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Van Der Graaf Generator

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Van Der Graaf Generator First Generation (Scenes from 1969-1971) album cover
3.44 | 70 ratings | 11 reviews | 27% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Boxset/Compilation, released in 1986

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Darkness (11/11) (7:25)
2. Killer (8:07)
3. Man Erg (9:00)
4. Theme One (4:00)
5. Pioneers over C (12:43)
6. A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers (22:00)
- a) Eyewitness
- b) Pictures / Lighthouse
- c) Eyewitness
- d) S.H.M.
- e) Presence of Night
- f) Kosmos Tours
- g) (Custard's) Last Stand
- h) The Clot Thickens
- i) Land's End (Sineline)
- j) We Go Now
7. Refugees (6:20)

Total Time 69:35

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Hammill / lead vocals, guitars, piano (2,4,6,7)
- Hugh Banton / organs, pianos, backing vocals, oscillator (2,5), bass (3,4,5,6), bass pedals (3,4,6), Mellotron (3,4,6), synthesizer (3,4,6), Fx (3,6)
- David Jackson / saxophones, flute, backing vocals, Fx (2,3,5,6)
- Nic Potter / bass (1,2,7), electric guitar (1,7)
- Guy Evans / drums & percussion, timpani (2,3,5,6), piano (3,6)

- Mike Hurwitz / cello (7)
- Robert Fripp / electric guitar (3,6)

Releases information

From the albums / singles* :
- The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other (1,7)
- H To He, Who Am The Only One (2,5)
- Theme One / W (4) *
- Pawn Hearts (3,6)

Lyrics by Peter Hammill
Produced by John Anthony

CD Virgin - COMCD 2 (UK, 1986)
CD Virgin - COMCD 2 / 0777 7 87546 2 6 (Europe, 1997)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Prog Network & projeKct for the last updates
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Buy VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR First Generation (Scenes from 1969-1971) Music

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR First Generation (Scenes from 1969-1971) ratings distribution

(70 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(27%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(46%)
Good, but non-essential (19%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR First Generation (Scenes from 1969-1971) reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Dick Heath
2 stars CD 1 of a two set retrospective set (the other "Second Generation"), based on a goodly choice of sampler tracks taken from their first three Charisma albums. Released on CD by Virgin Records along with half dozen other compilations of some of the label's poorer selling bands, with the intent of putting their back-catalogue back into the public's mind (and hadn't Branson just bought the Charisma label 1985/6?). It worked for me I went out and bought "H to He" , "Wave To Each Other" and "Pawn's Heart"- and I now have a redundant sampler!!!

Well there is a second reason for redundancy: that "Theme One" tune - I avoid it like the plague. Tommy Vance used it as the closing music for his "The Friday Rock Show" on BBC Radio 1 and overplay killed it. And the Cozy Powell spoilt an otherwise excellent jazz rock- based album "Over The Top", by including a heavy version of this George Martin's tune.

Review by Matti
5 stars This is the third review of this compilation, and the first to give it over 3*. I simply have to give five, but NOT just for the average. The three VDGG albums behind this compilation are worth having as such, but for a listener like me, who doesn't want to have hundreds of CD's or LP's but instead usually tapes music for himself and has a relatively small (less than 200) but the more effective CD choice, this is nearly perfect to have. Masterworks "H To He..." and "Pawn Hearts" are well represented - only 'Lemmings' is excluded from the latter. 'Killers' and 'Pioneers Over C' are IMO not the best tracks from "H To He..." but still great ones. 'Theme One' as a non-album instrumental track is a nice addition even if it was a mere curiosity. My favourite prog epic is here too: 'Plague of the Lighthouse Keepers'.

I believe this serves as a good introduction to VDGG (for lovers of dark prog), but there must be as many opinions about compilations as there are record collectors: some just want to have the original albums, and if you like this, you HAVE to get the rest of the material too, somehow. The booklet includes an essay and a schedule of line-up changes in VDGG. Not lyrics, unfortunately. But there are over 70 minutes of music from one of the most daring and deeply emotional bands ever existed. (And I think this is a better compilation than the higher-rated "I Prophesy Disaster", which covers longer time-line.)

Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Although this compilation represents some of Van Der Graaf Generator's very best works of their first three Charisma releases it's not really necessary to pick up unless you're a newcomer to this band or a completionist. Personally, I would rather recommend getting these three albums separately since they all are excellent (notably "Pawn Hearts") instead of just getting a few songs from each on one CD. It's a good alternative if you have a limited budget though, and the songs selections represent some of the finest early Van Der Graaf Generator material, but overall it's not really essential unless you have a limited budget. New fans or collectors only!
Review by ZowieZiggy
4 stars When I switched from vinyl to CD (quite late actually - 1996 or so), this was the first VDGG effort I bought (I owned most of their vinyls). It covers their first... generation but skips "The Aerosol...".

I appreciate quite a lot the fact that their record company dared to integrate a track like "A Plague..." in its ENTIRETY. Actually, it was Virgin Records which took over Charisma in ...1984 that put these compilation on the market. Nothing as such poor edition like "Thick" (about three minutes) in some Tull compilations. No, the track. The whole track. When I was in the record store and saw this compilation I said : "Well, this looks great". And I tell you, it sounds great as well.

Just one track that is not at all relevant here : "Theme One" of course. I would also have preferred to have "House With No Door" and "Lost" rather than "Killer" and "Pioneers Over C". But I guess that the perfect compilation does not exist and that each one of us is best adviced in creating his own one.

Since it is a compil, I will compile my reviews as well (taking my original one from each of the according number present on this effort). I hope you got the idea.

The opener "Darkness 11/11" set the pace to what VDGG will be known for : complex, intriguant, non-commercial music. This is a typical VDDG song (first period). It was written on November eleven (hence the title).

"Killer" is an old number from Hammill during VDGG's prehistory (he wrote it 1968). It has the typical VDGG's sound. A bit heavy at times but good. Lyrics are talking about a killer fish living alone on the bottom of the sea. Quite simplistic according VDGG standard.

"Man-Erg" is a kaleidoscope of what VDGG produces : complex music with rythm changes, nice melodic passages combined with (very few) cacophonic moments as well. It is by far my fave here. The lyrics are incredible. Peter describes a schizo having both a killer and angels inside him : "How can I be free? How can I get help? Am I really me? Am I someone else?". It is quite similar to "House With No Door" (one of my VDGG's fave). Same for this : a great song.

"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 !

"Pioneers Over C" is another episode in the VDGG story. Peter will say that it was his sole attempt to write a sci-fi song. I quote Peter : "In this particular case, my hypothesis (I reserve the right to other time/eventuality options) is that the pioneers go into a time warp, endless living death, the void: unable to get back to earthly reality at all". At times (around the sixth minutes, for about 3'30") they remind me of KC : impro and jazzy. These moments are NOT the ones I like the most in their repertoire.

One of their two epic songs (second one coming much, much later) : "A Plague ..." consist of ten parts linking very well the one into the other. Do not expect though anything à la "Supper's Ready" or "Close to the Edge". VDGG has a style apart that cannot be compared to anything else. You listen and either you like it or not. No mixed feeling about it !

I have a lot of respect for Peter who was able to remember this awful amount of text during live performances (I had the same feeling for Jon while Yes performed "The Revealing Science of God"). No wonder they will often play a "Plague Medley" with only half (or so) of the song.

It starts on a smooth tempo with nice vocals and a very discreet band, it builds a bit stronger then comes part two "Pictures/Lighthouse" which is a lenghty spacey moment leading to some noisy and then almost noise-less one (around minute four). Back to "Eyewitness" for part three (as far as I am concerned they could have easily skip part two). "S.H.M." has more rythm. Good backing band and some melodious (but dark) vocals : "The spectres scratch on window-slits, hollowed faces, mindless grins, only intent on destroying what they've lost".

"The Presence of the Night : part five is quiet and sad. Truely emotional. One desperately wants to come and save the character : "'Alone, alone,'the ghosts all call, pinpoint me in the light.The only life I feel at all, is the presence of the night". Brrrr. Very good section.

Next one "Kosmos Tour" is jamming and irritating. I prefer the part seven "Custard's Last Stand" : more melodious with great piano work and subtle sax. A very nice section again. Back to complexity/cacophony with part eight : "The Cloth Thickens". Weird vocals, with different tones. Difficult moment for me.

