Album Walk: Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “Brain Salad Surgery”

Dig the groovy, whacked-out sounds, man!

"Brain Salad Surgery" by Emerson, Lake & Palmer

I had to get out and get some groceries, refill a few of the staples I’ll need in the last 4 weeks here, so I threw in another album. The grocery store is about a 1/2 hour away, and with the time I spent in the store, I nearly finished the album twice.

Oh, which album? Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery.

(I’m cheating a bit; I’ve had this album for a while, and I’m pretty sure that I’ve listened to it before, maybe even in one sitting. But my collection here says its unheard, and its never received the kind of focus these album walks are giving to it.)

So, what’s this album like?

In a word: groovy. EDIT: I’ve been informed that I really should say: “far out“. I can dig it. 😉

Another word: intense.

And another word: epic.

But here are some more words..

A few years ago, I went on a big prog kick, wondering down many strange pathways. Sure, I had the full Pink Floyd collection, but who doesn’t?

I was born in the ’70s, but the music I remember growing up was either country (that’s what my mom liked) or pop (that’s what was on the radio). On a very rare occasion, if the angle was just right and atmosphere held the right charge, I might get the radio station from “over across” — in the ‘States — and I might tune in to radio programs like The King Biscuit Flower Hour. They played some very different music, in concerts.

But I didn’t tune in that often. Really, when I became conscious of music, videos were starting to exist, and they were mostly pop. I recorded a few tunes off the TV when the videos came, to audiocassette. There’s one around somewhere which even features the sound of my fork hitting the plate in the background, as I ate and watched and recorded.

About a decade and a half ago I started to wonder about that ’70s music. I heard a few tunes, liked some of the real rockin’ stuff, loved the experimental stuff, but didn’t have a name for it. Someone told about progressive rock, and suddenly, there’s the name.

Since then, I’ve found that the name is hardly descriptive, with so many other things being lumped in with it, and with the bands involved varying so much as to become impossible to group together, even sometimes tracks on the same album.

But I’m terrible at remembering names, and I forget stuff. When I’m lucid, I do things like buy this album, so that later I may stumble across it and listen in rapture.

Oh: and the Geiger album cover is pretty eye-catching, too..

There are some names that I do have at least a vague familiarity with. Emerson, Lake & Palmer is one of those names. It has a rhythmic quality to it that probably makes it memorable. Did I know what they did? No, although I had some notion that it was prog.

Oh, is it everBrain Salad Surgery features those long jams of guitar, organ, drum and bass. It’s got some odd continuity like it tells a story — although frankly, I have no idea what that story is supposed to be. There’s a post-apocalyptic freakshow/circus/museum, in which they have exhibits like “a real blade of grass”. Later, there seems to be an argument between the greatest computer ever built (or the flight computer of a starship… or something) and its maker, wherein the maker tries to defend his existence. Or something like that.

Really, I’m in it for the music.

Curiously, my copy seems to be missing the first track. I suspect that I accidentally deleted it when I was cleaning out duplicate tracks of lesser sampling rate. (That happens from time to time; fortunately, my master collection at home still has everything.)

But I’ll return to my original three words: groovy far out, intense and epic. It’s like a soundtrack to a ’70s cyber-apocalypse space movie, with actors dressed in futuristic spandex, blinky-light computers, cheesy special effects, being played back over a tired VHS where all the colours wriggle and wash, and lines cross the screen once and a while, causing the vocal track to jump.

Yeah, I can feel my hair growing longer, my mind expanding and a hell, yeah popping to my lips.

Groovy Far out, man.

2 thoughts on “Album Walk: Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “Brain Salad Surgery”

  1. Ha! True enough! Can’t watch the videos from here, but I could go over to my collection… Went VdGG-crazy a while ago, grabbed a bunch! Got H to He, The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other, Still Life, and Vital with me.

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