Steve Hillage and Gong at The Forum (27th November 2009)-A Review


Hello Good People who read this blog


I am recovering from my evening out at the Forum last night in Kentish Town ( in London for anyone who might be reading this in Estonia) to see Steve Hillage and Gong.

Our little troupe of Hillage/Gong fans started our  journey to the gig after lots of cups of tea and a supper of winter foods including of course our green vegetables. We trailed up the road happily like well-fed hobbits, ready to face the bright lights and commuters, but had to make a detour after a rather alarming  encounter with Orcs dressed in blue accompanied by their hounds of hell.

By the time we got to The Forum , The Steve Hillage Band was already on stage, playing “Love Guitar” ,one of my favourite soppy songs.  The audience didn’t seem quite warmed up at that point and so we reckon we must have arrived pretty much close to the start of the proceedings.

(double-click on the photos to see them in full-screen)

Steve Hillage Band-The Forum-27/11/2009

Left to right

Miquette Giraudy Keyboards-Synth-Backing -Vocals-Air Guitar and fun

Steve Hillage –Genius Electric Guitarist, Vocals.

Chris Taylor (I think! at least it’s him on the 2032 new album by Gong) – Drums with a zillion tempo changes

Mike Howlett-Bass-player extra-ordinaire

I know that Steve Hillage and Gong have played The Forum before in 2008, and that they have toured quite a bit in the past 18 months or so,but this is the first time I have seen the “Steve Hillage Band”. The last time I saw Steve Hillage  playing live in a “rock” band,must have been around 1979  or 1980 at The Hammersmith Odeon. Also to my embarrassment, I had never seen Gong live until  last night. Although I know their early albums and the fantastic Japanese import  “Gong Live etc.” (Virgin,1977 ) back to front. If you do not have this double album, try to get one.I got mine on vinyl as a Japanese import around twenty-nine years ago now, but still love it.

Steve Hillage and Gong fans are very difficult to get rid of, as we could tell from the average age of the audience, although there was a minority of teenagers looking blissful while cuddling with their significant others.

We didn’t go there to take photos or film, but we took a few pictures and short clips,like the two above . We went to  have a good time in the audience, not to film, and we did have a great time, my sore  feet, sore neck and sore throat (from singing and dancing along) are testimony to this, so I’ll stop writing now and put up some photos and clips enshrined in a couple of comments.

After the first couple of songs, the audience were warmed up and the crowd had swelled, in fact the place was packed out. They had made an early start and this had obviously caught some by surprise. Steve Hillage and his band were on form. Occasionally Hillage seemed to lose confidence with his vocals, as many singers do as they get older, especially if they have not been singing for a decade or two. If you listen to Joni Mitchell in the sixties and now in her sixties, her voice is totally different but it’s good, she has had to change her singing range and vocal style to keep it up.

In terms of guitar playing and performing, Steve Hillage is still at the top of his league. As the evening wore on, he just got better and better ( and better) playing complicated solos, with key changes, tempo changes, etc..

Here is a short clip Intro to Hurdy-Gurdy Man

He played some fast and furious guitar too and the band were great, but we were too busy dancing to film it! No doubt more footage will appear on youtube. Also Mike  Howlett’s excellent bass playing was mixed in a way that was not beefy enough , we wanted to hear it louder,and yet it obliterated a bit of the rest of the band’s sound, not sure how! I guess that’s what live music is about, it depends where you stand (and the taste and/or ability of the engineer).

The set was amazing and the crowd were ecstatic, a great lightshow too with inventive animations adding to the whole performance.

My only complaint about The Steve Hillage Band was that their set was so short. I would have been happy to see them play their first five albums from start to end and would have not got bored for a second or judged them if they had missed a few bits and improvised instead.

Personally I would have been happier to see the evening split equally between Gong and Steve Hillage.

An Interval of Rainbow Dome Musick , while we got our “healing” beer would have been ideal! ( I am joking…kind of)

However,when we saw the long set that Gong played with the same instrumentalists , we realised perhaps why Steve Hillage’s set was short but quality rather than quantity. When we arrived at 7.45 pm, The Steve Hillage Band was already playing and by the time Gong had left the stage it was past 11 pm.

Miquette and Steve ( Forum 27/11/2009)

There was a long break for drinks, just as well as it seemed impossible to get served ( hence the request for Rainbow Dome Musick at this point to keep us all calm). Only two bars on the ground floor, for thousands of people, the bar we queued up at only had one person serving, although after half an hour or so ,he was joined by two others.

The mood was jolly, lots of blokes, average age 50, many still with long hair or bald.But there were also a few women of all ages and also there were young, some very young ,teenage boys occasionally with young,very young,girlfriends in tow.

There is always a new crop of hippies germinating from any background. They emerge at around the age of 13 and by 16 they are either in a band or leading some form of alternative lifestyle with individual image to boot.These budding hippies who appear from nowhere decade after decade, will always gravitate towards the music of Gong and Steve Hillage.

