:46
“Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression” (Emerson) – 7:07
“Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression” (Emerson, Lake, Sinfield) – 9:13


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Filed under Brain Salad Surgery, Carl Palmer, Emerson Lake Palmer, Greg Lake, Keith Emerson

The Beatles: Beatles For Sale No. 2 [EP]

June 4, 1965 – The Beatles: Beatles For Sale No. 2 [EP] is released in the UK.
# Allmusic 4/5 stars
Beatles for Sale (No 2) is an EP released by The Beatles on 4 June 1965. The EP was only released in mono. Its catalogue number is Parlophone GEP 8938. It was also released in Australia.
Bruce Eder, allmusic
More highlights off the Beatles for Sale LP, another repackaging of existing material, but also highlighting their exquisite Buddy Holly cover “Words of Love,” plus “Baby’s in Black,” which became part of their concert set, and Paul McCartney’s exquisite “I’ll Follow the Sun,” probably his most succinct and beautiful ballad, note for note and second for second.
Songs Lennon/McCartney except noted.
Side A
“I’ll Follow the Sun”
“Baby’s in Black”
Side B
“Words of Love” (Buddy Holly)
“I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party”

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Filed under 1965, george harrison, john lennon, Paul McCartney, ringo starr, The Beatles

Jimmy Ruffin: "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted"

June 3, 1966 – Jimmy Ruffin: “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” b/w “Baby I’ve Got It” (Soul S-35022) 45 single is released in the US.
“What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” is a hit single recorded by Jimmy Ruffin and released on Motown Records’ Soul label in the summer of 1966. It is a ballad, with lead singer Jimmy Ruffin recalling the pain that befalls the brokenhearted, and their struggle to overcome their sadness so that they can find happiness in the future of their lives. In 1996, Robson and Jerome covered the song and topped the UK singles chart with it.
The song was written by William Weatherspoon, Paul Riser, and James Dean, and the recording was produced by Witherspoon and William “Mickey” Stevenson. “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” was Jimmy Ruffin’s only Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and remains one of the most-revived of Motown’s hits.
Composers Witherspoon and Riser and lyricist Dean had originally written “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” with the intention of having The Spinners, then an act on Motown’s V.I.P. label, record the tune. Jimmy Ruffin, older brother of Temptations lead singer David Ruffin, persuaded Dean to let him record the song, as its anguished lyric about a man lost in the misery of heartbreak resonated with the singer.
Ruffin’s lead vocal on the recording is augmented by the instrumentation of Motown’s on-house studio band, The Funk Brothers, and the joint backing vocals of Motown session singers The Originals and The Andantes. “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, and at number six on the Billboard R&B Singles chart.
The song originally featured a spoken introduction by Ruffin, similar in style to many Lou Rawls’s performances of the same time. The spoken verse was removed from the final mix, hence the unusually long instrumental intro on the released version. The spoken verse is present on the alternate mix from the UK 2003 release “Jimmy Ruffin – The Ultimate Motown Collection” and as a new stereo extended mix on the 2005 anthology “The Motown Box”:
A world filled with love is a wonderful sight.
Being in love is one’s heart’s delight.
But that look of love isn’t on my face.
That enchanted feeling has been replaced.

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Filed under 1966, Jimmy Ruffin, motown, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted

Bruce and Terry: “Summer Means Fun”

