Van Der Graaf Generator and Peter Hammill album thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by mark winstanley, Sep 5, 2023.

  1. Alien Reg

    Alien Reg Forum Resident

    I'm with you on "Flight" - to me it doesn't have the same impact as "Plague" or "Black Room" or "Louse". It's still a great track, and I suppose one's expectations are pretty high when Hammill serves up a side-long epic.

    My ongoing exploration of this run of albums on CD (after decades of crackly, hissy vinyl) continues. I picked up pH7 cheaply yesterday. Someone further up wrote that the CD sounded thin. I didn't feel that, but it does sound very different from the vinyl. Almost like a different mix. But the bassy sounds are strong and the lo-fi quality is less, well, lo-fi. Really glad this thread got me to return to these late '70s works.
  2. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    So now we're entering the territory of albums I wasn't able to get... I only have so much money lol
    So I'll have much less chance to do musical recon on these, but we'll see how we go.

    Sitting Targets

    Studio album by
    Peter Hammill
    June 1981
    Recorded November 1980-February 1981
    Studio Sofa Sound, Wiltshire
    Genre Art rock
    Length 44:24
    Label Virgin
    Producer Peter Hammill

    All tracks are written by Peter Hammill

    Side one
    1. "Breakthrough" 4:01
    2. "My Experience" 3:20
    3. "Ophelia" 3:16
    4. "Empress's Clothes" 4:07
    5. "Glue" 3:49
    6. "Hesitation" 4:11
    Total length: 22:41

    Side two
    1. "Sitting Targets" 5:27
    2. "Stranger Still" 5:00
    3. "Sign" 3:50
    4. "What I Did" 3:43
    5. "Central Hotel" 4:42
    Total length: 22:41

    Peter Hammill - vocals, guitar, keyboards
    Guy Evans - drums (tracks: 1,2,6,7,9)
    David Jackson - saxophone, flute (tracks: 4,6,7,11)
    Morris Pert - percussion (tracks: 4,7,10)
    Phil Harrison - synthesisers (tracks: 3,8,9)

    Peter Hammill - recording engineer (Sofa Sound, Wiltshire)
    David Lord - mixing (Crescent Studios, Bath)
    Rocking Russian - design
    Ford Motor Company - photography

    So interestingly we have a situation where three quarters of VdGG are in the house, but only on half the album, and only on two songs together, but it's nice to see.....

    So while putting this together, I have had the album playing in the background, so as to have some idea of what we may be looking at here.... and so far, this is somewhat like Hammill's version of 80's pop rock... and it incorporates elements that remind me of some of the more quirky 80's bands....

    It's going to be interesting reading how folks react to this.... I get the impression so far, that this is one that may sit pretty well with me, as I have no beef with 80's music personally, it's the era I was in my teens, so it's all comfortable territory to me.

    Sounds good to me.....

    Anyway, let us know what you think.
    1@aTime, KM Dave 65-78, mx20 and 3 others like this.
  3. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    So Ford Motor Company get a credit on the album for the cover photos, which are obviously of their crash test dummies... and with Hammill and an album title like this ... this could be ominous lol

    1@aTime, KM Dave 65-78, PhR and 3 others like this.
  4. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

  5. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

  6. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

  7. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

  8. fRa

    fRa Conny Olivetti - Sound Alchemist

    Sitting Targets, another masterpiece from our man.
    For me this period in time was gold, we hade Gabriels third and fourth album,
    Fripps on his journey to 1981, with Exposure and all the Frippertronics album.
    And all the stuff from Bill Nelson.
    There was a sense of diy in the air.
  9. mx20

    mx20 Enthusiast

    Raleigh, NC
    Flippin' great album! Another triumph for PH (and for us). And I just remembered that I own the "My Experience" picture sleeve 7", which I guess I've never spun. Mark, thanks for posting those new liner notes from PH, which I had never read before. I agree, there are too many "crazies" on "What I Did" (probably my least favorite song on this terrific album).
  10. Tristero

    Tristero In possession of the future tense

    I've only acquired a copy of Sitting Targets on CD more recently, though I'm familiar with a lot of the material in their live iterations. While I like a lot of the songs, my initial reaction was that the performances here feel a bit stiff and muted compared to the more vigorous live versions, but this may just be what I'm used to. I'll be giving it another close listen shortly, so hopefully this discussion will help to enhance my appreciation. It does sound like he made an intentional choice to go in a more straight-ahead direction at this point, in contrast to the experimentalism of the three preceding albums.
  11. Jamsterdammer

    Jamsterdammer The Great CD in the Sky

    Málaga, Spain
    Sitting Targets

    Our man decided to go for more accessible, shorter and poppier songs, and pulls it off! The start of another 4-album phase in his music.
  12. PhR

