Carl Palmer Remembers Band Mate Greg Lake


In the week that Greg Lake’s death was announced, Carl Palmer, who played with Greg for over ten years took a few moments to talk to Prog and offer his perspective on Greg’s impact with ELP and the legacy he leaves behind.

News of Greg’s death must have come as a shock to you?

“I’d had no contact with Greg for about six years. I knew he was ill but he wasn’t too keen on meeting up.”

What qualities do you think Greg brought to the band?

“Obviously what he did for the group was sensational. His songs were the ones that put the band on the radio in America and then the music managed to propel it forward to the great heights it reached. So we have an awful to thank Greg for as a band.”

Greg had previously talked about the immediate chemistry that existed when ELP formed.

“Yes, there was a chemistry between the three of us. It wasn’t really down to one person. It was the whole unit. Together, there was a synergy between all three of us. Greg was a very important element because of these kinds of folky songs that he had, which were kind of love songs, but he never ever used the word ‘love’ in any of them on our early albums. He really fitted in incredibly well within that whole environment we created.Greg really wasn’t a bass player but rather an acoustic guitarist. He probably hated playing bass! In fact on the last album, In The Hot Seat, he didn’t play very much bass. Most of it was programmed by Keith. Every moment was a good moment when we were working together when it was going well.”

Greg had admitted he could be a difficult character to work with sometimes. What was your experience of that?

“Everyone could be difficult. I don’t think Greg was any more difficult than what I was or Keith. I was the one that ended the group and you can’t get anymore difficult than that! We were all peas in a pod and that’s what made it as big as it was; none of us sat on the fence. All of us spoke the truth and all any of us wanted was the very best for the group and that was the most important thing. So, for me, you know, obviously he’ll be deeply missed. He had a lot of fans and he was a great guy to be around. We had some great times, and most importantly, we made some great music collectively.”

If you could choose one track or album that best sums Greg for you?

“It’s hard to pick out any one particular track or album that we did that sum up Greg because there’s so many great ones. But let’s just say you’ll hear one track in particular all of this Christmas and that should remind you of Greg Lake and what he was all about, which is I Believe In Father Christmas.”

Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.