A few nights ago I had an uncontrollable urge to listen to “Sylvia” so I put on this:
Half a side later I had a major Duh! Moment when I realised that, like half of the UK, I’d thought the theme for Saxondale was something by Jethro Tull, and not "House of the King" by Focus.
Well, I say half the UK, but, in truth, I suspect only myself and 8 other people actually watched it. To be honest, I found I had a great deal of empathic resonance with a middle-aged past-it ex-roadie with serious anger management issues (and who suffers from Repetitive Failure Syndrome). Plus, there were lots of music jokes, some more arcane than others: 20 seconds into the first episode there was a great joke about Brian Eno that involved swearing. I think I was hooked from that point on.
The scene with the stun-gun and the animal-rights protester had me weeping w/ laughter. Who’s not wanted to do that? That’s when I realised that, in some strange way, I was rooting for the character.
I was kinda hoping that the use of Focus instead of Tull was an intentional joke by the producers, meant to wrongfoot any saddo musos like me who actually watched the program (after all, "Living in the Past" is one of the programs main themes/motifs). But I suspect that what actually happened was that Ian Anderson's publishers prob. asked for too much money to use the piece. Plus: any serious muso saddoes would've spotted it wasn't Tull straight off.
But, anyway, I don’t want to talk about TV (or whatever we’re calling it since it died…); I want to talk about Focus.
I was lucky enough to have seen them in the mid-70s (at The Johnson Hall, Yeovil!) and, trust me, they were fabulous, but I do feel slightly cheated in that it was the later line-up featuring Philip Catherine on guitar (who I seem to remember did a solo accoustic spot) and not Jan Akkerman. Akkerman is a massively underrated guitarist, isn’t he? I love the fluidity of his playing and the warm liquid guitar tones he can invoke (tho he can be choppy and incisive too): he’s like the Dutch Mick Ronson (or the Anti-Matter early 70s Eric Clapton)… and “Sylvia” is just sooo beautiful…think I’ll play it next time I DJ, maybe back-to-back w/ something by Danny Weed. I think that might work.
And, yeah, so anyway, Thijs Van Leer did his yodelling thing at the Johnson Hall. Van Leer was Irmin Schmidt without the telepathic chops and the custom-built Farfisa gear; he was more composerly, writing pseudo-chamber-rock concept pieces; wh/ is what a post-Can Schmidt is doing now (Gormenghast, et cetera), except that these were early/mid-70s pseudo-chamber-rock concept pieces, so they kinda worked. Everything kinda worked back then, apart from Britain.
He also played the flute exceptionally well, did Van Leer, and, yes, he yodelled.
I think he may have also unintentionally birth'd The Enid; but that's not his fault. Schmidt, of course, studied under Stockhausen and Berio at the Cologne Music Academy, whereas Van Leer went to the Amsterdam Conservatorium; he later attended the Geneva Conservatoire where he studied flute, organ and orchestration.
I had a Thijs Van Leer solo LP in my mid-teens (Prob. "Introspection") that I’d bought new in the old much-missed Princes Street incarnation of Acorn Records. It was probably in Chris n Rob’s bargin-bin. I sold it when I was an impoverished student, along w/ a lot of other things, including my soul. I’ll probably have to buy it again some time, an act that seems strangely inevitable. A bit like Repetitive Failure Syndrome.
I wish I’d bought “Kraan: Live” and “Andy Nogger” when I saw them too.