THE SAD AND TERRIBLE HISTORY OF THE ROCK / CLASSICAL CROSSOVER
The path of rock and roll hubris, when not-so-bright pop stars say things like: “Well, if Beethoven was alive today, he’d be in a band” is littered with many tragedies.
We don’t just mean all those no-mark indie division 3 bands who thought that adding a string section to their ham-fisted songs added some class. For the true quintessence of the rock folly genre, we really have to look back to the ’70s, when hair was long and shame was short. We’re talking about such monumental ego wankers as:
1 EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER
Prog rock supergroup formed by refugees from The Nice, King Crimson and Atomic Rooster, ELP used to encore regularly with their version of Mussorgsky‘s ‘Pictures At An Exhibition’. As well as doing a turgid version of the music, Greg Lake used to add words to some of the pieces, singing lines about being “Eroded by time’s river/Our reason is lost in the sand”. They also murdered American socialist composer Aaron Copeland‘s ‘Fanfare For The Common Man’, used as the theme for the Montreal winter Olympics and still a hot favourite on programmes featuring Jeremy Clarkson.
2 MIKE OLDFIELD
In the mid ’70s, it seemed to be compulsory to own a dog-eared copy of ‘Tubular Bells’, which was used for rolling joints on. ‘Bells’ was an ambitious work by young Oldfield, the high-water mark of prog rock. But things went a bit askew when the hapless Royal Philharmonic Orchestra did a version that showed up the emptiness of the work. Guest guitarists Oldfield and Steve Hillage sat onstage with the LPO looking embarrassed, standing up occasionally to interject a guitar solo or two into the tepid muzak. the orchestra looked like the money they got would make up for some of the indignity they suffered.
3 DEEP PURPLE
An early entry into the metal/orchestral fray, Jon Lord, keyboards player with Deep Purple somehow got a team-up with The London Philharmonic Orchestra to perform ‘A Concerto For Group And Orchestra’. The group and orchestra – both parties on record as saying that they felt like prize plonkers – ploughed through forty minutes or so of barely listenable muzak with metal interruptions and a bemused Ian Gillan screaming over the top, making it up as he went along and thinking of the money, groupies and mayhem that would be his when the band went to America. Rightly forgotten.
4 RICK WAKEMAN
Top chat-show pundit, mate of Danny Baker‘s and melotron player on David Bowie‘s ‘Space Oddity’, Wakeman‘s ’70s excesses were on a par with Marie Antoinette‘s, both sparking off bloody revolutions that finally did for their respective kinds (prog rock nonces killed by punk; French aristocrat beheaded by the Paris mobs). As a member of Yes – a band deserving of their own category – Wakeman plumbed the depth of art-rock gubbins with unlistenable sub jazz versions of Brahms-meets-Mrs Mills high-concept rock. But his crowning achievement is his third solo album ‘The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table’ which he staged with a full orchestra and 50 piece choir at the Empire Pool Wembley on ice. We are talking ice-skating knights battling each other to music! One of the songs includes the line : “Gone are the days of the knight.” (I can’t go on – Ed)
5 THE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
In 1978, hacked off at spotty dumbos from prog bands using them for their half-arsed concept albums, the dinner-suited orchestral establishment hit back with an album that reduced rock standards to softy string laden mush. It was so successful that they did four follow ups. You know the sort of crap: a couple of Beatles songs, ‘Nights in White Satin’, ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ and…‘Pretty Vacant’. Oh yes.
Dishonourable mentions: ‘Sir’ Paul McCartney for his requiem mass, Nigel Kennedy for ‘Purple Haze’, ‘Sir’ Andrew Lloyd Webber just for being ‘Sir’ Andrew Lloyd Webber.
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