Carl Palmer is a drummer’s drummer. A consummate professional, a brilliant technician and a dynamic showman, he has thrilled listeners and audiences alike for nearly four decades with some of music’s most memorable bands including Atomic Rooster, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Asia and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Along the way, his dazzling speed and mastery of the drums, combined with his infectious stage personality, have secured for him a respected place in history as one of Rock and Roll’s greatest drummers.
Coming from a family of talented musicians, Palmer was given a set of drums when he was 11 years old and the rest is history. Already a respected working drummer by 16, Palmer joined Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds which also featured guitar great Albert Lee (later with Eric Clapton, Albert Lee & Hogan’s Heroes, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Bill Wyman & the Rhythm Kings) and keyboardist Dave Greenslade (later in Colosseum). At the time, we were produced by none other than Mick Jagger.” It was Jagger who had originally discovered Farlowe. With Palmer in the band the Thunderbirds enjoyed moderate success with the single “My Way of Giving” but it was the Rolling Stones cover “Out Of Time” which propelled Farlowe to the top of the UK charts.
At the age of 18, replacing drummer Drachen Theaker, Carl Palmer joined up with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown at the absolute peak of their success following the smash single “Fire” (“I am the God of Hellfire…”). Continuing pressures, management problems, health issues and personality conflicts eventually took their toll. The disillusioned Brown became increasingly difficult and the band splintered. Speaking about Brown, Palmer recalled, “It was no use talking to him so I just left him in the middle of the night.” Carl, along with ailing keyboardist Vincent Crane, returned to the UK to form Atomic Rooster.
It was with Atomic Rooster that Carl Palmer enjoyed his first real success as a founding member of a band. Media and fans alike immediately embraced Crane, Palmer and bassist/vocalist Nick Graham as the late 60’s progressive rock scene was thriving. Their debut album, Atomic Rooster, hit number 49 in the U.K. All the while, fueled by his brilliant drum solos, Palmer’s reputation grew as a drummer with phenomenal skill and dizzying speed.
In the spring of 1970, Carl Palmer received a phone call that changed his life forever. Keyboard virtuoso Keith Emerson, himself enjoying Top 10 U.K. success with The Nice, was forming a new band with King Crimson founder Greg Lake who had also just experienced real success with his band’s legendary “In The Court Of The Crimson King”. After trying out several drummers, including Mitch Mitchell, the two wanted Palmer to audition for a spot in the new trio but Palmer was uncertain if he wanted to leave the growing success of Atomic Rooster behind. Reluctantly, he agreed to meet and rehearse with the band and thank God he did. Immediately dubbed a “supergroup” by the media, Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP) entered the musical arena with great expectations.
In August of 1970, while they were still working on the tracks that would eventually form their first album, ELP played its first show at Plymouth and moved on immediately to the legendary Isle of Wight Festival. Following their set, which included an explosive version of “Pictures At An Exhibition” (complete with cannons), the fallout was massive. Said Palmer of the festival, “I don’t recall how well we played. All I know is that we went down incredibly well.” Even that may have been an understatement. Perhaps signalling the path of the band itself, critical acclaim was monumental and overnight the band was thrust down the path to superstardom.
The following nine years saw ELP create 11 albums that firmly cemented ELP as one of progressive rocks greatest innovators.
Plan to see Palmer Oct. 10 at the Rose Theatre.