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When did u not only "get", but actually love VDGG?

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ClosetothSupperBrick View Drop Down
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    Posted: November 15 2020 at 23:12
I am basically going to describe my relationship with the music of Van Der Graaf Generator, but my question to you users of ProgArchives is: When did you get to the point where VDGG's music was something you seriously loved, not just appreciated for its legacy in prog rock history?


It all started about 3 years ago, when I first listened to a Van Der Graaf song, after looking through the lists of top albums here as a newly realized progressive rock fan. I had gone from the unsatisfaction and confusion from my first listens of Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and Jethro Tull's TAAB to being amazed by their brilliance and regarding them as some of my favorite artists of all time. It didn't take too long for all of them, I was able to look at reviews and find where my best starting point for their music was, and then go from there. I still laugh at my reaction to first listening to "Supper's Ready": I thought it was weird and too long! So I had come to the point where I needed new music. I decided to go with VDGG and listened to Pawn Hearts, or maybe specifically the epic "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers", since from past experience, the longer the song, the better it was.

But I could not be more surprised and disappointed with the garish, completely unmelodic nonsense that was that song. My musical background in prog up to that point could not possibly prepare me for the blaring saxes, throbbing, oppressive organs and the absolutely one of a kind, and in my mind at that point, terrible, vocals of Peter Hammill. I was sure that if I had more listens to them, like the others who'd started off low, I'd be able to "get" their music. Still, it almost was a chore to listen to this band I could completely not understand... they were almost *too* proggy for me.

I think in the next year, I got myself to listen to their other major songs/albums. I realized at some point I preferred Godbluff, their higher rated album at the time (I think it still may be) compared to pre-hiatus Pawn Hearts. My first real love for their style of music was actually with the amazing glory of Peter Hammill's "A Louse is Not a Home" from the solo career that was more like a halfway version of VDGG. Somehow, I was able to finally connect to a song from them, remembered it and found myself singing melodies from it in my head. It was the breakthrough moment, looking back. But still this song would be nowhere near the best songs of Yes Genesis Pink Floyd and others at the time. I needed more time, it seems. It had probably been more than a year and half since first listening to the band, longer than any other prog band to "get".

But it inevitably happened, as my music taste took a hard turn away from "mainstream music", including the classic rock I used to love so dearly. The more I listened to VDGG, the more I would appreciate them and their weirdness. Songs like "The Sleepwalkers", "Man-Erg" and "The Undercover Man" were my songs to push me over the hump,
where I could finally mentally engage with their music (I "got" them") and could casually put them on when bored and wanting some songs to help pass the afternoon. But this was only the halfway point for my eventual appreciation level of the band, as I only liked a fraction of their material, and Hammill's vocals were just "listenable", "the part of the song I didn't focus on". Honestly I was hooked on the instruments of VDGG but just had to ignore the vocals because I still wasn't quite there yet. They were still weird! This was how it was for a little less than a year, late 2019-early 2020.

Enter this summer. I had a lot of time to entertain my music obsession with no school and quarantine, so the digging into prog, attempting to find new music I liked kicked into overdrive. It was about one year prior that I abandoned, for the most part, normal rock. So when I realized that I more than "got" VDGG, that I actually liked them, it was amazing to me how it could have taken this long, considering I was wanting this kind of music for a full year. Somewhere around early 2020, The Sleepwalkers made a huge jump in my "Top songs of all time" list (yes I obsessively rank songs), from unranked (out of over 500 songs), to instantly in my top 50. "The Undercover Man", "Man-Erg, "Arrow", "Scorched Earth" and "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" became some of my most frequently listened to songs of the summer, and they all got good placements on the list. Hammill's vocals were something I actually appreciated now, and smiled to while listening. These vocals which I once detested now gave me chills.