June 2, 1964 – Bruce and Terry: “Summer Means Fun” b/w “Yeah !” (Columbia 4-43055) 45 single is released in the US.
Bruce & Terry were Bruce Johnston and Terry Melcher. The pair were instrumental in the development of surf rock, recording under a variety of names and created the band The Rip Chords.
They began working together while Johnston was a well-known session musician and Melcher, the son of actress/singer Doris Day and producer of The Byrds recordings, had a minor solo career as Terry Day before becoming the youngest staff record producer in Columbia Records’ history. Together, they began recording as Terry recorded and also helped produce the 1963 album “Surfin’ Round the World”.
Producing a ‘surf-frat’ band called The Rip Chords, whose “Here I Stand” had reached #51 in early 1963, they ended up taking over most of the vocal parts on that band’s hit “Hey Little Cobra” in 1964 (along with Rip Chords band members, Phil Stewart, Rich Rotkin, Arnie Marcus and Ernie Bringas). The song was the first in a series of hit singles (most of which were released under the name Bruce & Terry), reaching #4 on the U.S. pop charts.
Johnston later joined The Beach Boys, while Melcher became a full time producer. On November 19, 2004, Melcher died at his home after a long battle with melanoma. He was 62 years old.
~ William Ruhlmann, allmusic
It is easy in retrospect to listen to a lot of the vocal surf music of the early ’60s and dismiss most of it as inferior copies of the Beach Boys. But such a judgment ignores the extensive cross-fertilization of the scene. Jan & Dean’s records often sounded like the Beach Boys, it’s true, but one reason was that Beach Boy Brian Wilson often co-wrote and performed on them. Similarly, Bruce Johnston and Terry Melcher, who recorded as the Rip Chords in 1963 and as Bruce & Terry in 1964, aped the sound of Beach Boys records, but also not without help; Wilson wrote the first Bruce & Terry chart single, “Custom Machine.” In July 1964, Bruce & Terry earned another chart entry with a song welcoming the season: “Summer Means Fun.” The cheery tune, which borrowed the phrase “the girls are two to one” from Jan & Dean’s “Surf City,” was written by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, who made their own records as the Fantastic Baggies. Johnston and Melcher gave it a typical surf music production, complete with a bouncy beat and high harmonies. It was a sound Wilson’s Beach Boys were starting to leave behind in favor of a more aggressive approach on singles like “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “I Get Around,” which may help explain why it wasn’t a bigger hit. Jan & Dean didn’t mind the lyric steal or the overall similarity to their own records, however; they immediately covered “Summer Means Fun” for their September 1964 LP The Little Old Lady From Pasadena. But the single was Bruce & Terry’s last to chart; the following year, Melcher was spending his time producing rock acts like the Byrds and Paul Revere & the Raiders, and Johnston joined the Beach Boys.

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Filed under 1964, Bruce and Terry, Summer Means Fun, The Beach Boys

