Is it possible that one's current personal musical tastes mirror one's hairstyle? I've noticed a growing trend in my musical playlist. Or should I say a "receeding line"? I'm going back to my roots. I'm not talking Hermans Hermits and The Swinging Blues Jeans, I'm thinking more post pubescent Afgan Coated Prog Rock.
I was born 50 miles from Canterbury, Kent in 1957, perfect timing to be affected by the now ledgendary bands that turned "Canterbury" from a city into a genre. Not for me Roxy Music, Cockney Rebel and Deep Purple. No, Soft Machine, Caravan and all points North of a town in Hertfordshire was my bag. How lucky I was to have fallen for the unfasionable. As a teenager, my weekend hobby changed track. Instead of jumping off the train at Charlton for the football it was all the way to Charing Cross, the walk past Trafalgar Square towards Tottenham Court Road, turn left into Oxford Street, a few shops up on the right ,avoiding the smell of other Afgan Coated individuals (they were made from the hide of Afagan dogs weren't they?) and there it was! The crappiest little shoe shop in town. Full of Glam Rock stack heels and latest trend multicoloured leather uppers, but what lurked up that back staircase was a revelation. Virgin Records didn't start as a megastore but this was still a Dr Who's Tardis full of Alternative music. Where else could you buy a Gong album for 59p? Where else had the first two Magma LP's? Blimey! They actually let you listen to the record on headphones! It was a unique musical era that could never occur again. Well at least not for me ....
The pivotal moment in the shaping of my musical taste came one night at the Chalk Farm Roundhouse, London. Having dismmissed MDK as "pants" after auditioning the LP at a school friend's house a few months before, I found myself paying for the privilage of seeing Magma perform! Minor stars (?) on the Canterbury scene, Isotope, were the support band that evening for Magma and after enjoying their set, another likeminded school friend and I were all set for an early trip home with no danger of missing that last train. I don't know why we stayed, perhaps it was to get our money's worth, perhaps it was because of the cold concrete steps at the Farm that acted as seating, Whatever the reason, while we were waiting for the feeling in our legs to return ... Vander, Blasquiz, Top et al hit the stage...... we sat down again and witnessed the most astonishing concert I have ever been fortunate enough to attend and I've never quite been the same since!
I wish I had a good memory. OK. I remember Jannick Top breaking a string, I remember attaining a trance like state during what might have been Mekanïk Zain or an extended section of MDK?? I'd totally lost myself in the music. I can still remember the atmosphere. To describe this is way beyond my literary capabilities but the fact that I can still recall something that happened 30 years ago is testamant to its pride of place in my own life. I remember the energy and the powerful repetitive rhythms but just as important the softer vocal sections. I remember the buzz in the room, like new disciples at a revelation seeing the light. Best of all, I remember leaving the building in a daze, not caring if there was another train back to Abbey Wood Station ever again. And now as I write this, Oh! I wish I had a Time Machine. Thank you Magma, Thank you Christian Vander and Thank you Isotope!!
I became a Magma convert overnight. I quickly snapped up every Album plus the 45 Mekanïk Machine on UK A&M and my Gentle Giant Albums were pushed slightly further back in the cupboard. The following year (I think) we attended another Magma Concert back at the Farm. My feelings were not all that different, albeit that we knew roughly what to expect. The highlight for me of this second coming, just had to be "Lihns". I can still see Christian Vander sitting, facing me on Keyboards.