Brain Salad Surgery

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Brain Salad Surgery
ELP - Brain Salad Surgery.jpg
Studio album by Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Released 19 November 1973
Recorded June – September 1973
Studio Advision Studios and Olympic Studios, London
Genre Progressive rock
Length 45:02
Label Manticore
Producer Greg Lake
Emerson, Lake & Palmer chronology
Brain Salad Surgery
Welcome Back, My Friends, to the Show That Never Ends ~ Ladies and Gentlemen
Singles from Brain Salad Surgery
  1. "Jerusalem"
    Released: 30 November 1973

Brain Salad Surgery is the fourth studio album by English progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, released in 1973. It fuses rock and classical themes. With the exception of "Jerusalem", Greg Lake wrote the lyrics for the album with the assistance (on two tracks, "Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression" and "Benny the Bouncer") of former King Crimson bandmate (and, beginning with this album, frequent ELP collaborator) Peter Sinfield. This was the first Emerson, Lake & Palmer album to have no songwriting contributions from Carl Palmer. The cover art is by H. R. Giger.


After the release of Trilogy, the band wanted to record an album that they could perform live; Trilogy was recorded on the newer 24-track machines with overdubbing that made the music difficult to recreate on stage.[1] The band purchased a cinema and would perform the music "live" on stage, then write, perform again, write, etc., resulting in a feeling of addressing the audience directly.[1]


"Jerusalem" is an adaptation of Hubert Parry's hymn, with lyrics from "And did those feet in ancient time", a poem from the preface to William Blake's "Milton". Debuting on this track is the Moog Apollo, the first polyphonic synthesizer, still a prototype at the time.[2]


The instrumental "Toccata" is based on the Fourth Movement of Alberto Ginastera's 1st Piano Concerto, arranged by Keith Emerson with special synthesised effects; Carl Palmer wrote a percussion accompaniment[3] using newly developed drum synthesisers. Ginastera's publishers' initial response was that Ginastera did not allow adaptations of his work, and they weren't going to grant the publishing rights. Emerson flew to Geneva to discuss his arrangement with Ginastera himself. Once Ginastera heard it, he personally arranged for clearance.[2] To quote Keith Emerson: "He had this crappy little stereo system with really shitty speakers ... he was fooling around trying to set it up, and I volunteered to help him. He sat silent throughout the playback, and at the end I thought he shouted 'terrible!' But what he had really said was, 'formidable!' — which is very good!"

Karn Evil 9[edit]

The album's longest composition, "Karn Evil 9", nearly 30 minutes in length, consists of three movements or "impressions", the first and third separated by an extended instrumental passage. The best-known section is "Karn Evil 9 – 1st Impression, Part 2" ("Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends..."). The first movement originally had to be split between sides 1 and 2 of the album. The original U.S. CD release also divided the piece, but subsequent releases have presented it in an uninterrupted version.[5]

"Karn Evil 9" includes vocal credit for Keith Emerson, and is Emerson's only vocal credit on an ELP record.[citation needed] The only vocals he contributed to the song were the voice of the muse in the Second Impression, which was sped up, and the computer voice in the Third Impression. Emerson ran his voice through the ring modulator on his Moog Modular to achieve this sound.

The album credits read "Many thanks and a garland of martian fire flowers to Peter Sinfield for his collaboration on 'Benny The Bouncer' and 'Karn Evil 9'." Sinfield had been a member of King Crimson, as had Greg Lake.

The 2nd impression of Karn Evil 9 contains a short quotation from Sonny Rollins piece "St. Thomas".[citation needed]

Additional recordings[edit]

Three further songs were recorded at the Brain Salad Surgery sessions but not included on the album:[citation needed]

  • The instrumental "When the Apple Blossoms Bloom in the Windmills of Your Mind I'll Be Your Valentine" appeared on the B-side of the single version of "Jerusalem".
  • The song "Brain Salad Surgery" did not appear on the album of the same name, but was released on a promotional 7" flexi-disc together with excerpts from the album. It was also later used as the B-side of "Fanfare for the Common Man".
  • The song "Tiger In A Spotlight" was released as a single in 1977. The melody was used during instrumental jams on tour, as heard in the extended "Take A Pebble" recording on the Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends... Ladies and Gentlemen album.

