|Years active||1967–70, 2002|
|Past members|| Keith Emerson |
The Nice were an English progressive rock band active in the late 1960s. They blended rock, jazz and classical music and were keyboardist Keith Emerson's first commercially successful band.
The group was formed in 1967 by Emerson, Lee Jackson, David O'List and Ian Hague to back soul singer P. P. Arnold. After replacing Hague with Brian Davison, the group set out on their own, quickly developing a strong live following. The group's stage performances featured Emerson's Hammond organ showmanship and abuse of the instrument. Their compositions included radical rearrangements of classical music themes and Bob Dylan songs.
The band achieved commercial success with an instrumental rearrangement of Leonard Bernstein's "America", following which O'List left the group. The remaining members carried on as a trio, releasing several albums, before Emerson decided to leave the band in early 1970 in order to form Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The group briefly reformed in 2002 for a series of concerts.
The Nice evolved from Gary Farr and the T-Bones, which keyboardist Keith Emerson and bassist Keith "Lee" Jackson were both members of before the band dissolved in early 1967.Emerson then briefly played with the VIPs, who toured the Star-Club in Hamburg, and his playing style became influenced by the organist Don Shinn, including standing up to play the instrument and rocking it on stage. Meanwhile, P. P. Arnold, a performer who reached a higher level of popularity in the UK than her native US, was unhappy with her backing band, the Blue Jays, and wanted a replacement. Her driver suggested Emerson would be able to put together such a group. Emerson agreed, but only on the condition the band could perform on their own as a warm-up act. Since it effectively meant getting two bands for the price of one, manager Andrew Loog Oldham readily agreed. Emerson recruited Jackson, drummer Ian Hague and ex-The Attack guitarist David O'List, the latter by recommendation from journalist Chris Welch. The name came from Arnold saying, "Here comes the Naz", which the group misheard as "the Nice".
The band played its first gig in May 1967, and had its first major break at the 7th National Jazz and Blues Festival in Windsor on 13 August. Oldham had managed to secure a separate set for the group in a side tent away from also accompanying Arnold on the main stage, where they gained attention. The next week, Welch wrote in the Melody Maker that "it was the first time I had seen a group actually in the act of winning its first following in quite dramatic circumstances".When Arnold went back to her family in the US shortly afterwards, Oldham offered the group a contract of their own. Hague was not interested in the "progressive" direction the group wanted to go in, so he was replaced by former Mark Leeman Five and Habits drummer Brian Davison.
Now a band in their own right, the Nice expanded their gear, recruiting roadies Bazz Ward and Lemmy, the latter of whom provided Emerson with a Hitler Youth ceremonial dagger to stick into the keys on his Hammond organ. They spent the end of 1967 on a package tour with Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, the Move and Amen Corner. Pink Floyd's then leader, Syd Barrett, missed several gigs and O'List had to stand in for him. The group's first album was recorded throughout the autumn of 1967, and in October of that year they recorded their first session for John Peel's radio show Top Gear .The album included classical and jazz influences including extracts from Leoš Janáček's Sinfonietta and a rearrangement of Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk" renamed as "Rondo", changing the time signature from the original 9/8 to 4/4 in the process. The group clashed with producer Oldham in the studio over the length of the track, but eventually won the argument; the full eight-minute piece was included on the album. After the album was released, the group realised that Oldham had a conflict of interest as manager and record company owner, so they recruited sports journalist Tony Stratton-Smith to take over management duties.
For their second single, the Nice created an arrangement of Leonard Bernstein's "America" which Emerson described as the first ever instrumental protest song. The track used the main theme of the Bernstein piece (from West Side Story ) but also included fragments of Dvořák's New World Symphony . The single concludes with Arnold's three-year-old son speaking the lines "America is pregnant with promise and anticipation, but is murdered by the hand of the inevitable." The new arrangement was released under the title "America (Second Amendment)" as a pointed reference to the US Bill of Rights provision for the right to bear arms.In July 1968, Immediate Records publicised the single with a controversial poster picturing the group members with small boys on their knees, with superimposed images of the faces of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. on the children's heads. A spokesman for the band said: "Several record stores have refused to stock our current single .... the Nice feel if the posters are issued in United States they will do considerable harm". During the tour that followed the release of their second album in July, the group spawned controversy when Emerson burned an American flag onstage during a performance of "America" at a charity event, Come Back Africa in London's Royal Albert Hall. The group were subsequently banned from ever playing the venue again.
