|PETER HAMMILL PH7||
01. My Favourite (2:52)
02. Careering (4:06)
03. Porton Down (3:41)
04. Mirror Images (3:51)
05. Handicap And Equality (3:56)
06. Not For Keith (2:25)
07. The Old School Tie (5:07)
08. Time For A Change (3:15)
09. Imperial Walls (4:16)
10. Mr. X (Gets Tense) (5:13)
11. Faculty X (4:58)
Total playing time: 43:44
All tracks by Hammill except 8 (Steve Robshaw/C.J. Smith) & 9 (trad./Hammill)
Graham Smith: Violin (1,3,10,11)
David Jackson: Saxophone & Flute (2,3,11)
All other instruments & voices by Peter Hammill
Produced & engineered by Peter Hammill
Mix engineering by Pat Moran
Recorded at Sofa Sound, Wiltshire spring 1979 (8-track analogue)
Mixed at Rockfield, Monmouth spring 1979
Cover design by Barney Bubbles
Photo: by Dan Kirk
'pH7' was, of course, the eighth solo album, not the seventh. As a measure of acidity/alkalinity pH7 signifies perfect neutral balance; but these recordings are neither neutral nor balanced. The album is, therefore, both jokey and in disguise.
Stylistically the songs follow on from 'The Future Now' in terms of topics, arrangements and delivery. Now, of course, the band had finally folded and I was effectively on the career path (?) which has continued to this day.
By now we had moved to Wiltshire and Sofa Sound, as studio, had its most stable environment to date. The system was still the 8-track and I'd gradually started accumulating outboard, fx and instruments, including a small drum kit.
I started recording with more finished or near-finished songs than I had for 'TFN', but there was still space for a lot of improvisational discovery. As a result the album divides more or less evenly between traditional and radical work.
'My favourite', the opener, is something of a lightweight song, having as its centre the conceit of favourite as preference and as gamble. Nothing wrong with a pop song, still, as far as I'm concerned! This is probably the first time that I felt confident enough to instruct Graham to play an exact part; in other words, the start of orchestration per se.
'Careering' features the Best Wah-wah pedal in the world. It's an Electro-harmonix and is still going strong.
I used to drive past the turn-off for 'Porton Down' whenever I went up to London. Naturally, then, the subject sprang to mind. It doesn't give me the slightest glimmer of satisfaction that now, late in 2001, chemical and biological weapons are in everyone's minds. This stuff has been staring us in the face for decades; I always believed it more of a threat to humanity than the nuclear one and continue to do so. Jackson & Smith had to overdub their parts simultaneously and in one take for this. Another found/recovered piece of which I'm very fond. This, incidentally, was the first piece of mine that John (Fury) Ellis ever encountered.
'Mirror Images' appeared on 'Vital'. I didn't feel that that version did the song justice, quite, hence this revisitation. It's often been played live and still somehow there *is* no definitive version.
'Handicap & Equality' is almost a folk song and its sentiments are fairly clear. Sonically it's notable for my 'cha-cha in the living-room' organ...definitely not a Hammond!
'Not for Keith'. I've noted elsewhere that I owe Keith Ellis a great deal. He was the first real working musician I'd worked with and I must have tried his patience. Nonetheless his generosity of spirit led him to teach me a lot. He was definitely not made for middle age. He died in mid-tour of Germany.
Oh, yeah, has the world of politics got more and more like that depicted in 'The Old School Tie' or what? Those b right young men...
'Time for a change' was an old song of Judge's. It seemed to fit in naturally with the other stuff here. Again, I've often played it live.
As the recording was drawing to a close, with mixing impending, I still hadn't found any lyrics at all for 'Imperial Walls', still working purely on the Sonix. On a visit to the Roman Baths in Bath I saw the text inscribed on the wall; apparently it had been written about Bath after it was abandoned by the Romans. I wrote it down on the spot, went back to the studio and it slotted into place immediately. It was only later that I remembered I had known it for many years, since my youthful infatuation with things Anglo-Saxon (and, indeed, Icelandic).
'Mr. X' and 'Faculty X' are a segue. Perhaps these were the first tentative gestures towards writing what one might call 'epics' a la VdGG. Until this point, I'd been somewhat reluctant to do go anywhere near this territory. 'Mr X' remains contemporary, I feel; 'Faculty X' takes Colin Wilson's work as its basis. Loads of loops and stuff on these, again sheer exuberant noise. The drumming's pretty strange, I admit...but I wanted to find out about it! By this time I was pushing the 8-track solo-recording method just about as far as it could go....
Not, all in all, the recordings that Charisma wanted out of me in order to 'further my career'. In fact, this was to be my last album for them. Thanks to grace, luck and a fair degree of pig-headedness, though, the future path was now set. As a pair of recordings 'pH7' and 'The Future Now' were both a liberation and a sure sign of what I ought to attempt in the future.
And a cover note. The photographs were all taken late at night in NYC. As we left Dan's place in search of a cab Graham and I ran into some trouble from which, frankly, we were lucky to escape. On such strange happenstance everything hangs. - PH
(P) © 1979 Charisma Records Ltd.