Bruce Springsteen: Darkness on the Edge of Town

June 2, 1978 – Bruce Springsteen: Darkness on the Edge of Town is released.
# Allmusic 4.5/5 stars
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Darkness on the Edge of Town is the fourth album by Bruce Springsteen, released on this date in June 1978. The album marked the end of a three year period of forced hiatus from recording brought on by contractual obligations and legal battling with former manager Mike Appel. Although the album did not produce high charting singles it nevertheless remained on the charts for 97 weeks.
Recovering from legal troubles and the stress of the breakthrough success of Born to Run, Springsteen released a somewhat less commercial album, Darkness on the Edge of Town.
In terms of the original LP’s sequencing, Springsteen continued his “four corners” approach from Born to Run, as the songs beginning each side (“Badlands” and “The Promised Land”) were martial rallying cries to overcome circumstances, while the songs ending each side (“Racing in the Street”, “Darkness on the Edge of Town”) were sad dirges of circumstances overcoming all hope. Unlike Born to Run, the songs were recorded by the full band all at once, frequently soon after Springsteen had written them. Steven Van Zandt received a credit for production assistance for helping Springsteen tighten the arrangements from Born to Run’s epic sound.
This collection of songs, each of which Springsteen sang in the first person, was given unity by several recurring themes. The words “darkness” / “dark” appear in six of the tracks, while nine of them feature the “night” / “tonight”. “They” are mentioned in eight songs, with a general suggestion of nameless people who exert a negative influence. “Work” / “worked” / “working” form part of six songs, and so do the words “dream” / “dreams”. Six is also the number of songs in which Bruce and his characters are found “driving” / “racing” / “riding”, or mentioning the names of cars. There are references to “blood”, “born”, “love” / “loved” in four of the tracks. In the song “Racing in the Street,” Springsteen alludes to Martha & the Vandellas’ Dancing in the Street with the lyric “Summer’s here and the time is right for racing in the street,” which is similar to the Rolling Stones similar appropriation of the lyric in the song “Street Fightin’ Man”.
The album failed to generate any substantial hit singles, although “Prove It All Night” made into the Top 40 in the U.S. at #33, and follow-up “Badlands” just missed, peaking at #42.
At the time, Darkness claimed the number one slot on NME album of the year ranking. In 2003, the album was ranked number 151 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The same year, the TV network VH1 named Darkness on the Edge of Town the 68th greatest album of all time.
Occasionally, a record appears that changes fundamentally the way we hear rock & roll, the way it’s recorded, the way it’s played. Such records — Jimi Hendrix’ Are You Experienced, Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, Who’s Next, The Band — force response, both from the musical community and the audience. To me, these are the records justifiably called classics, and I have no doubt that Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town will someday fit as naturally within that list as the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” or Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music.”
One ought to be wary of making such claims, but in this case, they’re justified at every level. In the area of production, Darkness on the Edge of Town is nothing less than a breakthrough. Springsteen — with coproducer Jon Landau, engineer Jimmy Iovine and Charles Plotkin, who helped Iovine mix the LP — is the first artist to fuse the spacious clarity of Los Angeles record making and the raw density of English productions. That’s the major reason why the result is so different from Born to Run’s Phil Spector wall of sound. On the earlier album, for instance, the individual instruments were deliberately obscured to create the sense of one huge instrument. Here, the same power is achieved more naturally. Most obviously, Max Weinberg’s drumming has enormous size, a heartbeat with the same kind of space it occupies onstage (the only other place I’ve heard a bass drum sound this big).
Now that it can be heard, the E Street Band is clearly one of the finest rock & roll groups ever assembled. Weinberg, bassist Garry Tallent and guitarist Steve Van Zandt are a perfect rhythm section, capable of both power and groove. Pianist Roy Bittan is as virtuosic as on Born to Run, and saxophonist Clarence Clemons, though he has fewer solos, evokes more than ever the spirit of King Curtis. But the revelation is organist Danny Federici, who barely appeared on the last L.P. Federici’s style is utterly singular, focusing on wailing, trebly chords that sing (and in the marvelous solo at the end of “Racing in the Street,” truly cry).
