Steve Hillage always looking to the future: Part one from Hyde Park to Solfest


Steve Hillage always looking to the future: Part one from Hyde Park to Solfest


Hello Good people who read this blog…

This week I thought I’d write a bit about Steve Hillage. It’s very difficult if not impossible to write about Steve Hillage without referring to my life and that of others in relation to him. This is an entirely subjective view of Steve Hillage . I have no detailed knowledge of his music after 1980 although I have seen System 7 several times.
So just like Douglas Adam’s description of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, due to hazy memories and subjective nonsense some of the contents may be “apocryphal” ( doubtful ). So to any fanatical fans of Steve Hillage, System 7, academics, musicologists , or the man himself if he reads this (and he might), or my ex for writing about him without him being there,then I apologise in advance for anything stupid, crass, innacurate or silly that I say.
I do not however apologise to any music journalists who might read this as they specialise in writing stupid, crass, innacurate and silly things about musicians but in an authoritative way.
No I assure you what I am about to write may be complete and utter bollocks, fiction in fact which bears only coincidental resemblance to any people living or dead, ever, anywhere.*(see footnote)

So here we go…

I first saw Steve Hillage as a teenager at the Queen concert in Hyde Park on 18th September 1976. It was the first “festival” type gig I’d been to. I’d seen the film of Woodstock and Hyde Park turned into a mini Woodstock without the mud for the day. I seem to remember that Brian May of Queen was a big fan of Steve Hillage and of Jimi Hendrix. Bung in Jimmy Page and you’d probably have my favourite 4 electric guitarists.

The gig was organised to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Jimi Hendrix on the 18th of September1970. Hendrix died in Notting Hill in circumstances which have never been fully explained. This could be the subject of a whole other blog and an area of perhaps morbid curiosity for me after reading Kathy Etchingham’s autobiography.

Anyway back to Steve Hillage….

I went to Hyde Park to go and see Queen but I was hanging around at the side of the stage where the most bizarre people I had ever seen were sitting on the grass. They were such over the top hippies that I was fascinated by them. One of them was wearing a duck on his head ( a decoy duck as a hat..it was hot). There were people going in and out of the backstage area to join the strange group on the grass no doubt smoking grass and I was wondering if it was Steve Hillage who also was wearing some kind of weird hat. I was so young I didn’t really know what grass was , in those days there wasn’t drug education in schools. I remember there were some people looking quite high swaying about or meditating cross-legged next to burning josticks planted in the ground and I didn’t know if that was some kind of drug too. My parents certainly would have thought it was. There were huge crowds and it was very exciting, very alternative, full of hippies and a bit scary as I wasn’t quite sure what was going on and was young. I got photographed at least 20 times by different people at that gig maybe because I had dressed up in a T-shirt I’d made saying “Prophet” in big letters on the front and was wearing a home-made black corduroy floppy hat and was hanging around the side of the stage/backstage area.

Later on I scrutinised the stage and realised it was Steve Hillage I’d seen hopping in and out of the backstage area and his music blew me away.

I remember his rendition of “It’s all too much” a George Harrison song which I was already fond of for having a celestial quality to it but Steve Hillage was taking it to another world. The music shone and glittered and took you through harmonic waves turnstiles into other audio dimensions ( God I sound like one of those terrible Music Journalists…I must apologise!) .Basically Steve Hillage was something I’d never heard before. He used pentatonic scales from the East that I’d only heard in snatches of Indian Classical music. World music was not really broadcast then. It was Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel, Womad etc ..which brought it to the attention of us young westerners and later Whirlygig etc.. .

I think for most of the Queen audience maybe the music was just too different for them to understand but I was completely smitten by it.

Well in the context of the variety of sounds in 2008 this won’t sound the same and apologies for poor quality but here is Steve Hillage at that Hyde Park Gig. The most interesting parts are the instrumental bits after he finishes singing the song. It looks like they were having quite a few technical problems. There is footage of faultless live gigs available but not here yet! ( more about that next time)

Later my problem was that none of my friends or anyone I knew had any interest in this kind of music. Most of them liked pop or straight classic rock like Thin Lizzy. I was well into punk as well and knew a few punks. Around the same time I got into Gong from finding a collection of Gong albums in my local library but had no idea that Steve Hillage had been in Gong until later.