Gong appeared on stage at around 9.15pm. They consisted of the members of  The Steve Hillage Band , plus Daevid Allen ( vocals and  guitar, and much leaping around), Gilli Smyth ( Vocals, “Space Whispers”, Goddess/Witch) and Theo Travis ( playing some rather excellent flute and sax).

Gong at The Forum 27/11/2009 ( minus Miquette)

We couldn’t help but notice that Gilli seemed older than the kind of woman you’d expect onstage with a rock band.We have been conditioned to expect only young people onstage doing weird rock music,  especially when it comes to women in a non-acoustic band.We are super-conditioned that only certain types of sexualised young women or alternatively young teenage rebel girls who shave their heads or dye it some extreme colour, will  be there. But I believe in breaking boundaries, most of the best classic bands are older, too old to rock and roll and too young to die? No! Get on stage, I say!

According to Wikipedia, Gilli Smyth, is 76 years old and used to be in academia, lecturing at the Sorbonne before deciding to do something all the more intellectual by forming Gong with her partner Daevid Allen.

Here is Gilli being a Witch on stage along to a free-form jazz jam from other members of Gong.

The Witch’s Song Performed at The Forum 27/11/2009  originally released 1973 on “Radio Gnome Invisible.Part One”

Daevid Allen is 71. But he bounces around the stage like a kangaroo on acid (and speed). Daevid has such a stage presence  that I can’t help but wonder what on earth he would do if he didn’t go on stage and dispel that energy. He is a jester with apparently boundless tigger-like energy. He definitely needs a stage to bounce on!

Gong- You Can’t Kill Me

Unfortunately the camera ran out of memory before being able to film Daevid in his special silver-white silk catsuit, embellished by CDs, or his “No one Knows I’m a Lesbian” T-Shirt, or when he chased Miquette around the stage, or was she chasing him, either way his energy was impressive.


Daevid Allen at The Forum 27/11/2009

Miquette having fun playing air guitar along to Steve (27/11/09-Forum)

There were times when Gong shouted and repeated the same line over like a cross between a sergeant major barking orders and the rat-rat-rat of a self-loading machine gun, which reminded me of war , riots and abrupt change. At other times, Gong intoned half-sung and half-spoken poems with themes of the collective unconscious and mythical archetypes in a free-from jazz jam, then planting  a strong melodic chorus , wherever and whenever it seemed the least expected. There were times when the music became ultra-psychedelic, the same repeated riff and beat, getting faster and louder with glissando guitars and excessive strobes, it went on in a cyclic fashion until it induced the brain into resistance or acceptance. I could not help but close my eyes to take it in. I felt like I was at some spiritual ceremony and that certain harmonious energies were being purposefully raised. I was pelted with rays of  white light and the sound of repeated musical mantras ,until I felt transported from the middle of winter, to a bright dance tent at some summer festival. People didn’t dance as much as they would in a dance tent though, but then we are older and we were tired by the end of the evening.

However there seemed to be some incredibly strong positive force present within the music. ..and I couldn’t help but notice that at the end of the evening, after a long encore and a very long gig,  Daevid Allen seemed to do a little ceremony to seal off each one of his chakra points, starting at his head and working his way down before leaving the stage.

Aha! I thought to myself , that’s where Daevid gets his energy from: rituals and chakras!

I am somewhat cynical about anything too religious, but they must be getting their energy from somewhere!

Love and Peace ( off to do yoga,meditation and find my chakras now!)

Born2rant

p.s. for more of a spiritual explanation click on Pete’s comment on the upper part of the left hand column of this blog or follow this link  to hear Daevid Allen’s spiritual vision for Gong( thanks again Pete).

http://vimeo.com/1626328

new readers to this blog  might be interested in this entry as well…

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


Steve Hillage and Gong, better late than never…


Hello Good People who surprise me by still reading this blog during my long absences.

This post was originally half written over four weeks ago and was never finished, I was interrupted by the ‘flu,the Cultural Revolution and Revolutionary Operas and then had to recover from the exhaustion of all three!

Anyway, I am now myself again and am greatly excited at the prospect of seeing the Steve Hillage Band and Gong live at The Forum in London, this Friday (on the 27/11/2009 in case you read this at some point in the future).

Talking about some point in the future, before the Cultural Revolution, or sleeping or reading about East Asian pop music compulsively once  again, I will get straight to the point and illustrate Gong’s new album entitled 2032 with a short clip. I have to admit that I think this music video is amazing. It was made by the Japanese animator team Mu-0C Magic , who I believe are Hibari Hoya,Haruka Sakota, and Akira Watanabe.

Gong- How to Stay Alive ( 2009)

Is the album entitled 2032 because an asteroid is due to hit Earth in that year?