Yet the dominant instrumental focus of Darkness on the Edge of Town is Bruce Springsteen’s guitar. Like his songwriting and singing, Springsteen’s guitar playing gains much of its distinctiveness through pastiche. There are echoes of a dozen influences — Duane Eddy, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Roy Buchanan, even Ennio Morricone’s Sergio Leone soundtracks — but the synthesis is completely Springsteen’s own. Sometimes Springsteen quotes a famous solo — Robbie Robertson’s from the live version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” at the end of “Something in the Night,” Jeff Beck’s from “Heart Full of Soul” in the bridge of “Candy’s Room” — and then shatters it into another dimension. In the end the most impressive guitar work of all is just his own: “Adam Raised a Cain” and “Streets of Fire” are things no one’s ever heard before.
Much the same can be said about Springsteen’s singing. Certainly, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan are the inspirations for taking such extreme chances: bending and twisting syllables; making two key lines on “Streets of Fire” a wordless, throttled scream; the wailing and humming that precede and follow some of the record’s most important lyrics. But more than ever, Springsteen’s voice is personal, intimate and revealing, bigger and less elusive. It’s the possibility hinted at on Born to Run’s “Backstreets” and in the postverbal wail at the end of “Jungleland,” In fact, Springsteen picks up that moan at the beginning of “Something in the Night,” on which he turns in the new album’s most adventurous vocal.
One could say a great deal about the construction of this LP. The programming alone is impressive: each side is a discrete progression of similar lyrical and musical themes, and the whole is a more universal version of the same picture. Ideas, characters and phrases jump from song to song like threads in a tapestry, and everything’s one long interrelationship. But all of these elements — the production, the playing, even the programming — are designed to focus our attention on what Springsteen has to tell us about the last three years of his life.
In a way, this album might take as its text two lines from Jackson Browne: “Nothing survives — /But the way we live our lives.” But where Browne is content to know this, Springsteen explores it: Darkness on the Edge of Town is about the kind of life that deserves survival. Despite its title, it is a complete rejection of despair. Bruce Springsteen says this over and over again, more bluntly and clearly than anyone could have imagined. There isn’t a single song on this record in which his yearning for a perfect existence, a live lived to the hilt, doesn’t play a central role.
Springsteen also realizes the terrible price one pays for living at half-speed. In “Racing in the Street,” the album’s most beautiful ballad, Springsteen separates humanity into two classes: “Some guys they just give up living/And start dying little by little, piece by piece/Some guys come home from work and wash up/And go racin’ in the street.” But there’s nothing smug about it, because Springsteen knows that the line separating the living dead from the walking wounded is a fine and bitter one. In the song’s final verse, he describes with genuine love a person of the first sort, someone whose eyes “hate for just being born.” In “Factory,” he depicts the most numbing sort of life with a compassion that’s nearly religious. And in “Adam Raised a Cain,” the son who rejected his father’s world comes to understand their relationship as “the dark heart of a dream” — a dream become nightmarish, but a vision of something better nonetheless.
There are those who will say that “Adam Raised a Cain” is full of hate, but I don’t believe it. The only hate I hear on this LP is embodied in a single song, “Streets of Fire,” where Springsteen describes how it feels to be trapped by lies. And even here, he has the maturity to hate the lie, not the liar.
Throughout the new album, Springsteen’s lyrics are a departure from his early work, almost its opposite, in fact: dense and compact, not scattershot. And if the scenes are the same — the highways, bars, cars and toil — they also represent facets of life that rock & roll has too often ignored or, what’s worse, romanticized. Darkness on the Edge of Town faces everyday life whole, daring to see if something greater can be made of it. This is naive perhaps, but also courageous. Who else but a brave innocent could believe so boldly in a promised land, or write a song that not only quotes Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” but paraphrases the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry Baby”?
Bruce Springsteen has a tendency to inspire messianic regard in his fans — including this one. This isn’t so much because he’s regarded as a savior — though his influence has already been substantial — but because he fulfills the rock tradition in so many ways. Like Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, Springsteen has the ability, and the zeal, to do it all. For many years, rock & roll has been splintered between the West Coast’s monopoly on the genre’s lyrical and pastoral characteristics and a British and Middle American stranglehold on toughness and raw power. Springsteen unites these aspects: he’s the only artist I can think of who’s simultaneously comparable to Jackson Browne and Pete Townshend. Just as the production of this record unifies certain technical trends, Springsteen’s presentation makes rock itself whole again. This is true musically — he rocks as hard as a punk, but with the verbal grace of a singer/songwriter — and especially emotionally. If these songs are about experienced adulthood, they sacrifice none of rock & roll’s adolescent innocence. Springsteen escapes the narrow dogmatism of both Old Wave and New, and the music’s possibilities are once again limitless.
