John Wetton, Bassist for King Crimson and Asia

“Easy Money” King Crimson Live at Wollman Memorial Rink (1973)–Watch on YouTube

Sadly, I’ve written a lot of posts in the past 12 months for progressive rockers. Greg Lake and Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Chris Squire of Yes. Now, add to the list John Wetton of King Crimson. He joined the band in 1972 and contributed to the albums Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (great title!), Starless and Bible Black and Red. 

When founder Robert Fripp* pulled the plug on the band in 1974, Wetton played with British rockers Wishbone Ash, Brian Eno, Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry, Uriah Heep and U.K. He formed the supergroup Asia with  EL&Per Carl Palmer. While King Crimson never quite hit its stride commercially, Asia came out of the gates strong with its self-titled debut. Powered by the hit “Heat of the Moment,” the album stayed on top of the charts for nine weeks. But it was slowly downhill from there as ensuing albums failed to keep pace.

Wetton (June 12, 1949-January 31, 2017) pursued solo work in the 90s, but reunited with Asia in 2006. He had planned to tour with the group as late as last fall until illness forced him to cancel his plans.

*Robert Fripp was mentioned in a post on Maggie Roche last week, but, alas, the post was lost in a switch to a new web hosting company. Fripp helped the Roches go with their organic, authentic style, which would define their sound for the duration of their career.

“Heat of the Moment”–Watch on YouTube

Greg Lake of King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer

“Lucky Man” – Watch on YouTube

Greg Lake was a founding member of two influential progressive rock bands of the 60s and 70s. First he was a bassist and vocalist for King Crimson with guitarist friend Robert Fripp. But after seeing the band through its debut album, In The Court of the Crimson King, he broke off to join The Nice keyboardist Keith Emerson, whom he had met while the two bands toured together.

Lake (November 10, 1947-December 7, 2016) did not like the “progressive” label. He sought to create a distinctive rock music that traced its roots to European music traditions as opposed to American blues. ELP’s grandiose stage shows and baroque arrangements were hits with fans, but not always with critics. Village Voice writer Robert Christgau dismissed them as “as stupid as their most pretentious fans.”

For ELP, Lake played guitar and sang. His autobiography, Lucky Man, is named after the group’s popular song of the same name, which Lake wrote when he was only 12. Rolling Stone lists it as one of the “10 Essential Songs”of ELP.

“Karn Evil 9 1st Impression” on Spotify

Keith Emerson, Prog Rock Keyboardist and Showman

Keith Emerson solo

Much of rock traces its roots to the blues, but not all. Keith Emerson was one rocker who looked to other sources–in his case, classical music–for inspiration. His group Emerson, Lake & Palmer even went so far as to name an album after Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” and cover a few pieces from that work.

Keith Emerson at Moogfest

There are mixed views of ELP’s approach. To Village Voice critic Robert Christgau, “these guys are as stupid as their most pretentious fans.” To Tom Miller, author of 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, the group’s “Brain Salad Surgery” was worth a serious listen, to “pick up the intellect and sensitivity behind the technique.”

The Nice, “Hang On To A Dream,” featuring Keith Emerson

Emerson’s technique was remarkable enough to earn him a place in the Hammond Hall of Fame and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Orchestra Kentucky of Bowling Green. He was an early populizer of the Moog synthesizer, occasionally played on pipe organs and suffered injuries from playing a spinning piano that misfunctioned in several concerts. ELP concerts became so elaborate that 30 tons of equipment had to be carted from show to show.

Chris Squire, Bassist and Co-Founder of Prog Rock Band Yes

Yes–The Lost Broadcasts (1969)

The dawn of the 1970s found me searching for artists on my own, music that would not be hand-me-downs from my older sister. She had impeccable taste, mind you, introducing me to Donovan, The Doors, The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix and Joe Cocker, among many others who arrived in our home via The Columbia Record Club.

But by 1970, there was a changing of the guard. Sadly, some greats had died prematurely, while still at their peak. The Beatles were in the process of breaking up. With my sister off at college and no longer a pipeline for new music, I had to discover it on my own.

Enter Yes.

I remember listening to “Roundabout” in my friend Gerry’s VW Beetle, as we cruised the streets in the hope of escaping the tedium of our teenage lives. Yes’s Baroque flights of fancy, Jon Anderson’s choirboy vocals–it all seemed so different from the blues-based rock we’d been raised on.

Concert and Interview Footage (1971)

Chris Squire (March 4, 1948-June 27, 2015) had an early fondness for church music, which he channeled through a psychedelic phase before forming Yes with vocalist Jon Anderson. He remained a constant in Yes, its only bassist for 47 years.

His aggressive style, made crisp through the use of a pick and cleverly fed through two separate amps, allowed for much more melodic bass lines. The video featured below isolates the bass line of “Roundabout.” Another good example is a cover of “Heart of the Sunrise.”

For another tribute to Chris Squire and Yes, read Peter Catapano’s blog post for The New York Times.

“Roundabout” Isolated Bass Track