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Van der Graaf Generator

Discussion in 'music' started by yentone, Apr 16, 2021.

  1. yentone

    yentone pfm Member

    Just reading one of the newsletters I get from The Wire and spotted this :

    "....all staff are working remotely on the forthcoming June issue. In terms of what’s in the issue, it’s early days yet, but one thing we know for sure is that the cover story will be a two-part special on those eternal outliers of UK underground art rock Van der Graaf Generator.

    In part one of what promises to be an epic survey, Emily Bick talks to group members Peter Hammill, Guy Evans and Hugh Banton about their 50 years of collaboration; while in part two, Mike Barnes, author of A New Day Yesterday: UK Progressive Rock & The 1970s, contributes a Primer on the group’s back catalogue, as well as singer and songwriter Hammill’s parallel and prodigious solo output.

    The group is currently preparing a major box set of all its albums for release, and Hammill is about to issue a solo album of cover versions, as well as a new collaboration with Amorphous Androgynous (aka Future Sound Of London), so the timing is right we reckon to go big on one of the few groups left who survived the prog era intact."

    So that's plenty to look forward to! I've literally just received the May issue, so about a month to wait.

    Thoughts and recommendations for this influential band?
    sideshowbob and kendo like this.
  2. Seeker_UK

    Seeker_UK Feelin' nearly faded as my jeans

    VdGG are the greatest band of the 'Progressive Rock' era. No flashy solos but some pretty spiffy arrangements, soundscapes and some of the most intelligent lyrics of the time. Oh and Peter Hammill in his prime had one of the most greatest vocal ranges ( G#1-G5) but it could be a bit, erm, 'marmitey'. I would start with the two albums that bookend their 71-75 hiatus, "Pawn Hearts", just for the epic "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers" and "Godbluff", where they became a lot less 'cosmic' sounding and focused on the words.

    Although I had heard other tracks by them previously, this is their live version of "Plague" from Belgian TV that turned me on to them and made me race out and buy everything by them (quite easy in the 80s, they only had 9 albums out before their reformation in the 00s). It was the only time they had performed the track live (it does owe a lot to the studio) until their tours in the 2010s.

    From "Godbluff", a sharper sounding VdGG.

    In '77-78, Jaxon (sax) and Banton (organ) left and Peter formed a new band Van der Graaf, which replaced organ and sax with bass (Nic Potter, returning to the band) and violin (Graham Smith from String Driven Thing) and 'cello. The studio album ("The Quiet Zone") and live album ("Vital") were very stripped down, song-focused. The live album is as heavy AF.

    As for PH solo albums, he never stopped recording. Recommendations are "Fools Mate" as it's by far the easiest album to listen to, featuring some of VdGG and also members of Lindisfarne and Bob Fripp.

    Although he was never your typical singer-songwriter of that period, subsequent albums were experimental, heavy, VdGG 'reunions' and so forth. "Nadirs Big Chance" is one of John Lydons influences on the Sex Pistols sound.

    For PH, I would stick to the Charisma output first of all because he did go off the boil (IMHO) on his releases in the late 80s but he could always deliver live.
    sideshowbob, Theo and yentone like this.
  3. Seeker_UK

    Seeker_UK Feelin' nearly faded as my jeans

    This is a pretty spiffy live set of PH performing solo versions of songs from "The Silent Corner and Empty Stage". On album, they were band versions or multitracked compositions. Here it's just voice and piano.
  4. musicman56

    musicman56 50 years hifi & vinyl junkie

    I wonder whether they will be reissuing individual albums rather than just a boxset? I'd love a new vinyl copy of 'Pawn Hearts' as the original pressings cost a mint! There's only the Cargo release in 2012 and I don't fancy that.
    kendo likes this.
  5. rabidlistener

    rabidlistener pfm Member

    Ah VDGG & PH one of my favourite bands of the early 70's. When I first heard 'Least we could do' I wasn't that impressed but Refugees stuck in my head and I finally bought the album - I was hooked! I ended up seeing them on numerous occasions, sometimes with a fledgling Genesis on tha same bill.There was nothing like the Generator in full flight! Attended a solo concert by PH at the Wigmore Hall - just PH & a Grand Piano - sublime. 'Fool's Mate' is still one of my all time favourite albums - so unlike VDGG. 'Chameleon' & 'Silent Corner' are also excellent but have tracks which could be the Generator. Their crowning glory was Pawn Hearts & the epic 'Plague" After that I lost interest and got into American country rock (!!) which leads me to my next post in 'Rusty Young RIP'
  6. Marchbanks

    Marchbanks Hat and Beard member

    It was ‘Lost’ on a friend’s copy of H to He that first got me interested.
    I think that was my third gig. 1971. Genesis supporting, tickets 30p IIRC. Fifty years ago, good grief.
    clifftaylor likes this.
  7. RBrinsdon

    RBrinsdon pfm Member

    At Birmingham Town Hall it was (for 30p) VDGG, Lindisfarne and Genesis with the order changing every night on the tour. I remember the show for the heaviness of "Killer" which I still love to this day and Peter Gabriel's song intros which included one about a man excreting a light bulb from his nose. I have tickets to see VDGG back at the Town Hall but I think it is scheduled for May '22 now!
  8. Seeker_UK

    Seeker_UK Feelin' nearly faded as my jeans

  9. RBrinsdon

    RBrinsdon pfm Member

  10. Marchbanks

    Marchbanks Hat and Beard member

    In fact I don’t think it was a gig on the Six Bob Tour I saw, but the one later in the year (October 27 to be precise.) Supposedly VDGG, Genesis, Lindisfarne and/or Bell and Arc, although I have absolutely no memories of either of the last two.
  11. RBrinsdon

    RBrinsdon pfm Member

    As a hoarder of memorabilia, I will try and find my ticket stub from the Town Hall!
  12. Marchbanks

    Marchbanks Hat and Beard member

    50 years on, I remember where I sat - Lower Gallery, right hand side, sort of over Tony Banks’ left shoulder!
  13. Seeker_UK

    Seeker_UK Feelin' nearly faded as my jeans

    If you're a fan of 'Killer', then can I recommend this:

  14. a.palfreyman

    a.palfreyman pfm Member

    Always thought I ought to own some VdGG so just bought Pawn Hearts and H to He so we'll see how we go.
    Recently bought some Camel (having not even been aware of their existence 'til just over a year ago) Snow Goose, Moonmadness and Mirage. Excellent stuff!
  15. a.palfreyman

    a.palfreyman pfm Member

    First listening: what the bloody hell have I bought?
    Anyway, there was enough in them to make a few repeated listens worthwhile. Grown quite a liking for H to He, esp. House with No Door and Lost.
    Some of the sax work is maybe a bit left-field, but it somehow works.
    VanDerGraaf likes this.

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