Anal sex and bdsm

It’s sometimes assumed that anal sex is almost a sub-category within bdsm, that anal sex is inherently bdsm, and people who do bdsm necessarily have anal sex.

Of course this isn’t true. Lots of vanilla heterosexual and vanilla gay couples have anal sex without it having any bdsm resonance for them; it’s just a variation. And lots of bdsm people don’t have anal sex in their repertoire. They are different categories, bdsm sex and anal sex. Some people do both, and some people do one or the other.

Still, I’m one of the people who does both. And I find that I feel very masterly, very dominant, while taking a submissive woman anally. It doesn’t have to be a bdsm thing, but when it happens in a bdsm context, then for me it becomes very strong, very intensely bdsm.

So, I thought, how come? What are the connections between anal sex and bdsm? 

The obvious and wrong answer is that the submissive receives and the dominant penetrates: they take the “active” role. But that isn’t necessarily how anal works in bdsm works. Aleister Crowley, for example, used to flog his male submissives, and then make them bugger him. He’d give instructions on how fast or how deep, and they knew they were in trouble if they didn’t please their master. 

It’s never what you do, in bdsm: it’s what it means.

I think the thing that’s common to both anal sex and bdsm is that they have a kind of hard intimacy. I think of the Nine-Inch Nails song, “I want to fuck you like an animal; I want to feel you from the inside.” Which isn’t necessarily a song about anal sex. Still, it’s that urge that I’m thinking about; to be truly inside one’s submissive’s body, to feel her.

The vagina is in a sense part of the outside of the body. (Germaine Greer got in trouble for pointing this out, a few years back; but for once the mad old bat was right). It’s not a hole; more like a fold, or an indentation, in the body, a thick-skinned one, evolved to deal with the outside world and with intrusions.

The anus is different. It’s thin-skinned. That’s one reason why anal sex is more risky, in terms of contact injuries and viral transmission.

In a strict medical sense the anus can also be said to be outside the body, the same sense in which the whole system involving the mouth, the throat, stomach and entire alimentary canal, is outside the body. Think of it was the inner part of a tube; the interior curve of a tube is still part of the exterior surface of the tube. Or, if you like, think of a tea-cup. You put tea “in” the cup, but the tea-receptacle part of a cup is still outside of the cup itself. Inside the cup, it’s porcelain.

But still, the hell with science and medicine.

The experience is that anal penetration is intimate. You are closer; you have to take greater care because of that; there’s great intimacy, of sensitive male flesh and skin inside sensitive female flesh and skin, moving together, carefully, body to body. (Leaving pegging out if it, for the moment: the dildo doesn’t feel anything. It’s the symbolism, not the sensation, that counts.) 

Dominants and submissives need to know each other, to be in something close to telepathic contact. Sometimes that very close contact can be experienced in anal sex.

There are other connections between anal sex and bdsm, but intimacy seems to me to be the most powerful. 

A good man, with a belt 9 (final!)

I got up and checked my back in the mirror. It did look dramatic. More importantly, I couldn’t tell Fliss’s scratches from the ones Maureen had inflicted.

“It’s all right, love, I didn’t even feel it. Hot blood, and all. And it doesn’t hurt now, either.” This was true. “And you can get as carried away as you like.” I got back in bed, and kissed her. “My fiery little slut.”

Fliss smiled now, rather proud of herself. “Fiery little slut. Yes, I suppose.”

She looked over my shoulder. She said, “Can I see?”

I rolled onto my stomach, and let Fliss run her fingertips gently over her and Maureen’s handwork. “Wow,” she said again. “I have been a bad girl.”

I said, “Oh. Not really. I mean … ” And there was nothing further that I could say about that.

“Haven’t I?”

My belt was still in bed with us where I’d dropped it, when I pulled her mouth off my cock and hauled her forward, to get her cunt against my mouth. Usually I spanked her with it when she was sucking me, but this time I hadn’t. Dominance requires a certain purity of self-belief, which I had not felt, for very sound reasons.

Still, what Fliss knew was that she had not been spanked. It had been a good fuck, but it had been an egg without salt.

