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Thread: Peter Hammill Fool’s Mate

  1. #1

    Peter Hammill Fool’s Mate

    No idea why but Despite being a big fan of Mr. Hammill and VDGG in my highschool days in the 70’s I never properly revisited their catalog
    On the flight to Brussels Fool’s Mate popped up on my ipod
    So many light years later with much “insights” and milage I was struck by the sheer quality and originality of his song craft
    And especially by his vocals
    PH had such a wide range of tone and expression!
    I love the relative simplicity and popish nature of these songs
    Next up Nadir !
    Who else is joining my binge ?

  2. #2
    Member thedunno's Avatar
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    I always loved Fools mate a lot. Perhaps still his most accessibel album to date (without sounding commercial).
    I read in an interview that he wrote these songs during the first VDGG period but found them not suitable to include on the VDGG albums but strong enough to release. A lighter sounding and occasionally even 'happy' sounding Hammill. The album has at times a bit of 60ies flower power athmosphere.

    Vision is still one of my favorite Hammill songs ever.

  3. #3
    Insect Overlord Progatron's Avatar
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    The Birds is pure beauty.
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  4. #4
    Orange Tick Squasher Buddhabreath's Avatar
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    I can hear all these songs in my head so I don’t really need to binge, but I’ll just add that IMO Fool’s Mate is a wonderful album with several absolute corkers like Candle, Child and Birds. Way back 40+ years ago I can remember listening to this for the first few times and feeling the intense range of emotions from light to dark. In particular, the short ending song “I Once Wrote Some Poems” really hit me. I had never heard a song like it. Hugely influential album for me personally.
    "I am the fucking click track!" - Ringo Starr

  5. #5
    It is a very good record - obviously - but somehow pales in comparison to the holy trinity that followed: Chameleon...Silent Corner...In Camera.

    This is understandable though, because with Van Der Graaf Generator on a break, all of Hammil's creativity poured into his solo work, whereas Fool's Mate is a collection of songs that just wouldn't fit in a Van Der Graaf record. The main thing is that these songs are too short for a writer like Hammill, who prefered big canvases for releasing his art. Not necessarily 10 minutes opuses, but he liked big chunks of written text to fulfill a song.

    That said, I like the album a lot, and it evokes some very beautiful musical soundscapes and atmospheres.

  6. #6
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    His 3d outlet, Silent Corner...contains material which was quite fittable for VdGG style, and maybe I like it more, that any of the early ( first 4) VdGG albums. Silent Corner could have done much better as a VdGG album. Why PH decided to release it as a solo, seems strange.

  7. #7
    All-night hippo at diner Tom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Progatron View Post
    The Birds is pure beauty.
    Nicely produced too, with that open clean sound. The instruments are somewhat muted to let the voice take center stage, but for "The Birds" it's done subtly and meshes really well.
    ... “there’s a million ways to learn” (which there are, by the way), but ironically, there’s a million things to eat, I’m just not sure I want to eat them all. -- Jeff Berlin

  8. #8
    I remember being a bit shocked when I first bought this in my “going ga-ga for all things VdGG” phase. I have to say that it was NOT what I was expecting but, oddly, I warmed to it quickly, even though the songs are a bit “immature” (It wasn’t until relatively recently that I learned why that was; what a tragedy that these songs were almost not recorded). Definitely a different sound than we are accustomed to from Mr. Hammill, it shows that he is more diverse than most people give him credit for.
    Confirmed Bachelors: the dramedy hit of 1883...

  9. #9
    It's good. Always enjoyed the Lindisfarne chorus; they were at the top of their game then, and Ray Jackson's voice could cut through wood. Easy-going, direct and fairly simple yet contemplative songs.

    Still I'll normally take the trilogy of Chameleon, Silent Corner and In Camera over this.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
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  10. #10
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    neverv really got into this one, and unlike AGM, it was not a gatreway to understand Hammill's voice

    FMis probably my leazst fave 70's Hammill album, but it's well ahead of wghatever I heard of him in the 80/90's

    Silent Corner
    Camera, Chameleon
    Over
    Nadir, PH7 Black Box and Future Now


    Fool's Mate
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Trane View Post
    neverv really got into this one, and unlike AGM, it was not a gatreway to understand Hammill's voice

    FMis probably my leazst fave 70's Hammill album, but it's well ahead of wghatever I heard of him in the 80/90's

    Silent Corner
    Camera, Chameleon
    Over
    Nadir, PH7 Black Box and Future Now


    Fool's Mate
    I'd definitely add Sitting Targets, Enter K & Patience to this list - there's a little bit of the spirit of Rikki N, but especially of VdG, in these "beat" outings. They were absolutley of their time - those 6 lps from The Future Now through to Patience along with the VdG studio & live records, dating more or less from 1977-83, were totlally attuned to the post-punk/New Wave musical ethos. The K Band live were a pretty ferocious prospect - I remember taking a few of my friends along to see them in Edinburgh, & despite their being pretty au fait with a lot of the most "adventurous" music of the day, they found the experience of Hammill & the K Band live too raw...

