While it’s possible Greg Lake deserved to have his bare ass spanked for any number of misdemeanors during Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s high times of the ‘70s, it’s not very likely he thought it would ever happen.

Nevertheless, according to reports, that’s exactly what did happen in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1974.

The trio was touring in support of its fourth album Brain Salad Surgery, the last of its triumphs of pomp and circumstance and which had seen them buy a movie theater to customize and rehearse in. The larger-than-life process included the use of the first-every polyphonic synth and early electronic drums; the subsequent tour was equally indulgent, requiring 36 tons of equipment, including the world’s first quadraphonic sound system.

ELP’s 1974 North American tour kicked off in January, and seemed to go without a hitch until they arrived in the city where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is headquartered. The story goes that a happy and relaxed Lake -- along with road manager Alex King, valet Brian Magoo and concert promoter Jerry Pompele -- “used a sauna bath in the motel, then decided to go swimming – in the nude.”

Band manager Stewart Young noted there were two problems with their decision: the motel pool was open to the public, and it was in full view of passing traffic in the street. “That’s naughty,” Young deadpanned. “At any rate, they had a visit from the police and were taken to jail – handcuffed. They were released on $100 bail.”

It wasn’t over yet. “The policemen spanked them on their bottoms and told them never to do that again,” Young added. When the situation was resolved, each offender was fined $75 for disorderly conduct, around $400 in today’s money, which one news report described as “paltry.”

With the police out of the picture, ELP went back to work and delivered a performance at Salt Lake City’s Salt Palace that is remembered by some as deafeningly loud.

“I really love the American people,” Lake said later. “Except for that business of getting arrested for swimming in the nude in a Salt Lake City hotel pool in the middle of the night, I have had a great time there.”

He added of the lesson he’d learned: “Remember to always keep your togs on when you swim!”

 

 

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