Four years ago, in a Cambridge bar, my friend Jon Landau and I watched Bruce Springsteen give a performance that changed some lives — my own included. About a similar night, Landau later wrote what was to become rock criticism’s most famous sentence: “I saw rock & roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” With its usual cynicism, the world chose to think of this as a fanciful way of calling Springsteen the Next Big Thing.
I’ve never taken it that way. To me, these words, shamefully mistreated as they’ve been, have kept a different shape. What they’ve always said was that someday Bruce Springsteen would make rock & roll that would shake men’s souls and make them question the direction of their lives. That would do, in short, all the marvelous things rock had always promised to do.
But Born to Run was not that music. It sounded instead like the end of an era, the climax of the first twenty years of this grand tradition, the apex of our collective adolescence. Darkness on the Edge of Town does not. It feels like the threshold of a new period in which we’ll again have “lives on the line where dreams are found and lost.” It poses once more the question that rock & roll’s epiphanic moments always raise: Do you believe in magic?
And once again, the answer is yes. Absolutely.
~  Dave Marsh (July 27, 1978)
All songs written by Bruce Springsteen.
Side one
“Badlands” – 4:01
“Adam Raised a Cain” – 4:32
“Something in the Night” – 5:11
“Candy’s Room” – 2:51
“Racing in the Street” – 6:53
Side two
“The Promised Land” – 4:33
“Factory” – 2:17
“Streets of Fire” – 4:09
“Prove It All Night” – 3:56
“Darkness on the Edge of Town” – 4:30
A box set reissue, entitled The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story, was released on November 16, 2010. The six-disc set includes three CDs and three DVDs. This contains a remastered version of the Darkness on the Edge of Town album, a new two-CD album, The Promise containing 21 previously unreleased outtakes from the Darkness sessions, a documentary titled The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town and 2 DVDs of live performances.
CD 1 – “Darkness on the Edge of Town” (Digitally Remastered)
Adam Raised a Cain
Something in the Night
Candy’s Room
Racing in the Street
The Promised Land
Streets of Fire
Prove It All Night
Darkness on the Edge of Town
CD 2 – “The Promise” (Disc 1)
Racing in the Street (’78)
Gotta Get That Feeling
Outside Looking In
Someday (We’ll Be Together)
One Way Street
Because the Night
Wrong Side of the Street
The Brokenhearted
Candy’s Boy
CD 3 – “The Promise” (Disc 2)
Save My Love
Ain’t Good Enough for You
Spanish Eyes
It’s a Shame
Come On (Let’s Go Tonight)
Talk to Me
The Little Things (My Baby Does)
The Promise
City of Night
The Way (hidden track)
DVD 1 – The Promise: The Making of “Darkness on the Edge of Town”
A documentary directed by Grammy- and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Thom Zimny. The ninety-minute film combines never-before-seen footage of Springsteen and the E Street Band shot between 1976 and 1978—including home rehearsals and studio sessions—with new interviews with Springsteen, E Street Band members, manager Jon Landau, former-manager Mike Appel, and others closely involved in the making of the record. An edited version of the documentary was broadcast by the BBC.
DVD 2 – “Darkness on the Edge of Town”: Paramount Theatre, Asbury Park & Thrill Hill Vault: 1976–1978
An intimate and complete album performance of “Darkness on the Edge of Town” at Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, New Jersey, shot in 2009. Never-before seen archival footage from the Thrill Hill Vault including complete song performances taken from private band rehearsals, studio sessions, and live concerts during the “Darkness” era.
Adam Raised a Cain
Something in the Night
Candy’s Room
Racing in the Street
The Promised Land
Streets of Fire
Prove It All Night
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Thrill Hill Vault (1976–1978)
Save My Love (Holmdel, NJ – ’76)
Candy’s Boy (Holmdel, NJ – ’76)
Something in the Night (Red Bank, NJ – ’76)
Don’t Look Back (NYC – ’78)
Ain’t Good Enough for You (NYC – ’78)
The Promise (NYC – ’78)
Candy’s Room Demo (NYC – ’78)
Badlands (Phoenix – ’78)
The Promised Land (Phoenix – ’78)
Prove It All Night (Phoenix – ’78)
Born to Run (Phoenix – ’78)
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) (Phoenix – ’78)
DVD 3 – Houston ’78 Bootleg: House Cut
Previously unreleased complete concert performance from the Darkness on the Edge of Town Tour.
Streets of Fire
It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Spirit in the Night
Independence Day
The Promised Land
Prove It All Night
Racing in the Street
Thunder Road
The Ties That Bind
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
The Fever
Candy’s Room
Because the Night
Point Blank
She’s the One
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Born to Run
Detroit Medley
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
You Can’t Sit Down
Quarter to Three