By summer 1968, the group had become concerned about O'List's reliabilityand matters came to a head following a gig in Croydon's Fairfield Hall in September. According to Ward, O'List had an altercation with him in mid-performance. Emerson subsequently called a band meeting with Jackson and Davison and stated flatly that O'List should be sacked. They agreed, and immediately after their performance at The Ritz, Bournemouth in October, he was fired by Stratton-Smith with the rest of the band present. O'List, however, claims that he left the band voluntarily because he was upset at Stratton-Smith's decision to make Emerson the front man, saying: "I left the band and waited for Keith to get in contact... I should have gone straight to Keith, but I didn't."
The Nice briefly considered looking for a replacement, with Steve Howe trying out at an audition. Howe got on well with the rest of the band, but a week later had second thoughts and decided not to join.Emerson tried to learn guitar so he could cover some of O'List's old parts, but gave up after one gig.
The band's second LP Ars Longa Vita Brevis featured an arrangement of the Intermezzo from the Karelia Suite by Jean Sibelius, which the band's friend Roy Harper had recommended they cover, 3. The group used an orchestra for the first time on some parts of the suite. The band were on the bill at the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival and briefly toured Ireland with Yes and Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band which, by all accounts, was fraught with logistical problems.and the album's second side was a suite which included an arrangement of a movement from J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No.
The third album, titled Nice in the UK and Everything As Nice As Mother Makes It in the US, featured one side recorded live on their American tour and one side of studio material. As with previous albums, it included arrangements of classical material, in this case the Third Movement of Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony (Pathetique),and rearrangements of Bob Dylan's "She Belongs to Me" and Tim Hardin's "Hang on to a Dream".
In 1969, the band found time to contribute to other projects. Emerson performed as a session player for Rod Stewart and the Faces,while the whole group provided instrumental backing for the track "Hell's Angels" on Roy Harper's 1970 album Flat Baroque and Berserk . Mid-year, tour promoter Michael Emmerson asked the Nice to write some music for the Newcastle upon Tyne Arts Festival. The result was the Five Bridges suite. The group premièred the piece on 10 October 1969 at Newcastle City Hall. A complete version with an orchestra was performed at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon on 17 October, which was recorded for the album of the same name. The title refers to the city's five bridges spanning the River Tyne, and Jackson's lyrics refer to his Newcastle childhood and the St James' Park football ground.
By late 1969, Emerson thought the Nice had progressed as far as it could musically, and was particularly dissatisfied with Jackson's limited vocal style. He asked Jack Bruce and Yes' Chris Squire about forming a new band, but both turned Emerson down.While on tour in the US with King Crimson, Emerson held a meeting with Stratton-Smith and declared "the Nice had outlived its usefulness". By the end of the year, Emerson and Crimson's Greg Lake had decided to form a band together. The group carried on touring into 1970, but sometime early in the year, Emerson told Jackson that he would be leaving the band. Matters were not helped by Immediate Records filing for bankruptcy; the band later said they received no royalties from the label while an active group.
In February 1970, the group collaborated with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra led by Zubin Mehta. This was broadcast in the following month as part of the "Switched-On Symphony" program. Following standard television procedure of the day, the Nice's contribution (a version of "America") was recorded ahead of time and the band mimed for the cameras.
By March, the group had confirmed they would split, and a report on the band's decision was printed in Melody Maker. The group played their last British concert on 22 March at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon,and after a short German tour the band broke up, playing their last gig on 30 March at the Berlin Sportpalast.
Emerson and Lake recruited Carl Palmer from Atomic Rooster and formed Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP). 5 in the UK.In 1971, the posthumous Nice album Elegy was released. It included different versions of previously released tracks, two being studio versions and two live from the 1969 US tour. Emerson had no involvement with compiling the album, which was done by Jackson, Davison and Charisma Records. The album reached No.
Jackson formed Jackson Heights which released five albums between 1970 and 1973. Emerson supported the band and became a fan.Davison formed "Every Which Way" which released an album in 1970. Both Jackson and Davison formed Refugee with keyboardist Patrick Moraz in 1974, but Moraz left the group after one album to replace Rick Wakeman in Yes.
