Song Of The Day 10/2/2015: Emerson, Lake & Palmer – “Hoedown”

Vital Organs – This is Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s cover of Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown,” from the composer’s 1942 ballet Rodeo.

Copland’s music brought the glistening vistas of the newly conquered American West to riveting, panoramic music that came to embody the gilded years of American exceptionalism to resolutely optimistic audiences of the early 20th century.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer were progressive rock musicians. Keith Emerson was the keyboardist. But that’s understating the matter. Emerson was the Übermensch of rock keyboards. He did not traffic in romanticism, expressionism or the smoky intimacy of cabaret piano, or the tight, relaxed-collared cool of jazzy organ. Nope. Such intangible trivialities, such dotted inexactitudes piffling about the oceanic expanse of the civilized man’s medicated sentiment were not in the purview of Keith Emerson.

His keyboards were built for domination. Sovereignty. They were his command center. He had to be lowered into the middle of them by a crane. I think he kept a mini-fridge somewhere under the Moog. He kept his snacks in there. Point is, Emerson’s keyboards were weapons of vengeance upon a flabbergasted mind-meld, where “Moonlight Sonata” and “Clair De Lune” were knackered by hot bolts from the stinging twin suns of the desert.

When Emerson’s burly, steel-toothed, crypto-fascist keyboards ran into Copland’s quaint, hirsute, kinda frail-looking frame, the result was a gasconading wildebeest that emboldened some and neutered others. If ever a recording could have been co-opted for military applications, it was ELP’s TNT SOB rendition of “Hoedown.”

I don’t know what that means in this flaccid day and age, 43 years after its unleashing, but I do know one thing: Back in my day “Hoedown” was used to clear everybody the fuck out of the back lounge of King Solomon’s Reef in Olympia, Washington. It was one of the songs you could access on the Reef’s digital jukebox circa 2001–2002. I was only there to see the effect once, when some folks I was hanging out with, for some reason, decided other folks in the Reef – I don’t know what the decision was, really, but for some reason they wanted to piss someone off, so they played “Hoedown.” Some folks lifted their heads at the opening glissando figure. Then when the melody came in and it became apparent what they were listening to, their faces melted in revulsion. Confusion, apprehension, engorgement, unease. Ninety seconds into the song we had the joint all to ourselves, plus one pissed-off bartender. (Who, nonetheless, played “Hoedown” at least once or twice at 1:50am when he was having trouble getting people to leave. Tons more effective than that Semisonic song.)

And that’s the legend of ELP’s “Hoedown,” the last line of defense in your psycho-battle with those of lesser fortitude. Please, for the love of God, use only as directed.
The lounge at King Solomon's Reef, today. The digital jukebox used to be where that other wall-hanging jukebox is now, on the left.

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