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Carl Palmer Plotting ELP 50th Anniversary Celebration, Including Show With 'Some A-Listers'

Emerson Lake & Palmer
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Emerson Lake & Palmer 

Emerson, Lake & Palmer's 50th anniversary won't happen until 2020, but drummer Carl Palmer -- the sole surviving member of the prog-rock supergroup -- is already hatching plans to commemorate it.

"We're just now putting it together," Palmer tells Billboard, adding that the celebration will include more catalog re-releases as well as a special tribute concert. "I'm looking right now at putting a show together, probably in America, with some A-listers," Palmer reveals. "I can't tell you who they are, but in principle as a project it looks like it's going to go through." Palmer also hopes to revisit a documentary film that's been sitting on the sideline for some years. 

"When we were signed to Sanctuary, ELP released a documentary that was six hours long," Palmer recalls. "That got lost in the wash, so we're going back and re-editing that and putting together another couple hours of documentary stuff that hasn't been seen."

ELP formed during 1970. Keyboardist Keith Emerson had previously played in the Nice, singer-bassist/guitarist Greg Lake came from King Crimson and Palmer was in Atomic Rooster; Emerson and Lake had initially approached Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience to play drums, while Palmer was suggested later by the group's manager. ELP played its first concert on Aug. 23, 1970, followed by a slot at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival six days later. ELP released 10 studio albums during its two tenures (1970-79 and 1991-98) and last performed together to commemorate its 40th anniversary at the 2010 High Voltage Festival in London. Emerson and Lake both passed away during 2016.

"I wake up every morning and say to myself, 'Thank God I'm here and I'm still playing," Palmer says. "The 50 years have gone by very quickly. When you have any form of success at all you don't really live it as it's happening 'cause things are moving so fast. You only appreciate it afterwards. So now I'm appreciating what we did way back then."

Palmer is keeping ELP's music alive since 2001 via his ELP Legacy shows, leading a trio that substitutes guitar for Emerson's keyboards in order to pay tribute to the group's songs, but with a different spin. "For me it's a mission," Palmer says. "I'm personally paying my own tribute to Greg and Keith, and we've managed to get (the music) across to a new generation of people in their 30s and 40s. Guys my age (68) at the concerts are bringing their sons, and their sons are understanding and buying the CDs, buying the DVDs and getting it. For me, it shows you how deep Emerson, Lake & Palmer runs -- there was a lot of quality there, if I say it myself. This music has been played by classical orchestras and jazz groups. It's worth keeping it going."

Palmer, of course, is also part of Asia, another on-and-off prog supergroup that's currently in hiatus. Singer-bassist John Wetton died in 2017, and the group has toured once since then, with Billy Sherwood (also of Yes) filling in.

"As far as Asia is concerned, there's nothing planned at the moment," Palmer ways, adding that he and keyboardist Geoff Downes "don't want to bury it completely. Depending on how meetings go, Asia might even be touring next summer. I'm going to link it and Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy into the same tour; I'm not sure how it's going to happen yet, but we'll make some proposals and see. I like the idea of doing some double-dipping."


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