Album: Brain Salad Surgery (1973)

Songfacts®:

  • This song is an adaptation of a 1961 classical piece called "Toccata Concertata" by the Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera (1916 - 1983). It was arranged by Emerson, Lake & Palmer by their keyboard player, Keith Emerson, who had a keen interest in classical music.
  • Emerson first heard "Toccata Concertata" in 1969 when he was playing a concert with his band The Nice in a bill with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which performed the piece. He worked up a new arrangement, and after Emerson, Lake & Palmer formed, they decided to record it. The song ended up being a lynchpin of their fourth album, Brain Salad Surgery, and a live favorite.
  • Getting permission to use "Toccata Concertata" was a challenge. Keith Emerson tried doing it through the song's publishers, but that didn't fly, so he arranged to meet Alberto Ginastera at his home in Switzerland. According to Emerson, when he played the ELP version for Ginastera, the composer was delighted and enthusiastically granted permission.
  • This is the first rock song to use electronic drums. With the help of an electronics expert the group had on hand, Carl Palmer created a system where his drum kit would trigger programmed sounds. "In the middle you hear all these atmospheric preprogrammed sort of keyboard sounds," he said in his Songfacts interview. "But they're actually all being triggered by the drums with a mitigator on the floor where I could have an octave divided, change the sound up or down to each individual sound. And there were roughly eight of them. So those eight, 16, probably 24 sounds, the same sound, up the octave and down the octave.

    So that was my first and my main sort of contribution, really. It never got picked up on because it was so far left - it was so far in front that people thought they were keyboard sounds. So we didn't really bother in explaining that, No, they're not. We just let it go, because we were just after creating new sounds and things."
  • The word "Toccata" means a keyboard composition designed to exhibit the performer's technique. A good fit for Keith Emerson.

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Who Wrote That Song?

Who Wrote That Song?Music Quiz

Do you know who wrote Patti Smith's biggest hit? How about the Grease theme song? See if you can match the song to the writer.

Real or Spinal Tap

Real or Spinal TapMusic Quiz

They sang about pink torpedoes and rocking you tonight tonight, but some real lyrics are just as ridiculous. See if you can tell which lyrics are real and which are Spinal Tap in this lyrics quiz.

Vanessa Carlton

Vanessa CarltonSongwriter Interviews

The "A Thousand Miles" singer on what she thinks of her song being used in White Chicks and how she captured a song from a dream.

Kerry Livgren of Kansas

Kerry Livgren of KansasSongwriter Interviews

In this talk from the '80s, the Kansas frontman talks turning to God and writing "Dust In The Wind."

Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & PalmerSongwriter Interviews

Greg talks about writing songs of "universal truth" for King Crimson and ELP, and tells us about his most memorable stage moment (it involves fireworks).

Mick Jones of Foreigner

Mick Jones of ForeignerSongwriter Interviews

Foreigner's songwriter/guitarist tells the stories behind the songs "Juke Box Hero," "I Want To Know What Love Is," and many more.