Answers in the comments section please, the song is certainly cheerfully apocalyptic. But then the first ever song by Gong that hit me lyrically in the centre of my brain was You Can’t Kill Me, a song about killing off the rest of the family, symbolic and  psychologically strange.

( preceded appropriately by Radio Gnome Prediction) released in 1971 from the album Camembert Electrique:

The tracks on the new album 2032 sound definitely like the old Gong, although on occasion I can hear a bit of old Hawkwind and The Ozric Tentacles too. However considering that without both Hawkwind and Gong , there wouldn’t be any Ozric Tentacles ..I’ll let you do the maths…

Here is Pinkle Ponkle from the new Gong album, starting off sounding a bit techno, then a bit middle-Eastern but then definitely just like Gong’s unique style with echo unit orgasmic sighs by Gilli Smyth , Daevid Allen’s poetry, psychedelic spacy effects by Miquette Giraudy, Steve Hillage’s uniquely wonderful  guitar sound ,with Mike Howlett on bass,Chris Taylor on drums and Theo Travis on flute and sax.


See the Gong website (http://www.planetgong.co.uk/) for further guest players on the album including the original Didier Malherbe.

Gong and Steve Hillage surreptitiously introduced me to Gamelan, free form jazz , Middle-Eastern and Indian classical music and musical concepts like drones on Miquette’s synth,and modes from the East on Steve‘s guitar, when I was only fourteen and “World Music” was not generally heard in London’s mainstream media, apart from a bit of Indian Classical music.

In recent years of course, Steve Hillage has been creating music with Miquette as System7, but even with dance/trance/techno music he was still playing his guitar live.

Now with the reemergence of The Steve Hillage Band , he is playing his old stuff again, something many of us had wished and prayed for during the past two and a half decades and never dared to hope would come true.

I will end with some video clips as it’s late and I need to go to bed! One last piece of info, I phoned up a ticket agency today ( Keith Prowse) and there are still tickets available for this Friday (tomorrow) at the Forum in Kentish Town…

but only because every Steve Hillage fan in London does not realise he is playing yet. If you are one of them, get yourself a ticket by whatever means , it’s not too late. Or you could go and see The Steve Hillage Band and Gong , on Saturday the 28th at The O2 Academy in Oxford,  and Sunday the 29th of  November at The Corn Exchange in Brighton.

I have already put up so many of my favourite Steve Hillage tracks up on this blog along with my favourite youtube video clips so forgive me if I am repeating myself .

Om Nama Shivaya from the album “L” (1976)

Salmon Song ,this is a clip from the fantastic video of Steve Hillage playing in Canterbury from the truly excellent DVD  Steve Hillage LIVE in England 1979.

and from the same DVD here he is with Hurdy Gurdy Man

and here they are in 2009 in Bonn playing  Searching for The Spark ..they need a bigger audience to bounce their musical vibes off, so get down there , if you are in London, Oxford, or Brighton and dance your hippie dance.

See you all on Friday or online sometime.

Love and Peace

Born2rant

A (relatively peaceful) Revolution!


Hello Good people who read this blog.

I am still here, excuse my absence due to hard work, change and constant illness.

Today is both Maggie Thatcher’s birthday ( don’t ask me how I know this) and the death of Thatcher’s vision.

I am not sure of what state of mind or coherence she is in due to illness but I am sure she would not have wished to hear that three of the main high street banks have been ” nationalised” or at least necessitated being rescued by tax payer’s money.

I went to my bank earlier today, oblivious of the latest news . The staff were unusually rude and unhelpful and I ended up having to make my transitions over the phone as the staff at my local branch were unable to do fairly simple processes. But as I was leaving annoyed and frustrated they suddenly asked me if I wanted a new credit card and managed to say this politely.

When I just  watched the evening news I realised the reason for their incredibly unhelpful behaviour was possibly shock. Whoever would have thought Lloyds and Barclays would need rescuing?

and what’s happening about Coutts ? The bank for truly posh people…

a bit of Thin Lizzy ( not exactly a hippie band but this version of the song “It’s Only Money”  has a great edge to it I think you’ll agree. I think the original was written by Rod Argent of rock band Argent ( argent being “money” in French …Bizzarre!) … no doubt someone will cover it during this recession and cash in….

Gordon Brown assures us in fatherly tones that he will guarantee our money is safe and also that the money lost in Icelandic bank accounts will be safe…. but how can he possibly make such guarantees?

The Icelandic bank thing was weird. I never saw that one coming. It’s a bit like hearing that Bjork is in fact the messiah and the second coming of Christ ( plus the significant other of all world religions and belief systems)  and that we were never notified of this fact up until now.

I’m sorry but I , like the majority of people in the UK up until now,  am obviously completely ignorant of what is really going on in the world of international banking.