After over three decades of inactivity, the Nice reformed in 2002 for a series of concerts. A three-CD set Vivacitas was released, with the third CD being an interview with Emerson, Jackson and Davison. Dave Kilminster guested on guitar at the concerts.Davison died on 15 April 2008 aged 65 in Horns Cross, Devon, from a brain tumour. Emerson died on 11 March 2016 in Santa Monica, California, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
The Nice were primarily a live band. Their stage performances were bold and violent, with Emerson incorporating feedback and distortion. He manhandled his Hammond L-100 organ, wrestling it and attacking it with daggers (which he used to hold down keys and sustain notes during these escapades).Emerson's playing was inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Billy Ritchie of Clouds, and Don Shinn as well as earlier figures such as pianist Jerry Lee Lewis.
The group's early sound was geared more towards psychedelic rock with only occasional classical influences.Following O'List's departure, Emerson's control over the band's direction became greater, resulting in more complex music. The absence of a guitar in the band and Emerson's redefining of the role of keyboard instruments in rock set the Nice apart from many of its contemporaries. He used a combination of Marshall Amplification and Leslie speakers in order to project a full sound to compensate for the lack of a guitarist.
Jackson never considered himself a great singer, partly because the group chose poor keys for his vocal range, but his bass playing, with heavy use of a plectrum, was a distinctive part of the band's overall sound.He was influenced by Bob Dylan, whose songs were often covered at the time; the Nice interpreted several of them, typically reducing them to three or four verses and featuring a long improvised middle section, such as "She Belongs to Me".
The Nice were one of the pioneering progressive rock bands and their fusion of styles strongly influenced the movement into the 1970s.Their commercial success on Charisma Records was key to establishing the label, which went on to include several other progressive acts, including Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator. Genesis were fans of the Nice and "The Knife" from their album Trespass was directly inspired by the band. Though the Nice were not the first to combine a rock band and orchestra, they did inspire similar attempts by other groups, such as Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother .
The group have often been compared to ELP, but there were important differences between them. Emerson's showmanship was more important in the Nice, and he mostly used just a Hammond organ live as opposed to a wider range of keyboards, including the Moog synthesizer, in ELP.John Peel, an early champion of the Nice, called ELP "a waste of talent and electricity".
Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) were an English progressive rock supergroup formed in London in April 1970. The band consisted of Keith Emerson (keyboards), Greg Lake and Carl Palmer. With nine RIAA-certified gold record albums in the US, and an estimated 48 million records sold worldwide, they were one of the most popular and commercially successful progressive rock bands in the 1970s, with a musical sound including adaptations of classical music with jazz and symphonic rock elements, dominated by Emerson's flamboyant use of the Hammond organ, Moog synthesizer, and piano.
Keith Noel Emerson was an English keyboardist, songwriter, and composer. He played keyboards in a number of bands before finding his first commercial success with the Nice in the late 1960s. He became internationally famous for his work with the Nice, which included writing rock arrangements of classical music. After leaving the Nice in 1970, he was a founding member of Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), one of the early progressive rock supergroups. Emerson, Lake & Palmer were commercially successful through much of the 1970s, becoming one of the best-known progressive rock groups of the era. Emerson wrote and arranged much of ELP's music on albums such as Tarkus (1971) and Brain Salad Surgery (1973), combining his own original compositions with classical or traditional pieces adapted into a rock format.
Tarkus is the second studio album by the English progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, released in June 1971 on Island Records. Following their 1970 European tour, the group returned to Advision Studios in London, in January 1971, to prepare material for a follow-up. Side one has the seven-part "Tarkus", with a collection of shorter tracks on side two.
Works Volume 2 is the sixth studio album by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, released in 1977. Unlike Works Volume 1, Works Volume 2 was a single album and it was seemingly a compilation of leftover tracks from other album sessions. While many derided the album for its apparent lack of focus, others praised it for showing a different side of the band than usual, with blues, bluegrass and jazz being very prominent as musical genres in this recording.
The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack is the 1968 debut album by the English psychedelic rock and progressive rock group the Nice. It is considered one of the first albums in the latter genre.
