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joi, 8 decembrie 2011

Rock history and appreciation (Ep.3)


Original Line-up:
- Peter Hammill - guitar, piano/keyboard and vocals (1967–1978, 2005-present);
- Chris Judge Smith - drums and wind instruments (1967–1968);
- Nick Pearne - organ [replaced with Hugh Banton (organ, bass pedals and bass guitar) in 1968];
- Keith Ellis - bass (joined in 1968);
- Guy Evans - drums (1968–1978, 2005-present)
 Former Members:
- David Jackson - saxophone and flute (1970–1977, 1978, 2005-2006);
- Nick Potter - bass guitar (1970, 1977–1978);
- Graham Smith - violin (1977–1978);
- Charles Dickie - cello (1978).

It would be a good idea to change the name of the column into "When Record Companies screwed the bands. Big time". Here we have another example of how a record company can intervene in the natural course of music history. 
The guys (Hammill, Smith and Pearne) started Van Der Graaf Generator (hereinafter referred to as VDGG) in 1967 during their student year at Manchester University and recorded a demo on the basis on which they were offered a contract with Mercury Records. In 1968 Pearne was replaced by Banton and signed a deal with Tony Stratton-Smith (also managing Rare Bird, Atomic Rooster, Genesis and others) as manager. They recorded a number of demos with Mercury and then decided to do a single with Polydor Records (People You Were Going To" b/w "Firebrand"). Of course, Mercury pressured the band to withdraw the single because it violated the contract signed with only two members of the band, Hammill and Smith. This led to Smith leaving the band amicably.
In 1969, the band broke up due to financial difficulties and due to the refusal of Mercury Records to let the band record and the Tony Stratton-Smith's refusal to let the other members of the band sign with Mercury.
Hammill started to record on his first solo album with Trident Records. He was followed by Banton, Ellis and Evans as session musicians. Their manager worked out a deal with Mercury and released the album titled The Aerosol Grey Machine under the band's name in return for releasing the band from their contract. The album was released only in the USA with no promotion at all and because of that sales were minimal.  

Tony Stratton-Smith started Charisma Records and signed the band as his first act. Ellis was replaced by Nick Potter and David Jackson was added to the line-up. They started the recordings on their second album The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other in 1970. Hammill started to give a darker touch to the lyrics and the band incorporated elements of jazz and classical music.

H To He, Who Am The Only One was recorded immediately after their second album, which was well received by the public. Potter left the band while they were recording and the band continued recording with Banton alternating bass guitar and organ bass pedals. Robert Fripp of King Crimson is a guest appearance on the song "The Emperor in His War-Room"

1971, VDGG starts recording on their fourth album, Pawn Hearts. The album contains just two tracks and a concept piece A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers.
They top the Italian chart for 12 weeks on the first place with their Theme One piece.

Although the band toured intensively between 1970 and 1972, financial difficulties and the lack of support from the record company caused the band to break up. Hammill pursued his solo career.
They reunite in 1975 and in only 12 months they record three more albums: Godbluff, Still Life, World Record.

They record another album in 1977, The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome, with Nick Potter returning to replace Banton and Graham Smith to replace Jackson. They break up again in 1978. Guess why. Lack of support from the record company and financial difficulties.

They reunited in 2005, recording the Present album. In 2008, the Trisector album and A Grounding in Numbers album in 2011.

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