I know it’s a bit of a strange concept for a hippie to write about money but money is important to everyone especially for those who long for a less materialistic world.

and now for something complete different…from Eric Idle ( excuse the subtitles it was the only clip  of this I found that didn’t link up to some business site)

This society and this world we live in has been turning a blind eye to corruption and unsavoury business practices for a long-time. Now we have our wake up call, out “Tower card” in tarot terms and our ” Number 51 The Arousing/Shock..thunder and lighting ” in I Ching terms. A time of sudden unexpected shock which betrays all the built-up faults and  corruption that festered somewhere for so long and Boom! Flash ! Thunder and Lightning! ( Kerpow!) The Ivory Tower of Power is struck down and it falls, everything that was secure is demolished. There is shock and panic and the underlying truths are all revealed. Deception and corruption have had their day.

You’d think we would learn from our mistakes, that now the blinkers would come off and people would say:

“Come on let’s be reasonable and have some common sense. Let’s plan ahead so we have no more disasters, let’s not base everything around money and business because it doesn’t work.

and yet the rest of the day’s news reads like a ” Book of Fables for the truly stupid “ ( if this book has not been written it should be  so you can buy it for people who you don’t really want to give presents to at Christmas) plus “The Concise Encyclopedia of Disasters caused by people with more GREED than actual money” and “ 100 things to do when you are lonely , bored and unemployable, and neither your TV or your computer work and you are living in a tower block that is suddenly hit by an economic crisis“( this isn’t very funny, I need to get well again so I can get more creative!)

So yes I can see a few more crises looming up

worldwide climate change …..action taken by clever UK …build another airport runway!

Increasing crime, alienation of youth, general morale low, people feeling dis-empowered and needing to feel more responsible and taking an active part in creating our society…action taken ……let’s bring in the 42 day detention bill , then everyone will know that they  can safely be thrown into a cell for 6 weeks with no reason given at all and also let’s have cells in secondary schools to get them in training
Can’t afford to build houses, losing jobs oh f*** me we have no money…..action taken by clever UK ……….let’s carry on spending millions for the Olympics and show how great the British are and let’s pay more taxes to bail out the banks

If these banks are nationalised and as the news claims we own the banks, then does that mean when the banks make profits again that we also get them? I think not!

So in fact the people are paying taxes for the bank’s debts. Is Gordon Brown or his successor really going to be able to find all this guaranteed money?  From where exactly? It is a mystery…………

Revolutions are things that have come full circle….

and yet I feel a kind of calm about the future. I am not panicked and many around me seem to be carrying on as usual.

I remember George Harrison when he was ill with cancer talking about it in a very calm way in a TV interview. He said that fans should not worry and that everything come and goes in cycles. His spiritual belief was very strong and gave him strength too.

I think now on Thatcher’s birthday we have also come full circle,  all of a sudden money and business is no longer revered. All the unethical trading is no longer sanctioned under the general premise that all business is good and that the successful business men and women of this world should be looked up to and their luxurious lifestyles are the one thing we should aspire to make you happy.

Because if there’s one thing I have learnt by being an outsider who knows some very very very rich people is that money and business do not make you happy. Many ( but not all) of the richest families are truly dysfunctional .There are so many secrets to be kept , rich businessmen do not make faithful or non-violent husbands, beautiful trophy wives who struggle to look perfect are  frequently  on anti-depressants or other drugs and are often abandoned and lonely in their palatial homes , the children are driven to work so hard in school and with extra lessons in the evenings that they have no time for play or friends and their current nanny or tutors are emotionally closer to them than their parents ever will be.

Being excessively rich is not the dream we were sold. Being poor is no good either but there are many types of poverty.

Before I get even more depressing here is George Harrison who like all the Beatles had a great sense of humour

Now we are clearly in a massive financial crisis leaving alongside world climate change  we all ask one question…

What does the future hold?

The only thing that is certain is CHANGE , BIG CHANGE

Hearing banking experts on the news and journalists criticising banking practices that went on for the past 20- 28 years it makes me laugh from the hypocrisy.

Although bankers are responsible for doing many wreckless things I feel they are to a certain extent being treated like scapegoats because each person who voted for the Tories or New Labour knew they were voting for business, they took out loans which they knew they could not pay back, they bought shares and became mini-business people themselves. They too criticised or ignored those too ill, old or otherwise unable to work. They too criticised single mothers on benefits while knowing that childcare costs about the total sum of their wages. They too invested in savings accounts which in turn helped to keep the business wheels turning involving the  exploitation of the poorest people in the world.

Business is not always a bad thing, we all need to survive, but this society has turned a blind eye for so long to anything else but the “ethics” of making money and spending money. The bankers are responsible but so is everyone who supported the highly materialistic machine of exploitative business.

We have come full circle and now

In the mainstream media which governs our thoughts and ethics more than any other institution we have  woken up from the American dream that we espoused so readily under Thatcher.

