The Nice

The Nice was an English psychedelic rock band with keyboardist Keith Emerson. In 1968, they scored a UK hit with “America” and released two albums on Immediate Records: The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack and Ars Longa Vita Brevis.

In 1969, The Nice released a self-titled third album (aka Everything as Nice as Mother Makes It) and performed a classical work, Five Bridges Suite, at Fairfield Halls with backing by trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and the Sinfonia of London. It appeared on Charisma–Philips in June 1970, several months after Emerson disbanded the group to form Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Drummer Brian Davison headed Every Which Way for one 1970 album. Bassist Lee Jackson formed Jackson Heights, which cut four 1970–73 albums. They regrouped with Mainhorse keyboardist Patrick Moraz for a 1974 album as Refugee. Early Nice guitarist Davy O’List surfaced in the Sparks spinoff Jet.

Members: Keith Emerson (keyboards), Lee Jackson (vocals, bass, guitar), Ian Hague (drums, 1967), Davy O’List (guitar, vocals, 1967-68), Brian Davison (drums, 1967-70)


Background

The Nice evolved from The T-Bones, a Worthing R&B–beat group with singer Gary Farr and bassist Lee Jackson. Between 1964 and 1966, they released four singles and two EPs on Columbia and the French Riviera label. On the seaside club circuit, they shared bills with John Brown’s Bodies, whose organist, Keith Emerson (b. 1944), played intense Hammond riffs inspired by Jack McDuff. The T-Bones on-boarded Emerson for their final round of activity.

In late 1966, Emerson joined The VIP’s, a Carlisle R&B–mod group with multiple singles on Fontana. He toured with the band in Germany and France, where he stopped an audience fight with organ-generated explosions and machine gun sounds. These effects, coupled with his visceral, flamboyant stage mannerisms (influenced by contemporary organist Don Shinn), became hallmarks of his style.

(Emerson’s exit from The VIP’s signaled their name-change to Art, which cut one album then added an American keyboardist, Gary Wright, and changed their name a final time to Spooky Tooth.)


1967

In early 1967, London-based American soul singer PP Arnold asked Emerson to assemble a backing band for her live performances. Arnold arrived months earlier as an Ikette on the Ike & Tina Turner Revue‘s UK tour with the Rolling Stones. She befriended Mick Jagger, who introduced her to Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who signed her as a solo artist to his new label, Immediate Records. Emerson agreed to helm her backing band on the proviso that his boys play a separate opening set. For Loog Oldham, this meant two acts in one.

Emerson recruited T-Bones colleague Lee Jackson and drummer Ian Hague, recently of Chris Farlowe‘s backing band The Thunderbirds. At the suggestion of journalist Chris Welch, they roped in teenage guitarist Davy O’List, who recently cut two freakbeat singles with The Attack. They named their band The Nice, purportedly after a misheard Arnold quote, “Here come the naz,” (possibly a mondegreen of the just-recorded song “Here Come the Nice” by Immediate label-mates the Small Faces).

The Nice made their live debut in May 1967 and roused 40,000 attendees of the 7th National Jazz and Blues Festival, a three-day August event at the Royal Windsor Racecourse with sets by the Alan Bown Set, Blossom Toes, Chicken Shack, Cream, Donovan, Jeff Beck, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, The Move, Pentangle, Small Faces, Tomorrow, and (in their debut performance) Fleetwood Mac (billed as Peter Green‘s Fleetwood Mac). The Nice backed PP Arnold and also played their own set on the second day (Saturday the 12th), which also featured Amen Corner, Aynsley Dunbar, Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Paul Jones, Ten Years After, Timebox, and Zoot Money.>

When Arnold broke for a stateside visit, Loog Oldham offered The Nice their own deal. Hague, displeased with the band’s psychedelic tendencies, cleared for drummer Brian Davison, a Mark Leeman Five alumnus fresh off a stint in The Habits, a mod-soul combo that cut the 1966 Decca single “Elbow Baby” (b/w “Need You”), produced by Spencer Davis and Steve Winwood.

