Karn Evil 9

Album: Brain Salad Surgery (1973)
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • Welcome back, my friends
    To the show that never ends
    We're so glad you could attend
    Come inside! Come inside

    There behind a glass
    Stands a real blade of grass
    Be careful as you pass
    Move along! Move along

    Come inside, the show's about to start
    Guaranteed to blow your head apart
    Rest assured you'll get your money's worth
    The greatest show in Heaven, Hell, or Earth

    You've got to see the show, it's a dynamo
    You've got to see the show, it's rock and roll

    Right before your eyes
    We'll pull laughter from the skies
    And he laughs until he cries
    Then he dies, then he dies

    You've got to see the show, it's a dynamo
    You've got to see the show, it's rock and roll

    Soon the Gypsy Queen
    In a glaze of Vaseline
    Will perform on guillotine
    What a scene! What a scene
    Next upon the stand
    Will you please extend a hand
    To Alexander's Ragtime Band
    Dixieland, Dixieland

    Roll up! Roll up! Roll up
    See the show

    Performing on a stool
    We've a sight to make you drool
    Seven virgins and a mule
    Keep it cool. Keep it cool
    We would like it to be known
    The exhibits that were shown
    Were exclusively our own
    All our own. All our own

    Come and see the show
    Come and see the show
    Come and see the show
    See the show

    See the showWriter/s: KEITH NOEL EMERSON, GREGORY LAKE
    Publisher: Peermusic Publishing
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 32

  • Hank from United StatesThis is for Rick, http://www.brain-salad-surgery.de/keith_emersons_gear.html, not quite bat wings. I saw them in Green Bay WI where right before the break, all the band members ran off the stage, the synthesizer was still playing, it turned to the front of the stage, moved forward then blew up, when the lights came up it was gone, then after the break and the lights went down, the music picked up where it left off, the synthesizer slowly rose up from under the stage, turned and moved back to it's original position, all the while still playing, then all the members ran back on stage and continued the concert.
  • Steve from United StatesThis is for Rick who talks about being on LSD and remembering the performance of Karn Evil 9 Third Impression. That must have been some STRONG stuff! I don't remember the "computer" growing a face on the monitor, nor do I remember it walking back and forth on the stage (it was controlled/moved by roadies and they would have been seen pushing it) so I think you must have over the years, thought that you saw that happen, lol! I wish they would have done that though, that sounds REALLY cool and I've ALWAYS thought that they never emphasized the importance of this tune enough, which is evident by the fact that human beings can no longer survive without the computer! You can see a live performance of this when they performed it at he California Jam in 1974: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wz6Mj8cROJw
  • Rick from Dansville, NyThe Summerfest II concert in Buffalo, NY was the best concert I've ever been to! One thing, after all these years, that I haven't been able to figure out for sure, is at the very end of the show I remember the big synthesizer that Keith was playing, the one with all the chords and knobs on it, sprouting "bat wings" on its sides, Keith got right out of the way of it, the TV monitor in the synth got a face on it, and it turned 90* and walked on its own toward the front of the stage, while at the same time "beeping" and the sound being "panned" around in a circle throughout the stadium in the 4 channel PA system. Then, when it reached the front of the stage, it turned left 90* and "walked" the length of the stage while the "beeping" got faster, and finally "blowing up" in a pyrotechnic blaze! I was doing LSD at the time, so I don't know, especially after all of these years, if it really happened or if it was the drugs. I seem to remember talking to my friends at the time, and they were awed by it too, though they were tripping like me. Does anyone remember this? Does anyone know where on the Internet a video of this concert might be?
    "The show that never ends" ended Mar. 10 2016 RIP Keith Emerson, we all love you! You will be greatly missed!
  • Steven from Detroit, MiThe 'Welcome Back' live album (including Lucky Man) was mostly recorded in Anaheim, CA, on Feb 10. Not Buffalo. And KE9 does not begin with the Earth's birth through its Ice Age. It begins with a dark vision of the future.
  • Valo from Moscow, Russia FederationI wish we had our own present ELP nowadays! They would've told us about the future! These guys are professional dreamers!