    PhR Forum Resident

    One of my fav Hammill albums. I first heard a few songs off the "Calm" and "Storm" compilations and later found a Holland pressing on Mercury.
    I recently bought an old Virgin CD ( and it has a folded black and white lyric sheet. Looks professional but it seems odd that those "Compact price" -editions should have anything extra in them. Anybody else got that sheet?
  13. fRa

    fRa Conny Olivetti - Sound Alchemist

    No lyric sheet included in my copy.
  14. Putrifiers II

    Putrifiers II Forum Resident

    London, UK
    Sitting Targets

    Another great album, if a lot more conventional. Managed to snag a UK reissue on vinyl that sounds a bit better than my 00s CD, so I'll be listening along to that. Is this prog pop? It's as accessible as Peter Gabriel's stuff from around the same time.
  15. bRETT

    bRETT Senior Member

    Boston MA
    And Kate Bush (Never/Dreaming), XTC (Black Sea/Settlement), Wire (154), and Bowie (Scary Monsters). All kindred spirits.

    Funny thing is that while all those artists intersected, everybody else was at their most daring and Hammill was at his most accessible!
  16. ArpMoog

    ArpMoog Forum Resident

    Yet Pete still managed to rage more then all of them combined.
  17. Mylene

    Mylene Senior Member

    This is PH's attempt at the commercial post punk album. Mostly it's successful. Virgin sold it at a cut price to try and lure the undecided.
    100423, mx20, mark winstanley and 3 others like this.
  18. Alien Reg

    Alien Reg Forum Resident

    I really loved this album when it came out, and still have a fondness for it. I remember assuming that mainstream stardom was only just around the corner for him.
  19. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter


    The visitors find the children gone from school:
    aged relations sling their guns across the desks...
    there'll be no break-time for them unless
    they talk about tomorrow
    as though it's already on its way.
    Amen, oh yes, they're
    waiting for the breakthrough in time.

    The visitors hide no aces up their sleeves
    and the classroom pulses to many different drums.
    If only a breakthrough in time would come
    there'd be some chance for the visited ones.
    We could talk about tomorrow
    as though we believed in that.
    We could talk about it right now
    and it would come as a shock
    to feel the fingernail grow on the trigger finger -
    still the visitors clock us
    waiting for the breakthrough,
    waiting for the breakthrough
    with time on our hands.

    (It's there all the time.)

    Writer Peter Hammill
    Publisher ?

    We open with two keyboard chords, and a straight bass, that adds a beat of beat to the opening.
    Then when Hammill gets to the crescendo of his opening statement we punch into a rather prog-like chorus(?) that also melds a bit of new wave into it... which is an interesting marriage.

    This is lyrically very opaque...
    At first it gives me the idea of a school shooter scenario... but the kids aren't at school, and it is the adults that brought the guns.
    Then I ponder if it is some kind of PTA thing, where there are arguments about direction for the school and its curriculum ...
    but at the end of the day I'm not entirely sure.

    Outside of that, I enjoy the musical structure of the song, and the delivery.

    Hammill has definitely gone for a different sound here.. a more full band sound, and I think it sounds more.... polished isn't the right word, but the word that's coming to mind... perhaps David Lord mixing this, just got the levels right... or better... not sure.

    I'll be very interested to read the input of the Hammill experts here.

    Mylene, 100423, KM Dave 65-78 and 3 others like this.
  20. Jamsterdammer

    Jamsterdammer The Great CD in the Sky

    Málaga, Spain

    This is a strange song, but it works for me and a good opener as it makes you curious about the rest. Absolutely no idea what it's about, only that it sounds ominous like something really bad is going to happen unless there is a "breakthrough", yet they seem to be stuck in a stalemate. And yes, musically it does sound like "prog-wave" (if that is a subgenre).
  21. mountainmaster

    mountainmaster Forum Resident

    In a different reality Sitting Targets would have been Hammill's breakthrough album. It had the right elements at the right time. Top notch post punk songs, spiced up production worthy of a hit album and last but not least: No musique concrète experiments to deter the general public.

    Although the album did reasonably well it failed to bring our hero fortune and fame. I guess there were just too many great albums being made at the time.
  22. mx20

    mx20 Enthusiast

    Raleigh, NC
    "Breakthrough" is a contender for my favorite song on this great album, but I have no idea what it's about! Ominous chords, resetrained vocal delivery, and kind of gloomy production all work very well for me. Guy plays wonderfully on these K Group albums, in my mind a continuation of where they were at in the "new wave" VdG lineup.

    There's a tension in this song that never resolves, and I like that. No happy endings here!
  23. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

  24. PhR

    PhR Forum Resident

    So it is most likely that the lyric insert that came with the CD is a D.I.Y. -job. Very nicely done 'though.
  25. mx20

    mx20 Enthusiast

    Raleigh, NC
    Really? I'm pretty sure that's the same CD edition I've got, and as you said, no lyric insert... But, man that's surprising that someone would care enough to DIY shrink-down & print a lyric sheet, and then sell the CD for used? But I suppose stranger things have happened. Cool insert, regardless!
    100423, KM Dave 65-78, PhR and 2 others like this.

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