The Nice gigged through the autumn of 1967 on bills with Geranium Pond (9/17: Brady), Eyes of Blue (10/27: Middle Earth, Covent Garden), and a multi-act bill at London’s Saville Theatre with Granny’s Intention, Jimmy James & the Vagabonds, and the Mike Stuart Span. They headlined London’s prestigious Marquee Club with openers Nite People (10/2), Studio Six (10/16), Herbal Mixture (11/6), and The Open Mind (11/13).>

On October 19, The Nice played their first of seven sets for BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, whose 10/22 broadcast aired “Flower King of Flies,” “Azrael,” “Sombrero Sam,” “Tantalising Maggie,” “Rondo,” and “The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack.”

On October 24, they opened the Marquee for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, whose bassist, Noel Redding, had a roomate named Lemmy Kilmister, who joined The Nice’s road crew and gifted Emerson a Hitler Youth dagger, which Keith stuck into the keys on his Hammond.


“The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack”

On November 3, 1967, The Nice debuted with “The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack,” an upbeat psych singalong with brass, harpsichord, and organ; backed with “Azrial (Angel of Death).” Both songs are credited to ‘Emerlist Davjack’ — a combination of their four surnames: Emerson, O’List, Davison, and Jackson.

A. “The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack” (2:49)
B. “Azrial (Angel of Death)” (3:43)

The Nice plugged the single on a fifteen-date UK package tour with Amen Corner, Eire Apparent, The Move, The Outer Limit, Pink Floyd, and headliners the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The tour included dates in Sheffield (11/17: City Oval Hall), Liverpool (11/18: Empire Theatre), Coventry (11/19: Coventry Theatre), Bristol (11/24: Colston Hall), Manchester (11/26: Palace Theatre), Newcastle (12/4: City Hall), Cardiff, Wales (11/23: Sophia Gardens Pavilion), and Glasgow, Scotland (12/5: Green’s Playhouse). On select dates, Pink Floyd had O’List deputize their inert frontman Syd Barrett.


1968

The Nice opened 1968 with a New Year’s Day show at the Marquee, opened by Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, the root band of Yes. In January, they headlined over Tyrannosaurus Rex (1/12: Middle Earth) and did their second Peel session with four songs (“Daddy Where Did I Come From,” “For No-One,” “La Aresa D Conte,” “She Belongs to Me”) for the DJ’s 1/12 broadcast.

They made their US debut with a multi-night showcase at The Scene in New York City. In San Fancisco, they played played a multi-act bill at the Fillmore West (2/22: with The Who, Cannonball Adderley, The Vagrants) and opened for Big Brother & the Holding Company at the Winterland (2/23–24).


The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack

The Nice released their debut album, The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, on March 1, 1968, on Immediate. The original album group-credits everything to the Emerlist Davjack portmanteau, including the pre-released title track.

Reissues of the album identify the songs as co-compositions between organist Keith Emerson and assorted bandmates: one with guitarist Davy O’List (“TToED”) and two with bassist–singer Lee Jackson (“Flower King of Flies,” “Tantalising Maggie”). The three of them joint-wrote “The Cry of Eugene.”

Side One contains the Jackson–O’List number “Bonnie K” and a group-credited arrangement of Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk” (titled “Rondo”). Side Two contains writing input by drummer Brian Davison on one Emerson–Jackson number (“Dawn”) and the group-composed “War and Peace.”

Emerson plays organ, piano, and harpsichord on Emerlist Davjack, which features secondary instrumentation by O’List (trumpet), Jackson (guitar), and Davison (tubular bells). Lee and Brian both play timpani. David sings lead on “Flower King of Flies.”

1. “Flower King of Flies” (3:19) At the 1967 Windsor event, Jackson claimed this song concerned Paul McCartney.
2. “The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack” (2:49) features backing vocals by singer–songwriter (and Immediate staffer) Billy Nichols, whose singular sixties album Would You Believe appeared in April.
3. “Bonnie K” (3:24)
4. “Rondo” (8:22) originated as a piano-jazz piece in 9/8 time on the Dave Brubek Quartet’s 1959 Columbia release Time Out. Emerson appropriates the them on organ in 4/4 time and interpolates Toccata & Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach.
5. “War and Peace” (5:13)
6. “Tantalising Maggie” (4:35)
7. “Dawn” (5:17)
8. “The Cry of Eugene” (4:36)

Sessions took place in the Autumn of 1967 at Olympic Studios, where The Nice self-produced the album under their Emerlist Davjack moniker. Immediate in-house artist Derek Burton designed the cover, which features bubble letters on black with group pics by Stones photographer Gered Mankowitz, whose images also appear on 1968 titles by Giles Giles & Fripp, Nirvana, Traffic, Spooky Tooth, Tramline, Wynder K. Frog, and Immediate label-mates Duncan Browne and PP Arnold.