But people are still flying , driving , wasting our water, our earth, our air, our energy supplies. We need to wake up to this as well.

High fliers it’s time to come to earth, no more money for cocaine driven dreams.


We need to recreate our society again with different priorities or suffer the consequences.

Hippies created self-sufficient communities and tried to find alternative ways of living without money but with a better quality relationships between people.  We need to do this but in a way that is practical and that can last.

Love and peace

Born2rant

hoping there are not too many mistakes in my free-flow writing…will edit tomorrow…

Leaving you with a musical ray of hope from Steve Hillage’s version of Hurdy-Gurdy man ( Donovan) because without hope and only fear everything goes to pot and not in a good way!

P.S. Ringo doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of humour at the moment.

Solfest (Cumbria) and Perverto Rules


Hello Good People who still read this blog

Last year at the Solfest festival in Cumbria I had a fantastic time at the “Dogs in Space” Chill Out tent. Highlights included meeting Steve Hillage again, hanging out with the Ozrics and seeing Joie again, being kept up all night by virtue of Eat Static doing a full-set at about 4 a.m., Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy doing a chill out set including playing Rainbow Dome Musick live for the first time since the 70s under the name “Mirror System” , plus “Nodens Ictus” a.k.a. various members of the Ozrics and Eat Static doing an amazing chill out set and also watching proudly as my own offspring and his friend did a beautiful electronica multimedia performance attended by most of the aforementioned and his dad of course.

Here is a bit of “Rainbow Dome Musick” ( 1979) written to be played in the Rainbow Dome at  the  “Mind, Body and Spirit” festival in London it is the first ambient New Age album of its type subsequently imitated by thousands and played by many alternative therapists during healing , reflexology and other therapies:

Some footage of last year’s Solfest courtesy of Mike Cupcake who unfortunately won’t be with us this year. We’ll be thinking of him.

All the music there  was extremely creative and just made all mainstream music sound like a load of papier maché.

Here’s a clip of the Ozrics unforunately not at Solfest but still live

Other memories from Solfest last year include hitching back with Mixmaster Morris who is a walking talking psychedelic encyclopedia and meeting so many great musicians and many friendly local festival punters.

This year I’m performing my songs too and I have no idea who else will be performing apart from my son again.

It was such a great festival last year that I feel very excited about doing this gig even though I was recruited at the last minute ( thanks to Michael Dog and Len) and it’s all a bit of a rush to get ready.

Solfest is Sold Out unlike so many other festivals this summer. Last year was such a special occasion I dare not anticipate it could be as good in case I am disappointed. I will write a bit about the festival on my return.

I had to look for tents and other camping equipment in the dark dusty attic and found instead a bag containing the drug-dealing monopoly game “ Dealer McDope” which I wrote about in my previous post.

So here are some of the “Perverto Rules” ( there are also official rules these are the alternative ways to play the game).

These are excerpts of course if you want the whole “deal” then go to the “Last Gasp” website (www.lastgasp.com) and buy yourself  the  board game. (sorry these are totally insensitive and not at all kosher, Politically Correct or child friendly.)

PERVERTO RULES

“..these rules below are not to be played by those suffering from (a) LEPROSY,(b) MALIGNANT BRAIN TUMORS, or c) THE INFLUENCE OF NARCOTIC DRUGS. These people are dangerous!! Lock them in a closet and proceed to play as normal.”…

“All players must strip to facilitate breathing and blood movement….”

“..Those players being known as dealers must play with one eye blind-folded, one arm tied behind the back, and sit in the yogi position of the “Ruptured Duck”…

I can’t actually bring myself to quote a lot of these because they are just too offensive! so I’ll skip to the end..

Declaring a Winner

The “winner” is one of the following:

A.The first two players to make One Million $$$$, snort an ounce of coke, make love with their partner ( while screaming profanities and grunting obnoxiously), and sing “God Bless America” ten times.

B.The first player to leave the physical body, simultaneously destroying the entire game with a burst of pure energy.

C.The first two players to acheive orgasm through oral sex after obtaining One Million $$$$ apiece.”

Well I never played it with the Perverto Rules but all I can say is that using humour can be a good way of getting things out of your system and being creative…but yes,it is a bit offensive ( sorry) ..I just thought someone might be interested or amused by it.

Before I stop procrastinating and actually make preparations to go here is a little something from a festival 39 summers ago when young people felt it was important to be political through their music

Country Joe McDonald and the Fish

Love and Peace

Born2rant

For a spiffing review of Solfest go to

Solfest (Cumbria) 2008…a personal journey

Steve Hillage Part 3 :Gone to Heaven and Found System 7


Steve Hillage Part 3 :Gone to Heaven and Found System 7
(something old , something new, something borrowed,something Green)


Hello Good People who read this blog! (sorry about typos I am still editing this!)