And just in the last few weeks, I can say it has gotten to be more than that. I had previously neglected other Still Life songs, and I got around to listening to them, on repeat for more than a couple months during this fall (maybe the spooky orange cover gave me inspiration). Now I am loving "Pilgrims", "Still Life" (tho it's a little average for them I'll admit), and "La Rossa". I found that I loved "Lost" from the pre-Pawn Hearts albums as well, after it taking a long time for that to click as well. Everything that I previously found bad, over-the-top about Van Der Graaf Generator was becoming exactly what I strived to find in music. The beautifully cacophonous saxes. The melodically challenging, yet impressively emotional organs/keyboards. And one of my favorite prog vocalists, for his melancholic wails and perfect tone/pitch changing abilities, is none other than Peter Hammill.

Counting in "A Louse is Not a Home", their top 10 songs rank alongside the best of the best, Yes' top 10, Rush's top 10, KC's top 10, all equipped or surpassed, and to think I once thought of this band as strictly inferior. Crazy how music taste changes, doesn't it? Even the original song I listened to of theirs, "Plague of...", while still a little too long and meandering at times, has become one of my go-to prog rock epics to put on and get lost in. The funny thing is my original belief that best song of a band = longest song of a band has been completely disproven now, as Plague is worse in my mind than the only ( ) 12 minute Sleepwalkers and 10 minute Man-Erg. Perhaps this is the way to go when recommending a newbie to their music.


To sum it up, after over 3 years since starting my journey with this band, it has finally come together and I love this kind of music. Symphonic prog is so much different than VDGG, so it is to be expected. But I'm just happy I stuck with it and let my music taste warm up to something so eclectic. I'm at the "all things are a part" part of the VDGG appreciation arc, if you were to match the duration of that song to the length of the journey. It feels good, man. :)

Edited by ClosetothSupperBrick - November 15 2020 at 23:16
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Frenetic Zetetic Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 00:35
AWESOME thread, OP!

For me, it was about 2.5-3 years ago now, I think? I just remember it was right around Christmas time, and my drives to and from my studio downtown were pure VDGG binges lol. I have a 15 minute one-way drive to my studio space to meet clients for personal training; you're damn right I filled that time with as much progressive rock as possible! That winter season was synonymous with H to HE and Godbluff for me.

Surprisingly, Pawn Hearts took the longest to "click", only because I was already used to massive, sweeping symphonic prog sections by my favorite band YES. I didn't downplay or overlook it, I just saved it for last and now it's one of my favorite prog pieces of all time, behind Close to The Edge.

Since then VDGG has broken into my top 5 prog acts of all time.

I've got every album on CD (I still buy CDs, I don't care what anyone here says lol; I love seeing them organized on my shelf and they pop more than vinyl from the side for me when arranged, FIGHT ME!!!!), but it's still that trifecta of H to HE, Pawn Hearts, and Godbluff that keeps me coming back to classic VDGG over and over again!

Lying on the hill; crawling over the windowsill into your...living room...
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Mellotron or GTFO.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote thief Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 03:04
VDGG music was a common thing in my childhood, no matter if I liked it or not LOL 
But the first time I really craved it, locked in my bedroom and listened to it obsessively was in my high school days. That 2005 reunion with David Jackson was a fresh thing back then and I hoped the band will keep that lineup for the next 10 to 20 years. What a bummer.
The Undercover Man was my first favorite. Now I think it's the weakest link on Godbluff LOL Still great tho.

VDGG didn't have too many albums, but I think everything from Wave to Each Other and Still Life is a slam dunk. Top 5 act for me, ranked higher than Floyd, GG, Camel or ELP...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ronstein Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 03:32
VDGG was one of the the bands I came to late (along with Hatfield and The North and Gentle Giant) through another forum. No idea why they never figured before then, but I'm glad they did as not only have I loved their music, it's also lead my on to others that I also love, in the case of VDGG, Discipline and Matthew Parmenter.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Psychedelic Paul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 03:39
The music of Van der Graaf Generator had never really generated much interest before I joined Prog Archives, but after reading all of the appreciative comments about VDGG on PA, they sparked my interest and I went out and bought their two 1970 CD albums without even hearing them first. I wasn't disappointed, but it's a good thing I didn't buy the Pawn Hearts album instead. Wink
 
