Jerusalem A View From A Brit

I was fourteen when Brain Salad Surgery was released. I had first discovered ELP through the Trilogy album. That was one of two albums to be seen with under your arm at school. The other was Physical Graffiti. Consequently, this would be the first ELP album I had bought on the day of release. And boy was I excited. The sleeve looked magnificent and opened differently to other albums, and the album label ( God how I miss labels ) was a wonder to behold.  I had heard that the first track was going to be their version of Jerusalem and was interested as to how it would sound. The needle hit the plastic and out came the bombastic sound. Mr Emerson’s synth sound had changed as he was now playing poly moogs and the drum sound was really tight and crystal clear. Then Greg’s dynamic tenor voice sang those words. A repeat of the opening salvo in the middle, another verse and then the really over the top ending. As far as I was concerned, no other band around could have pulled that off.

Britain was a different place in 1973. Radio One was our one and only national pop radio station. If you wanted your record to chart you needed it played on radio one. ELP released Jerusalem as a single. Radio One banned it. It never got played. They banned it on the grounds that it was irreverent. A Rock and Roll band had the audacity to take a beloved hymn of the British people and turn it into a rock/pop song just didn’t sit well the BBC hierarchy.

I was a choirboy in the early 70’s so I knew the song well and thought it had a good tune. It was different to sing compared to some of the other hymns we sang. So I connected with it and even today enjoy singing along with it. There was a time when our country had a mild discussion as to whether God Save The Queen should be replaced. Suggestions included Land of Hope and Glory and Jerusalem.

For the past two seasons now our national cricket team has come out onto the ground at the start of play each day to the strains of Jerusalem. ( for our cousins across the pond…yes.. a game can last 5 days and end in an exciting draw ) It is usually sung by an operatic singing star of the day and is supposed to strike up pride in our country and send our boys into cricket battle with determination.  It is also sung at the Promenade concerts performed at the Royal Albert Hall each year. If you were to ask the general public in Britain to name their favourite hymn or even just to name any hymn, Jerusalem would be in the top three every time. Some people would be hard pushed to name any other hymn but maybe that is a reflection on a dwindling church going population.

Going back to Brain Salad Surgery……. if Jerusalem was not on the album or in a different spot on the album, then it would have been a poorer album because of it.  Till we have built Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land.


Now bring on Toccata.




3 thoughts on “Jerusalem A View From A Brit

  1. Pingback: ELP, William Blake, and Jerusalem – The Divine Conection | Progarchy


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