Apologies for the delay since my last entry.
Yesterday
I went to Heaven last night and saw System 7.

launchparties2c.gif
Preamble….
I have to say that I wasn’t in the mood to go to the album launch party. This was for a totally different reason. Recently I’ve been thinking of learning to play Congolese music on the guitar from a guy I met at a folk club ( The Green Note) in Camden called Nick Mulvey whose guitar playing is stunning. Yesterday afternoon, impressed by the Congolese style of guitar playing I’d heard Nick playing , I went online to find out a bit more about the Congo which is now split into 2 countries .
I read some deeply disturbing facts about “the war against women” in The Democratic Republic of Congo and it had put me in a mood of feeling just so naive about what is really going on in this world and how cut off and priviledged we are in this country.
I phoned up my son in Germany for some some encouragement to go to the gig knowing he would be very envious of my seeing System 7, Eat Static, and Alex Patterson and Slack Baba .

He told me that I must go and to wear something “funky” so I did! I wore something funky and totally untrendy that suited my hippie roots and I went.

I got there just in time as System 7 were already on stage. Steve Hillage was wearing glasses but they suited him ( I am being so shallow but honest! I wish I could think of a witty joke including the phrase ” should have gone to specsavers” but I can’t).

dragon-and-phoenix

I was feeling self-conscious at first alone in a rather over-the-top outfit at Heaven and decided that I would not and could not dance. However the music was infectious and I started to move and then once dancing I could not stop.
I recognised the beautiful “Hinotori” and “Song for the Phoenix” from the youtube excerpts .Others of my too-old-to-be-dancing-to-techno generation surrounded me going berserk in time to the music , including a guy who danced with me who looked exactly like Howard Marks I still don’t know if it was him.

Some of the crowd were young and alternative, others young and gay and not really familiar with System 7 et al, and mostly people in their thirties who probably used to go to Megadog but no one I knew apart from those on stage. I was half expecting to see Mixmaster Morris dancing there or some significant others but even surrounded by strangers I felt at home and sharing a common need to dance and celebrate life there and then.
Miquette as usual seemed to be enjoying herself smiling at the audience and making synth sounds. Steve Hillage played a lot of guitar and at times I just wanted them to take out all the sequenced drum beats ( sorry I know I am using uncool music terminology because I am a 60s and 70s music person) because I just wanted to hear the live guitar on its own.
There was a good lightshow with some interesting video clips but the music was the main thing for me.
There was a contrast of old and new. Some bits of rock guitar and psychedelic ” analog” sounding synth, some ambient phases and then the hardcore techno. But no matter what style and twists and turns the music made it was always colourful and multidimentional and never once got boring .

I confess that a lot of techno bores me senseless when too repetitive but this was not in that category. Furthermore rather than trying to be too cool/trendy to make an effort to relate to their audience Steve and Miquette frequently made eye contact with the crowd and smiled warmly.


Here is a bit from the album courtesy of System7 on Youtube “Hinotori

They played their new “Phoenix“album which has samples of old and new. “Hinotori” has bits of rock guitar riffs, with ambient keyboards and the “thumping bass”.

I’ll pause this assessment of the new System 7 album with a little rant about where I am coming from

In case you hadn’t guessed by now, I am not a “clubber” although I’ve been to a lot of club nights over the years. I’d so much like to hear a live bassist and drummer and percussionist with this music, but I guess then the bass-player would inevitably want to play something more complex and less trance-like than the simple one note on one beat and it would alter the experience. There is something about “repetitive beats” that switches off the endless chatter of the mind and waves of emotions and takes you into wanting to move and to feel the rhythm connecting in your body like a kind of physical euphoric meditation . However I still prefer a live band and emotions and the chatter of the mind over dancing .The experience of dancing to ambient/trance/techno music in a friendly atmosphere I can enjoy from time to time, it has its plus points, I can get on a physical and mental high without the use of toxic substances and sometimes make new friends, get fit but there’s no denying that I prefer live bands with songs, emotions, controversy, mayhem.

Now back to the gig/Phoenix Album…..

The celestial and very beautiful”Song for the Phoenix” (which you can hear on my previous entry or on youtube) starts with Tibetan bells and has guitar that sounds almost acoustic through reverb, there are many familiar sounds here and there and I wonder if samples for Steve’s works from the seventies were used in places. I wish I was more of an anorak and could tell you.
The dancing crowd went completely crazy as samples of Gong’s “Pot-Head Pixies” singing ” I am , you are , we are crAAAZEEE!”
were blended with industrial beats ( if they are not industrial then I was just guessing! I need my son to help me with the right lingo)

The atmosphere was fantastic and wildly energetic and there was room enough dance madly without injuring others too badly . I did not see any big fish or little fish just individuals inventing their own crAAAAZEEE dances to this Gong sample track called “Strange Beings“.
During other pieces there were episodes of glissando guitar and sometimes just mayhem but it was all good.
Towards the end of their set they were joined by Slack Baba and Alex Paterson creating interesting and at times maybe conflicting mixtures which seemed to be due to a short technical setback but no one minded as it was still good enough to dance to…and let’s face it … once you start dancing to this kind of music it is impossible to stop if the good vibe is still there.