So I picked up the belt, and the powers, rights and duties that it implies. “Well. Now you mention it…” And Fliss slid over my lap, hard little bottom arched in mock-repentance and sexual greed.

“Yes,” I said. “You have been a very bad girl.”


The end.

Protocols and the experience of time

Watch and chain

A protocol is, essentially, a standing order that a dom gives to his or her sub. The sub must always carry out those protocols, even if not reminded or instructed in the moment.

An example of a protocol (not one I’d impose, because I like eye contact too much) is: “The submissive will not make eye contact with the dominant, but will look straight ahead or down when they are speaking.”

The thing about protocols is that they increase awareness for both the dom and the sub, but especially the sub, of their relationship. They extend the emotional and sexual pleasures that come from simply being dom and sub, together. 

“Caution: bdsm time will end in 18 minutes”

In practice a dom/sub couple only do very active dominant and submissive things – flogging and tying and commanding and obeying – for a small proportion of their time together.

They also have to rest, and eat, and choose entertainments, and go to work, and worry about their parents or their children and so on. Life goes on, and a lot of it is mundane. 

So, if you look at it in one way, their experience of time is that there are short intense bdsm experiences followed by long stretches of vanilla time. 

Eternity, mother of many acts and hours

Protocols act to extend bdsm consciousness into more of that dom’s and sub’s consciousness and experience of time. They give a kind of immersion experience.

Bdsm, dominance and submission, isn’t a place you occasionally go, it’s where you live. Protocols help to keep the roles alive and active even when the couple is doing mundane things. 

So, the dom may be doing the dishes, but the sub will still address him or her by their title: Sir, Ma’am, Master or Mistress. 

The submissive may have to ask for permission to enter or leave the room, if the dom is in that room. Something like that takes only a couple of seconds, and yet it suddenly makes real and palpable the reality of their relationship, and what they’ve given each other, even in an otherwise unsexy moment. It’s a miniature flash of lightning, a reminder of the connection and the tension between dom and sub.

I’ve listed some protocols I’m thinking of imposing on someone who’s new to bdsm, and is in a fairly light regime, below.

Introductory protocols

The submissive will address the dom as “sir”. 

The submissive will wear the collar given him or her by the dom, plus any other given adornment.

The submissive will wear what the dom instructs. 

The submissive will kiss the dom in greeting if they’ve been apart for longer than, oh, five minutes.

The submissive will ask permission to enter or leave the room the dominant is in. 

The submissive will respectfully remind the dom of any matters needed to ensure the sub’s continued good health and well-being.

The submission will address the dom respectfully, no matter how egregiously he or she may have just fucked up.

 

Those are my suggestions, as starting points. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Wicked Wednesday: Jennifer over the desk

Jennifer let her upper body rest on my desk, her arms reaching for the edge. She looked at me, helpless, fearful. The cane frightened her. I nodded at her. “Good girl.” 

So I got up, walked round my desk. I stood behind her, and put my hand on the desk, almost touching her hip. The school skirt had risen almost all the way to her coccyx. It barely covered the upper hem of her panties. “Feet apart, girl.”

Jennifer said, “Yes, sir.” So one part of her training had been achieved. I smiled and watched her shuffle till her thighs were open for me, feet about half a metre apart.

She knew what she was giving me. It was more than obedience. She wanted me to like what I saw. It was incoherent, but it was desire. For the first time, probably, she wanted to be make a man unable to resist her, and to be taken. 

I put my hand on her hip. Her head raised momentarily from the desk, then she subsided.

“This is the position you’ll be in where I cane you for the first time.” 

She coughed. It was hard for her to speak. She managed, “Yes, sir.” 

“So, how do you know you aren’t going to be caned now?” 

Her head shook. She hadn’t known that at all. Then she stared at my chair, thinking of what I’d said to her. “Because I’m not naked, sir?” 

“Good girl. That’s right. You’ll need to undress, before I cane you. Think of it as a formal occasion. Now, keep your head down, Jennifer. And keep still, if you don’t want to find out just how that feels.” 

Her face rested on the wooden tabletop, as fast as she could. “Yes, sir!” 

“I’m told the worst part is putting your clothes back on after you’ve been caned.”