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Filed under 1978, Bruce Springsteen, Darkness on the Edge of Town

Genesis: Three Sides Live

June 1, 1982 – Genesis: Three Sides Live is released.
# Allmusic 3.5/5 stars
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Three Sides Live is the third live album by Genesis, released on this date in June 1982. It reached No.2 in the UK and No.10 in the US. “Paperlate”, from 3 X 3, became a Top 10 UK hit and a smaller US success.
The title for this album comes from the original world release, which contained three sides of live material from the band’s 1981-82 tour, and a fourth side of studio tracks, three of which formed the British 3 X 3 EP and two of which were B-sides from the sessions for Duke. The studio side is no longer issued as part of the album. Only the UK release featured a fourth live side, consisting of performances recorded during previous tours.
The three live sides focus mostly on material from Duke and Abacab. The third side contains the centrepiece of their last few tours, the “Cage” medley. The medley starts with “In the Cage” (from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway), follows with an instrumental which combined motifs from “The Cinema Show” with a changing set of melodies from Wind & Wuthering and The Lamb (in the case of the album version, a few seconds of “Riding the Scree” and a rather more substantial section from “The Colony of Slippermen”), and finishes with “Afterglow”.
It stemmed from Phil Collins’ riffing on one of the lines of their 1973 song, “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”. According to Tony Banks on the 2007 CD and DVD reissue of Abacab, “You Might Recall” was to appear on Abacab, but Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegün suggested that the band leave the track off in favour of “Who Dunnit?”
Live albums generally are a retrospective of a band’s career from the beginning, but Three Sides Live stands as testimony to what Genesis has become only very recently. Unlike Seconds Out, where the concert versions of Genesis’ songs were shrouded in virtuosic bluster, this album offers incisive, sharply focused performances uncluttered by theatrics or instrumental tedium. Where once Genesis represented art-rock at its most fatuously spectacular, they now show how lean and compelling such music can be. At the center of this change is singer Phil Collins, whose husky vocals no longer merely adorn the instrumental tracks but provide them with direction and pacing. Although Collins is hardly versatile, he is remarkably adept at projecting personality into Genesis’ music, which in turn keeps the instrumental excesses in check.
While all of this might have easily been expected after the leaner sound of last year’s Abacab, it’s still worth noting that Genesis has applied its new perspective to older material, even shrinking such songs as “The Colony of Slippermen” and “The Cinema Show” into a single, concise medley. Too bad that the fourth side of Three Sides Live, comprising unreleased material, is flat semipop that was better left in the vaults. (RS 375)
~ J.D. CONSIDINE (August 5, 1982)
All songs by Tony Banks/Phil Collins/Mike Rutherford, except where noted.
Side one
“Turn It on Again” – 5:16
“Dodo (including Lurker)” – 7:19
“Abacab” – 8:47
Side two
“Behind the Lines” – 5:26
“Duchess” – 6:43
“Me and Sarah Jane” (Tony Banks) – 5:59
“Follow You Follow Me” – 4:58
Side three
“Misunderstanding” (Phil Collins) – 4:06
“In the Cage (Medley – The Cinema Show/Slippermen)” (Tony Banks/Phil Collins/Peter Gabriel/Steve Hackett/Mike Rutherford) – 11:53
“Afterglow” (Tony Banks) – 5:14
Side four
“One for the Vine” (Tony Banks) – 11:04
“The Fountain of Salmacis” (Tony Banks/Phil Collins/Peter Gabriel/Steve Hackett/Mike Rutherford) – 8:37
“It/Watcher of the Skies” (Tony Banks/Phil Collins/Peter Gabriel/Steve Hackett/Mike Rutherford) – 7:22
The North American edition and some European editions of Three Sides Live had originally featured a side four containing “Paperlate”, “You Might Recall”, “Me and Virgil”, “Evidence of Autumn” and “Open Door”. The album was re-issued identically only on CD worldwide with the live performances in 1994.