Lastly Merv ( Eat Static) joined them on an electronic pad drums and played in his usual forceful way in control and master of any rhythm . He is really is an astounding live drummer.

I wish the 5 of them had gone on for longer but it had to end. There was a lot of cheering and shouting and handshaking, even minor stage-invasion at one point.
The last time I had seen System 7 was in the dance tent at Solfest this summer but the atmosphere was totally different here. In the huge dance tent it had been very loud, very heavy, very crowded and I had felt alienated in the noise , the stage seemed remote and I was surrounded with people dancing with a bit of an aggressive and drunken edge to it that time. Last night the venue was cosier, the crowd was smiling, joyful and the volume was not deafening and so the more melodic aspects of the music could be more freely enjoyed without distortion.
Afterwards Alex Paterson ( The Orb) did a set and the bass was cranked way up . Later still after 1 a.m. Merv on his own started a Joie-less set for Eat Static I would have loved to have stayed but this time everything was cranked way up on trebble and bass and all the middle frequencies too! and my ears without earplugs just had to be taken home, plus I’d danced solidly for two hours and considering I have just shed wearing a neckbrace after having an agonising neck I thought it wise to leave and stop dancing before I risked further pain and inflammation. ( I’m so boring I know but I did enough excessive headbanging next to bass drum speakers when younger and lost a little of hearing and braincells).

I had a sore neck this morning but it was worth it. Last night I felt euphoric without alcohol of drugs, or even friends, just from the music, the never-ending dancing and the friendly atmosphere. I’ll see Merv in Eat Static or the Ozrics another time.
I was so impressed with System 7′s gig that I bought the new album on the way home which is playing happy vibe music on my computer as I tap my little blog here.

I love “Makimura -Space Pilot“( track 8).

If you like the old Steve Hillage guitar playing but not keen on pounding techno BUY THIS ALBUM ! and then we can try to persuade them to do it on “Later” on BBC2
( with Merv on drums) .

Jools Holland would be perplexed by something that actually is innovative and vibrant and not like so many hyped up acts I’ve seen on that show. Steve Hillage could teach them a thing or two!

This is the cover of “Green” from 30 years ago definitely one of my desert island discs.Cover of “Green” 1978

Some of the elements of this new album remind me of Green are they samples or is it the spirit?
Now I am listening to “Wolf-Head“(track 9) which is written in collaboration with Eat Static it’s great too. It’s like rock and deeply chaotic synth weirdness , clever passages of dark, light and a guest appearance of R2D2.

They probably use samples from Eat Static tracks . If you happen to know where from tell us in a comment.
Go to this link to hear these tracks now

http://www.a-wave.com/system7/
then click on the title that says
PHOENIX New album released Jan 28th 2008 – MP3 page
and you can listen to all the tracks!
then support System 7 by buying their album.

Yes I am biased and any other reviews of any other bands will no doubt be far more critical.
I wish I’d had a camera or phone to take pictures but I didn’t think of it but there were plenty of people filming .

Next time a review of Steve Hillage’s live in 1979 DVD and rant on about Steve Hillage some more.

( at some point I will do a little thing about Cantlin Stone ..but not yet!)

Here is a sample of System 7 at Glastonbury 2007

If you are having trouble watching this press pause until it has fully downloaded.
P.S. I was so upset about what I read about the ongoing war in Congo that I joined Amnesty International today…long overdue. I hope in the future to do something more to help rebuild peace and the welfare of people in this country, the DRC or Democratic Republic of Congo. If you want to know a bit more even though it is harrowing to read then please go to these sites. I cannot believe this stuff is not in our mainstream news more often.
Article in The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/nov/12/congo.international

BBC report in 2002
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/2405563.stm

Amnesty International Article
http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/africa/central-africa/dr-congo

Steve Hillage: Part Two trying to reach number 7


Steve Hillage: Part Two trying to reach number 7

Hello good people who read this blog

If Steve Hillage had been a spy I am sure he would not have called himself 007 but maybe 777.
On the “System 7” site the contact e-mail is s777@a-wave.com. (oh but please don’t bombard them with spam!). There is also a page explaining why in the USA Steve and Miquette are called “777” and not “System 7” – because there was another band called System 7 of course. How confusing!
This obsession with the number 7 goes back a long way.
On his album Motivation Radio released in 1977 he has a Tarot card on the back. It is the card called “The Chariot” which is one from the Major Arcana ( spiritually more charged). Guess what number it is ?
Yes number VII or 7.
Plus in his song “ Light in the Sky” he sings ” In ‘77 the light shone in our hearts and in our minds”.
Once Steve and Miquette formed “System 7” they released an album called “777” in 1993, one called “Power of Seven” in 1996 and another album called “Seventh Wave” in 2001.
I haven’t looked at the track listings but I would be surprised if there weren’t any 7‘s there.

