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Van Der Graaf Generator

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Van Der Graaf Generator Theme One / W album cover
3.40 | 35 ratings | 5 reviews | 34% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, released in 1972

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. A side - Theme One
2. B side - W

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Hammill / lead vocals, guitars, pianos
- Hugh Banton / organs, piano, mellotron, bass pedals, bass guitar, synthesiser, vocals
- Guy Evans / drums and percussion
- David Jackson / saxes, flute, vocals

"Theme One" written by George Martin

Releases information


Thanks to mystic fred for the addition
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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Theme One / W ratings distribution

(35 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(34%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(51%)
Good, but non-essential (6%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by mystic fred
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars An aural firework display!

As a big fan of Tommy Vance's "Friday Rock Show" I managed to track down this great piece of music eventually, i'm not sure how rare the single is today but i noticed neither track appears on any early VDGG albums on vinyl, though the two songs have managed to find their way onto remastered CD. After I obtained this single I checked out some early VDGG albums - "At Least..", "H to He" and "Pawn Hearts" hoping to find some more gems like this but was disappointed, as I remember feeling the albums were way over my head at the time, and nothing with the instant appeal of "Theme One".

According to the label, the instrumental track "Theme One" was written by George Martin, and starts with a swirling organ intro leading into the extremely catchy main theme, then building up to a crescendo of swirling mellotrons and organs, which I could describe as an aural firework display! Unfortunately a very short piece, though definitely no damp squib, something they could really have built upon as an extended album track. The 'B' side "W" drifts in with a much more relaxed atmosphere, and though Peter Hammill's interesting vocal style is reputedly an acquired taste generally, he seem very accessable on here. The song drifts around with some interesting atmospheric effects, with otherworldly flutes, piano and acoustic guitar.

An excellent little gem to any Prog collection - do I wanna sell it? - not on your nelly!

PS - this version is much better than the one on "The Box"!

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars An all instrumental single from VDGG can only be equalled by a vocal one from Tangerine Dream I guess !

"Theme One" is an instrumental piece of music with little inspiration. Repetitive and a bit boring. Few Jackson's interventions (only during the second half). Very keyboard oriented (strong though). It was the generic of the radio programme "Rock Friday Rock Show" and written by Georges Martin. Peter Hammill was not even in the studio when it was recorded ! VDGG will play it first as a rehearsal, then in live gigs but there was never a place for it on a album (guess why). Peter will say : "This was something different for VDGG". I bet you !

B-side "W" is another forgotten song from the "Pawn Hearts" sessions. It starts OK but ends up in a jazz impro leading nowhere. Poor. No wonder those two tracks never made a place on a VDGG album. They were just leftovers (if you have read some of my reviews, you know my feeling about leftovers).

FYI, I started listening VDGG in 1974, I have their entire official catalogue and saw them played live in 1976 (October, Brussels, Cirque Royal). I'll soon go back and see them in April this year - 2007). So, yes : I am a die-hard fan but not blind nor deaf.

This is crappy. Two stars (and I am very generous).

Review by Matti
4 stars The contents of this single are not VDGG at their very best (hardly anyone expects them to be!), but my good rating has a lot to do with the fact that both tracks are outside main albums and also pretty good ones.

'Theme One' is familiar to me from the compilation covering the "first generation" of VDGG (1969-1971). Originally written by George Martin for BBC Radio One (sadly I haven't heard that tune), it's been transformed into a killer VDGG track, captivating all the power possibly available in a short instrumental. David Jackson's saxes and Hugh Banton's organ are in the focus. The melody is gorgeous and catchy in a good way - that is, if it happens to linger in my mind after listening, it's not a nasty ear-worm but just continues to spread its energy. And it sounds genuinely classic VDGG!

'W' (> "double-you", referring to the Hammillesque lyrics dealing identity problems) is a slow, low-key song with an improvisatory, wandering atmosphere and a tiny, accessible touch of avant-garde or free jazz. Not melodic or emotionally strong but still quite interesting. Hardly it was a given a faintest chance to be included on the superb Pawn Hearts album. But as single B-side tracks these curiosities nearing the throwaway category are always more justified than filling singles with album material. (Maybe I should give a minus for the nazi-like gestures found also in the inner sleeve of Pawn Hearts.)

Review by patrickq
2 stars Charisma ‎CB 175 was a UK single with two non-album sides, "Theme One" and "W." The same two songs were released as a single in Australia, France, Germany, and Italy.

This version of "Theme One" is a different (and inferior) recording from the "original version" released on the 2005 Virgin/Charisma remaster of Pawn Hearts. (There's also a different version on the 2003 Virgin compilation The Best Prog Rock Album in the World ? Ever.) As far as I know, this is the only cover song in the band's 1969-1978 period, and I wonder whether that's why the band wanted to leave this nice little tune off the album. The song was written by Beatles producer George Martin as theme music for BBC Radio 1.

On the flip side, "W" is boilerplate Van der Graaf Generator, and I mean that in two ways: as a composition, it's kind of generic, as far as VdGG songs go; but it also feels a bit perfunctory, as if the band had to come up with something that sounded like themselves. Of course, a band could do much worse than sounding like early-1970s Van der Graaf Generator.

Since higher-quality versions of both of these songs are available on the Pawn Hearts remaster, I expect that only VdGG completionists will want a copy of "Theme One" / "W."

Latest members reviews

4 stars This is an interesting single by VDGG. Released around the same time as Pawns Heart it sold very well on the continent and pretty well at home. It is still possible to buy a copy on ebay but prices are starting to rise. Theme One is unusual as it is an instrumental with no sign of Mr Hammil's w ... (read more)

Report this review (#146715) | Posted by burgersoft777 | Wednesday, October 24, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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