Brain Salad Surgery

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Brain Salad Surgery
ELP - Brain Salad Surgery.jpg
Cover art by H. R. Giger
Studio album by Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Released 19 November 1973
Recorded June–September 1973, Advision Studios and Olympic Studios, London, England
Genre Progressive rock, symphonic rock
Length 45:04
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

Brain Salad Surgery is the fourth studio album by progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, released in 1973 and the first under their Manticore Records imprint. It fuses rock and classical themes. 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 a Poem". 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 most well-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 Pete 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 album.

All three songs were later included on Works Volume II. 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, but this was removed at the insistence of the record company[9]). The cover would also be the custom label for the album and when you put the record 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 (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]
Rolling Stone

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 Writer(s) Length
1. "Jerusalem"   William Blake, Hubert Parry as adapted by Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Carl Palmer 2:44
2. "Toccata"   Alberto Ginastera, arr. Emerson 7:20
3. "Still...You Turn Me On"   Lake 2:52
4. "Benny the Bouncer"   Emerson, Lake, Peter Sinfield 2:18
5. "Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Pt. 1"   Emerson, Lake 8:39
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Pt. 2"   Emerson, Lake 4:43
2. "Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression"   Emerson 7:07
3. "Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression"   Emerson, Lake, Sinfield 9:07

No. Title Length
1. "Jerusalem"   2:44
2. "Toccata"   7:22
3. "Still...You Turn Me On"   2:53
4. "Benny the Bouncer"   2:21
5. "Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Pt. 1"   8:37
6. "Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Pt. 2"   4:46
7. "Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression"   7:07
8. "Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression"   9:13

Some CD copies have the entire Karn Evil 9 suite as one song,[20] giving the disc a total of five tracks.


Emerson, Lake and Palmer
Additional personnel
  • Engineered and mixed by Chris Kimsey & Geoff Young
  • Additional engineering: Bob Fisher, Ed Morgan
  • Remastered by Dan Hersch and Bill Inglot


  • Jerusalem / When the Apple Blossoms Bloom in the Windmills of Your Mind I'll Be Your Valentine

The single was not released in the UK due to objections from the BBC who thought their recording "degrad[ed]" [the] traditional English song."[21]


  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 c 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. ^ Allmusic Review
  17. ^ Christgau, Robert. "CG: Emerson, Lake & Palmer". Retrieved 29 April 2011. 
  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. ^ "Brain Salad Surgery [UK Bonus Tracks]". Retrieved 25 Aug 2015. 
  21. ^ "The journals of Alan Rhodes – part II". Retrieved 2010-12-19. Carl Palmer would later say: " Jerusalem ' was banned in England on the radio. Although we tried to get a very orchestral feel, it was still labeled as a piece of pop music. (The) BBC would not accept 'Jerusalem' as a serious piece of music. (They) thought we were degrading it." 

External links[edit]