Fanfare for the Common Man (Emerson, Lake & Palmer song)

"Fanfare for the Common Man" is a song by the English progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, from the group's 1977 Works Volume I album. Adapted by Keith Emerson[3] from Aaron Copland's 1942 piece of the same name, it is one of their most popular[4] and enduring pieces.[5][6]

"Fanfare for the Common Man"
Fanfare for the Common Man (ELP).jpg
Front cover of Fanfare for the Common Man with the UK Atlantic Records catalogue number of K10946 to identify it.[1]
Single by Emerson, Lake & Palmer
from the album Works Volume 1
B-side"Brain Salad Surgery"
Released1 May 1977 (UK) [2]
GenreProgressive rock
Length9:46 (album)
2:54 (single)
Songwriter(s)Aaron Copland, arr. Keith Emerson
Producer(s)Greg Lake
Emerson, Lake & Palmer singles chronology
"Fanfare for the Common Man"
"C'est la Vie"


ELP had previously adapted Copland's "Hoedown" for the band's Trilogy album in 1972. Although ELP did not always initially attribute the classical source for some of their pieces[7] (only attributed in later releases of the albums), Copland was attributed as the source for both Hoedown and Fanfare. Unlike Bartók and Janáček, Copland was still alive at the time of the recording.

According to Emerson, needed transposing, so I did that first. I wanted to improvise in a key that was sort of bluesy. It ended up in E. The rest of it was straightforward, really. You know, in order to get the shuffle sound, the timing had to be changed, but it was common sense.

— [8]


Greg Lake remembers the first time ELP played the adaptation:

It was just wonderful how it came about: We were recording in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1976, and Keith was playing it as a piece of classical music. I played this shuffle bass line behind him and all of a sudden it started to connect. Then Carl came in and we three started to play it. Luckily, the engineer had a two-track running, and that is what’s on the record - the first time we played through the piece.

— [9]

In another interview, Lake remarks:

We got a very ‘live’ dirty R & B sound that was really incredible. And all done with one microphone. We hadn’t played together for quite a while before that, apart from rehearsals and stuff. 'Fanfare' was thoroughly jammed, from top to bottom.

— [10]

A video was filmed of the band members performing at an empty Montreal Olympic Stadium.[11]

Comparison to originalEdit

Emerson's adaptation begins very much the same as Copland's original piece, though at a slightly faster tempo, up to about the thirty-second mark, where a strong rhythm line from drums, bass and Emerson on the lower rank of the GX-1 begins. From that point, Emerson restates the theme before starting the modal solo (on the GX-1's solo rank) that so bewildered Copland at about the three-minute mark, returning to the main theme at the eight-minute mark.

There is some ambiguity as to whether real trumpets or the Yamaha GX-1 was used for the introductory trumpet part. Anecdotal evidence[12] suggests it was the GX-1. When performed on some of the Works Live tour, Fanfare began and ended with real trumpets but the liner notes for the album Works Volume I[3] show only the three band members and no other performers on that track.

Reactions from CoplandEdit

Stewart Young, ELP's manager from 1972–present, made this comment on the documentary Beyond the Beginning:

The interesting thing... was that we had to get the permission of Aaron Copland, the composer. The publishing house said forget it. So I got Mr Copland's home number, called him up and he was very friendly on the phone. And he says "Send it to me, let me listen." And he loved it. He called me and said "This is brilliant, this is fantastic. This is doing something to my music."

— [13]

In an interview with Melissa Merli of The News-Gazette, Emerson said: "I know that Aaron Copland for one admired my adaptation. The BBC radio people in England interviewed him shortly before he passed and got his opinion, and it was very complimentary."[14]

In a BBC Radio interview, Copland relayed his reaction to the piece:

Interviewer: Just before I left London, I heard a piece of music of yours, Fanfare for the Common Man, which had been taken by a rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer. How do you feel about that?