  12. #12
    This plus Black Box which is criminally missing.
    I think Sitting Targets is definitely in my top 5 (exact ranking changes daily)
    Also one of my favourites is All That Came Before - what a fantastic release, a must for the fans of the more complicated side of PH

  13. #13
    Member The Czar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Udi Koomran View Post
    No idea why but Despite being a big fan of Mr. Hammill and VDGG in my highschool days in the 70’s I never properly revisited their catalog
    On the flight to Brussels Fool’s Mate popped up on my ipod
    So many light years later with much “insights” and milage I was struck by the sheer quality and originality of his song craft
    And especially by his vocals
    PH had such a wide range of tone and expression!
    I love the relative simplicity and popish nature of these songs
    Next up Nadir !
    Who else is joining my binge ?
    Are going chronologically?
    I got up to In A Foreign Town before I had to take a break. But I need to finish the rest and this would be a fun "music club" format.

  14. #14
    Listening more to this album
    Yes its quite different from what came later
    But it doesn’t strike me as premature at all
    These are well crafted songs The writing is distinct
    This album might be simple but not at all simplistic like some fans like to portray it
    And PH delivery is very impressive and does not sound like baby steps at all

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by The Czar View Post
    Are going chronologically?
    I got up to In A Foreign Town before I had to take a break. But I need to finish the rest and this would be a fun "music club" format.
    In A Foreign town for me is a low point in the vast PH discography, I find it a weak album...
    I love just about any other over it.

    RE Fools mate - a fantastic breath of fresh air, not the most quintessential PH but thats part of its charm- plus the great songwriting is definitely here in spades.

  16. #16
    Member thedunno's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flytomars View Post
    In A Foreign town for me is a low point in the vast PH discography, I find it a weak album...
    I love just about any over it.
    I agree that In a foreign town is one of his weaker efforts but it still has Hemlock, Sci-Finance, The play's the thing and Time to burn. All GREAT songs.

  17. #17
    This thread has prompted me to have a bit of a session listening to Hammill's output from the first half of the 70s.

    One thing I've discovered is that I never owned the original vinyl releases of either Silent Corner or In Camera, so these two records have remained relatively less familiar to me. (By contrast, I know virtually every note of Chameleon, having first bought it in my mid-teens)

    A lot of the songs, such as Modern, I've come to know mostly in various live renditions. It's fascinating to (re-)discover their studio incarnations, & to realise how much PH was already experimenting with sonics in the studio, with some pretty extraordinary results, in spite - or is that because?! - of the limited resources to hand.

    It's also fascinating to try to chart the solo journey that is taking shape, contrasting it with that of the VdGG that was (up to PH) & the VdGG to come (from Godbluff on) - especially with the more complex songs that evidently have band "potential" (like "Louse"). To my ears, there's a post-Pawn Hearts continuity of development through songs like Louse, which doesn't arrive anywhere close to Godbluff. The latter, if it's foreshadowed at all, may owe more to Rikki Nadir than "Louse" or "Comet". By contrast, a song like Sub Mariner seems already close both in spirit & execution to the music to be found on the groundbreaking solo records of the late 70s.

    It's astonishing to contemplate just how creative & productive PH was during these years, & how well the quality of the records stands up all these years later.
    Last edited by per anporth; 03-10-2020 at 06:45 AM.

  18. #18
    When I was 16 I bought a PH compilation of his early solo work called "Vision" on vinyl. It was a Passport records import that I found in the cutout bin for $2. I had recently purchased the Armando Gallo book about Genesis and I remembered seeing a photo of Hammill in it and was curious about his music. I had heard Pawn Hearts at my local library. It is a great intro to his early works and I still put it on occasionally. I've never come by a CD release of it.
    Last edited by the winter tree; 03-13-2020 at 08:54 PM.

  19. #19
    VDGG were rather under the radar when I was at secondary school (72-79) and the usual suspects of progressive rock ruled the roost with my peers. I had one compilation (68-71) which gathered the more accessible tracks, and I liked it a lot, but it took me a while to start to dig deeper into their catalogue. Silent Corner appealed because it had Randy California on, and I was a huge fan of Spirit and from there I went back to Fools Mate. Inspired by this thread I will have a listen to this early run of albums this weekend, because if there’s one thing we have more of today, it is time to explore books and music.