“Ooh.” I let her think about that for a moment or two.  

“Now.” I traced my finger along upper slopes of her bottom, through her panties. “That’s where you skirt reaches, if you bend over, girl. Did you realise that?”

Her face moved, though she didn’t dare lose contact with the tabletop. Of course she’d known that. She was torn between acknowledging just how provocative she’d been. Or lying. She said, “No, I didn’t know. Sir?”

I smiled and put my hand on her pantied bottom. “You didn’t sound very certain, Jennifer. I’m going to ask you again, and you’ve got one chance to answer truthfully.”

“Sir, I’m sorry, sir! I just – I was ashamed. I didn’t want to lie. I’m sorry. I did know. I did. You can punish me if you like.”

“That’s very generous of you, girl, but you’ll find that that’s up to me. And I said you had one chance, Jennifer. In fact I’m glad to hear you’re a bad liar. But don’t do it again. Ever.”

“Oh, sir, I’m sorry. Thank you, thank you, sir.”

“Well, if you do, you know you’ll get a very sore bottom.” I flipped the skirt up, out of the way. “By the way, how’s your bottom now?”

“Oooh, sir! It’s so sore!”

I smiled. I wasn’t sure that would pass the lie test either, though I hoped there was still pink, and she could still feel it. But it didn’t matter just then. I could teach her truthfulness later.

“Hmmm. Poor girl. Would you like me to make it feel better?”

 

The threesome aftermath: standing to lose

I wrote about my first threesome here

It was one of the highlights of my life, and ever since I’ve been drawn to threesomes. But they can cost you. I know several relationships that broke up shortly after the threesome. 

When I told the story, I mentioned two clues I’d missed at the time, about what was going to happen next. The first was that Amanda had somehow developed impressive cunnilingus skills, and enthusiasm, though she was in a relationship with me, and we were supposed to be being faithful.

I’d held up my end of the deal. That doesn’t make me morally superior, by the way. It was just how it was. It’s maybe also a reason why I’ve since been less interested in sexual exclusivity. Though I’ll do that when it’s important to the girl I’m with and she’s important to me. 

The other clue I should have spotted was when Amanda kissed Miranda. I kissed Miranda like I was fond of her, and pleased she was there. Amanda kissed her as though she desperately in love with her. Which she was. 

So I organised the next night for the three of us. I’m not going to write about it, or not now, but it was every bit as hot as the first night. Hotter.

But the next time, after that second threesome, that I took Miranda to bed she was on her own, and she’d sneaked over to my place while Amanda was at a meeting.

She mentioned that she and Amanda had been fucking a lot, at Miranda’s place. She thought I knew. That hurt, not because they’d been fucking but because Amanda had been secretive. 

Anyway, we struggled along for another couple of weeks, and then Amanda moved out, into an all-women, no boys allowed, house. And Miranda slept with her most nights. 

Miranda, I think, would have preferred to be in the threesome, because she fancied both of us, and she wanted something warm and open-ended more than she wanted an obsessional love. But obsessional love has its power. I was her relief from Amanda’s intensity. Also, I had a cock, and no demands on exclusivity with her. She liked both of those things. 

But Amanda didn’t like Miranda fucking anyone but her. At the end of the year, she went to a feminist event in London. And paid for Miranda to come. I never saw Miranda again. That wasn’t so sad, I liked Miranda a lot, and I loved having sex with her, but I wasn’t in love with her. What was sad was that I only saw Amanda one more time, two years later.

I’d been in love with her, my first love, and my heart was broken. I still loved her when I saw her two years later. I passed over the things she’d left behind when she’d moved out, and stored with me when she went to London. 

And that was that. No-one was to blame. Amanda was in new love, and that made her ruthless. But that’s a human need.

Amanda had, I’m pretty sure, loved me until she switched to Miranda. I’d been the best boyfriend-of-a-feminist I knew how to be. And Miranda was just a sexy woman exploring and having fun. 

So I was left alone, with just some memories. Well, “left alone” doesn’t last long, for a guy who’d been a virtuous boyfriend, mildly and locally famous, and unattainable for the four years I was with Amanda. I learnt a lot about female sexual enthusiasm afterwards. But I stayed in love with Amanda for years. 