Gregory Stuart Lake was an English singer, songwriter, bassist, guitarist and record producer. He gained prominence as a founding member of the progressive rock bands King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP).
Carl Frederick Kendall Palmer is an English drummer and percussionist, credited as one of the most respected rock drummers to emerge from the 1960s. He is a veteran of a number of famous English bands: the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Atomic Rooster, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Asia. Inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1989, he was awarded "Prog God" at the 2017 Progressive Music Awards.
Love Beach is the seventh studio album by English progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer. It was released in November 1978 by Atlantic Records as their final studio album released prior to their split in the following year. By the end of their 1977–1978 North American tour internal relations had started to deteriorate, but the group were contractually required to produce one more album. They retreated to Nassau, Bahamas as tax exiles to record Love Beach with lyricist Peter Sinfield who is credited as a co-writer of each track. After Greg Lake and Carl Palmer had finished recording their parts they left the island, leaving Keith Emerson to finish the album himself.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer in Concert is a live album by Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), recorded at 26 August 1977 show at the Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Quebec, Canada which is featured on the album cover. It was released by Atlantic Records in November 1979, following ELP's breakup. It was later re-released and repackaged as Works Live in 1993. Some of the tracks were not from the Montreal concert, but from other concerts the 1977–1978 Tour, like "Peter Gunn" and "Tiger in a Spotlight".
Jackson Heights were an English musical group formed by bassist and vocalist Lee Jackson. The group was formed in 1970, when keyboardist Keith Emerson left The Nice to form ELP. In 1973, Jackson teamed up again with The Nice drummer Brian "Blinky" Davison to form Refugee with Patrick Moraz.
Tony Stratton-Smith was an English rock music manager, and entrepreneur. He founded the London-based record label Charisma Records in 1969 and managed rock groups such as the Nice, Van der Graaf Generator and Genesis.
David Kilminster is a British guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, producer and music teacher, who has toured as a sideman to several prestigious musicians, including progressive rock artists Steven Wilson and Roger Waters.
Ars Longa Vita Brevis is the second album by the English progressive rock group the Nice.
Brian Davison, nicknamed "Blinky", was a British drummer, best known for his work in The Nice. He was born in Leicester and died in Horns Cross, Bideford, Devon.
Lee Jackson is an English bass guitarist and singer-songwriter, known for his work in the Nice, an English progressive-rock band as well as his own band formed after the Nice, Jackson Heights, and finally Refugee with Nice drummer Brian Davison and Swiss keyboardist Patrick Moraz.
David "Davy" O'List is an English rock guitarist, vocalist and trumpeter. He has played with The Attack, The Nice, Roxy Music, and Jet. He also briefly deputised in Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd.
Nice was the third album by the Nice; it was titled Everything As Nice As Mother Makes It in the US after Immediate broke their distribution deal with Columbia. Nice had been initially released in the US with a slightly longer version of Rondo 69 not available on the UK or on the independently distributed US versions. The first US version of Nice was briefly reissued in 1973 by Columbia Special Products.
Elegy was the final official album release by the Nice, Keith Emerson having moved on to Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Lee Jackson to Jackson Heights and Brian Davison to Every Which Way. It consists of live versions of songs from earlier releases and a cover of "My Back Pages". Released after the Nice had disbanded, the album achieved number 5 in the UK album chart.
Vivacitas is a live album recorded by the Nice, who reformed for a set of concerts, augmented by the Keith Emerson Band for the second half of the concert. David O'List, The Nice's original guitarist, did not take part, and was replaced by Dave Kilminster. The album consists of versions of pieces which had been live favourites during the Nice's heyday between 1967 and 1970, three piano solo pieces by Emerson, some pieces from the Emerson, Lake & Palmer repertoire performed by the Keith Emerson Band, and a 2001 interview with Emerson, Lee Jackson and Brian Davison by Chris Welch.
Autumn '67 – Spring '68 is a 1972 compilation by the English psychedelic rock and progressive rock group the Nice. The album consists of outtakes and alternate versions of previously released songs, which were recorded between Autumn 1967 and Spring 1968.
...British art rock groups such as the Nice, Yes, Genesis, ELP, King Crimson, the Moody Blues, and Procol Harum...