“The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack” became the theme song to The Tyrant King, a 1968 six-part children’s serial drama by director Mike Hodges (Get Carter) that also featured music by The Rolling Stones, The Moody Blues, Cream, and Pink Floyd.

Upon the completion of Emerlist Davjack, The Nice realized Loog Oldham’s conflict of interest as band manager and label overlord. They shifted management duties to Tony Stratton Smith, a former sports journalist who inherited his first music client, The Koobas, from the late Beatles manager Brian Epstein.

Through March and April 1968, The Nice maintained a Monday residency at the Marquee, where they headlined over The New Nadir (3/4), The Exception (3/18), Still Life (3/25), Glass Menagerie (4/1), Black Cat Bones (4/26), and a late-period lineup of The Attack (3/11). On March 9, they played the Leeds University Arts Festival Rave with Chicken Shack and the Spencer Davis Group (now with Eddie Hardin).

On May 6, The Nice appeared with Floyd, The Move, The Association, and I Giganti at the Palazzo Dello Sport in Rome for the third day of the Primo Festival Internazionale In Europa Di Musica Pop, a shambolic four-day event that also featured The Byrds, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, Fairport Convention, Family, Grapefruit, and Julie Driscoll & the Brian Auger Trinity.

The Nice headlined May–June Marquee dates with the Dick Morrissey Unit (5/21), the Red Light District (6/6), and Jake Thackery (6/20). On June 8, they launched an Immediate package tour with Amen Corner and Small Faces at the Newcastle City Hall. They performed their third Peel session for the DJ’s June 16 broadcast, which aired “Get To You,” “The Diamond Hard Blue Apples of the Moon,” “The Brandenburger,” and “Little Anabella.” A fifth track (“Sorcery”) aired on the July 14 rebroadcast.


“America”

On June 21, 1968, The Nice released “America,” a number from the 1957 musical West Side Story by composer Leonard Bernstein. The b-side, “The Diamond Hard Blue Apples of the Moon,” is a Davjack original.

A. “America” (6:18) dispenses Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics for an instrumental arrangement, capped with a line appropriated from “Dawn” — “America is pregnant with promises and anticipation, but is murdered by the hand of the inevitable’” — spoken by PP Arnold’s three-year-old son.

B. “The Diamond Hard Blue Apples of the Moon” (2:47)

As “America” climbed the charts, The Nice were booked for the BBC music program Top of the Pops, but refused to trim the song to a more conventional length. However, “America” peaked at No. 21 on the UK Singles Chart, in part due to controversy stirred at London’s Royal Albert Hall during a June 26 anti-Apartheid event, which also featured American entertainer Sammy Davis Jr., British singer Cleo Laine, and cast members of the BBC sitcom Till Death Us Do Part. The Nice’s set, performed before members of the US embassy, featured the American flag as a stage backdrop. At the end of their set, Emerson took a lighter to the flag, which burned in flames as The Nice left the stage.>

On June 29, The Nice played a show arranged by Loog Oldham with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and Junior’s Eyes at the London’s Institute of Contemporary Art. The Nice and Juniors Eyes also appeared at Hyde Park for a July 2 free concert with Traffic, The Pretty Things, and The Action.> The Nice’s summer ’68 Marquee shows included dates with The Glass Menagerie (8/8) and East of Eden (8/22).