Here are my VDGG ratings after listening to all of their albums recently:-
 
 4 stars  1969: The Aerosol Grey Machine
 5 stars  1970: The Least We Can Do is Wave to Each Other
 5 stars  1970: H to He, Who Are the Only One
 2 stars  1972: Pawn Hearts
 3 stars  1975: Godbluff
 3 stars  1976: Still Life
 3 stars  1976: World Record
 3 stars  1977: The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome
 2 stars  1978: Vital
 2 stars  2005: Present
 2 stars  2008: Trisector
 2 stars  2011: A Grounding in Numbers
 2 stars  2012: ALT
 2 stars  2016: Do Not Disturb
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Blacksword Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 04:45
^^ 2 stars for Pawn Hearts!

Ultimately bored by endless ecstasy!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sean Trane Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 04:50
Originally posted by Ronstein Ronstein wrote:

VDGG was one of the the bands I came to late (along with Hatfield and The North and Gentle Giant) through another forum. No idea why they never figured before then, but I'm glad they did as not only have I loved their music, it's also lead my on to others that I also love, in the case of VDGG, Discipline and Matthew Parmenter.


Your experience is fairly close to mine, in some ways (though Hatfield is on a different time and acceptation frame).

I bought Pawn Hearts and Octopus early on (probably in my first 50 albums) but could not grasp either. Unlike other albums I got rid of because I didn't like them (needed the cash and space for further acquisitions), I kept those two, because I didn't understand them , not because I didn't like them.

I even went as far as buying H To He and TP&TG to see if I could grasp the two bands better, but it didn't work. But I still kept all 4 albums and kept returning to them every two years or so, for the next 15 to 20 years, though 95% of my vinyls never crossed the pond back to Europe in1990.

I finally started understanding GG in the early 90's when I was confronted to pre-classical or medieval music via my work for Belgian-state radio.
In an involunteering manner, the RTB(not yet F) also played a role in my acceptance of VdGG, since seeing both films shot by them actually gave me the dimension I needed to grasp them: seeing the band playing. So now I understood what Jaxon was doing with his sax, but I still had a solid problem with Hammill's vocals. A few months (anywhere between 5 and 25), I chanced upon a Hammill solo concert (I mean, he was alone on stage) in some Flemish anarchist club (I don't think PH ever saw the money for that concert)  and I saw where his voice was coming from: the man is singing with his guts and tripes, and I understood the rest I hadn't so far.

Sooooo, for the last 25 years, I've come to love both GG & VdGG, and think of them as among the very best prog bands ever. Bbbbbbuuuutttt, still today, I must be in a special mood for both bands, and therefore it's not like they're an everyday band (then again never were ELP  either, nor are Yes and the others, since I know most of it by heart and don't feel like playing them at all, anymore)


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Psychedelic Paul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 05:22
Originally posted by Blacksword Blacksword wrote:

^^ 2 stars for Pawn Hearts!

Sorry, I really didn't like the Pawn Hearts album at all, even though I've listened to the album three times now. It was just too experimental for my melodic prog tastes. Smile
 
On a positive note though, at least there's a couple of 5-star Van der Graaf Generator albums that I really love. Thumbs Up


Edited by Psychedelic Paul - November 16 2020 at 09:11
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote someone_else Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 05:32
VdGG is an acquired taste, hardly less than the vocals of their frontman.

I first got into VdGG in 1987. The only album I really liked back then was Godbluff (and Peter Hammill's solo album Chamaeleon in the Shadow of the Night), and the song Man-erg off Pawn Hearts. When I heard Childlike Faith in Childhood's End for the first time, in 2004 or 2005 on PA's mp3 streaming, my interest in them got a new boost. Since then their music started to grow on me to full appreciation; later on I came to appreciate PH's vocals as well.

Still Life is a top 20 album for me.