There’s no moral. Just, nothing is safe. Enter it with your eyes open. 

Looking back on this blog in 2016

2016 ends in a few hours, at least for me.

This is the 1,072th post on this blog. Here’s what I know about you, my readers.

Growth in readership

The stats show that the blog has been growing at a great rate. In my first year, 2012, I doubt if I had any readers at all. Well, I got comments, but my guess is that I only got a couple of 100 views.

I didn’t get a Statistics app until 2014, when I got about 10,000 views. In 2015 I got 32,000, and in 2016 I’ve had about 59,000.

I hope that trend continues: thank you to all readers!

Oh, and if you want to say hello, I’m always pleased, and always reply. Click on Contact us (“us”? It’s just me) and have your say, ask any question, or whatever you feel like!

Who reads this blog?

All I know about my readers is that most of you are in the US, followed by the UK, then Canada, then Australia. That’s not surprising, as it’s an English-language blog. But I also get a lot of hits from Germany and France, followed by the Netherlands.

I’d had readers from almost every country in the world, except for some of the small states in the middle of Africa, who may be short on internet connections and time to worry about middle-class first world people pursuing their pleasures.

And then there’s Greenland. This blog has never once had a single view from Greenland. I vow that in 2017 I will shamelessly pander to Greenland perverts! Siissisoq! Simon Lynge! Handball!

What do my readers like to read?

No matter how she tried, she couldn’t shake that damn stuff off.

The most popular post I’ve ever put up was about toothpasting a girl’s clitoris and waiting to see if she can stand still. (She can’t, and it’s only right that unfair penalties should apply when she moves.)

There were two follow up posts, also popular, here and here.

That was posted way back in 2013, and it’s still going strong. I hope one day to get a cheque from toothpaste companies, for encouraging extra sales.

The most popular post I put up in 2016 is this one, about sexual tension in Raylene’s bedroom.

The next most popular post put up in 2016 is this thought piece about the emotional connections between dom and submissive.

What that tells me is that how-to information is popular, and so is sexual material about different situations I’ve been in, over the years.

The school skirt she bought mail order. But finding a desk that looked school-y, at about the right height: that took serious shopping

The other thing I know is that schoolgirl spanking stories are very popular. I’ve done two series, both times because it was suggested or requested by a woman I was with at the time. The comments make me think that the schoolgirl fantasy is more popular with women readers than with male readers.

Though that’s just a feeling, without enough evidence to make a reliable conclusion.

Men and women readers

I also suspect, without knowing it, that a higher proportion of this blog’s readers are women than men. It’s a truism that women like wordy erotica with a lot of focus on the character’s feelings, while men go for the pictorial. So this blog’s sheer wordiness, and focus on feelings, skews its audience female.

A girl who knows better than that. (Possibly my favourite image, of all I’ve posted.)

I run pictures that mostly seem to me to be hot, but they’re not usually the point of the post. They illustrate the words rather than replacing them. So maybe sex bloggers get more female readers, while sex tumblrs attract more male eyes.

Anyway, I’m grateful to everybody of whatever gender and orientation who has ever dropped by to read me.

I hope your 2017 is far, far better than your 2016!

Some bdsm-related reasons why hitting children is wrong 1

abolishIt’s been surprisingly hard to get rid of “corporal punishment” in schools.

That’s the last time I’m going to use the “corporal punishment” in this series of posts. It’s better to acknowledge openly that we’re talking about the beating of children with lengths of wood or strips of leather,

It’s mostly directed that the child’s hands or buttocks, usually by adults though sometimes other children are delegated to beat other students. Let’s call it “beating of school children”.

Beating children in schools should really have gone out in the 19th century, along with shoving children up chimneys or working them in mines (future posts will go into why that’s so). But the United Kingdom only abolished school beatings in the 1980s, nearly a century later.

Former British colonies and dominions like Canada, New Zealand and Australia, and most of the African Anglosphere also abolished it at about that time. But children and young people are still being beaten at school, quite legally, in quite a lot of Asia, in Islamic countries and, weirdly, in the United States.