All three songs were later included on Works Volume 2. Also on some reissues, the first two songs are released as bonus tracks.

Origin of title[edit]

According to the 1996 re-release notes, the title came from a lyric in Dr. John's 1973 hit, "Right Place, Wrong Time" from his In the Right Place album (released 26 January 1973): "Just need a little brain salad surgery/Got to cure this insecurity." It replaced the working title Whip Some Skull on Yer; both titles are slang expressions for fellatio.[2][6]

Packaging and releases[edit]

The image from inside the album.

The album cover features distinctive Giger monochromatic biomechanical artwork, integrating an industrial mechanism with a human skull and the new ELP logo (also created by Giger). The lower part of the skull's face is covered by a circular "screen", which shows the mouth and lower face in its flesh-covered state. In the original LP release, the front cover was split in half down the centre, except for the circular screen section (which was attached to the right half). Opening the halves revealed a painting of the complete face: a human female (modelled after Giger's then-partner Li Tobler[7][8]), with "alien" hair and multiple scars, including the infinity symbol and a scar from a frontal lobotomy. The two images of the woman are very similar, but the outer image (in the circle) contains what appears to be the top of a phallus below her chin, arising from the "ELP" column below. The second painting originally had the complete phallus. The record company refused to publish the album with such imagery, but Giger refused to make an alternate painting without the phallus. Eventually, another artist came in to airbrush the phallus into a dusty shaft of light.[9] The cover would also be the custom label for the album; when the record was placed on the turntable, the spindle would go through the lips. The back cover was solid black with the album title in plain white lettering.

The paintings for the cover are titled "Work No. 217 ELP I" and "Work No. 218 ELP II". The original acrylic-on-paper paintings were lost (or stolen) after a Giger exhibition at the National Technical Museum in Prague, which ended 31 August 2005.[10] Giger's ELP logo, using a circular enclosure of the "E" and upper portion of the "P", around a column formed by the "L" and the vertical of the "P", became a standard for the band and has been used extensively since.[11] Giger states in his book that Emerson, Lake & Palmer never paid the bill for his artwork for this album.[citation needed]

"The mid-'70s were full of attempts to shock the public", Emerson says of the band's choice of artist. "You'd do it on the stage, in artwork, and do it in your music; try to push the limits. We chose this artwork because it pushed album cover art to its extreme."[2] Keith Emerson had the album's primary imagery airbrushed onto the fuel tank of a Harley Davidson motorcycle, pictured on his official page with himself and separately with Moog synthesiser inventor Robert Moog astride.[12]

On later vinyl printings (and most CD releases), the front cover is a single piece, and the alternate ("face") view is used on the back cover. However, the 1993 Victory Music CD reissue packaged the album in a special Digipak with the original split cover art, which also unfolded to reveal a small poster with the lyrics and band photos from the original album inner sleeve. The 1996 Rhino edition used a lenticular cover, with the two images morphing into each other when the case moved. Both paintings were created in pure shades of grey airbrush, to appear metallic and mechanical. However, on some releases of the album, the cover was printed with too much red, making the image (in Giger's words) "cow-shit-pile-brown".[6]


The album was initially released on vinyl, reel-to-reel tape, 8-track cartridge and cassette in 1973; it was released on CD in 1985.[citation needed]

In October 2007, Shout Factory re-released Brain Salad Surgery[13] with two bonus tracks, an alternate mix of "Jerusalem" and an instrumental mix of "Karn Evil 9"[14] (tracks 9 and 10, respectively). The CD was released in a miniature reproduction of the original LP packaging, including die-cut artwork, mini-poster (with complete lyrics) and a 24-page booklet with rare photos and an essay by music reporter Dave Thompson.[citation needed]

Sanctuary Records released a remastered version of the album in 2008, containing three discs.[15] The first disc consists of the original album; the third disc is the same, but on Super Audio CD in surround sound. The second disc contains different recordings and mixes of the album's tracks, as well as two bonus tracks: "When the Apple Blossoms Bloom in the Windmills of Your Mind I'll Be Your Valentine" and "Brain Salad Surgery".


