Keith Emerson The Official Illustrated Story – Chris Welch (Book Review)


Keith Noel Emerson; as a member of the Nice, and then progressive rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Keith forever changed the face of music with his contributions to tracks such as ‘America’ and ‘Fanfare For The Common Man’. A performer in the truest sense, his antics with his Hammond organ, and later the “Monster Moog”, ushered in a new level of theatricality ensuring rock music would never be the same again. Released on what would have been his 78th birthday, Keith Emerson The Official Illustrated Story is a fitting tribute to the man and his music.

Like most of us mere mortals, Keith Emerson was a complex character driven by fears, insecurities and desires. It’s to his great credit that he always strived to be the best person he could, and his duskier side was shadowed by the golden rays of goodness he exuded. While I’ve seen many of these books become hero-worshipping missives, this tome works because it presents both sides of the man, though this being Keith, it’s far more light than shade.

Much of Keith’s story had been told (and in great detail) in his autobiography Pictures Of An Exhibitionist and while this book covers much of the same ground, what stops it from becoming a mere facsimile, is the cast of characters who reminisce and share their memories of Keith. Friends, family and famous (and not so) fans all give insights on a unique life that was lived to the full. Over 200 photographs, along with other memorabilia and gems (such as Keith’s postcards to his parents) make this a riveting read.

Those of us of a certain age will recognise Chris Welch as the music journalist who turned us on to some great music (I first came across him in the ‘80s via his work in Kerrang!). His role in this book is to thread all the contributions into a chronological whole, and he links all the recollections with his own prose which ensures this book flows smoothly and seamlessly.

Released in two deluxe editions, the Classic and the Signature, the second of which is signed by author Chris Welch and Aaron Emerson, along with an exclusive art print of Keith, a CD featuring an unreleased interview plus sheet music of Keith’s first composition (as a twelve-year old) ‘Quatermass Boogie Woogie’.

An essential purchase for fans of Keith Emerson, and music fans in general.