Anyway to cut a long story short when I was at college doing my A-levels I met my ex partner Michael . One of the main things we had in common was an almost identical record collection and a total obsession with music and the hippie movement which was verging on the fanatical (now I’m older of course I’m not like that at all).

In particular we both knew and loved the music of Steve Hillage and Gong. Our subsequent relationship was very much based around these things.

We used to have a record player that could play a side of an album repeatedly without pausing and there were times when we listened to a side of Green or Rainbow Dome Musick , or Live Herald for 8 hours or more , once I think we heard side one of Live Herald for an entire weekend going to sleep and waking up with it in the morning. But it never seemed to do us any harm and I can still listen to these records now, you’d think I would have got bored with it!

As well as the music we were finding and exploring the alternative scene in Notting Hill, at free festivals, playing music in bands together and later running gigs .

At first we ran a few gigs together under the name “Dead Dog Promotions” , then at a later stage this became ” Club Dog” which later still once we had split up for some time became “Megadog” . You can guess who Michael wanted to book .

1. Anyone who sounded like Steve Hillage

2. Steve Hillage

Of course I’m joking and many other types of act were booked and the club enjoyed diversity. In fact other acts booked in particular for Club Dog were all about fusing different styles of music to create something totally new and original just as Gong and Hillage have done as well as representing an alternative community.

It ‘s not the first time I have been a fan of someone and then got to meet them through being involved in the music scene. But it’s hard to explain what huge fans we both were and how ironic it is that System 7 then became one of the acts associated with Megadog.

Hurdy Gurdy Man (song by Donovan)

This was filmed on March 20th 1977 at the Otto Hahn School in Bensberg Germany for the Rockpalast TV programme. (go to http://www.rockpalastarchiv.de/welcomee.html for more info on this music series)

Steve Hillage and band:

Miquette Giraudy (synthesiser and vocals) Colin Bass ( great name for a bass player!) , Clive Bunker (drums) Christian Boulé (guitar), Phil Hodges (keyboards), Basil Brooks (synthesiser)

I think this is correct and would have been the same line up on the previous video at Hyde Park

Ranting about music and connections between people and events…

I think it is fair to say that the impact of the music by Steve Hillage and Gong in an indirect way changed the course of my life and that of many others. When I studied music at University they kept telling us that “Music is all about relationships”. The relationship between notes, the relationship between beats , instruments, musicians in a band , the relationship between bands and their audience, the relationship between music and the media and opportunity for broadcast, the relationship between fans of a particular band , the relationship we create emotionally with the music we listen to and the thoughts and memories we associate with each piece of music. Steve Hillage has been weaving in and out of my life since 1976 and I am sure, the cosmos willing , that our paths will cross again.

If you read my entry on Solfest 2007 you will see that was the last time our paths briefly crossed and you will understand why I said to him that I thought that the crackles at the beginning of our vinyl copy of Rainbow Dome Musick were due to us playing it so much!

In fact it’s a fault with the pressing. That’s the autobiographical bit done, I hope I haven’t embarrassed Michael as he will read this at some point. I was trying to do this blog anonymously but then of course I started to tell people about it and so it’s only half anonymous now!

I am so tired that I cannot spell anymore but next time I want to write about Steve Hillage’s musical journey, and various thoughts about numbers and (vaguely) spiritual stuff!

Goodnight….

More Soon….Please go to

http://www.planetgong.co.uk/maze/blurbs/hillage.shtml

for more info on Steve Hillage!

*P.S. This isn’t really fiction I just got carried away in my apologies

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2 Comments

  1. One of the times i saw Steve Hillage was at what was at the time known as “oxford polytechnic” the smoke was floating 🙂

    If you listen to live herald there is a bit recorded at oxford, where you can hear “boff boff boff” thats my friend chillo 🙂

  2. I went to the Hyde Park gig, mighty impressed by Hillage…


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