Copland: Well, (laughs) of course it's very flattering to have one's music adopted by so popular a group, and so good a group as Emerson, Lake & Palmer. A lot depends on what they do with what they take, and naturally since I have a copyright on such material, they're not able to take it without my permission; so that in each case, where I have given my permission, there was something that attracted me about the version that they perform, which made me think I'd like to allow them to release it. Of course, I always prefer my own version best, but (laughs) what they do is really around the piece, you might say, rather than a literal transposition of the piece, and they're a gifted group. In that particular case, I allowed it to go by because when they first play it, they play it fairly straight and when they end the piece, they play it very straight. What they do in the middle, I'm not sure exactly how they connect that with my music but (laughs) they do it someway, I suppose. But the fact that at the beginning and the end it really is the Fanfare for the Common Man gave me the feeling I ought to allow them to do it as they pleased.

Interviewer: I know your original work is just over three minutes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer have managed to turn it into a nine minute work.

Copland: (Laughs) Exactly, well, it's those six minutes in the middle...(laughs)

— [15]



An edited version, closer to Copland's original three minutes, was released May 1977 as a single and became ELP's most popular release, reaching number 2 in the UK Singles Chart.[4] The "B" side of the single was the song Brain Salad Surgery, recorded during the sessions for the album of the same name but not released until Works Volume 2.

Chart (1977) Peak
UK Singles Chart[4] 2

From the booklet that accompanies the Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Welcome Back My Friends. 40th Anniversary Reunion Concert DVD:

The instrumental reworking of Aaron Copeland's [sic] Fanfare for the Common Man became the third bestselling instrumental track ever and still holds that honor.

— [18]

The compilations The Return of the Manticore, The Ultimate Collection, From the Beginning, Fanfare for the Common Man - Anthology, Come and See the Show - The Best of Emerson Lake & Palmer and The Very Best of Emerson, Lake & Palmer feature the full version but the compilation The Best of Emerson, Lake & Palmer includes the single version. The Essential Emerson, Lake & Palmer contains a third version, running five minutes and forty seconds.

On the live recording Emerson, Lake and Palmer in Concert (later released as Works Live) the performance begins and ends with the orchestra that the band took with them for some of the 1977 tour supporting the release of the Works Volume I album.

ELP is also known to combine their rendition of Fanfare with other pieces, such as during their performances Live at the Royal Albert Hall and Live in Poland, which end with a piece titled "Finale" or "Medley" that contains Fanfare and adaptations called America (based on America by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim) and/or Rondo (based on Blue Rondo à la Turk by Dave Brubeck), both of which were played by Emerson when he was in the band The Nice.

Performances by ELP and by othersEdit

This arrangement was an opening theme song for the CBS Sports Spectacular.[19] It is also used by Australia's Seven Network as a theme song for their sports programs and some sports.

Fanfare became a staple of ELP's concerts,[5][20][21][22] and while the opening and closing portions of the piece follow the recorded version fairly closely, Emerson's "modal" solo varied from one performance to another.

Fanfare has also been performed by the band members in other bands, including:

An ELP tribute act called Fanfare includes Fanfare for the Common Man in their shows.[39]

Italian organist Marco Lo Muscio has performed an arrangement of Emerson's adaptation of Fanfare on numerous church organs[40][41][42]