    Emerson just kicks the brains out!
  • Jim from Buffalo, NyIn response to David~Syracuse for an add-on: The ELP concert in Buffalo, New York was at Summerfest II at Rich Stadium and yes it was one of the most outstanding concerts I have ever seen. It was and the only one that I was ever at in quadraphonic sound; quite an achievement at the time. Some of the songs at Rich Stadium were included in their "Welcome Back my Friends . . ." album including the "Take a Pebble" (Lake) including "Still...You Turn Me On" (Lake) and "Lucky Man" (Lake). I know because if you listen carefully when Lake is tuning his guitar after "still . . . you turn me on" you can hear me yell "play, lucky man" and he begins playing (I'm sure just a coincidence). I was at about the 40 yard line, center. You can also view the video of this performance on some sites and Youtube. The kid who you hear whooping it up on Lake's piece is clearly on the right side of he stage and can be heard on the album as well. For some reason he wound up in my car on the way home!
  • Mike from Perth, Australiasome interesting comments from Pete Sinfield on the 20 yr aniversary CD . The Carnival (Karnevil) is a comment on man's existance, also said nine was arbitrary number , that sounded good. Also BSS is a sexual act that came because the original cover painting had a phallic symbol that Geiger had to "airbrush out" and as Keith said :r"eplaced by a shaft of light"
  • Tom from Appleton, WiMy older brother bought the album "hot off the presses" in '73 and I've liked it ever since. Although it wasn't until I was reading an article about Toccota (that Ginestera piece) in 2008 that I "got" the double meaning of Karn Evil 9. I'd always put the accent on Evil and never "heard" it as "carnival" Guess I'm pretty dense
  • Paul from Manchester, United KingdomAfter a 35 year wait to see them live, I was lucky enough to see ELP do their 40th anniversary gig at the High Voltage Festival in London (UK) this past weekend (25/07/10) and they opened their 90 minute set with First impression part 2 it was excellent. The rest of the set was: The Barbarin, Touch & Go, Knife Edge, Take a Pebble, Tarkus, From the beginning, Lucky Man, Farewell to Arms, Pictures at an exhibition (knives and all) and fanfare for a common man as a finale. It was the greatest musical experience of my life. I really hope that the crowd reaction tempts them to do one last tour.
  • Steve from Shelby, OhThe computer voice created in Karn Evil 9 3rd Impression is created with a Moog ring modulator. I have one. It is called a "Moogerfooger", and you can use it on your voice, to create that frightening voice. It helps to also have a mixer that contains echo, so you can REALLY freak people out!
  • Ian from Henderson, NcThe first time a group of my friends and I heard both the parts of the 1st Impression back to back it was rather to amazing to us. Of course it was on 8-track and when Part 1 ended the tape reversed and we all thought the song was over. Then we heard "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends" and instantly it was our favorite song. Of course we were all as usual in that era rather 'baked' so it would of course seem to be rather amazing to us while in "that condition."

    I was one of a crowd claimed to be over 70,000 people who saw ELP end an all day concert in Soldier Field in Chicago. To many decades have passed and to many various substances have passed through my body for me to be able to remember so much as one other group that played that long day but I can still see ELP as if it had been just last week.

    One other amazing memory of ELP is when they were on "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert" performing songs from "Brain Salad Surgery." I do not recall the song but I will never forget seeing Keith Emersons's grand piano, bench and all, rise up and then begin to spin end to end like some carnival ride and he played the whole time and I did not notice one error.

    All three were extremely skilled artists the likes of which are no longer seen. They're kind have long since gone the way of the Dodo bird and the full service gas station.


