It's time for post #2 of 3 in this sequence, this time focusing on a milestone birthday for an undeniably singular songwriter and singer.
Today's honoree is someone I've blogged once before, and who -- like all artists worth their porcupine quills -- often provokes extreme reactions pro and con.
He came on the scene 50 years ago, as part of the Prog band that had the most unlikely influence on the Punks that would follow, and was itself arguably one of the most undersung and exceptionally unusual of the whole Rock era.
Fifty years later, he's still as active as ever, with his original band back playing as a trio and a whole parallel solo career still going strong.
His songs are as specific to him as his singing style, which is somewhere between a wailing child and The Jimi Hendrix of the Voice, as he is sometimes called.
I like to think of him as the repository of expression for the repressed emotions of all Englishmen. When he lets loose, in a way he seems like he's speaking for all the guys over there who are taught above all else to keep their traumas inside.
I once heard John Lydon say that in the Pistols he was trying to sing like a cross between Quasimodo and our birthday boy.
His tunes are among the most universally introspective and unsugarcoated in their confessionalism as any songwriter you could name, and are always delivered with vocal acrobatics and raw feeling worthy of the inner circus of your soul.
The topics he chooses take universal subjects and turn them on their heads, and have ranged from 25-minute epics about the psychic dissolution of lighthouse keepers to a song about what it might be like to tell your longtime best friend you've really wanted to have sex with them the entire time.
I've met him a handful of times and you'd never imagine from the demure, quietly demeanored person you're talking to, the shamanistic banshee he becomes onstage.
And lo and behold! he is the big 70 today. Whether you're talking about Van Der Graaf Generator or their main architect and his unbelievably prolific solo output, there has been, is, and will only ever be one Peter Hammill.
To commemorate the date, I have pointed cloudward a classic, fan remastered FM bootleg of him playing in a church in Kansas City 40 years ago, that features him all by his lonesome, performing stripped down -- skeletal, even -- versions of some of his greatest works.
"Skeletons of Songs"
All Souls Unitarian Church
Kansas City, MO
01 House with No Door
02 Time Heals
03 This Side of the Looking-Glass
04 My Room (Waiting for Wonderland)
05 Easy to Slip Away
06 Still Life
07 Lizard Play
08 Time for a Change
09 Been Alone So Long
11 If I Could
12 Last Frame
01 The Comet, the Course, the Tail
02 The Lie (Bernini's St. Theresa)
03 The Mousetrap (Caught In)
04 In the End
05 Medley: A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers/Sleepwalkers
Total time: 2:05:25
Peter Hammill - guitar, piano & vocals
FM broadcast, remastered by Captain S
589 MB FLAC/November 2018 archive link
That takes us two thirds of the way through our little Songwriters' Birthday Week flurry here, and I'll be back Wednesday with the coup de gras you'll be sure to not want to miss.
That's the future, though... the now demands you pull down this classic set from decades ago and give thanks for the force of nature that is the hurricane we call Hammill, born this day in 1948 and not thinking about stopping those waves churning anytime soon.--J.