Knife Edge is a track from the debut Emerson, Lake & Palmer LP. The words added by Greg Lake deal with madness and desperation.
‘Knife Edge,’ which was the only rock track on the very first album, was something which came together very, very quickly in the studio and really worked – it was fantastic. We thought it was an instrumental, and Greg said, ‘No, hang on.’ He said, ‘I could put a topline on this, we could have something.’Carl Palmer – Drummer
The music, arranged by Keith Emerson, has elements of classical music, a 1926 piece by the Czech composer Leos Janacek called “Sinfonietta” and quotations from Johann Sebastian Bach’s “French Suite in D Minor”. Richard Fraser, who gets a writing credit with Lake, was a roadie for the band.
Yes, that was Janacek. He used fifth chords quite a lot. The theme that goes ‘Ba ba baa’ sounds great on a Hammond organ. It’s almost like a guitarist’s riff. We called it ‘Knife-Edge’ and you are basically looking at C and G. And then you go down to B flat and an F. The rest is all yours. All you have to do is stick the twiddly bits in between.Keith Emerson = Keyboards
Music: Leos Janacek, Johann Sebastian Bach, arranged by Keith Emerson
Lyrics: Greg Lake, Richard Fraser
Just a step cried the sad man
Take a look down at the madman
Theatre kings on
Silver wings fly beyond reason
From the flight of the seagull
Come the spread claws of the eagle
Only fear breaks the silence
As we all kneel pray for guidance
Tread the road cross the abyss
Take a look down at the madness
On the streets of the city
Only spectres still have pity
Patient queues for the gallows
Sing the praises of the hallowed
Our machines feed the furnace
If they take us they will burn us
Will you still know who you are
When you come to who you are?
When the flames have their season
Will you hold to your reason?
Loaded down with your talents
Can you still keep your balance?
Can you live on a knife-edge?