Van der Graaf Generator Listen

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Digging Deep
If you were a student in the latter part of the 60s there is every chance you might have been seen trotting around with your mates in a great coat or an Afghan, with hair down to your bum, proudly clutching a copy of the first Van Aer Graaf Generator album, The Aerosol Grey Machine. If you weren’t just a weekend hippie, you’d have maintained the cult by snaffling up The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other and the acknowledged classic H To He, Who Am The Only One. In short: you were “in”. Esoteric and arcane as these LPs sounded, they also thrilled with their musical virtuosity, Peter Hammill’s lyrical idiosyncrasies, the dual horn attack of David Jackson, and the otherworldly grooves provided by the rhythmic dexterity of Guy Evans and Hugh Banton. Because of their links to the Charisma label, Van Der Graaf Generator appealed to the folk-meets-prog world of Genesis, Yes and King Crimson. But pigeonholing them there won’t do any good. As committed fan Julian Cope has said, “Their music was like some Brechtian bar band – the opposite of prog rock, really.” Other notable fans include John Lydon, Graham Coxon, Marc Almond, Mark E. Smith and Bruce Dickinson. Perhaps VDGG’s most celebrated devotee was David Bowie, who was not only fully aware of their output in the 60s and early 70s (both artists were Mercury labelmates for a brief moment), but most likely would have seen them play live during the height of the head and patchouli era, circa ’68 to ’71. And yet the band never really got their dues in the UK, though they were always phenomenally popular in Italy and other European territories. Though they sound little like any of the so called “krautrock” bands, VDGG do share the ethos of a Can or Kraftwerk, and it’s worth pointing out that their epic 1971 outing, Pawn Hearts, contains a suite called ‘A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers’ that predates Genesis’ far more commercially successful The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway by three years. To that extent, Van Der Graaf are part of a scene, but always just apart from it. So, unlikely to be inducted into halls of fame – or infamy – the group company have ploughed many furrows. Hammill has also been releasing solo albums at a terrific rate since 1971. Banton has often collaborated on those and also issued his own classical discs. Ditto Guy Evans, who also worked with legendary Californian exiles The Misunderstood in 1969, as did the late bassist/guitarist Nic Potter. Many weird strands spin off a Van Ser Graaf Generator. Electric shocks await…
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uDiscover Music transparent Essential Albums
The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other

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H to He Who Am the Only One

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Pawn Hearts

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Godbluff

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Still Life

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The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome

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Present

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