Thursday, October 29, 2015

Vinyl log 24 - 29 October

29October1975Van der Graaf GeneratorGodbluff

One of the events of the emotionally charged month of August 1972 was the breakup of Van der Graaf Generator. Whilst it could hardly be said that this event had any direct involvement upon my life, it was still upsetting. Whilst the Fairport family provided music for the body, VdGG provided music for the soul, and their breakup denied the possibility of any more of their fantastic music.

A taste of what was lost was delivered in Peter Hammill's first solo album ("Chameleon in the shadow") via the closing track "Black room". This brought tears to my eyes the first time I heard it, both because of the quality of the song itself and also as a reminder of what was no more. The second PH album had more quasi-VdGG tracks than its predecessor, but it was still a watered down version of the magnificence that had once been achieved. The third PH album, "In Camera", was truly solo, whereas the fourth, "Nadir's last chance", was a head-scratcher. True, it featured all four VdGG members, but playing songs in various styles, none of which were theirs. Had I been able to read the future, I would have taken this album as a sign that the band were about to get back together. 

The reunion became public knowledge over the summer of 1975; I missed their two 'secret' gigs in North Wales and probably wouldn't have known about them even had I been in Britain at the time. But I, like everyone else who cared, knew what was what by October 1975.

One day (29/10/15), a record sized package appeared at my door. Charisma Records were under the impression that I was still reviewing records for my college newspaper (in fact, my involvement had ceased some months previously, and at the time, I was working for Schweppes) and so had sent me a copy of 'Godbluff', the new VdGG album, for review. I immediately devoured the album and attained a new level of consciousness. At the time, G was in Neuchatel, studying French at the source; I remember writing to her, telling of my extreme excitement. The language I used was highly poetic, influenced by the high that the record had induced. I doubt very much that she would have liked the music at all. 

To add to my transcendental state, I saw VdGG for the first time in years at the Thames Polytechnic in Woolwich two days after having received the record (apparently a Friday night). This gig was miles away – literally the other side of London – but Jeremy and I had to go. We set off on his motorbike (him driving, me riding pillion) for the long ride, whilst I sang the songs at the top of my voice. We had to wait outside of the concert hall for a while before being let in; we heard part of the band's soundcheck, primarily the tango section of 'The Sleepwalkers'. The gig itself was heaven; apart from the entire Godbluff album, we were also treated to some other gems. 

This was the first gig at which I attempted to go backstage; playing on my correspondence with PH, I assailed a roadie and prevailed upon him to ask whether we could meet the band. The answer came back a few minutes later – "He vaguely remembers the name but he's too tired". Maybe we were too polite and maybe the setup was not conducive, but I recall this as the sole attempt in all my years of concert going (at least in Britain) of attempting to go backstage.

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