  1. ^ "Emerson Lake And Palmer – Fanfare For The Common Man". Discogs. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  2. ^ "BPI certifications".
  3. ^ a b "Liner notes". Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "Emerson, Lake & Palmer Songs". Retrieved January 24, 2012.
  5. ^ a b "ELP CONCERT TRACK LISTING". Retrieved January 29, 2012."Fanfare for the Common Man (77,78,86,88,92,93,96,97,98)" - Years performed in concert
  6. ^ "Fanfare appears on". Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  7. ^ "The Nexus of Classical and Rock". Retrieved January 27, 2012."When Emerson, Lake & Palmer failed to acknowledge Béla Bartók and Leoš Janáček on their first album, several magazine articles denounced this omission. Their later albums usually acknowledged their sources."
  8. ^ Milano, Domenic (October 1977). Contemporary Keyboard: 22–25. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ "GUITAR WORLD, July '93". Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  10. ^ "MELODY MAKER, March 12, 1977". Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  11. ^ YouTube: Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Fanfare For The Common Man
  12. ^ "Fanfare for the Common Man patch?". Archived from the original on January 28, 2013. Retrieved February 4, 2012."The intro horn is definitely a Yamaha GX1, as are all of the synth sounds used on Fanfare for the Common Man. Keith used three registrations (patches,) the intro horn, the brass like poly synth lead, and a modulated organ-like lead; I believe that that synth bass sound was simply the lower octaves of the organ-like patch. The Moog was not used at all, except occasionally on extended live versions that formed a finale. I know this because I discussed it with Keith and his keyboard engineer, Will Alexander when I met with them a couple of years ago."
  13. ^ Emerson, Lake & Palmer, "Story Of The Band," Beyond the Beginning, Sanctuary Records, DVD, Release Date: August 16, 2005
  14. ^ "Melissa Merli Interview". Retrieved January 24, 2012.
  15. ^ Emerson, Lake & Palmer, From The Beginning, Disc 4 Track 1, Castle Music UK, Audio CD, Release Date: September 17, 2007
  16. ^ Cohen, Elliot, "Lucky Man", Bass Player 2011|quote="I did use the Alembics for a while. The company built a whole series of custom basses for me. It was during the period when we did "Fanfare for the Common Man" and "Karn Evil 9.""
  17. ^ "Greg Lake One-2-One". Retrieved January 24, 2012."I used the 8 string bass on Fanfare because of its wirey and resonant sound."
  18. ^ Emerson, Lake & Palmer 40th Anniversary Reunion Concert DVD booklet, page 7, Concert One Limited 2011
  19. ^ "CBS Sports Spectacular – 1978". Retrieved January 24, 2012.
  20. ^ "Live At Nassau Coliseum '78". Retrieved January 27, 2012.
  21. ^ "Montreux 1997". Archived from the original on October 25, 2008. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
  22. ^ "Tollwood Festival München Germany 1997". Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  23. ^ "Japan 1990 YouTube video". Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  24. ^ "Vivacitas Live At Glasgow 2002". Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  25. ^ "Rolling Stone article". Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  26. ^ "Keith Emerson Band Concert Setlist at DK Lensoveta, Saint-Petersburg, Russia on September 2, 2008". Retrieved February 1, 2012.
  27. ^ "Moogfest BB King's". Retrieved February 1, 2012.
  28. ^ "Nearfest 2006". Archived from the original on October 19, 2011. Retrieved February 1, 2012.
  29. ^ "EMERSON BERRY & PALMER (THREE): FANFARE FOR THE COMMON MAN - NEW YORK 1988". Retrieved July 4, 2014.
  30. ^ "Emerson Lake & Powell - Live In Detroit 17-10-1986". Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  31. ^ "Music DVD Review Greg Lake Welcome Backstage". Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  32. ^ "Asia in Concert". Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  33. ^ "Asia - Spirit of the Night review". Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  34. ^ "Pandora". Pandora. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
  35. ^ "Carl Palmer Biography". Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  36. ^ "At B.B. King Blues Club". Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  37. ^ "CARL PALMER LIVE". Archived from the original on October 15, 2011. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  38. ^ "AllMusic review". Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  39. ^ "Fanfare Rocks". Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  40. ^ "Gloucester Cathedral: Marco Lo Muscio Plays : Keith Emerson: Fanfare for the Common Man". Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  41. ^ "Marco Lo Muscio Plays: Keith Emerson: Fanfare for the Common Man". Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  42. ^ "Westminster Cathedral: Marco Lo Muscio Plays: Keith Emerson: Fanfare for the Common Man". Retrieved January 31, 2012.

External linksEdit