So if I ever got to talk to Steve Hillage for any length of time I’d want to know. ” Why all the 7s?”
Without him here to answer I am speculating that he and Miquette are probably into Numerology and possibly using the number 7 is a kind of symbol to help his music to generate the right energy and receptivity ( there are plenty of numbers in their lyrics and track titles not just 7).
I am not a numerology expert although I do know quite a bit about The Chariot tarot card.
Depending on which book you read it can be associated with a variety of concepts. Off the top of my head I would say it is symbol of Motivation, of either competing drives within oneself or different drives working together ( the horses drawing the chariot). The Chariot is going places that is why it’s associated with motivation and no doubt the album Motivation Radio. The driver is in control of the reins and the horses can symbolise sometimes conflicting emotions, or spiritual energies or subconscious impulses that work together to propel us to “Progress”. It is one of the “gateway” cards in Tarot which takes you a new part of a spiritual journey of growth.
My knowledge of Numerology is not good. I have problems with it.
Doing a bit of research online it looks complicated as there is Indian numerology and Qabalistic numerology and many other types. I once had my real name and date of birth calculated in numerological terms and I was told I was a was number 7 . They might as well have told me that the meaning of life was 42 . The meaning of who I am is 7 ! That’s 6 times 7.
But I am not a number ! (neither 6 nor 7) I am a free person!
Before I annoy everyone into numerology I’ll confess my weakness for the I Ching and Tarot both of which use numbers and random acts to gain insight into the psychic, emotional and spiritual undercurrents we may generate subconsciously which then can be interpreted in both numbers, symbols and ancient philosophies and archetypes.
Actually I guess that anyone reading this who is into numerology is probably rubbing their chins right now and have a big thought bubble popping out of their heads saying “Yes , well reading her blog I always thought she was a number 7!”
To which I sing back the lyrics Steve Hillage’s “Unidentified!” “Don’t put no labels on me, don’t you block my energy…so my spirit can be free..”etc..etc..

Yes I don’t want to be labelled by a number as that means I cannot change or be fluid in who I am.

Anyway I now realise I don’t need to ask Steve Hillage the seven question because someone else has.This is what Steve Hillage said in an interview in 2001( shortly after 9/11 ) to read the full interview please go to http://www.centralstation.com.au/articles/shownews.asp?newsid=692

” Numbers pop up a lot in your work, how important is numerology to you?

Steve Hillage: “We’re not number fetishists, but numbers do have a great symbolic importance and we’re also intrigued by things like sacred geometry, which also has a bearing on music. The number 7 is a number we particularly like and keen students of Steve Hillage albums from the 70s will find plenty of references there. We’ve moved away from expressing ourselves through songs and lyrics towards a purely instrumental form.”

What kind of ideas are you trying to put across?

Steve Hillage: “You can’t encapsulate it in a few glib sentences, particularly when you look at the state of the world now, which is pretty dire. As a musician, you have to honestly ask yourself what you’re doing and why. Ultimately the best thing we can do is put over some positive, genuine feelings and hope to influence people in a positive and expanded direction. That’s the only way people are going to sort the world out. I’m not making any claims about there being any particular power in what we do, but as musicians I’d defend what we do as being honest. We feel a natural inclination to associate our music with certain symbolic things, in order to try and tilt people’s awareness towards positive and beneficial things. Also, the experience of partying is not purely an escapist phenomenon; there’s actually a positive function in people expressing themselves to good music.”

So there you are but I still want to know more! Maybe I am making too much of this , maybe it doesn’t matter. But ultimately music and physics boil down to numbers. I feel that for me music is like a maths and imagery ( in lyrics) and sound imagery ..I don’t know this is nonsense but I’ll say it anyway: for me music is the place where maths meets the soul.

So here is a brief definition of the number 7 from a numerology website site
7 Spirituality, mental analysis, wisdom, fault finding, suppression”

Hmm…nope that’s too vague.
However for a fascinating and detailed description of number 7 go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7_(number)

So that’s my little rant about number 7 and Steve Hillage …a bit of a shaggy dog’s story really .
Here’s a poster for the London launch party for System 7’s new album at Heaven on the 21st of February click on image to enlarge. Be there or be a number 4! (square).system7.jpg

Before bed a bit of music!

This track “Song for the Phoenix” is from their new album which has just been released. I like what I have heard a lot . . It seems to me that Steve Hillage is turning his techno/ambient/trance into a more peaceful and melodic direction. This track reminds me of “Green”.

Next time I’ll be ranting and ambling a bit more about Steve Hillage. Ideally I’d like to interview him for my little blog one day. Have a good weekend!

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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