    A small bit of trivia that I wonder how many know is that there was a song with the title "Brain Salad Surgery" but in those days recordings were on albums mainly and 8-track tapes second and there was not room enough for all the songs and in the end the title song was the one they believed the least likely to be a hit. I only heard it once back in 1973 when a Chicago radio station played it. It was a good song and I hope one day to find it on a CD along with the rest of the songs.
  • David from Syracuse, NyIf there are any Genius musicians out there anywhere in the world, along the lines of ELP, I would like someone to let me know. Most of these new bands, are whiny little CANTS. It is all whimpering bull s--t.
    ELP ruled. I saw them in Buffalo in 77 or 78.. Rich stadium, with James Gang first then Lynyrd Skynrd, then ELP to finish the concert. You talk about a concert? It did not get any better than this, and probably will never be...
  • Josh from Westborough, Mawhat does the "9" in the title signify?
  • Erik from Kc, MoDam it i just got a greatest hits CD of ELP today and this song is shortened to only 4min 53sec thats a rip off
  • Spence from Brooklyn, NyBy far the greatest progressive rock tune ever. Way ahead of their time for 1973 and so revolutionary!
  • Allie from A Little Ol' Town In, MiTHis song's keyboard kicks butt!!! I LOVE IT!!!!
  • Wes from Sherwood, Aracoustic-theirs misspell sorry
  • Wes from Sherwood, Arfyodor,that definately stands as elps most memorable line!sure takes me back!what amazes me most is teir transformation from prog rock one moment to greg lakes great acostic ballads the next!
  • Rick from Denver, CoSaw this show live in the 70's . Now BRAIN SALAD SURGERY is my favorite album . Heavy Mental Metal ! KARN EVIL 9....Off into man's future of black evolution into a cold deadly bio-mechanical life form....best heard with Dr. Leary's medicine at 3:00 A.M. ........
  • Randy from Colerain Twp., OhDuring a recent "Dr. Pepper" commercial, a short and stocky football player, who appears to have scored his first touchdown, is shown removing a 20 oz. bottle of the beverage from his sock, and then begins a celebration dance in the endzone, as well as on the crossbar, to Part III of this song.
  • John from Overland Park, KsWhen I heard it I only heard the second part of the first impression, the part that gets the most radio play. I thought it was about the sensationalism that goes on in rock concerts. In some cases, they seemed to suggest that the goings-on onstage might be more of an attraction than the music, and that eventually rock concerts become the equivalents of freak shows where the music gets lost in the shuffle.
  • Wade from Vancouver, CanadaThe best way to spend half an hour.
  • Mike from Long Island, NyThe song is most commonly interpreted as both ELP's take a shortened history of the world into a futuristic tale. The First Impression begins on the "cold and misty morning" of the Earth's birth, through the ice age ("Where the seeds have withered, silent faces in the cold"), and to man's growing lust for money ("Now their faces captured in the lenses of the jackals for gold"), which leads to various wars. Afterwards, the world is described as a carnival, wherein various elements of humanity are reduced to circus sideshows ("A bomb inside a car," "Pull Jesus from a hat"), representing the human race's growing selfishness an indifference towards others. Even human misery is described as a "specialty" in the "show." The second part of the First Impression focuses on the growing artificialization of the world, describing something natural simply as "a real blade of grass" as some bizzare circus attraction. Despite the fact that the world is becoming more and more consumed by artificiality and given control to computers (see Third Impression), the human race insists that it is still in control, as it created all that the "carnival" encompasses ("We would like it to be known the exhibits that were shown were exclusively our own."). The Second Impression is an instrumental piece (mostly a piano solo), symbolizing the blissful ignorance of humanity towards the impending danger of the conquest of the computers, which culminates in the Third Impression. At this point, the "machines" have concluded their superiority to humanity and begin to take on mankind's necessity to prove their own superiority. The computers are represented by heavily distorted vocals, while the voice of the all-representative "man" is clean and without effect. The computers finally wage a violent conquest of the