On August 2, The Nice played Brighton’s Metropole Exhibition Hall with The Tremeloes, Marmalade, Spooky Tooth, and Simon Dupree & The Big Sound. The following week, The Nice appeared at Kempton Park Racecourse for the Eighth National Jazz and Blues Festival (August 9–11), which also featured sets by Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, The Herd, Ronnie Scott, Mike Westbrook, Taste, Incredible String Band, Joe Cocker, the Jeff Beck Group, and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.>

The Nice performed their fourth Peel session for the DJ’s August 25 broadcast, which aired “America,” “Lumpy Gravy,” “Aries,” and “Ars Longa Vita Brevis.” In Germany, they performed “America” and “Hang on to a Dream” for the September 14 broadcast of the Radio Bremen music program Beat-Club, which also aired numbers by Arthur Conley (“Sweet Soul Music”), Ben E. King (“It’s Amazing”), Canned Heat (“On the Road Again”), The Equals (“I Get So Excited’), The Hollies (“Do the Best You Can”), and Status Quo (“Ice In the Sun”).

On September 19, The Nice headlined over a nascent Yes at the Marquee. The Nice, in turn, supported Pink Foyd (in lieu of Sly & The Family Stone) at Newcastle’s Mayfair Ballroom for a multi-act event with The Sect and Coloured Rain. On the 28th, The Nice played Ewell Technical College with Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera.

On September 29, The Nice appeared at Croydon’s Fairfield Hall for an event dubbed Olympic Appeal, which also featured Trinity, Spooky Tooth, Alan Price, and Eclection. In October, The Nice headlined the Marquee with the Keef Hartley Band (10/15) and played Bristol’s Colton Hall with Small Faces and Canned Heat.


Ars Longa Vita Brevis

The Nice released their second album, Ars Longa Vita Brevis, in November 1968 on Immediate. The title is a Latin translation of an aphorism attributed to classical Greek physician Hippocrates. (English translation: “Art is long, life is short.”)

Side One features three Emerson–Jackson co-compositions and a nine-minute jam based on the Intermezzo section from Karelia Suite, Op. 11 by Finish Romantic composer Jean Sibelius.

Side Two consists of the “Ars Longa Vita Brevis,” a nineteen-minute suite composed of a prelude and coda and four movements, including an adaption of the first Allegro from Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.

Davy O’List left halfway through the sessions but co-wrote “2nd Movement – Realisation” with Emerson and Jackson.

1. “Daddy, Where Did I Come From” (3:44)
2. “Little Arabella” (4:18)
3. “Happy Freuds” (3:25) features Emerson on lead vocals.
4. “Intermezzo from the Karelia Suite” (8:57)
5. “Don Edito el Gruva” (0:13) is a group-credited postlude.
6. “Ars Longa Vita Brevis” (19:20)
       “Prelude” – 1:49
       “1st Movement – Awakening” – 4:01
       “2nd Movement – Realisation” – 4:54
       “3rd Movement – Acceptance Brandenburger” – 4:23
       “4th Movement – Denial” – 3:23
       “Coda – Extension to the Big Note” – 0:46

The Nice self-produced Ars Longa Vita Brevis, which features orchestral arrangements by conductor Robert Stewart. As session got underway, O’List left the band under disputed circumstances. They courted Tomorrow guitarist Steve Howe as a possible replacement but ultimately finalized as a trio.

The album displays the title in Blackletter font with photography by Mankowitz, who rendered the The Nice as an x-ray image (front) and a two-tone Xerox (back). Emerson wrote the liner notes, which invoke Sir Isaac Newton’s law of motion (“a body will remain at rest or continue with uniform motion in a straight line unless acted on by a force”) in reference to the band’s execution of Brandenburg Concerto No. 3.

Immediate lifted “Brandenburger” as a UK/European single, backed with “Happy Freuds.”

The Nice played eighteen confirmed UK concerts in November–December 1968, including the Coventry College of Arts Ball, an 11/28 event at Bristol’s Locarno with Joe Cocker, Love Sculpture, and Jigsaw. They also played the Zurich Blues Festival (11/9) and Prague’s 2° Beat Festival (12/22).

They performed their fifth Peel session for the DJ’s December 1 broadcast, which aired “Happy Freuds,” “Brandenburger,” “Hang On to a Dream,” and “Intermezzo From the Korelia Suite.”


1969

The Nice played more than thirty winter 1969 concerts, including January–March dates with Nite People (1/24: Southampton University), Killing Floor (1/28: Marquee), Van Der Graaf Generator (1/31: Eel Pie Island), The Moody Blues (2/5: Top Rank Suite, Leicester), and Arcadium (3/8: Middle Earth, London). On February 15, The Nice headlined the Valentine Rag Ball at London’s University College, supported by Deep Purple, Tuesday’s Children, and Cymbaline.

