Friday, July 20, 2007

1971 was when the music came together

Some time in November or December 1970, I began to be very interested in a pair of albums that my then friend Tony S. had, which had been recorded by the sci-fi sounding Van der Graaf Generator. Not all of the tracks resounded within me, but I developed a strong liking for the second song on the first side of both albums - "Refugees" and "House with no door". Little did I know then what those songs would lead to....

In January 1971, I saw Yes (opening for the forgettable Iron Butterfly), playing music from their yet unreleased "Yes Album". This was a real eye-opener (ear opener, I suppose), and I was first in the queue to buy the record when it came out shortly later.

The other concert which I attended in January 1971 was Van der Graaf, an unforgettable night (so much so that I don't recall most of the songs that they played). By this time, I had developed a preference for sitting in the back row of the stalls in Bristol's Colston Hall. This was for several reasons: the seats were cheaper but had almost the same view as nearer seats, and one could stand up without blocking the view of anyone behind. The wall also gave support. So that evening, myself and a few friends were sitting in the back row of the Colston Hall; the music so involved us that soon we were standing, then rocking back and forth. I don't know exactly how it happened, but we also managed to detach some of the seats from the wall in our enthusiasm. A few years later, I was in correspondence with Peter Hammill, and I asked why they didn't come back to the CH. He explained that the hall manager (the uncle of drummer Guy Evans' then girlfriend) had banned the group after the damage that the fans had done. Oops. This incident is also detailed in "The Book".

Another view of my emerging musical tastes can be found in the following piece which I wrote a few years ago, when I used to write online reviews for The Greenman Review: '1971 found me as a dewy-eyed teenager sitting agog at the Bristol Troubadour. I had just discovered that my adopted home city had a strong "folk scene," and that good music was always to be found in that musky room in the Clifton district. Of the many musicians that I saw there, the strongest impression was made by a guitarist and singer called Dave Evans. It always seemed that he had several hands playing the guitar at the same time, and his performances used to hold me spellbound. One Sunday evening at a concert (at the appropriately named Newman Hall, actually not far from my house), Dave introduced an instrumental as "a number which I recorded this afternoon for a forthcoming album". I waited a few weeks, then went round to the local record company's headquarters and purchased my copy of The Words In Between. It would seem that the review is no longer online, although I do have a hard copy at home.

1971 also saw the re-emergence of King Crimson after two years of being a virtual group, existing in the studio. By 1991, such behaviour would have been normal, but not then. I was to see KC three times during 1971, the first time being in May, one of the first dates in their first British tour. The set from a gig a few days earlier at Plymouth has been preserved as the KC Collectors Club issue 14.

In July I went off to summer camp, this time with my regular peer group. We spent a few weeks in the Lake district, and as usual, the scenery took a backdrop to the more serious business of friendship. The theme of the camp was "Revolution", and we learnt about various revolutions which had occurred over the ages. The camp itself started with a kind of revolution, when we were thrown into bivouac tents and treated roughly by the staff; this was engineered by them to produce an outcry, from us, the children.

At the same time, a different kind of revolution was in the air: it was the time of the OZ obscenity trial, which I, at least, was following closely. At the end of the camp, a few friends and I created a 'satirical' magazine called ZO, which was an extremely pale and innocent version of OZ. At least I had been reading underground magazines, specifically IT (International Times, not Information Technology) which was on sale in Bristol, presumably for the university undergraduates (my school nestled next to the university) as well as Richard Neville's "Play Power".

In fact, I had been reading all kinds of weird for the time stuff, such as a book by Timothy Leary, one by George Melly (who died a few weeks ago). Around this time, I was also introduced to the works of Hermann Hesse who quickly became my favourite author; I was to read all of his books over the next few years, although now I find them very hard going.

At the camp, I met a girl M with whom I was very friendly, but not in a romantic sense. In the autumn of that year, I went to stay with her and her family for a few days; that visit was an introduction to all kinds of interesting things. I remember hearing The Doors sing about "Love Street", a song which for me has become inseparable from that visit and from the sunny weather. I found and bought Tom Wolfe's "Electric Kool Aid Acid Test", which might have been the biggest eye-opener of all (maybe this was the source for the Hesse books). We went to Kenwood House and saw an art exhibition, after having dinner at an Italian restaurant. Later I invited her to stay with me for a few days in December; I had an interesting cultural programme planned, but her father nixed that idea.

A few weeks after the summer camp, came knocking at my door Simon from my first Habonim camp (not the one with laryngitis). He too had been at the Lake district camp where we had renewed our friendship, and now he was hitchhiking around Britain. It didn't take much persuading for me to join him - I probably envisioned a kind of youthful "On The Road". We went from Bristol to Birmingham to London to somewhere on the South Coast (Brighton? - I remember that there was a horse racetrack nearby) then back to London and thence to the finale of the trip - the Weeley Music Festival. My attendance there was terminated abruptly after a telephone conversation with my parents (who didn't know officially where I was, although they may have guessed) who informed me that my O-level results were not very good, and that I had an appointment at school with the Headmaster to discuss my academic future. I lost control for a while, as much as a result of this shock as well as my growing hunger and sleep loss. I went to the medical tent, had my first Valium (which put me in a very interesting place where I was aware of my problems but couldn't feel any emotion regarding them), found Simon and obtained my train ticket back to London.

Winter camp 1971 was with the "big boys"; I was the youngest attendee but it was an interesting experience. I formed a short-lived trio with M and J; I don't think we ever played in front of people although we did rehearse. I even have a picture of the three of us.

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