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Filed under 1982, Genesis, Mike Rutherford, Phil Collins, Three Sides Live

The Police: Synchronicity

June 1, 1983 – The Police: Synchronicity is released.
# Allmusic 4.5/5 stars
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Synchronicity is the fifth and final studio album by The Police, released on June 1, 1983. The band’s most popular release, Synchronicity includes the hit songs “Every Breath You Take”, “King of Pain”, “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, and “Synchronicity II”.  In 2001, the TV network VH1 named Synchronicity the 50th greatest album of all time. In 2003, the album was ranked number 455 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Pitchfork Media ranked it #55 in their list of The 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s. In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at #25 in its list of “40 Best Albums of the ’80s”.
The album’s title was inspired by Arthur Koestler’s The Roots of Coincidence, which mentions Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity. Sting was an avid reader of Koestler, and also named Ghost in the Machine after one of his works.
The album marked a significant reduction in the reggae influences that were a part of the band’s first four records, instead featuring production-heavy textures and liberal use of synthesizers that, at times, drove entire songs (“Synchronicity I”, “Wrapped Around Your Finger”). The influence of World music can also be heard in songs such as “Tea in the Sahara” and “Walking in Your Footsteps”.
As with their prior album, the basic tracks for Synchronicity were recorded at AIR Studios, Montserrat. For sound engineering reasons, the three band members recorded their parts in separate rooms: Copeland with his drums in the dining room, Sting in the control room, and Summers in the actual studio. According to co-producer Hugh Padgham, subsequent overdubs were done with only one member in the studio at a time.
During the recording of “Every Breath You Take”, Sting and Copeland came to blows with each other, and Padgham nearly quit the project.
Synchronicity is a work of dazzling surfaces and glacial shadows. Sunny pop melodies echo with ominous sound effects. Pithy verses deal with doomsday. A battery of rhythms — pop, reggae and African — lead a safari into a physical and spiritual desert, to “Tea in the Sahara.” Synchronicity, the Police’s fifth and finest album, is about things ending — the world in peril, the failure of personal relationships and marriage, the death of God.
Throughout the LP, these ideas reflect upon one another in echoing, overlapping voices and instrumentation as the safari shifts between England’s industrial flatlands and Africa. “If we share this nightmare/ Then we can dream,” Sting announces in the title cut, a jangling collage of metallic guitar, percussion and voices that artfully conjures the clamor of the world.
Though the Police started out as straightforward pop-reggae enthusiasts, they have by now so thoroughly assimilated the latter that all that remains are different varieties of reggae-style syncopation. The Police and coproducer Hugh Padgham have transformed the ethereal sounds of Jamaican dub into shivering, self-contained atmospheres. Even more than on the hauntingly ambient Ghost in the Machine, each cut on Synchronicity is not simply a song but a miniature, discrete soundtrack.
Synchronicity’s big surprise, however, is the explosive and bitter passion of Sting’s newest songs. Before this LP, his global pessimism was countered by a streak of pop romanticism. Such songs as “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” stood out like glowing gems, safely sealed off from Sting’s darker reflections. On Synchronicity, vestiges of that romanticism remain, but only in the melodies. In the lyrics, paranoia, cynicism and excruciating loneliness run rampant.
The cuts on Synchronicity are sequenced like Chinese boxes, the focus narrowing from the global to the local to the personal. But every box contains the ashes of betrayal. “Walking in Your Footsteps,” a children’s tune sung in a third-world accent and brightly illustrated with African percussion and flute, contemplates nothing less than humanity’s nuclear suicide. “Hey Mr. Dinosaur, you really couldn’t ask for more/You were god’s favorite creature but you didn’t have a future,” Sting calls out before adding, “[We’re] walking in your footsteps.”
In “O My God,” Sting drops his third-world mannerisms to voice a desperate, anguished plea for help to a distant deity: “Take the space between us, and fill it up, fill it up, fill it up!” This “space” is evoked in an eerie, sprinting dub-rock style, with Sting addressing not only God but also a woman and the people of the world, begging for what he clearly feels is an impossible reconciliation.
The mood of cosmic anxiety is interrupted by two songs written by other members of the band. Guitarist Andy Summers’ corrosively funny “Mother” inverts John Lennon’s romantic maternal attachment into a grim dadaist joke. Stewart Copeland’s “Miss Gradenko,” a novelty about secretarial paranoia in the Kremlin, is memorable mainly for Summers’ modal twanging between the verses.
The rest of the album belongs to Sting. “Synchronicity II” refracts the clanging chaos of “Synchronicity I” into a brutal slice of industrial-suburban life, intercut with images of the Loch Ness monster rising from the slime like an avenging demon. But as the focus narrows from the global to the personal on side two, the music becomes more delicate — even as the mood turns from suspicion to desperation to cynicism in “Every Breath You Take,” “King of Pain” and “Wrapped around Your Finger,” a triptych of songs about the end of a marriage, presumably Sting’s own. As the narrator of “Every Breath You Take” tracks his lover’s tiniest movements like a detective, then breaks down and pleads for love, the light pop rhythm becomes an obsessive marking of time. Few contemporary pop songs have described the nuances of sexual jealousy so chillingly.
The rejected narrator in “King of Pain” sees his abandonment as a kind of eternal damnation in which the soul becomes “a fossil that’s trapped in a high cliff wall/ … A dead salmon frozen in a waterfall.” “Wrapped around Your Finger” takes a longer, colder view of the institution of marriage. Its Turkish-inflected reggae sound underscores a lyric that portrays marriage as an ancient, ritualistic hex conniving to seduce the innocent and the curious into a kind of slavery.
“Tea in the Sahara,” Synchronicity’s moodiest, most tantalizing song, is an aural mirage that brings back the birdcalls and jungle sounds of earlier songs as whispering, ghostly instrumental voices. In this haunting parable of endless, unappeasable desire, Sting tells the story, inspired by the Paul Bowles novel The Sheltering Sky, of a brother and two sisters who develop an insatiable craving for tea in the desert. After sealing a bargain with a mysterious young man, they wait on a dune for his return, but he never appears. The song suggests many interpretations: England dreaming of its lost empire, mankind longing for God, and Sting himself pining for an oasis of romantic peace.
And that is where this bleak, brilliant safari into Sting’s heart and soul finally deposits us — at the edge of a desert, searching skyward, our cups full of sand.
~  Stephen Holden (June 23, 1983)
All songs written by Sting except where noted.
“Synchronicity I” – 3:23
“Walking in Your Footsteps” – 3:36
“O My God” – 4:02
“Mother” (Andy Summers) – 3:05
“Miss Gradenko” (Stewart Copeland) – 2:00
“Synchronicity II” – 5:02
“Every Breath You Take” – 4:13
“King of Pain” – 4:59
“Wrapped Around Your Finger” – 5:13
“Tea in the Sahara” – 4:19
“Murder by Numbers” (Words: Sting, Music: Andy Summers) – 4:36 (Not included on original LP release.)

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Filed under 1983, Sting, Synchronicity, The Police