Those red-coloured States are the ones where child beating in schools is still legal.

Those red-coloured States are the ones where child beating in schools is still legal.

There’s an interesting correlation between between blue, or Democrat States and red, Republican States. as the map indicates.

The major opponent of abolition has been the political and religious right, particularly the religious right, who fought to keep child beating in every one of those jurisdictions.

In some jurisdictions, like Australia, there was a compromise that banned beatings in publicly owned schools but not in privately owned schools.

So if, as a loving parent, you felt your daughter should have the experience of having her arse beaten by someone you don’t know, unsupervised, possibly a male teacher, then you’d send that child to a school run by someone like the Christian Accelerated Education people. The Catholic schools would make sure the stranger who beat your child would be the same gender, as if that helped.

There’s one oddity about this, because many in the Christian right are fundamentalists, believing in Biblical inerrancy. And yet research on this group has found that most have never actually read the Bible.

“Spare the rod and spoil the child”: what’s that about?

Anyway, there’s that line, “spare the rod and spoil the child”. It gets quoted by people who think it’s God’s word endorsing beating children, and that it was probably something that Solomon said. (By the way, I’m not denying that the Bible says many creepy things about violence against children, including endorsing their sexual enslavement. I’m not arguing that the Bible isn’t nasty.) 

The real story of where that line came from is quite different, and it’s illuminating on why defence of child beating is so often so very passionate.

“Spare the rod and spoil the child” is from a satirical poem by Samuel Butler (a 17th century poet, not the Victorian novelist), called Hudibras. It’s long but very funny.

In the Second Book, the hero’s in jail, since he tried to break up a bear-baiting match. He’s got a nice widow coming to visit him in jail. She’s taken with him, since he’s got money, fame and a certain amount of charm. But he’s disconcerted: he can’t get an erection. 

So the widow gives him some advice. What he needs to get his sexual powers back, she says, is a good whipping. “Why not whipping?” she asks. “What medicine else can cure the fits/ Of lovers when they lose their wits?”

She explains that the god of sexual love, the boy-god Eros, is zestier if there’s a flogging in the air.

“Love’s a boy, by poets styled,/ So spare the rod and spoil the child.”

A good erotic whipping will not only fix his condition; it’ll also stimulate her. She points out that that whipping, done with grace and art, will “raise passion in a woman’s heart.”

Hudibras

Hudibras

Those of us who think that there’s a fair level of unacknowledged sexual interest involved in a lot of the advocacy of child beatings may also think it’s kind of amusing that this favoured phrase isn’t a divine command but a sexually impatient woman’s endorsement of sexual whipping. 

(Future posts in this series will be a tad less literary. But we’ve got to start somewhere.)

A Malmö question: Can men come without touching their cocks?

I’m at a sexology conference in Malmö, in south Sweden. It’s just across the water from Copenhagen, with a rail bridge connecting the two cities, and countries.

images-3Malmö’s not as cool a town as Copenhagen, where I’d move at the drop of a troll hat. I haven’t found a really nice place in the shade looking at water, where some waiter will bring me beers or mineral waters whenever I manage to make eye contact. Lots of places like that in Copenhagen; scarcer in Malmö.

Before I get to my question, here are some observations about Scandinavia, as experienced by me so far. 

1  The people here, and the way of doing things, are friendly and (some people would say “but”) punctual and efficient. 

2  It’s all very civilised. For example, they’ve preserved weekends as times when friends and family can get together and do things, because most people aren’t working at week-ends. Most English-speaking countries were fooled and bullied into giving that away, at great social cost and to no economic benefit. 

3  However, they can’t make a cup of chai tea to save their lives. I asked for a cup in Christiania in Copenhagen, and the girl asked me “what flavour”. By “chai” they mean some sort of powder that you mix with hot water, and that might be vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or whatever. 

4  You should have heard the cheers when England lost to Iceland at soccer the other day. Brexit has not exactly endeared the English to Europeans. 

