This song was written by Keith Emerson and Greg Lake
, with Pete Sinfield contributing the lyrics. Sinfield and Lake were bandmates in King Crimson, and when Emerson, Lake & Palmer formed, the pair continued writing together.
The fun little urban legend is that Lake and Sinfield wrote this song after riding the Pirates Of The Carribean ride at Disneyland. Sinfield, however, says they had simply watched a lot of Errol Flynn movies. In an interview with Record Collector
, he explained: "The idea was pirates as an allegory for a rock band on tour. When I read up on the subject it soon became obvious that pirates weren't at all romantic, they were reprehensible people - like the Kray Twins at sea! Keith's music was very Gilbert & Sullivan, it was extraordinarily difficult to get the true nature of piracy into it, and I wrote most of it in Montreux, perhaps the lest piratical place on Earth. I had to write to music that was already fixed and I only had 20 minutes to unfold this epic narrative. It should have been at least twice as long."