Edited by someone_else - November 16 2020 at 05:36
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Manuel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 05:55
I get they are a great band, but there's something in their music that is not really attractive to me. Maybe is Hammill's voice, or the way the orchestrate the music. I cannot really tell. I enjoy some of their stuff, but is hardly a band of my choice when it come name my favorites. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote I prophesy disaster Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 06:05
Well, one doesn't have the username "I prophesy disaster", an avatar that is the album cover of "Time Vaults", and a signature that says "I was thinking about thinking but it really didn't get me very far", without being more than a little obsessed about Van der Graaf Generator.
 
My first exposure to the music of VdGG was the album "World Record" in 1978. The music was quite different to the type of music I was into at the time, and I initially rejected it. But because I'm a science-type guy, with a name like "Van der Graaf Generator", and that paradoxical font used for their name on the album, I felt this was a group that I really should like, so I gave "World Record" another chance. This time, I did see value in their music, and with further listening, I came to enjoy it a lot.
 
Then I listened to "Pawn Hearts". I immediately fell in love with this album. It was like "Where have you been all my life?". It cemented my love for VdGG. Oddly enough, it was only a few years ago that I first heard "Pawn Hearts" with headphones, and was impressed with the stuff you don't really hear with loudspeakers. One thing I love about "Pawn Hearts", especially "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers", is how the music sounds like it just exists in the space of my room rather than something played by musicians. I think that is what is referred to as a "sound painting".
 
My third album was "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome". This was also an album I immediately loved. With this album, I became impressed with how different the three albums are from each other.
 
Then in 1979, I got "H to He, Who Am the Only One" and "Godbluff" at the same time. Neither of these were immediately liked, taking a few listens to eventually love "H to He, Who Am the Only One" and at least like "Godbluff".
 
Later, I got "Still Life", which apart from a few tracks, didn't impress me, and even to this day is not an album that I am very fond of.
 
A few years later, I got "The Least We Can Do is Wave to Each Other". I immediately liked that album but considered it inferior to most of the other VdGG albums I had.
 
It was nearly a decade later that I got "The Aerosol Grey Machine". Earlier, I had foregone an opportunity to get this album because it was too expensive at the time, a decision I regretted until I eventually got it on CD. Prior to getting "The Aerosol Grey Machine", I got a compilation CD called "I Prophesy Disaster" which contains some tracks from the "The Aerosol Grey Machine" era. Thus, "The Aerosol Grey Machine" didn't surprise me and I accepted it for what it is.
 
It was only on PA that I discovered the modern era of VdGG music, of which my favourite is "A Grounding in Numbers".
 
I was thinking about thinking but it really didn't get me very far.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progaardvark Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 06:27
I don't remember the year, but in the late 1990s it started with H to He. It didn't click right away and got filed away for later. Maybe two years later and three more listens it clicked. That led to Pawn Hearts which was immediately liked and then most of the rest of their catalog. 

I had a similar experience with Gentle Giant, starting with Octopus.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Grumpyprogfan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 07:04
Please explain what it means to "get" an artist. Is there something in VdGG that is shared by a secret society?

I have two of their albums and a solo work by Hammill. Like them both. Good but not earth shattering.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cristi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 07:08
Originally posted by Grumpyprogfan Grumpyprogfan wrote:

Please explain what it means to "get" an artist. 

it means you're starting to dig it. LOL
it means you are starting to enjoy their music. EmbarrassedSmile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Spacegod87 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 07:10
I didn't get the hype for VDGG for a LONG time.
It was honestly only about a year or so ago, I saw the song 'Man-Erg' in my recommended list on YouTube and thought, "Eh, what the hell, i'll listen to it." 
Which is how I've discovered a lot of songs.

Anyway, when Hammill started singing the, "But stalking in the cloisters hang the, acolytes of gloom.." part of the song, it clicked for me. Loved them ever since.
Levitating downwards,
atomic feedback scream.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Grumpyprogfan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 07:11
^So this is the pre-liking of a band, something your not sure about?   
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cristi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 07:17
Originally posted by Grumpyprogfan Grumpyprogfan wrote:

^So this is the pre-liking of a band, something your not sure about?   

the way I see it, once you start enjoying something, there is the possibility of growth to the point of loving it. If that makes sense. EmbarrassedTongue
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sean Trane Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 07:22
Originally posted by someone_else someone_else wrote:

VdGG is an acquired taste, hardly less than the vocals of their frontman.

