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Pictures of an Exhibitionist: From the Nice to Emerson Lake and Palmer - The True Story of the Man Who Changed the Sound of Rock Paperback – January 1, 2004

3.7 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

One expects a rock n’ roll memoir to be full of sound and fury, signifying nothing if not the inflamed passions, tortured egos, precipitous climb and calamitous descent of its subjects. Emerson, composer and keyboardist for the Nice and, later, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, gives readers all this: from flag-burnings to overeager groupies, from musical mishaps to drunken, drug-addled excesses, as well as a host of backstage celebrity interactions. (Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, Rod Stewart and a wonderfully catty portrait of Leonard Bernstein as a supercilious old perv are just a few that dot the book’s landscape.) Wildly theatrical onstage, Emerson played Norman Bates to his organs and keyboards, hacking away at them with knives and swords, often leaving them ruined and smoldering in his wake. The problem is that, as narrator to his own life, Emerson seems too, well, nice to rev the engine needed to drive such a book properly. He pulls back when he should barrel full-speed, and his writing lacks the killer incisiveness of his keyboard play. Slow to start, often clumsily overwritten and self-serving, Emerson’s memoir shows little sense of the narrative arc of the author’s life, and so the book trudges on in a litany of events, happenings and episodes that ultimately don’t add up to more than a series of pictures at an exhibition. Emerson seems too self-absorbed to be an acute observer of others, neither does he appear reflective enough to cast light on the shadows of his own life. Fans of Emerson’s bands will relish the scenester details anyway, but others may find themselves wishing he could write with the same brilliant abandon that he applied to his music.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Unputdownable! A hysterical, intriguing, and important musical memoir.” -- The Sunday Times

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: John Blake; Autographed Edition edition (January 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844540537
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844540532
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,210,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
At times highly witty, at others merely insipid, these are the recollections of a rock icon. Emo chronicles his childhood and his adventures with progressive bands The Nice and ELP. Most of the stories are rather well known from other biographies, but it's refreshing to read them from his specific point of view. There are some excruciatingly painful memories involving conflicts within the bands and a personal battle with addiction. There are some anecdotes which I feel are inappropriate for public consumption, and better left private between so-called friends.
Overall a delightful read if you are not turned off by repeated references to bodily functions, name-dropping, and drug abuse which was apparently prevalent during his heyday in the 70's. An amusing yet quite sad portrayal of the glory days of the greatest rock keyboard player of all time.
I give it only three stars, because honestly that's how it rates among all the other books I've read. If I were to rate it among books about rock-n-roll specifically, it would get five easily.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like the other reviewers here, I was and am a big ELP fan. As soon I heard Keith Emerson's playing, I was dumb-struck by his virtuosity and musical vision, one that, alas, did not play out too well over the years. I eagerly awaited this book, mainly because I wanted to hear what Keith Emerson had to say about his music.
There's a scene in "Spinal Tap" when David St. Hubbins is playing a beautiful piano piece and Rob Reiner asks him what the music is called . St. Hubbins replies "Lift my Love Pump." Well, I think that might sum up this book, and I can't say I wasn't warned by the title.
There are virtues here, however. Emerson has a breezy, conversational writing style that goes down easy, and he doesn't write a self-serving book in the least. The first part of the book, from his childhood to his breaking up the Nice is the best part, funny, and heartwarming. It struck me how much Emerson loved Lee Jackson and Brian Davidson, and the affection for his once and future bandmates mixed well with the stories. I often found myself laughing out loud.
The ELP and after sections are troubled. It's clear Emerson never liked Lake, and had a brotherly and patronizing attitude towards Palmer. But love between bandmates doesn't necessarily make great music, however, after reading this book and listening to the ELP oveure, I finally sensed the coldness that so many critics complained about.
The descent into drugs, the sadness of an abortion caused by miscommunication, the wrecking of Emerson's hand and the subsequent operations all make the second half of the book more than a bit sad.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fans of ELP and Keith Emerson will definitely want to read this. A thoroughly engaging, often hilarious account of Emerson's success story from his humble beginnings, through his struggling years with early bands, on past his first major success with the Nice, beyond his wild days of stardom with ELP, and back to his ironically humble present-day existence as a struggling artist in L.A. I enjoyed hearing about Emerson's personal encounters with Jimi Hendrix, the members of Led Zeppelin, Ian Anderson, and other rock luminaries. Also described by Emerson, and previously unknown to me, is the intense rivalry that existed between a newly established keyboard icon Emerson and up-and-coming British keyboardists Rick Wakeman and Patrick Moraz. I would have also liked to know Emerson's "take" on other notable keyboardists of his era, especially Tony Banks and Elton John, and I would further have been interested in Emerson's reaction to copycat band Triumvirate, who themselves put out amazing music, but whose cuts on the Pompeii album sounded a little too close to "Trilogy," "Third Impression," etc. Quite shocking, too, is the apparent dislike Emerson and Greg Lake had for each other throughout their time working together in ELP. Most interesting is the tidbits concerning some of the songs- how Emerson still cringes when he hears "Lucky Man" because he had played a better solo to the ending in the studio, but it mistakenly didn't get recorded, or how the Nice recorded an initial scratch track of "America" in the studio which was to be built upon, but instead an overzealous manager RELEASED the track to radio and pressed it to vinyl BEFORE the Nice could return for their follow-up studio session!Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Ok, so Keith Emerson is not the most highly polished writer in the cosmic universe. And sure, there are parts of his story which are sewn together rather disjointedly. Looking at it overall it seemed to me there were days where he wrote brilliantly and days where the results were average. I'm certainly no authority but I'm of the opinion if he could have gone back and revised the writing from those average days to the polished brilliance found elsewhere the results may have been a best seller. What you get is an honest and open account of one of the music world's great artist and performer's life. I've read other reviews that did not approve of all the road story details this book contains. Not me. When I read a biography about any person from any walk of life I want it all, real, and the way it truly was. Mr. Emerson guides you through it all with a revealing look behind the scenes of his professional and personal life, and yes, there are some interesting, startling, and amusing insights. If you're looking for behind the scenes Emerson, Lake, and Palmer info and dirt there's enough here to satisfy. He raises well found criticisms about Greg Lake's sometimes caustic behavior but then on the other hand he intimates how much of a truly good person Carl Palmer is. He also relates stories that could only originate from one of rock's elite members such as being on tour with Jimi Hendrix, and the Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett, his not so friendly rivalry with the band Yes, or motorcycling with Ringo Starr as a passenger. I am pleased to have read this and recommend you do the same.
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