Music: Keith Emerson
Lyrics: Greg Lake/Peter Sinfield
Benny The Bouncer (also featuring the new Moog Apollo) fills the comedy spot on this particular ELP album. Benny The Bouncer was done in the tradition of Trilogy's 'The Sheriff' or 'Are You Ready Eddy?' from Tarkus - an amusement. It's silly, banal lyrics and catchy honky-tonk piano provide some necessary comedy relief before getting to Karn Evil 9. This track also helps show what a talented, well rounded musician Keith really was in his prime. Classical, Jazz, Rock, Blues and Honky-tonk were all well within his repetoire. The track is a sharp contrast to the majestic, cerebral and ethereal atmospheres of the opening track. The lyrics tells a story of East End bouncers and dance hall violence; Greg adopts an amusing Cockney accent (sounds like Coronation Street, but meaner). Keith Emerson's vocal contribution to this song is limited on a sniffer at the end.
Benny The Bouncer is not only a framework for a rollicking honky-tonk piano solo but is a testament to the trials and tribulations of the working class at the pub. Benny's just trying to do his job, but Savage Sid sees no place for Benny in his view and kills him. In what seems like a bar-turned-war zone, Benny is rewarded in his struggle not by being welcomed into the glory of God's kingdom but by being assigned as one of God's gatekeepers.
"When I was very young I used to sometimes play shows with 'The Gods' at Salisbury City Hall. There was a bouncer there and he was fucking huge! He must have been six foot three: he was a massive guy. He never did anything because no one would ever dare say anything to him. But he is Benny The Bouncer and the Palais De Danse is Salisbury City Hall."
"We knocked that out in a couple of days."
"The honky-tonk effects was done by putting one of the strings out of tune. Detuning it so that it had the right number of beats to get the effect I wanted. Alternative it was done with one piano being straight and another piano being overdubbed that was put through a flanger. I played the same line on both pianos, but one of them was slightly out of tune because of the flanger. We used the polyphonic Moog on 'Benny the Bouncer', it could have been done on a conventional keyboard instrument but it would have gone a different way. It was right for that instrument and it was right every time we played it. I'm trying to create the same sort of effect as a conventional instrument through other means.
I've always loved ragtime piano and songs like that were a good opportunity for me to be able to play it. It beats me how the band accepted my wanting to play the humorous pieces. I suppose we realized that, after all the heaviness and the bombastics we were putting in, we needed some light relief. It was just a bit of fun. We liked to get the serious stuff out of the way and then do something fun, we had done Are You Ready Eddy? and The Sheriff before. It was always a nice little breather to soften the mood, both in the studio and on record."
Interesting to hear is an early instrumental audio-track of 'Benny The Bouncer' on the Video/DVD called 'The Manticore Special'. This footage was filmed in 1973 while the band was writing on the 'Brain Salad Surgery' album. This 53 minute documentary was originally aired on broadcast television in the UK on Boxing Day 1973, and finally in the United States on January 9th, 1974.
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