Peter Hammill tonight. Not an artist you take or leave, or listen to passively. He just isn’t – he never was. Even when he was part of the groundbreaking Progressive band Van der Graaf Generator. They weren’t a band you could play as background music at your party- you could never dance to them – the band demanded your attention, and took you on a ride of unparalleled intensity.
And as a solo artist, Peter Hammill does exactly the same thing. I remember talking to a friend who had run into Robert Fripp during one of his stays in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s, he had seen Peter perform at The Troubadour in West Hollywood the night before. A friend of Hammill’s and thoroughly versed in his music and Van der Graff, he caught his performance. He also confessed to leaving halfway through his set because, as he put it; “Peter was so intense, he gave me a headache”.
The music of Peter Hammill is an intense experience, and that is exactly what makes him so engaging and profound – listening to him is a complete immersion in human emotion and soul-wrenching pathos – not contrived – not self-conscious or mannered for the effect. But a keenly drawn and intricate portrayal and exposure of those true nerve endings of life – those thoughts we think about, those visions of ourselves that haunt us.
Needless to say, the music of Peter Hammill is not for everybody – and I think even he would agree with that. But if you take the time and sit with it for the next nineteen minutes which comprises this 1974 John Peel session, you might come away with a different take on things. Music is a lot of feelings and a vast spectrum of human emotions laid out in notes and words – it is not, and never has been one-size-fits-all. Like all art, music can be and ver often is, a deeply personal experience.
So . . . .with that in mind. Hit the play button and enjoy the ride.