One of the interesting things about the many "those who have passed" retrospectives that filled the newspapers at the end of the year was the absence of any mention of either Keith Emerson or Greg Lake, the 'E' and 'L' of ELP, Emerson Lake & Palmer, the Prog Rock super-group that came to define the bloated and doomed bombast of pop music in the 1970s that was such easy prey for the Punks.
Keith Emerson blew his brains out in March; Greg Lake succumbed to cancer last month. I only read one year-end round-up that granted the barest of mentions to these Prog Rock originators, William McDonald's "Among Deaths in 2016, a Heavy Toll in Pop Music":
Pop music figures fell all year, many of their voices still embedded in the nicked vinyl grooves of old records that a lot of people can’t bear to throw out. The roster included Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane; Keith Emerson and Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Glenn Frey of the Eagles; and Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire.Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen -- even George Michael -- were featured prominently in McDonald's piece. But at least Emerson and Lake were listed with a hyperlink to their obits.
I took the omission of Emerson and Lake as a telling bit of cultural forgetfulness. It is hard for people who didn't come of age in the 1970s to understand how huge Emerson, Lake & Palmer were. The band was the apotheosis of hugeness itself. Coming as they did right before Punk, blending Moog electronica with classical music and Carl Palmer's propulsive drumming -- all of which really hastened Punk's ascension -- ELP represents sort of a Francis Fukuyama "End of History" cultural signpost, a zenith of postwar amalgamation. The fact that this was nowhere on the radar as 2016 came to end should tell us something.
It tells us that the Punks, synonymous as they are with the installation of neoliberalism, have carried the day, have won the battle, have eclipsed the Hippies. The dialectic has been severed. As a society, we cannot fathom what the world looked like before 1977. We have not a clue what the aspirations of youth were prior to Never Mind the Bollocks (1977). We are floating on a cloud of nihilistic reaction. Things are going to have to continue to disintegrate before we can find a sustainable way forward.
There is a hip young man who works at my neighborhood comic shop. Simon is his name. Simon is also a DJ. When I am thinking about music I ask him his opinion. On Wednesday I asked him if he had heard that Greg Lake had died last month. He gave me a blank stare. I said, "Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer." Simon said something to the effect that while some Prog Rock outfits have aged well, like King Crimson, ELP is not one of them.
At this point I could have said, "Well, Lake was a co-founder of King Crimson." But I didn't. Instead, like an affable buffoon, I replied, "I don't know. I have gone back recently and listened to some of those albums. They're really not that bad."
"Appropriately qualified," said Simon.
In any event, the point is that apex of popular Prog Rock is cut off from today's youth. The youth of today have no idea of what it was like to listen to Wendy Carlos' A Clockwork Orange (1972) or the soundtrack to Lina Wertmuller's Swept Away (1974). Even into the early 1980s I would put on Brain Salad Surgery (1973) when I needed a shot of testosterone to finish a column for the high school newspaper.
Testosterone is not an offering in Three Fates Project (2012). A lot of the time it sounds to me like John Tesh's Live at Red Rocks (1995), which is to say horrible. Three Fates Project is Keith Emerson's last studio album. It is not all bad. "Tarkus - Concertante" has its moments.
But it is not what it was.