The Nice launched an American tour with a March three-nighter (20–22) at the Boston Tea Party, supported by Buffalo blues rockers Raven. In the Midwest, they shared bills with The Frost (3/28: Grande Ballroom, Detroit), Bubble Puppy (4/4–5: Kinetic Playground, Chicago), and The Velvet Underground (4/11–13: Grande Ballroom).

On April 9 and 10, they played New York’s Fillmore East with Family and Ten Years After. Two number from The Nice’s Fillmore set appear on their third album.

Back in the UK, The Nice played London shows on May 30 (North College) and the 31 (Lyceum) supported by American hard-rockers Steppenwolf. They also shared UK dates with Circus (6/10: Marquee) and the Idle Race and Roy Harper (6/22: Fairfield Hall, Croydon). On June 21, The Nice played the Antwerp Pop Festival, which also featured Yes and Colosseum (in lieu of Procol Harum).> The Nice and Colosseum both appeared at the June 28 Bath Blues Festival, which also featured Blodwyn Pig, Led Zeppelin, and American soul rockers Group Therapy.

On June 30, The Nice hit Ossiach, Austria, for a Volkhaus show with Duncan Browne. On July 4, they played the Winter Gardens in Malvern with Tea and Symphony. On July 11, The Nice appeared with Yes, Renaissance, and Peter Hammill at the Lyceum for an event dubbed Midnight Court.

On July 12, The Nice appeared at the Nottingham Racecourse, where they headlined the 12 Hour Happiness Concert, which also featured Caravan, Eclection, Edgar Broughton Band, Idle Race, Juniors Eyes, King Crimson, Status Quo, Yes, and compere John Peel. In mid-July, The Nice toured Ireland with Yes and the Bonzo Dog Band.


Nice [aka Everything as Nice as Mother Makes It]

The Nice released their self-titled third album in August 1969 on Immediate.

Side One (studio) features the Emerson–Jackson numbers “Azrael Revisited” and “For Example” and the Tim Hardin cover “Hang on to a Dream,” plus one piece (“Diary of an Empty Day”) based on a theme by French Romantic violinist Edouard Lalo.

Side Two (live) features two numbers from their April 1969 Fillmore East shows: a rearranged “Rondo” (titled “Rondo ’69”’) and a twelve-minute rendition of She Belongs to Me” by Bob Dylan.

1. “Azrael Revisited” (5:52)
2. “Hang on to a Dream” (4:46) originated as the closing track on the 1967 Verve Folkways release Tim Hardin 1, the debut album by Oregon-born folkie Tim Hardin.
3. “Diary of an Empty Day” (3:54) appropriates a theme by Parisian violist and composer Edouard Lalo (1823–1892).
4. “For Example” (8:51)
5. “Rondo ’69′” (7:53)
6. “She Belongs to Me” (12:15)

The Nice recorded Side One in mid-1969 at London’s Trident Studios. Side Two comes from their April 9–10 shows at the Fillmore East in New York City.

In November 1969, Immediate issued Nice in the US with the title Everything as Nice as Mother Makes It. This version features a longer cut of “Rondo ’69” (8:27).

The UK release coincided with multiple large-scale concert events. On Sunday August 10, The Nice appeared with Pentangle and Family for day three of the Ninth National Jazz and Blues Festival at the Plumpton Race Track, which also featured sets by Breakthru, Bonzos, Chicken Shack, Soft Machine, Strawbs, The Who (plugging Tommy), and Yes.>

On August 14, The Nice touched down in London, Ontario, for the Wonderland Pop Festival, which also featured sets by Alice Cooper, Cat Mother, and Rock Show of the Yeomen. On August 22, The Nice appeared at Burton Constable Hall in Kingston upon Hull for the Humberside Pop Festival, which also featured Clouds, The Deviants, Love Sculpture, Third Ear Band, and Web.