Earth. Mankind is shocked that its own creation is fighting back against him ("Walls that no man thought would fall") and is unprepared for the conflict. Finally the machines determine that they are sentient beings and the new "humans," or rather the new dominant species ("Load your program. I am yourself."), pushing humanity to the subservient status that they had once occupied. After their victory ("Rejoice! Glory is ours!"), they make sure not to wipe out the human race, but preserve it to demean humanity and gloat about their superiority. The last stanza of the suite epitomizes the conquest and the arrogance of both the old and new masters of the earth, wherein man struggles to maintain his presence as the dominant species on earth and the computers assert that they have surpassed their creators: "I am all there is." "Negative! Primitive! Limited! I let you live!" "But I gave you life!" "What else could you do?" "To do what is right." "I'm perfect! Are you?"
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoI think the line, "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends" will be the one thing that outlasts all other memories of this band! Do y'all know that that line, which kicks off "Part 2" of Karn Evil 9 1st Impression, appeared at the start of side 2 of the LP? No way to truly reproduce the original desired effect on CD, except maybe to divide the record into 2 very short discs, I guess. Also, the lyrics shown at the time I write this are only some of the lyrics for Karn Evil 9 1st Impression. A whole chunk of lyrics have been left out from the very start of the song, which I've cut (from another site) and pasted and submitted to the host. They represent the setup for the story of the carnival, whose purpose seems to be to "save what's left of humanity." How a carnival is supposed to do that, I don't rightly know, maybe give people something fun to do or something. Pete Sinfield sure knew how to turn a phrase, whether it all made any sense or not! Also, following Karn Evil 9 Parts 1 and 2 were Karn Evil 9 2nd Impression, an instrumental, and Karn Evil 9 3rd Impression, which had a whole 'nother set of lyrics with a totally different story. I was an "ELP Freak" as a teenager; theirs was the first big rock concert I ever saw! My tastes have since shifted to less bombastic fare, but there's still a place in my heart for these talented but pretentious clowns!
  • Bryony from Near BrightonThe title could be seen as a pun on the content: Karn Evil = carnival?
  • Alfred from Sidmouth, CoWow this song's lyric is scary.
    And he dies and he dies..........
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, Sckeyboard solo's awesome.
  • Michael from Houston, TxI personnally think that the first part of impression one is better than the second part.
  • Brian from Meriden, CtI have to think Paul's "tour"-hawking holler on "Magical Mystery Tour" referenced a certain duality that I had to suspect of another quite venerable band, Rush, in which Geddy Lee repeatedly implores the anthemic "Roll the Bones!"
    Enter Gates At Own Risk...
  • Gabriel from Columbus, OhIT'S HALF AN HOUR LONG! (29min., 39sec.) Just this song, not the whole album. I mean, it's pretty funky, but if you're listening for the most popular verse about "the show that never ends," it's 8:43 into the song. Not meant for radio play...
  • Marlon from Nyc, NyAmazing Keyboard...
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScGrear song, really long though. That was pretty typical for ELP though. great musicians too.
see more comments

Adam Young of Owl CitySongwriter Interviews

Is Owl City on a quest for another hit like "Fireflies?" Adam answers that question and explains the influences behind many others.

Michael Sweet of StryperSongwriter Interviews

Find out how God and Glam Metal go together from the Stryper frontman.

Director Paul Rachman on "Hunger Strike," "Man in the Box," KissSong Writing

After cutting his teeth on hardcore punk videos, Paul defined the grunge look with his work on "Hunger Strike" and "Man in the Box."

Cheerleaders In Music VideosSong Writing

It started with a bouncy MTV classic. Nirvana and MCR made them scary, then Gwen, Avril and Madonna put on the pom poms.

Paul WilliamsSongwriter Interviews

He's a singer and an actor, but as a songwriter Paul helped make Kermit a cultured frog, turned a bank commercial into a huge hit and made love both "exciting and new" and "soft as an easy chair."

Vince ClarkeSongwriter Interviews

An original member of Depeche Mode, Vince went on to form Erasure and Yaz.