  20. #20
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunlight Caller View Post
    VDGG were rather under the radar when I was at secondary school (72-79) and the usual suspects of progressive rock ruled the roost with my peers. I had one compilation (68-71) which gathered the more accessible tracks, and I liked it a lot, but it took me a while to start to dig deeper into their catalogue. Silent Corner appealed because it had Randy California on, and I was a huge fan of Spirit and from there I went back to Fools Mate. Inspired by this thread I will have a listen to this early run of albums this weekend, because if there’s one thing we have more of today, it is time to explore books and music.
    yeah, pretty much under the radar on Quebec-Ontario in the later-70's as well, but one of the record store I was frequenting, the owner was always excellent advice, so he put Pawn Hearts in my hands. OK, too soon for me at the time, and The Least I Could Say Is What The Fuck Otherwise as it wasn't an instant hit with me. I didn't get rid of the album, and kept returning to it (without much luck) every second year or so, because I sensed that there was something undelying I didn't understand (same with Gentle Giant)
    It iturns out I had to wait the mid-90's to "get it", once I chanced upon Hammill playing solo in some extreme-left joint in Brussels and finally understood his voice. The second click was seeing the Godbluff Live and I then understood how the band functionned (especially Jaxon) as I needed to "see it" as well.

    From that moment onwards, I started getting all of their albums, but the only ones I ever owned as vinyls are Still Life, Pawn Hearts and Nadir - all bought in the 70/80's.
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

  21. #21
    Member The Czar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by the winter tree View Post
    When I was 16 I bought a PH compilation of his early solo work called "Vision" on vinyl. It was a Passport records import that I found in the cutout bin for $2. I had recently purchased the Armando Gallo book about Genesis and I remembered seeing a photo of Hammill in it and was curious about his music. I had heard Pawn Hearts at my local library. It is a great intro to his early works and I still put it on occasionally. I've never come by a CD release of it.
    Looks like it was only available on cassette & vinyl

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by per anporth View Post
    This thread has prompted me to have a bit of a session listening to Hammill's output from the first half of the 70s.

    One thing I've discovered is that I never owned the original vinyl releases of either Silent Corner or In Camera, so these two records have remained relatively less familiar to me. (By contrast, I know virtually every note of Chameleon, having first bought it in my mid-teens)
    Mine is almost the opposite, as I got a copy of Chameleon much later than the other two albums, and I also find it a lesser album.

    It's also fascinating to try to chart the solo journey that is taking shape, contrasting it with that of the VdGG that was (up to PH) & the VdGG to come (from Godbluff on) - especially with the more complex songs that evidently have band "potential" (like "Louse"). To my ears, there's a post-Pawn Hearts continuity of development through songs like Louse, which doesn't arrive anywhere close to Godbluff. The latter, if it's foreshadowed at all, may owe more to Rikki Nadir than "Louse" or "Comet". By contrast, a song like Sub Mariner seems already close both in spirit & execution to the music to be found on the groundbreaking solo records of the late 70s.
    I find there is a clear line of "epic" works going from "After the Flood" through "Plague" and "Louse" to Still Life and especially to "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End", all that frantic sections with the hymnal organ sections. The line perhaps indeed bypasses Godbluff.

    I think what creates the resemblance between some of In Camera stuff and the The Future Now / PH7 stage is the method of execution, that is Hammill essentially recording solo home and then going to a commercial studio to overdub synthesizer parts, all of which was considered pretty avant garde at the time by the studio engineers. The latter albums expanded on that approach, in that most of it was done at home, and became more experimental.

    Lyrically, I think you can tie the likes of "Undercover Man" and "Sleepwalkers" evolution of a more general and complex interest in psychological probing, which is more noticeable in the post-Over albums and peaks around Sitting Targets. "Comet" and "The Submariner" are perhaps the start of that process, a move away from the more traditional confessional lyrics of self-analysis and emotional outpouring (though of course Over pretty much brings that approach to its outer limits).

    It's astonishing to contemplate just how creative & productive PH was during these years, & how well the quality of the records stands up all these years later.
    Absolutely.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by the winter tree View Post
    When I was 16 I bought a PH compilation of his early solo work called "Vision" on vinyl. It was a Passport records import that I found in the cutout bin for $2. I had recently purchased the Armando Gallo book about Genesis and I remembered seeing a photo of Hammill in it and was curious about his music. I had heard Pawn Hearts at my local library. It is a great intro to his early works and I still put it on occasionally. I've never come by a CD release of it.
    No, the label had lost the rights to that material by the time CD's came around. It's a great used-bin album though.

  24. #24
    I like all the up-tempo tracks, the odd-numbered cuts on each side. His liveliest and most tuneful pre-1975 solo release.

  25. #25
    Progga mogrooves's Avatar
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    An outlier in the Hammill oeuvre but not without charm.
    Hell, they ain't even old-timey ! - Homer Stokes

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