5  There are no non-pretty girls in Scandinavia. Or if there is one, she must be hiding in Trollhättan. (Trollhättan is a town in Sweden. I think of it as meaning “Behatted Troll”. Obviously, it doesn’t mean that. I think “hättan” has the same meaning as in “Manhattan”.)

Anyway, at the conference there are poster sessions for academics who have something interesting to say, but who don’t have the material or weight for a full session of their own. So you get a room full of posters, with the relevant person standing beside it hoping you’re interested enough to want to talk about their work.  

The orgasm question

One raised a question about male and female orgasm. It’s that some women can come without touching their own genitals, or having someone else do it for them. Just the arousal, the flow of erotic ideas, can bring them to orgasm. But men can’t do that. They can get erect, obviously, without penile touch by themselves or others, but they can’t come without touch. They need friction, ideally slippery friction, to be able to come. 

I thought about that. In bdsm we do a lot of orgasm control. Me, I like female orgasms (I might be a female orgasm fetishist), so as a dom I may deny a submissive girl the right to come without my permission, and sometimes withhold that permission when she really, really wants to let go. However, usually I don’t deny her for long, if we’re in the same bed. Even a few minutes of denial, where she’s fighting back her orgasm while still being vigorously fucked, can get a huge release when I finally tell her to come. 

There are doms who’ve taken that further than I’ve ever felt the urge to. So they might deny the girl any orgasm while she’s being fucked. And then tell her to hold herself in suspense, not erotically relaxing, until he or she gives the word.

Because I like female orgasms, and the more of them the merrier, I’ve never done the kind of training. you need for that However, I’ve met submissive women who can hold on to their peak ready-to-come level for over an hour, and you can command them to come when they’re doing something like watching a movie or doing the dishes. I think of that as interesting rather than peak sexy, but it is interesting.

Master? Tell me a story?

Master? Tell me a story?

The closest I’ve come to that is getting a girl to come by tying her legs apart and her hands behind her back, and telling her a story calculated to appeal to her particular sexual tastes and fantasies. It’s the best possible writer’s audience. 

But she was cheating in a way. That is, she wasn’t being touched externally, but she could get physical stimulation by clenching and unclenching the muscles around her vulva and clitoris.

think that’s how women get to orgasm without apparent touch, though I could be wrong.

But men … We don’t seem to be able to do that, or any useful equivalent. If I have an erection, and I clench the muscles around my penis, I’ll make it wave up and down in a friendly way. But there’s no stimulation for me in it.

And I thought: If anyone can make a man, at least a submissive man, come without his being touched, it’d be a pro-domme. I asked this on Twitter, and got a couple of replies from pro-dommes saying that they’d never seen it done.   

Now I’m throwing the question to the room. Does anybody know of men being made to come without touch?

I’d  count it if the dom/domme used touch to bring the man close to orgasm, followed by orgasm denial, followed by instructing him to stay ready, and more than an hour passing before he was told to come. 

Can anyone help? (I mean, with reports of having that done to them, or doing it to some guy.)

E[lust] 83: One-stop shop

Elust #83

Elust 83 Header Holden and Camille
Photo courtesy of Holden and Camille

Welcome to Elust #83 

The only place where the smartest and hottest sex bloggers are featured under one roof every month. Whether you’re looking for sex journalism, erotic writing, relationship advice or kinky discussions it’ll be here at Elust. Want to be included in Elust #84 Start with the rules, come back July 1st to submit something and subscribe to theRSS feed for updates!

 

~ This Month’s Top Three Posts ~

London Crows and London Kisses

I am Her. She is Me.

You Say You Want to Cook for Me

 

~ Featured Post (Molly’s Picks) ~

Unusual Liaison

Community. Respect. Friendship. Fucking.