In support of the album, ELP embarked on what became their largest world tour ever, titled the Someone Get Me A Ladder tour (the name is borrowed from a Still... You Turn Me On lyric). A live album of the tour, Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends... Ladies and Gentlemen (title is from a lyric in Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Pt. 2) was released in 1974.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[16]
Robert Christgau C−[17]

In 1974, Gordon Fletcher of Rolling Stone wrote:[4]

Onstage, EL&P usually overcome the shortcomings of their records—insufficient intensity and lack of worthy material—by working hard and busting their asses to play with incredible tightness (witness Pictures at an Exhibition). In the studio, their vision and grandiose schemes dilute the tightness, resulting in things like Brain Salad Surgery, on which their shortcomings outweigh undeniable moments of brilliance. The result: another sadly uneven album from a group with technical gifts equal to that of any British trio.

In the Q & Mojo Classic Special Edition Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, the album came No. 5 in its list of "40 Cosmic Rock Albums".[18]

In 2014, readers of Rhythm voted it the tenth greatest drumming album in the history of progressive rock.[19]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Jerusalem"   William Blake Hubert Parry (arranged by Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer) 2:44
2. "Toccata" (an adaptation of Ginastera's 1st piano concerto, 4th movement)   Alberto Ginastera (arranged by Emerson, percussion movement – Palmer) 7:23
3. "Still....You Turn Me On"   Lake Lake 2:53
4. "Benny the Bouncer"   Lake, Pete Sinfield Emerson 2:21
5. "Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression – Part 1"   Lake Emerson 8:43
Side two
No. Title Lyrics Music Length
6. "Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression – Part 2"   Lake Emerson 4:47
7. "Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression"     Emerson 7:07
8. "Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression"   Lake, Sinfield Emerson 9:03
Total length: 45:02

In 2008, a remastered and expanded three-disc 35th anniversary deluxe edition[nb 1] was released by Sanctuary Records, a label of Universal Music Group at that time. The first disc contained the original album remastered by Paschal Byrne. The second disc consisted of different recordings and mixes of tracks associated with Brain Salad Surgery, as well as two bonus tracks: "When the Apple Blossoms Bloom in the Windmills of Your Mind I'll Be Your Valentine" and "Brain Salad Surgery". The third disc was a hybrid SACD, which contained the original album in stereo and surround sound. The 5.1 mix, featured in this deluxe edition, was first used by Rhino Records for its DVD-Audio edition [nb 2] in 2000.

In 2014, a limited six-disc super deluxe box set edition[nb 3] was released by Legacy/Sony Music. Disc 1 (CD) contains the original album remastered by Andy Pearce. Disc 2 (CD) is composed of bonus tracks associated with Brain Salad Surgery. Disc 3 (CD) contains a new stereo version of the album. The original and new stereo versions in high resolution along with a new 5.1 surround mix by Jakko Jakszyk are featured on Disc 4 (DVD-Audio). The Manticore Special Documentary film, photo gallery and Giger's original artwork are included in Disc 5 (DVD-Video). Finally, Disc 6 is a 180gm vinyl LP of the original album. A cut-down three-disc edition,[nb 4] which consists of the Discs 1, 2, and 4 (but without the 5.1 surround mix), received international release around the same time.

Some CD editions have the entire "Karn Evil 9" suite as a one track, giving the album a total of five tracks.

5-track version
No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Jerusalem"   Blake Parry (arranged by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer) 2:45
2. "Toccata" (an adaptation of Ginastera's 1st piano concerto, 4th movement)   Ginastera (arranged by Emerson, percussion movement – Palmer) 7:23
3. "Still...You Turn Me On"   Lake Lake 2:53
4. "Benny the Bouncer"   Lake, Sinfield Emerson 2:21
5. "Karn Evil 9"   Lake, Sinfield Emerson 29:39
Total length: 45:02


Emerson, Lake & Palmer[edit]

Technical personnel[edit]

  • Geoff Young – engineer (all tracks except "Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression")
  • Chris Kimsey – engineer ("Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression")
  • Barry Diament – CD mastering[nb 5] (at Atlantic Studios, New York)
  • Joseph M. Palmaccio – 1993 remastering[nb 6] (at PolyGram Studios)
  • Bill Inglot and Dan Hersch – 1996 remastering[nb 7]
  • John Kellogg – 2000 5.1 remix production and mastering[nb 2] (at Magna Vision Studios, Santa Monica, California)
  • Paul Klingberg – 2000 5.1 remix engineering, mixing, and mastering (at Magna Vision Studios, Santa Monica, California)
  • Mark Chalecki – 2007 remastering[nb 8] (at Capitol Mastering, Hollywood)
  • Paschal Byrne – 2008 stereo remastering[nb 1] (at The Audio Archiving Company, London)
  • Andy Pearce – 2011 remastering[nb 9], 2014 remastering[nb 10]
  • Matt Wortham – 2014 remastering
  • Jakko Jakszyk – 2014 stereo[nb 10] and 5.1 mixing[nb 3] (at Silesia Sound, Hertfordshire)
  • H. R. Giger – cover painting
  • Fabio Nicoli Associates – design and art direction
  • Rosemary Adams – photography


