Thursday, April 21, 2022

Bloom: When The Apple Blossoms Bloom In The Windmills Of Your Mind I’ll Be Your Valentine

ELP: When The Apple Blossoms Bloom In The Windmills Of Your Mind I’ll Be Your Valentine

You might have noticed that I’ve long been a fan of prog rock and have often filled this space with discussions of it. You also might have noticed that I’ve never written about one of the most well-known prog bands, Emerson, Lake & Palmer (although, I have mentioned their bassist/vocalist Greg Lake, mostly in the context of his work with King Crimson, which I have written about probably too many times). And that’s because I was never that big a fan of ELP. Although there are a handful or so of their songs that I’ve liked, and I appreciated their musical virtuosity, I don’t think that I have ever bought a full ELP album in any format. There was always something about their music that left me a little cold, while I think that the more emotional music of their contemporaries Genesis and Yes appealed to me more. 

Despite a run of popular and well-received (except by the prog-haters) albums in the early 1970s, it seemed that by the middle of the decade, as the genre began to lose favor, ELP also appeared to lose creativity and cohesiveness. Their 1977 album, Works Vol.1 was a double album, with each member of the band getting one side, and the fourth side was collaborative. Although it sold well, it really wasn’t good, although the band’s version of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare For The Common Man” was fun (and is on my list of ELP songs that I like). Later that year, they released Works, Vol. 2 which was essentially an odds and ends compilation of B-sides and unreleased tracks. Since most of these came from an earlier period when ELP was firing on all creative cylinders, it has more good stuff on it, including our feature song. 

“When The Apple Blossoms Bloom In The Windmills Of Your Mind I’ll Be Your Valentine” is a relatively short song for ELP, clocking in at just under 4 minutes, with a title that takes almost as long as that to say. (but if you want long titles, check out the Red Sparowes). It’s an upbeat and relatively unpretentious (by ELP standards) instrumental that may well have started as a jam. You can hear the musical talent of the three musicians and enjoy their playing on this track. It was recorded during the Brain Salad Surgery sessions and was released as the B-side to the “Jerusalem” single. 

Works, Vol. 2 was less commercially successful than its predecessor, which is probably what economists call a lagging indicator. But it also pretty much the end for ELP. Their next album, the contractually required Love Beach, which features the band members posing with mostly open shirts near a beach, appeared to be an attempt to pivot toward more pop-oriented music, much as Yes and Genesis were doing in this period, but without any real conviction. Moreover, the band was breaking apart even more, with Lake and Palmer recording their parts and fleeing the studio, leaving Emerson to finalize the album. It sold OK, but was not well received by critics, even those who still liked the genre. 

Other than a few live releases, a few partial reunions that included other musicians replacing absent core members, and a brief full reunion in the 90s, that was pretty much it for ELP. Emerson died in 2016 of a self-inflicted gunshot, and Lake died of cancer the same year.

Monday, April 18, 2022


Us crack team of world weary scribes often have a little virtual chat around the introduction of each new theme. For this one, as the (currently*) token Brit, the newsroom wondered whether I would be taking on bloomers under this portmanteau. As someone who never discusses taking off bloomers, again a British "thing", I somehow have found myself delivering a post about voluminous panties. Well, someone has to!

And you know, I discovered how few songs there are on the subject. Indeed the only one that I could instantly think of, is one I can't stand. Perspective. When I were a lad, inky fingered from addiction to the musical press, I read more about music that had opportunity to listen. Thus, I liked a lot of artists long before I ever heard a note they played, purely on the basis of the enthusiastic coverage in New Musical Express and in Melody Maker. Frank Zappa and his Mothers of Invention were one such, as was his acolyte and erstwhile friend, Captain Beefheart. They looked such outrageous reprobates, not just dirty hippies, but filthy dirty hippies (or so my naive mind wandered). This admiration would take a logical step into afternoons misspent in the record shop, cans on, rifling through the records available. By good luck, it was Hot Rats that I first got my ears around, a record I love to this day, and can whistle still every nuanced guitar solo. It's true, I didn't much like the Beefheart vocals in Willie the Pimp, overly mannered and affected. (It's why my vinyl copy has a deep ridge in the grooves, as I tried, clumsily, always to skip them, as the guitar calisthenics that followed were and remain phenomenal. It sort of went downhill after that. OK, forgive me, I bought Live At The Fillmore, snickering at mud shark misdemeanours and other such low brow schoolboy humour; hell, I was a schoolboy. It has remained unlistenable for years since, bar the lift of Flo and Eddie reprising the Turtles' Happy Together, which I used to add to mixtapes. Showing how long, that too, was. (Of course I knew they were the Turtles before they were Flo and Eddie, should anyone be tempted to pass comment. You might anyway, as it has been so long that any of us had a comment that you could wonder if we write merely for ourselves.)

Fast forward, what, a couple of years, and I was sharing a study with someone with an even more over-attuned sense of hip than I. We shared our admiration of Zappa, and one fine day he unleashed his latest purchase, Overnite Sensation, playing it loud, on rotation, for several hours. I got to know the songs well, the lyrical drift imprinting on my brain like a bad smell. What was this dreck, this drivel? Even as I tried to concentrate on the instruments, all I could get was his insufferable baritone, smirking and smutting. In a crash of lightning it came to me, Zappa was shite, a charlatan. And, Hot Rats aside, there he has remained. I still think that a work of genius, so much so, in fact, as when his son, Dweezil,  recently came over and played the album as the modus operandi of a tour and album, I had to go. And, when he had played the album, consummately, I should add, with his band, again I had to go, as he started the second half by cranking straight up into fecking Dina Moe..... Which meant I was home and tucked up in bed, probably before the encores. (Note, the review is not mine, but the first comment is.)

So, having written off both Zappa, largely, and Beefheart, totally, as pants, SWIDT, what more is there for me to do here? Well, how about the only Beefheart song I can abide.

That his most hardcore fans wrote this late commercial phase as a sellout and a sham probably tells you as much about them as it does about me. Me, I blooming' love it.

Bloom here!

(*currently as in still here, but additional limeys still deemed eminently welcome, as indeed all citrus. Wanna write here? As it says in the top right hand corner: "Star Maker Machine is always open to new bloggers joining our ranks. Send an email to learn more: )