~Readers Choice from Sexbytes ~

Dirty Little Secrets

A male dom, a straight girl and a bi girl wait for Lynette

A male dom, a straight girl and a bi girl wait for Lynette 2

A male dom, a straight girl and a bi girl stop waiting for Lynette

Poetry

You Know
O

Thoughts & Advice on Sex & Relationships

My Bed
Secular Submission
My therapy
from “hard limit” to “want”
We Measure the Nostalgia
The Cure and The Cause

Events

Smut in the 6ix – Porn Conference & Gala

Erotic Fiction

Typing Errors
La Belle Dame
Sex and chocolate
The Imprisoned of HIM-HER-THEM
The Gift
audience
Becca’s Story
Rope and Fixtures
As salty as his cum…
Dominating the Doctor

Erotic Non-Fiction

Teen Sex in Woolly Tights with 60s Beat Music
Dear Sadist: Your Cruelty Is Your Love
A male dom, the straight girl and the bi girl
Owned, Leashed, & Beaten
Jan 2015 Owned & Collared by Mistress Claire
Rinse The Days Filth Away
Power On
Keeping tally

Sex News, Opinion, Interviews, Politics & Humor

Formative Kink Epic Fail: “Buck Rogers”

Thoughts & Advice on Kink & Fetish

If it was easy anyone could do it
What’s a service submissive?
Prescient Words

Writing About Writing

What if aspirational meant something else?

 

ELust Site Badge

By request: A Keith Emerson (with ELP) introductory guide

Where to start: an ELP New Listener’s Guide

1  Don’t start here

The music is this awful. Not entirely their fault. Atlantic Records insisted on the title and the photo. But the music is just awful.

The music is was bad as its cover. Not entirely their fault. Atlantic Records insisted on the title and the photo. But the music is just awful.

Let’s begin with where not to start. Don’t start with Works 1 or Works 2. There’s some good stuff there but it’s slim pickings.

Forget Love Beach; it’s as awful as its cover suggests. They were forced to record it by the record company at the end of a tour. They had nothing, and they were exhausted.

You could listen to Black Moon some time, because it’s got three good tracks on it. But it’s far from essential.

It really doesn’t sound like ELP, and nothing I’ve said about why they’re good applies to it. It’s pop music because their record company needed a hit. They dutifully released two singles, neither of which were hits. For addicts only.

Their final studio album, In the Hot Seat, competes with Love Beach for worst ELP abomination. (Though the Dylan cover version, “The Man in the Long, Black Coat”, is a cracker.)

2  Songs to start with, to see if you like the taste

i   “Lucky Man”, from the Emerson, Lake & Palmer album. Famous for including the first rock Moog solo, courtesy of Emerson, on record. (Tagged on at the end because Emerson was in the pub while Lake turned a simple ballad he’d written as a kid into something with real studio heft.) It’s still their most popular song. 

ii   “From the Beginning”, from Trilogy. Another pretty Greg Lake song, this time about fucking up relationships. This time, Emerson’s participation is more integrated into the song.

This made artist HR Giger a superstar, and probably helped him get the gig for designing "Alien". The title refers to fellatio, and so does a detail in the artwork, only half airbrushed away from the women's neck

This made artist HR Giger a superstar, and probably helped him get the gig for designing “Alien”. The album title refers to fellatio, and so does a detail in the artwork, only half airbrushed away from the women’s neck

iii  Toccata, from Brain Salad Surgery. Now we’re jumping into the deep end. This is Emerson’s arrangement of the fourth movement of Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera’s Piano Concerto No 1. It aint that pretty at all.

After ELP had recorded their version, they went, nervous as hell, to Ginastera’s place in France and played it to him. Like Aaron Copeland, who loved ELP’s arrangement of Hoe-Down and Fanfare for the Common Man, he…

Well, Ginastera listened to their version, then threw his arms up and said it was “terrible”. Emerson was crest-fallen. Then Ginastera explained he meant “terrible” in French, as in “amazing, fantastic, formidable”, and so on. It is, indeed, terrific.

