Emerson Lake And Palmer: “Fanfare For The Common Man”

MAY 1977 (35 YEARS AGO)
Emerson Lake And Palmer: “Fanfare For The Common Man” b/w “Brain Salad Surgery” (Atlantic 3398) 45 single is released in the US.
“Fanfare for the Common Man” is a song by Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), from the group’s 1977 Works album. Adapted by Keith Emerson from Aaron Copland’s 1942 piece Fanfare for the Common Man, it stands as one of their most popular and enduring pieces.
ELP had previously adapted Copland’s Hoedown for the band’s Trilogy album in 1972. Although ELP did not always initially attribute the classical source for some of their pieces (only attributed in later releases of the albums), Copland was attributed as the source for both Hoedown and Fanfare.
     “…it needed transposing, so I did that first. I wanted to improvise in a key that was sort of bluesy. It ended up in E. The rest of it was straightforward, really. You know, in order to get the shuffle sound, the timing had to be changed, but it was common sense.”
Lake remembers the first time ELP played the adaptation:
     “It was just wonderful how it came about: We were recording in Montreaux, Switzerland, in 1976, and Keith was playing it as a piece of classical music. I played this shuffle bass line behind him and all of a sudden it started to connect. Then Carl came in and we three started to play it. Luckily, the engineer had a two-track running, and that is what’s on the record – the first time we played through the piece.”
In another interview, Lake remarks:
     “We got a very ‘live’ dirty R & B sound that was really incredible. And all done with one microphone. We hadn’t played together for quite a while before that, apart from rehearsals and stuff. ‘Fanfare’ was thoroughly jammed, from top to bottom.”
Stewart Young, ELP’s manager from 1972 – present, made this comment on the documentary Beyond the Beginning:
     “The interesting thing… was that we had to get the permission of Aaron Copland, the composer. The publishing house said forget it. So I got Mr Copland’s home number, called him up and he was very friendly on the phone. And he says “Send it to me, let me listen.” And he loved it. He called me and said “This is brilliant, this is fantastic. This is doing something to my music.”
In an interview with Melissa Merli of The News-Gazette, Emerson said:
     “I know that Aaron Copland for one admired my adaptation. The BBC radio people in England interviewed him shortly before he passed and got his opinion, and it was very complimentary.”
In a BBC Radio interview, Copland relayed his reaction to the piece:
     Just before I left London, I heard a piece of music of yours, Fanfare for the Common Man, which had been taken by a rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer. How do you feel about that?
Well, (laughs) of course it’s very flattering to have one’s music adopted by so popular a group, and so good a group as Emerson, Lake & Palmer. A lot depends on what they do with what they take, and naturally since I have a copyright on such material, they’re not able to take it without my permission; so that in each case, where I have given my permission, there was something that attracted me about the version that they perform, which made me think I’d like to allow them to release it. Of course, I always prefer my own version best, but (laughs) what they do is really around the piece, you might say, rather than a literal transposition of the piece, and they’re a gifted group. In that particular case, I allowed it to go by because when they first play it, they play it fairly straight and when they end the piece, they play it very straight. What they do in the middle, I’m not sure exactly how they connect that with my music but (laughs) they do it someway, I suppose. But the fact that at the beginning and the end it really is the Fanfare for the Common Man gave me the feeling I ought to allow them to do it as they pleased.
I know your original work is just over three minutes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer have managed to turn it into a nine minute work.

(Laughs) Exactly, well, it’s those six minutes in the middle…(laughs)”


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