Keith Emerson


Keith Emerson : biography

2 November 1944 –

Emerson also used the organ at the Royal Festival Hall for "The Three Fates" from the eponymous debut album by the group. He also used another pipe organ for "The Only Way (Hymn)" from Tarkus. Emerson used the Royal Festival Hall pipe organ again in October 2002 for the introductory quotation from Dvorak’s 9th Symphony (From The New World), before running back to the stage and performing "America (2nd Amendment)".

Amplifiers and speakers behind Emerson became more elaborate, including a Leslie unit. There was also a board attached to the front of the stack, intended as a target for his knife throwing. He was given his trademark knife, an authentic Nazi dagger, by Lemmy, who was a roadie for The Nice in his earlier days. During the Brain Salad Surgery tour, at the end of the show, a sequencer in the Moog Modular synthesiser was set running at an increasing rate, with the Moog Synthesiser pivoting to face the audience while a large pair of silver bat wings was deployed at the back of the synthesiser.

As the technology of electronic keyboard instruments became more sophisticated, Emerson was quick to adopt new instruments, such as the Yamaha GX1 polyphonic synthesiser, one of which can be seen on the video promoting "Fanfare for the Common Man". Emerson was reported to have spent $50,000 to buy the Yamaha GX-1 synthesiser at the time of the Works Volume 1 album. Emerson later bought a second GX-1 from John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, to use to repair his GX-1, which was damaged by a tractor crash into Emerson’s home studio. At the time that Emerson left England in the early 1990s to move to Santa Monica, California, he sold the majority of his keyboard equipment, though not the modular Moog. The original Yamaha GX-1 was bought by Hans Zimmer of movie soundtrack fame, while the John Paul Jones GX-1 was bought by a collector in Italy.

In 1978, Emerson became the official endorser of the world’s first fully polyphonic synthesisers, the Korg PS-3300 and PS-3100. He started recording with them around this time too and the Korg PS-3300 was heavily used on the ELP album Love Beach. He carried on using it into the 1980s, the instrument dominating the 1981 film soundtrack for Nighthawks which starred Sylvester Stallone.

He would sometimes reach into the interior of his piano and hit, pluck or strum the strings with his hand. The introduction to "Take a Pebble" included chords and arpeggios played by pressing down on keys, to raise the dampers from the strings, and playing the strings inside the piano as one might play the autoharp. In the live performance of "Hang On to A Dream" with the Nice, recorded for the post-breakup album Elegy, he performed a cadenza of sorts hitting the piano strings with a small hammer, followed by a lengthy wind-down, returning to the song in which he alternated keyboard arpeggios with blows directly on the bass strings.

Contemporary usage

The surreal comedy series, Big Train, featured Emerson portrayed by Kevin Eldon, as a Roman slave fighting his enemies with progressive rock.



  • Inferno – soundtrack (1980)
  • Nighthawks – soundtrack (1981)
  • Honky (1982)
  • Best Revenge – soundtrack (1985)
  • Murder Rock – soundtrack (1986)
  • The Emerson Collection (1986)
  • Harmageddon/China Free Fall (1987)
  • The Christmas Album (1988)
  • Changing States (aka Cream of Emerson Soup) (1995)
  • Emerson Plays Emerson (2002)
  • La Chiesa – soundtrack (2002)
  • Godzilla: Final Wars – soundtrack (2004)
  • At the Movies (2005)
  • Hammer It Out (anthology) (2005)
  • Off the Shelf (2006)
  • Keith Emerson Band featuring Marc Bonilla (2008)
  • "Moscow" – live album CD & DVD (2010)
  • The Three Fates Project (The Keith Emerson Band) (2012)