Greasy Truckers were a Notting Hill-based community organisation who hosted concerts and free festivals to help recycle money into worthwhile causes. In the early 70s, they released two albums culled from their benefit gigs, with the first, Greasy Truckers Party, recorded during their 1972 spectacular at Camden’s Roundhouse. Showcasing such divergent acts as Man, Brinsley Schwarz and Hawkwind, it gained notoriety both for its scarcity (only 20,000 were pressed and it quickly became a collector’s item), and the legendary performances contained within its grooves.
Its follow-up, Greasy Truckers Live At Dingwalls Dance Hall, was largely recorded at an 8 October 1973 show that took place just down the road at the smaller, canal-side Dingwalls venue, and was committed to tape via Virgin Records’ “Manor Mobile” recording truck. While it remains relatively unheralded in comparison with its predecessor, it’s blessed with a similarly eclectic range of bands, with each giving searing performances at crucial stages in their careers.
Fresh from releasing their debut album, Camel were first on stage, with what was one of their earliest recorded live performances. The 16-minute instrumental ‘God Of Light Revisited’ is an epic, groove-laden prog rock masterclass dominated by Peter Bardens’ jazz-tinged Hammond organ forays and Andy Latimer’s searing (and occasionally Echoplex-enhanced) guitar runs.
Due to delays on the night (and a 2am curfew), Henry Cow, originally last on the bill, were actually recorded at Virgin’s Manor Hall studio a week later. Providing a complete contrast to Camel, their three songs of rock-by-way-of-musique-concrète exploration were completely improvised. Of their contributions, ‘Off The Map’ begins with soft guitar plucks, paper scrunches and metallic clicks, before a change in pace brings a dramatic conclusion of abrasive, industrial-sounding piano runs. ‘Café Royal’ is a three-minute suite of extemporisations by guitarist Fred Frith, while ‘Keeping Calm In Winter’ finds horn players Tim Hodgkinson and Geoff Leigh nudging Henry Cow’s aesthetic into free jazz territory.
Global Village Trucking Company
Next up are Global Village Trucking Company. The band, who briefly found fame after an appearance in a BBC documentary about their life as part of a Norfolk commune, deliver a rollicking set of well-honed, groove-laden blues-rock. ‘You’re A Floozy Madam Karma’ is the highlight, and features Jon Owen’s husky, whisky-drenched vocals at their most majestic.
Last, but by no means least, were two classic examples of the free-form dynamic that defined Gong’s live performances during the early 70s. Recorded at an open-air festival in Tunisia, first track ‘General Flash Of The United Hallucinations’ floats by in an atmospheric swirl generated by Tim Blake’s synths, Gilli Smyth’s space shrieks and Didier Malherbe’s exotic sax flourishes, before finishing with superb solo work from Malherbe and guitar genius Steve Hillage. ‘Part 32 Floating Anarchy’ is even better. Recorded at Sheffield City Hall, it opens with Daevid Allen’s maniacal ramblings about steak-and-kidney pies, before Pierre Moerlen’s thunderous drum barrage leads into a final, thunderous finish culled from Camembert Electrique’s ‘You Can’t Kill Me’: all heavy guitar riffs and wild sax solos.
The 12CD+DVD box set Love From Planet Gong: The Virgin Years 1973-75 is out now and can be bought here.