The 20th century American composer Aaron Copland believed orchestral music should talk to the common man, extend an arm to him. In his "Fanfare for the Common Man" he developed a simple theme, elegantly orchestrated. For their rock arrangement, Emerson, Lake & Palmer respected this vow of simplicity. The opening trumpet has been replaced by a synthesizer, but otherwise the theme gets a full, accurate statement in the first seconds. After a timpani break, the trio establishes a fast-paced swinging vamp that will last, unaltered, for as long as necessary. Keith Emerson restates the theme before soloing in, around, and outside it. The piece has a contagious drive and is immediately recognizable.
Recorded for the "group side" of the two-LP set Works, Vol. 1, "Fanfare for the Common Man" first appeared as a nine-minute track. This version is definitely too long for such a repetitive piece. A shorter edit enjoyed radio play, triggering a series of inclusions on the group's "best of" collections and appearances as radio and TV show themes. But the piece worked better live, especially when played as part of a medley that allowed Emerson to show his flashy keyboard chops. During the 1990s, it was often performed together with "Rondo 69" and "America," two old Nice favorites.