Sunday, May 4, 2008

Keith Emerson and The Situational Awareness Challenge

Way, way back when I was in high school, a very significant portion of my part-time job income went to the purchase of tickets for rock & roll concerts, and tickets only cost about $7.50 back then. I own about 600 CDs, many if not most of which are late '60s and early '70s hard rock.

I say that just to point out that the music from that era is very important to me. One of the first few concerts I ever went to was Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I believe that Keith Emerson is probably the greatest rock keyboardist of all time. If you're not familiar, check out this video of ELP's version of "Hoedown" from Aaron Copland's "Rodeo" from way back in 1973.

So when I read a while back that Keith Emerson was playing at The Birchmere in Alexandria, there was nothing for me to do but to cajole my wife into attending with me, even though it's not really her sort of thing. As an aside, both The Birchmere in Alexandria and The State Theatre in Falls Church are terrific venues for seeing artists from the era I love.

Anyway, a great show and, wonder of wonders, someone came out to the lobby of the Birchmere and said that Mr. Emerson would be coming out to meet people. Oh. My. God.

So I get in line. Within a few minutes, I'm standing in front of a small table and there, inches from me, is none other than Keith Emerson himself. It is no exaggeration to say that this was one of the top 10 moments of my entire life. While he was autographing my brand new CD, the conversation went something like this:

Me: Great show tonight!

KE: Thanks.

Me: Mr. Emerson, I really didn't want to gush when I got up here, but I just wanted to tell you how much your music has meant to me for, oh, 35 years.

KE: Well thank you very much!

Me: I first saw you in Atlanta on the "Brain Salad Surgery" tour in the early '70s.

KE: "Brain Salad Surgery" came out in 1979.

Me: I beg your pardon?

KE: Yeah, "Brain Salad Surgery" was the late '70s; '78 or '79.
Me: Huh.

He was wrong. I knew he was wrong. But I let it go. My wife took a picture of the two of us together, I wished him luck on the rest of his tour or some such, and we went home.

We got home, I went straight to the CD rack, and pulled out my copy of "Brain Salad Surgery".

In very small type at the bottom on the back, it said "Copyright, 1973".

Now, how does all of this relate to Situational Awareness? It's simply this: My first impulse was to stand there and tell Mr. Emerson why I was so sure the concert was in the early '70s (I saw it in high school and I graduated in 1975), but I didn't. I didn't because:

  1. When someone has been churning out music that long, getting a date mixed up can reasonably be expected.
  2. There were about 100 people in line behind me.
  3. He's Keith-freakin'-Emerson, fergodsake.

Have I ever left my grocery cart blocking the aisle? I have. Have I ever said some extremely inappropriate thing given the circumstances and/or company present? You betcha. But that night my Situational Awareness Quotient was riding high despite being completely awestruck.

And most important: I was right and Keith Emerson was wrong.


AbbotOfUnreason said...

I just found it funny that he bothered to "correct" you. Why would he do that? I'd think he'd just want to shoo people along as fast as possible.

Gilahi said...

Despite his apparent need to set the record straight on the date, he seemed overall like a whale of a nice guy. I think a lot of artists of his stature wouldn't have come out to greet their public at all. Thanks for stopping by.

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