If unusual time signatures are your thing, this is orgasm central. It switches times at the turn of a dime and the drop of a hat. Even if the word “time signatures” means nothing to you, it’s exciting as hell. Fuck, it’s fast. 

iv  The Barbarian, from Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Basically an arrangement of Bartok’s Allegro Barbare, this is much simpler than Toccata. But it keeps the Bartok spikiness, the European folksong origin, and then it just charges forward. I believe the Foo Fighters drummer once said he spend much of his adolescence listening to this, over and over. It always cheers me up, every time.

v  The Endless Enigma, from Trilogy. Yeah, it’s prog, so its nearly 11 minutes long, divided into two parts, with a middle section called Fugue. But it’s seriously good instrumental work between the three of them, and a strong vocal from Lake. It has lyrics that sound ok, line by line, and don’t make any sense at all. But at that stage Lake’s voice could sell anything. Anyway, it’s the music that counts. 

vi  Take a Pebble, from Emerson, Lake and Palmer. This would have been a higher recommendation, but it’s in a similar mood to the first two numbers. It’s Lake’s composition, but the long piano solo by Emerson, and his in-fills, are amazing. So are the opening notes, which Emerson got by taking the back off a piano and plucking the strings like a harp. I also recommend the expanded version on Welcome Back

vii  Tarkus, from Tarkus. Actually, I think this is their best piece, and maybe the most high-energy twenty-odd minutes of music by anyone. It’s just not where I’d start someone. Again, the version on Welcome Back is also highly recommended. 

viii  Jerusalem, from Brain Salad Surgery. It’s that song. They play it, Lake sings it. The BBC banned it, for some reason. It’s pomp rock at its finest. It’s brilliant. 

The inside image on the Brain Salad Surgery cover. Same model: Giger's wife.

The inside image on the Brain Salad Surgery cover. Same model: Giger’s partner, the late Li Tobler.

ix   Karn Evil 9, Parts 1, 2 and 3. I have a copy of Brain Salad Surgery on vinyl. Karn Evil 9  starts on side 1. You have to turn the record over halfway through Part 1, and the rest of it takes up the whole of side 2.

Contains the “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends…” line. 

I’m also fond of: 

“Not content with that, With our hands behind our back, We pull Jesus from a hat: Get into that! Get into that!” They dropped those lines from most performances after they got Big in America. 

The music of Part 1 is pretty much straight-ahead rock, only faster. But it’s great. Come inside! Part 2 is instrumental, with high-speed silly noises from Emerson (that’s praise), and synthesised percussion from Carl Palmer. Part 3 is science fiction: a battle between two space fleets is won when one side destroys the other, and is in turn destroyed by their unimpressed ship’s computers. Lots of synthesiser and Moog, some great guitar and singing from Lake. And silly lyrics. 

x   The Great Gates of Kiev. 

That’s the last section of their version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. It’s fast, it’s big and it’s grand. Death is not life, by the way, As Any Fule Kno. But when Lake sings the opposite, you can find yourself momentarily convinced. 

3  Albums

If I were going to own just one ELP album, it would be that live triple, Welcome Back My Friends. It’s only a double in CD form, or a few hundred megabytes in digital form. It has storming live versions of most of the above.

Its full title, by the way, is Welcome Back My Friends to the Show that Never Ends; Ladies and Gentlemen, Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I believe it’s still the longest record title ever. They did it as a typesetter’s joke. They knew it’d get into the Top 10, and they also knew that there was no way of fitting that title into the little grids that the music press used to list the charting albums.  

After that I’d buy Tarkus, then the first album (called Emerson, Lake & Palmer), then Brain Salad Surgery, then Trilogy, then Pictures at an Exhibition

Amazing sex fun fact!

Lightly furred redhead, interested in the "Variation" aspect of that weird shit I was listening to.

Lightly furred redhead, interested in the “Variation” aspect of that weird shit on the audio. And demonstrating Emerson’s Famous Mullet haircut. Not the actual girl in the anecdote left of this photo, though she was a redhead too.

I lost my virginity to Pictures at an Exhibition. I doubt if there’s many people can say that, since ELP’s music, for all its merits, was notoriously not sexy. I was giving it a listen when a girl who’d been teaching me how to kiss dropped by. I made her a cup of tea; she brought out some hash.

I started taking her clothes off. She didn’t stop me. “Oh,” I thought. “Oh, oh, I see.”

“Promenade”, indeed. Though you can really go at it during the “Blues Variation” interlude. I could make a “Great Gates of Kiev” joke, but that’d be ungentlemanly, also completely untrue.

I’d have put something else on if I’d known she was coming. But once she’d arrived I was distracted.

Anyway, you know who you are. I still think you’re wonderful. Also, thank you!