“To the Devil, drink a toast…”
Yes, it was also difficult for me to get past that lyric …
Hopefully, I can find redemption by the end of my post. This week I would like to share some swashbuckling excitement from another chapter of “Denny-Lived-Through-It-Music-History!”
Emerson Lake and Palmer were one of the greatest “Progressive Rock” groups of the 1970s. The song “Pirates” has always been one of my favorites. The track is from their album “Works Vol.1”. This critically-acclaimed record was actually a significant departure from their previous hard rock/synthesizer work. They used a full orchestra for some songs, and much of the double-album had a “classical music” sound and feel to it.
I think that the song holds up well. In fact, the music is often “pirated” in many TV shows and movie soundtracks. “HEY! – that music is from Pirates” … It never surprises me to hear excerpts from it. I hope that Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Carl Palmer and Peter Sinfield receive royalties.
Who’ll make his mark / The captain cried
To the devil drink a toast / We’ll glut the hold
With cups of gold / And we’ll feed the sea with ghosts
I see your hunger for a fortune / Could be better
Served beneath my flag / If you’ve the stomach
For a broadside / Come aboard my pretty boys …
The brilliant lyrics are by Peter Sinfield, British poet, and occasional songwriting partner with Greg Lake. These full lyrics (linked here in a new window) are good at describing what pirates were actually like in history.
Six days off the Cuban coast, / When a sail ahead they spied
“A galleon of the treasure fleet” / The mizzen lookout cried
Closer to the wind my boys / The mad eyed captain roared,
For every man that’s alive tonight / Will be hauling gold aboard …
“Spare us” the galleon begged / But mercy’s face had fled
Blood ran from the screaming souls / The cutlass harvested
Driven to the quarter deck / The last survivor fell
She’s ours my boys / The captain grinned
And no one left to tell …
So brilliant. Such imagery and colorful language! You can really feel the sea air, the tense fighting, the heaving ship, the merciless killing …
The captain rose from a silk divan / With a pistol in his fist
And shot the lock from an iron box / And a blood red ruby kissed
I give you jewelry of turquoise / A crucifix of solid gold
One hundred thousand silver pieces / It is just as I foretold
You, you see there before you / Everything you’ve ever dreamed
If you only know what you see in Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” you might think that pirates were harmless flakes or fruits (e.g. Johnny Depp). Of course real pirates drunk toasts to the Devil … they were leaving their Christian life behind.
Anchored in an indigo moonlit bay / Gold eyed ’round fires
The sea thieves lay / Morning, white shells
And a pipe of clay / As the wind filled their footprints
They were far, far away …
The first video features famous scenes from pirate movies, and mixed in with live performances of ELP during the “Works Volume #1” tour. The one below plays and shows only the lyrics. Such great DRIVING music!
I always thought that this song was great music for a road trip and highway driving! … but you are not driving right now, are you, my pretty boys? I can remember seeing ELP live on the Works tour during the summer of 1977. Oh it was a great experience. The legal drinking age in my state was 18 back then, so there was plenty of rum (actually 3.2 beer) on the trip. My friend had a black 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass (Like the pirate sword, get it?). He tied a black pirate flag to the antenna so it snapped in the breeze (“closer to the wind my boys” ) as we drove westward on USA 80.
I was very much looking forward to seeing ELP perform their great new album live with a full orchestra … however the group ran out of money to pay the orchestra just two dates prior to the show I saw. They had to drop the orchestra and performed as a three piece again.
I like how the music video had scenes from the orchestral performances. Darn it. It was still a great show. We had tickets right on the floor of the arena, only a few rows back from the stage. I was surrounded by drunkards, thieves, thugs and assorted scoundrels – but I didn’t care – and you would have thought that I was a bit of a scoundrel back then anyway.
It was one of the best rock concerts I ever attended. ELP was still at their peak in those days, and the group played all their great AOR favorites. It was an evening of great adventure. “Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash” indeed.
However, If you would like to see a good pirate movie without any of all that, and with a more Christian theme, then I suggest:
ELP received mixed reviews from the serious music critics. Some liked them because the group incorporated classical music elements. ELP recorded Aaron Copeland’s “Hoedown” and “Fanfare for the Common Man” as well as Mussorgsky’s “Great Gates of Kiev” and “Pictures at an Exhibition”, amongst others.
The group is mainly known for their one AM radio hit “Lucky Man”. Some critics panned them because they were so bombastic! So pompous — so full of sound and fury — but YOU COULD NOT DANCE TO IT! The group could switch from gentle Greg Lake love songs – “Still You Turn Me On”, etc, to Kieth Emerson’s long piano concertos, to synthesized percussion noise masquerading as classical music (Alberto Ginastera’s Concerto for Piano “Tocatta” )
Basically, whether or not you would like ELP comes down to one question: DO YOU LIKE GARGOYLES?
No, the songs were not about gargoyles. However, if you think that the gargoyles on gothic cathedrals are beautiful or at least interesting, then you may like ELP. I always thought that ELP were the musical equivalent of gargoyles. Tarkus, for example.
Starlight: Has it been 38 light years?
I HEAR YOU!