Chart (1973-1974) Peak
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[20] 5
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[21] 10
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[22] 18
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[23] 5
UK Albums (OCC)[24] 2
US Billboard 200[25] 11


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[26] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[27] Gold 500,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ a b Sanctuary 5308195
  2. ^ a b Rhino R9 75980, Sanctuary 5308195
  3. ^ a b Legacy/Sony Music 88883772862
  4. ^ Legacy/Sony Music 88883772842, Razor & Tie 7930183415-2
  5. ^ Atlantic 19124-2 (US), Atlantic 781 523-2 (Europe)
  6. ^ 383 480 020-2 (US), Victory 828 468-2 (Europe), Castle Music CMRCD201
  7. ^ Rhino R2 72459
  8. ^ Shout! Factory 826663-10642
  9. ^ Legacy/Sony Music 88697830132
  10. ^ a b Legacy/Sony Music 88883772862, Legacy/Sony Music 88883772842, Razor & Tie 7930183415-2
  1. ^ a b "Vintage Rock Interview with Greg Lake". Retrieved 12 March 2012. Unfortunately, what we found was that it was a pain to play Trilogy live. We had a lot of problems because we had done so many overdubs. So we decided on the next record (Brain Salad Surgery) that we would not do that — that we would make sure that we could play everything live and then record it like that. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Liner Notes from the DVD-A of Brain Salad Surgery – written by Jerry McCulley". Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  3. ^ Shout Factory liner notes from Brain Salad Surgery CD 2007 edition
  4. ^ a b Fletcher, Gordon (January 31, 1974). "Brain Salad Surgery". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2006-05-09. Retrieved 2012-07-28. This LP only convinces me that EL&P really ought to record all their material in concert, for short of that I fear we're doomed to more albums like Brain Salad Surgery—another record that shows this fine band to mixed effect. 
  5. ^ For example, Rhino Entertainment R2 72459, 1996.
  6. ^ a b "Background History by H.R. Giger". Official Giger website. Retrieved 29 April 2008. 
  7. ^ Thill, Scott. "H.R. Giger Born". Wired. Retrieved 9 February 2012. 
  8. ^ "Liner Notes from the DVD-A of Brain Salad Surgery – written by Jerry McCulley". Retrieved 12 February 2012.  "Giger's wife was the model for the inside cover," Keith Emerson says of the woman who committed suicide not long after.
  9. ^ "Background History by Keith Emerson". Official Giger website. Retrieved 29 April 2008. 
  10. ^ "Missing In Prague". Official H.R. Giger website. Retrieved 29 April 2008. 
  11. ^ "Artwork-Album design". Retrieved 9 February 2012. 
  12. ^ "Photo Gallery". 9 June 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2011. 
  13. ^ Shout Factory Catalog #826663-10642
  14. ^ Brain Salad Surgery CD, 2007, SHOUT Factory Records
  15. ^ "Brain Salad Surgery – Deluxe Edition". Discogs listing. Retrieved 27 May 2009. 
  16. ^ Eder, Bruce. Emerson, Lake & Palmer: "Brain Salad Surgery" > Review at AllMusic. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  17. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Review: Brain Salad Surgery". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 19 January 2017. 
  18. ^ Q Classic: Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, 2005.
  19. ^ "Peart named most influential prog drummer". TeamRock. 3 October 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  20. ^ " – Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  21. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 4969a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  22. ^ " – Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  23. ^ " – Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery". Hung Medien. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  24. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  25. ^ "Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Chart history" Billboard 200 for Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  26. ^ "British album certifications – Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 21 January 2017.  Enter Brain Salad Surgery in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search
  27. ^ "American album certifications – Lake Emerson & Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 21 January 2017.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]