Hopefully, the last two sections are all harmony and closes this track in a beautiful manner (it was needed). IMO, it is not really the type of songs you can spin three times in a row (unlike "Firth Of Fifht", "And You And I" or "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" if you see what I mean. (I did it twice though while I am finalizing this review).


I bought "The Least..." at the end of 1973, and still today (2007) after I don't know how many listenings, I always feel so deep in love with the track. The lyrics are so dramatic, Peter so intense. This song has passed the proof of time (I have been through quite a lot of musical experiences so far - thirty five years of music addiction, lots of genres involved). Each time I listen to this song it is truely like an amazement. It is (for me) a shivering moment : I think of those millions of people for whom the West (or maybe the North now) is refugees'home. A song that really kicks your ass : not with the rythm of course but with the lyrics and Pete's interpretation and sincere emotion. FYI, Mike & Susie (a future British actress) who are referred to in the song were old friends from Peter. They had shared a flat for about six months. When they were about to leave, Peter was so full of melancholia that he wrote a song about people looking for a home. This nostalgia is magnificently rendered with this jewel.

This is definitely a good compilation. I would highly recommend it to anyone willing to enter the VDGG world.

Four stars.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Where else are you going to find an album with VDGG classics such as these?

It is rare indeed as is this compilation that just happens to feature my all time favourite prog track A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers. OK, for that it is worth the price of purchase perhaps. But if you don't own PAWN HEARTS, then forget this and just buy that album!

Also the brilliiant Darkness and Refugees are here from the incredible THE LEAST WE CAN DO IS WAVE TO EACH OTHER.

Killer is the best track from H TO HE WHO AM THE ONLY ONE.

Also Man-Erg is wonderful from PAWN HEARTS as is the bonus track from that album Theme One. There is only one track missing from that album so this is a bit of a waste.

Pioneers over C is also from H TO HE... but the other tracks from that album are excellent.

So there you have it. The best tracks from the best albums but is it worth buying?

If I had no VDGG albums and wanted a taste, of course I would not resist this taster, but seriously the albums mentioned should be in every prog fans collection making this compilation obsolete! No VDGG fan would need this compilation album, unlike the BOX SET which features a lot of rarities UNRELEASED!

I recommend grabbing this comp if you are dead set never going to purchase those other albums, but trust me.... You are missing out on simply the best prog in history!

I have to give this at least 4 stars because those tracks on here are absolute masterpieces and I can never tire of them. And at least they are not edited and are presented here in all their glory.

Review by VianaProghead
3 stars Review Nº 152

"First Generation (Scenes From 1969-1971)" is a compilation of Van Der Graaf Generation and was released in 1986. This is a compilation that includes tracks from three studio albums of them, their second studio album "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", released in 1970, their third studio album "H To He, Who Am The Only One", released also in 1970, and their fourth studio album "Pawn Hearts", released in 1971. However and curiously, it doesn't include any track from their debut studio album "The Aerosol Grey Machine", released in 1969, an album of their first phase too.

So, "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", "H To He, Who Am The Only One" and "Pawn Hearts" belong, with their debut studio album "The Aerosol Grey Machine", to their first musical period. However, these three albums are, without any doubt, the better of their first four studio albums. "H To He, Who Am The Only One" and "Pawn Hearts" are also considered with "Godbluff" and "Still Life", from their second musical period, the four greatest masterpieces from the band. "Pawn Hearts" and "Godbluff" are even considered two of the best progressive rock albums ever made.