On August 29, 1969, The Nice played the second Isle of Wight Festival, a three-day event with sets by Battered Ornaments, Blonde on Blonde, Fat Mattress, Free, Gypsy, Heaven, The Liverpool Scene, Marsupilami, Mighty Baby, Marsha Hunt, and many prior co-billed acts (Family, Blodwyn Pig), plus a solo set by Emerson and Jackson’s onetime T-Bones bandmate Gary Farr, who emerged recently as a solo singer–songwriter.

On September 12, The Nice played the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton with Galliard and Hard Meat. On Saturday the 13th, The Nice appeared with Free, Floyd, Crimson, Edgar  Broughton, Third Ear, and Bridget St. John for day two (the ‘rock’ day) of the Rugby Rag Blues Festival, which also devoted days to blues musicians (Alexis Korner, Groundhogs, John Dummer, Spirit of John Morgan) and folk acts (Roy Harper, Strawbs, Ralph McTell, Magna Carta, Mike Absalom, Shelagh McDonald).

The Nice partook in the late-summer sessions for Harper’s 1970 release Flat Baroque and Berserk, the singer–songwriter’s fourth album, which features Emerson, Jackson, and Davison on the lengthy closing number “Hell’s Angels.”

On October 10, The Nice played Newcastle’s City Hall, where they premiered “Five Bridges,” a classical-rock suite commissioned for the Newcastle Arts Festival by tour promoter Michael Emmerson. On Friday the 17th, The Nice performed the suite with the Sinfonia of London at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon.

They flew to Germany for the Internationale Essener Pop and Blues Festival, a three-day event at the Essen Grugahalle with sets by Hardin & York, Steamhammer, Warm Dust, and numerous UK acts from prior shared bills (Deep Purple, Fleetwood Mac, Pretty Things, Yes) and bands from the Netherlands (Ekseption, Livin’ Blues) and the German acts Amon Duul II, Fashion Pink, and Xhol Caravan.

The Nice flew to Belgium for the Amougies Festival, a five-day event (October 24–28) at the Mont de L’Enclus (originally planned for Paris) with sets by Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, and multiple jazz acts from the US (360 Degree Music Experience, Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, Robin Kenyatta, Sonny Sharrock) and Europe (Joachim Kuhn, Keith Tippett Group, Zoo). The Nice appeared on the 26th along with Blossom Toes, Caravan, and the French psych-rock acts Ame Son, Cruciferius, Martin Circus, and Triangle.

On November 9, The Nice played London’s Lyceum, supported by Rare Bird. The following week, they launched a US tour with a five-night stand (16–20) at Ungano’s in NYC. They shared bills with Santana (11/21–22: Grand Ballroom, Detriot) and the Allman Brothers Band (12/4–6: Boston Tea Party).

In San Francisco, The Nice played four nights (December 11–14) at the Fillmore West with the Chamber Brothers and King Crimson. Backstage, Keith Emerson befriended Crimson bassist–singer Greg Lake, a Poole, Dorset, native who played beforehand in the Shy Limbs. Crimson reached the US Top 30 with their debut album In the Court of the Crimson King. Lake, however, had second throughts about the musical vision of Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp. Emerson, likewise, expressed restlessness over his current band. During an imromptu jam session, Emerson and Lake discovered a musical chemistry. They agreed to form a band once commitments wrapped with their current acts.

The Nice concluded their tour in New York, where a Fillmore East two-nighter with Dion and the Byrds (December 19–20) formed the basis of a subsequent live album.


1970

The Nice played their first documented show of 1970 on January 24 at the Paris Olympia, where they didn’t hit the stage until 12:30 am (technically the next day). On February 7, The Nice appeared with Yes at London’s Royal Festival Hall, where Emerson played a Moog synthesizer for the first time.

On March 6, The Nice returned to the Royal Festival Hall for a show with the Royal Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. After a final round of shows in Scotland and England, The Nice flew to Hamburg for the Easter Festival, a March 28 event at Ernst Merk Halle with sets by the Groundhogs, Renaissance, Steamhammer, Warm Dust, and Flaming Youth (which featured drummer Phil Collins just months before he joined Genesis).

The Nice played their final show on March 30, 1970, in Berlin at the Peace Pop Festival, where they jammed with Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. (A concert poster for the Woodrose Joint Happening — an April 25 event at the Paramount Theater in Springfield, Mass. — erroneously lists The Nice as a featured act.)