I first got into VdGG in 1987. The only album I really liked back then was Godbluff (and Peter Hammill's solo album Chamaeleon in the Shadow of the Night), and the song Man-erg off Pawn Hearts. When I heard Childlike Faith in Childhood's End for the first time, in 2004 or 2005 on PA's mp3 streaming, my interest in them got a new boost. Since then their music started to grow on me to full appreciation; later on I came to appreciate PH's vocals as well.

Still Life is a top 20 album for me.



Actually, the first song that really struck me and allowed me to enter their world (Get Into, GrumpyWink) wax also Undercover Man (when I saw the Godbluff Live film, I was completely hypnotized, like a rabbit in the night is on the road by car headlights).  The construction of that album is really intelligent, going systematically one step firther with every new track.  So I really got into the second era of the classic line-up (74-76) before the firt era (70-72)

Originally posted by I prophesy disaster I prophesy disaster wrote:

Well, one doesn't have the username "I prophesy disaster", an avatar that is the album cover of "Time Vaults", and a signature that says "I was thinking about thinking but it really didn't get me very far", without being more than a little obsessed about Van der Graaf Generator. 
It was only on PA that I discovered the modern era of VdGG music, of which my favourite is "A Grounding in Numbers".
 


I suppose you know that your username is firstly the best part of Lighthouse Keeper?

TBH, I saw VDGG the first time on stage for the Trisector album tour and twice since, but for me, it's clearly Trisector that wins hands down in their post-70's albums.




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote I prophesy disaster Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 08:05
Originally posted by Sean Trane Sean Trane wrote:

I suppose you know that your username is firstly the best part of Lighthouse Keeper?
 
After all these years, I still haven't decided which is the best part of "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers". I am quite fond of VdGG cacophonies, of which there are two in "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers", so these moments are extra special to me. But there are many other parts that I love.
 
I think my favourite lyric is "You'll begin to wonder if the points of all the ancients myths are solemnly directed straight at you.", although the imagery of "I feel I am drowning - hands stretch in the dark." does move me.
 
As for my username, it wasn't my first choice. My first choice was "A Lighthouse Keeper", but it was already taken. But even though my username wasn't my first choice, I do think it was an inspired choice. As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a compilation CD called "I Prophesy Disaster", the name of which I knew came from "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers", so my username was a double reference, as well as being grammatically different from typical usernames.
 
 
 
I was thinking about thinking but it really didn't get me very far.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Lewian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 16 2020 at 08:19
It's interesting that many people have this kind of experience that VDGG is hard to get into. Also for me they needed some time... not that much actually, but I surely didn't get Hammill's voice in the beginning, I thought he is annoying, and I also later come to love it.

Before I heard VDGG I actually heard Hammill solo on German TV (in Eberhard Schoener's Rock&Classic Night, which featured all kinds of musicians who used rock and classical elements of some kind). I found the music... interesting... not what I was expecting, but I was open for strange things already at the time. It didn't grab me initially but I made a mark that this is maybe something to explore, except that voice... next step was I bought a cheap sampler of VDGG's early years on the flea market, which had songs like "Killer" and "Necromancer". The music on that one convinced me immediately but I needed a few spins to get into the voice... not sure, I didn't listen to it several times with the "plan" to get the voice, rather the album wanted me to play it again and again and at some point I realised that I find his voice now really quite expressive and interesting, rather than annoying. Then I got The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome, and the strange mix of that one put me back to square one initially, "interesting music but it sounds so strange and the vocals oh the vocals". But at this point I was "advanced" enough to get it at the second or third spin - still my favourite VDGG album now but the mix is really strange.

And it continued, pretty much every VDGG album got me alienated at first spin just to convince at the second or third one... except I never got into World Record and Godbluff. (Probably taking more time...?)
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