"First Generation (Scenes From 1969-1971)" has seven tracks. The first track "Darkness (11/11)" is a song taken from their second studio album "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It's a great opener and is also one of its best songs. This is a song dominated by the continued presence of the keyboards of Banton and by a very good and strong bass line. It's the song where we can hear and feel for the first time the incredible and unique sound of the saxophones of Jackson. The second track "Killer" is a song taken from their third studio album "H To He, Who Am The Only One". It's a catchy and beautiful dark song. The saxophones of Jackson and the organ of Banton are present continuously and are very well supported by a brilliant rhythm section by Potter and Evans. It portrays the usual hunting musical atmosphere that this band is able to create with their music. The third track "Man-Erg" is a song taken from their fourth studio album "Pawn Hearts". It's a song with a beautiful piano introduction and is followed by Hammill's voice. On it we can hear Banton's organ accompanied by Evans' very expressive drumming, great Jackson's saxophones and some very pretty acoustic and electric guitar work made by Hammill and Fripp. Probably, this is the most beautiful song on "Pawn Hearts". The fourth track "Theme One" is a song taken from their fourth studio album "Pawn Hearts". The track didn't appear on the UK release, but did appear on the release of the album in the USA. It was also released as a single with "W" as the B side. This is a truly amazing instrumental piece dominated by Jackson's saxophones. It has a funy tune and retains the optimistic vibe of the band. It manages to relesse for a while the emotional tension that we can feel on the whole album. I'm sure it was used in many radio stations. The fifth track "Pioneers Over C." is a song taken from their third studio album "H To He, Who Am The Only One". It contains the usual hypnotizing sax and keyboard musical lines. "C" is the scientific name of the speed of light, and this song is a sort of a musical interpretation of faster than light travel and its consequences on the travellers on their voyages. Musically, it's one of the strongest songs on the album, which sounds great, and fits perfectly well on the album. The sixth track "A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers" is a song divided into ten parts, "Eyewitness", "Pictures/Lighthouse", "Eyewitness", "S.H.M.", "Presence Of The Night", "Kosmos Tour", "(Custard's) Last Stand", "The Clot Thickens", "Land's End" and "We Go On". It's a song taken from their fourth studio album "Pawn Hearts". This is a great track, one of the most innovative and creative pieces ever made by them. The twenty three minute of this conceptual piece is very epic and is finished by a great guitar solo by Fripp. This is a monumental track. The seventh and last track "Refugees" is a song taken from their second studio album "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It's the most sentimental moment on the album. This is a very beautiful song, very melodic and peaceful with nice flute by Jackson. It's a song that reminds me very much "Running Back", the third track of their debut album "The Aerosol Grey Machine". This is one of the most beautiful songs written by Hammill.

Conclusion: This is a compilation of Van Der Graaf Generator with a great selection of tracks. Some of their best and most legendary tracks are here. The selection of "Darkness (11/11)" and "Refugees" from "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", couldn't be better. They're, for me, the two best songs on the album and they're also two of the best tracks ever made by them. About the selection of "Killer" and "Pioneers Over C." from "H To He, Who Am The Only One", I've nothing against. The album is so good that any of its songs could be part of the compilation. Relatively to the selection of "Man-Erg" and "A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers" from "Pawn Hearts", both suffer from the same problem of "H To He, Who Am The Only One". The tracks are also so good that if it was "Lemmings" to be selected, it would also have been absolutely perfect. Finally, "The Theme" is a very beautiful and different track, which fits very well on it, too. Still, this compilation doesn't can substitute those albums by any mean. So, it's good but not an essential purchase.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Latest members reviews

4 stars This sampler was meant to generate more sales of the first albums of this excellent band. Unfortunate; is now difficult to find. I would therefore suggest to the marketing people that this sampler is being re- released again as a low-price album. Maybe it should be included as a free CD for the C ... (read more)

Report this review (#216453) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Monday, May 18, 2009 | Review Permanlink

2 stars This one is a collection of songs from the first three albums the band released on Charisma records, "H to He, who am I the only one", "The least we can do is wave to each other" and "Pawn Hearts". It's important to understand that they had released another album before those three on Mercury ... (read more)

Report this review (#103430) | Posted by sularetal | Sunday, December 17, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This was my first VDGG album and one I used to get into them. It's superb! I wanted to give it 5 stars, but as I haven't heard anything else by them, I'll give it 4, since I cannot say if it is better than the average VDGG album. My favourites on this album are Darkness (11/11), Killer, Man- ... (read more)

Report this review (#66090) | Posted by Moonlit_Knight | Sunday, January 22, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This was my first introduction to Van Der Graaf Generator. After beeing fan of King Crimson, Zappa and Änglagård for a while, I went out to explore new bands. I had heard talk of Van Der Graaf, but never heard any of their music. As a poor student I could not afford buing a cd with them, as I ... (read more)

Report this review (#54540) | Posted by Syndromet | Thursday, November 3, 2005 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Work announced in 1986 "First Generation". The best compilation album that collected tune from work at the so-called first term. It is glad to be able to listen to "Theme One" of the single. I have three word to discrive this album.Collectors/fans only.However, it can be said that it will be g ... (read more)

Report this review (#47237) | Posted by braindamage | Monday, September 19, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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