Carl Palmer Says ELP Music ‘Demanded’ Complex Shows Despite Cost
Emerson, Lake & Palmer drummer Carl Palmer reflected on the trio’s famously elaborate approach to performances, admitting the cost meant they never became “the richest guys in the world.”
But he argued that the music presented by the trio on record required shows that were much more spectacular than the kind of tours presented by other bands.
“Sure, we could have gone out there with a couple of spotlights, a disco ball and done it on the cheap, but the music demanded more than that,” Palmer told MusicRadar in a recent interview. “If you’re pushing the envelope on record, you need to go even further when you play live, otherwise people might as well stay at home and put the record on. We felt very honored that people would pay money to come and see us, so we wanted to make sure they had a night to remember.”
He noted that "when we went out on tour with the 64-piece orchestra, you were looking at a team of almost 200. Musicians, technicians, riggers, drivers, pilots, chefs … we even had our own doctor. Of course, touring became very expensive for us, which subsequently meant that we were never the richest guys in the world, but we felt unbelievably satisfied. And proud, too. If you came to see us, you got your money’s worth.”
Palmer added that the group mentality among himself, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake was to keep pushing themselves in their own direction. “The important thing for us was that we didn’t alter what we were doing to try and fit in with what was happening,” he said. “Trying to follow musical fashions never works. Stick with what you know. Keep it honest. Do what you know how to do, but try and do it better.”
The recently released collection of live ELP recordings titled Out of This World: Live (1970-1997) contains examples of live shows that couldn’t have been shared at the time, Palmer explained. “Although we recorded every one of our live shows, the technology available in those days was fairly limited,” he said. “That meant there were only a handful that really made the grade. … The Isle of Wight show was recorded from our desk, and you could hear a ton of noise on there. Thankfully, we’ve now got plugins and technology that can forensically pick the whole thing apart, clean it up and give the stereo a bit of width. This is the best these shows have ever sounded by a long way.”