Five Bridges

In May 1970, Five Bridges appeared on the newly established post-psych label Charisma (CAS 1014). The title references the five bridges that span River Tyne between Gateshead and Newcastle, where The Nice first performed the suite for the city’s October 1969 arts festival.

Side One consists of the title suite, an eighteen-minute classical–rock opus in five parts, composed by Keith Emerson and Lee Jackson. The Nice recorded the “The Five Bridges Suite” live on October 17 at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon with the Sinfonia of London, conducted by Joseph Eger.

Side Two contains nine-minute renditions of “Intermezzo Karelia Suite” and Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique (Symphony No. 6, 3rd Movement)” (both from Fairfield), plus a Dylan–Bach medley (Fillmore East) and the studio cut “One of Those People,” an Emerson–Jackson original.

Five Bridges features a six-piece horn section composed of trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, trombonist Chris Pyne, and saxophonists Alan Skidmore, Joe Harriott, Peter King, and John Warren.

1. “The Five Bridges Suite” (18:06)
     “Fantasia 1st Bridge” – orchestra with solo piano interludes
     “2nd Bridge” – trio without orchestra
     “Chorale 3rd Bridge” – Lee’s vocals with orchestra, alternating with piano interludes
     “High Level Fugue 4th Bridge” – piano with accompanying cymbals
     “Finale 5th Bridge” – a restating of the Second Bridge with horns
2. “Intermezzo ‘Karelia Suite‘” (9:01) Sibelius, Arr. Emerson, Eger
3. “Pathetique (Symphony No. 6, 3rd Movement)” (9:23) Tchaikovsky, Arr. Emerson, Eger
4. “Country Pie/Brandenburg Concerto No. 6” (5:40) Bob Dylan, Bach
5. “One of Those People” (3:08)

Five Bridges draws from the October 17, 1969, Fairfield Halls concert apart from “Country Pie” (December 20, Fillmore East) and the studio track “One of Those People.”

Five Bridges is housed in a gatefold cover designed by the UK post-psych graphics firm Hipgnosis. The outergate shows a split fisheye image of the Tyne Bridge. The inner-gate features liner notes by Emerson, who comments on the five movements, the corresponding bridges, and the band’s liason with Eger.

Five Bridges reached No. 2 on the UK Albums Chart. Abroad, the album appeared on Mercury (US) and Philips (France, Germany).


Elegy

In April 1971, Charisma issued Elegy, a document of their December 19–20, 1969, shows at New York’s Fillmore East. It features lengthy renditions of “America,” “Pathetique,” Tim Hardin’s “Hang On to a Dream,” and their third Dylan cover, “My Back Pages.”

1. “Hang On to a Dream” (12:43)
2. “My Back Pages” (9:12) Dylan
3. “Third Movement, Pathetique” (7.05)
4. “America” (10:27)

Elegy appeared on Charisma (UK), Mercury (North America), and Philips (Europe, Japan). Hipgnosis designed the gatefold cover, which shows a desert stretch lined with red spheres (front) and strewn with Nice-related press clippings (inner).


Post-Nice

Emerson, along with ex-King Crimson singer–bassist Greg Lake and former-Atomic Rooster drummer Carl Palmer, formed the super-trio Emerson, Lake and Palmer, issuing seven studio albums and one double-live set to international success during the 1970s.

Bassist/vocalist Lee Jackson recorded four albums as part of Jackson Heights between 1970 and 1973. Drummer Brian Davison formed Every Which Way, which issued one album on Charisma in 1970 with ex-Skip Bifferty vocalist Graham Bell. In 1974, Jackson and Davison re-teamed for the Charisma one-off Refugee with up-and-coming keyboardist Patrick Moraz. O’List resurfaced in 1975 in Jet, formed by Island-era Sparks sidemen.

Of Jackson, Stratton-Smith wrote “Lee’s tinted glasses, glinting awareness, and driving bass, the mahogany vocals — these were as much Nice mnemonics as the famous “Rondo” itself.” (King Progress liner notes, 1970).


Discography:

  • The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack (1968)
  • Ars Longa Vita Brevis (1968)
  • Nice [aka Everything as Nice as Mother Makes It] (1969)
  • Five Bridges (live, 1970)
  • Elegy (live, 1971)

Sources:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *