PETER HAMMILL   TYPICAL   solo performances
Disc 1

01. My Room (7:30)
02. Curtains (6:05)
03. Just Good Friends (3:46)
04. Too Many Of My Yesterdays (4:23)
05. Vision (4:31)
06. Time To Burn (5:08)
07. The Comet, The Course, The Tail (9:12)
08. I Will Find You (3:55)
09. Ophelia (4:13)
10. Given Time (4:45)
11. Modern (9:29)

Total playing time: 73:02

Disc 2

01. Time For A Change (4:14) (Steve Robshaw/C.J. Smith)
02. Patient (8:43)
03. Stranger Still (5:51)
04. Our Oyster (5:46)
05. Shell (4:44)
06. A Way Out (9:06)
07. Traintime (6:10)
08. The Future Now (26:32)

Total playing time: 71:06

Bonus (hidden) tracks:

09. Afterwards (6:40)
10. Darkness (4:50)
11. Central Hotel (6:12

Peter Hammill: Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals

Produced by Peter Hammill
Live Mixing by Paul Ridout

Recorded live in Salzburg, Austria, 30/03/92; Hildsheim, Germany, 8/04/92; Hamburg, Germany, 9/04/92; Bochum, Germany, 12/04/92; Utrecht, Netherlands, 15/04/92; Nijmegen, Netherlands, 17/04/92; The Hague, Netherlands, 18/04/92; Amsterdam, Netherlands, 21/04/92; Rovereto, Italy, 11/12/92.

Compiled, edited & mastered at Terra Incognita
Art & design by RidArt

'Interspersed with band/duo/trio activities I've been performing solo shows on a regular basis since 1968. Several of these have appeared (in the usual predictably scrappy form) on various bootlegs. This collection of songs is the first official version of whatever it is I do, wherever it is I go, alone on stage.
Of course, there isn't really any such thing as a "typical" show. The song list changes from night to night, usually only decided upon about an hour before the performance. Even those songs which are "regulars" at any given time receive different treatments & approaches night by night - after all, this is what keeps them vital & which makes each performance unique. Once a song becomes completely "known" & static it's time to bid it farewell, even if only temporarily. The stretching of the shape of a song, the different light that comes from it when juxtaposed with others are the things which interest me in all performance, but particularly in solo mode. Here, the onus of responsibility falls primarily on the voice: my bare keyboard & guitar arrangements leave that free to roam....

All the performances here were recorded in 1992. I accumulated a large number of recordings from this period & finally got round to examining them last year. (I've never having been one who likes to hear last night's show as soon as it's done, as I'm already looking forward to the next one; once I finish a tour I'm into the work of the future, be it touring or recording, & am generally content to let the past lie....) Having realised that some recorded evidence of solo shows was missing from "the collection", it finally fell to me to pay attention to whatever had been captured on tape. Of course, I discovered a wealth of material & a number of startling versions of songs which formed the then backbone of my live "catalogue". In a somewhat daunting exercise of librarianship I assembled & edited the best of these into a pool from which to select a representative body of work.

Still I ended up with hours of stuff: many "good" versions of my "standards" & several genuine oddities & extreme moments. In the end I decided that I should approach the project in much the same way as I would a show. The last show of a tour, perhaps: "play" all those songs which featured most strongly in the preceding period. To that extent, then, this is indeed a typical performance. Neither note - nor lyric-accurate; absolutely un-definitive; as present tense as it's possible for me to make it.

A few words about the winds which blew around these shows: most songs come from a month-long (Northern) European tour. Although the majority of the shows were solo ones as documented here I was joined - half-way through - for two or three performances by an ad hoc group of David Lord, Stuart Gordon & Nic Potter in order to present versions of songs from "Fireships" (then the current album) more musically fleshed than I could manage alone. I mention this only because the anticipation & remembrance of working within a group context made me singularly aware of the nature of alone-ness in the solo concerts & certainly spurred me on to greater efforts in them...also to explain my playing of electric, rather than acoustic guitar.

As I've intimated above, there are always different winds: each show & each tour are different of necessity as far as I'm concerned. If the what-I-do were ever to fall into a comfortably predictable pattern I'd be the first one out of the door. So I set up traps & challenges for myself in order to hold the dogs of boredom & repetition at bay. I try to shock myself into being & staying 'awake', even if that means making mistakes (ranging from simple errors of judgement to pure ham-fistedness) along the way. What's on these CDs is evidence, I believe, of some of that effort.

And now, Ladies & Gentlemen...

It's probably right that I should give some indication of the feelings & motivations that flit across that part of my mind which is not (deeply) engaged in the performance in the course of a show. None of this, of course, should deflect attention from the essence of the matter but it might serve at least as background material for further consideration. I should also say that these observations are somewhat unreliable: I simply don't have time for that much analysis or observation while I'm on stage alone. Nonetheless, this is some of the stuff I think/have thought....

I will have made my mind blank before I go on stage. That's the first thing. Any Other Stuff would undoubtedly get in the way of what's about to happen. Then - in whatever circumstances the show is taking place - there's the familiar push away from the edge of the cliff & onto the stage. This is a known, if unpredictable, world for me.

I normally start on piano & I normally start with something familiar. My Room is a piece I've played for many years, to the extent that it now feels more like a solo song than a Van der Graaf one, although it originally appeared on Still Life. It's not exactly a gentle introduction to an evening, but it gives me an opportunity to feel my way into the sound & ambience, the "how I am & how it is tonight", in a gradual fashion. The shape of the song is such that it's not possible to coast: a couple of minutes in & I have to be totally engaged - technically, as singer & musician, & emotionally, as performer. By the time it's done I will always be well under way.

It's followed here (as often in performance) by two other 'room' songs - that's to say pieces which take place in the setting of a room, with the storyline of the situation gradually emerging in the course of the song. I will, therefore, be settling into the rooms of which the songs speak & also into the physical room I & the audience element of collusion is necessary for a sense of dramatic intimacy.

Both Curtains & Just Good Friends signal uncertain endings. From a performance point of view these, as the subsequent Too Many of my Yesterdays require an actor's adoption of character to be delivered properly. Naturally, this does not mean that I'm faking them; rather, they are inhabiting me. Vision, one of the oldest things I play, completes a quintet of love songs at the start of the show'; again, I have to put myself wholeheartedly into the spirit of the song in order for it to work at all.

For me there's something pictorial about all these first songs: I get clear images of the rooms & the situations as I'm singing. Maybe it's of interest...the shifts in impetus which I feel while performing them relate to the physical form of the images. Sometimes they're high-contrast black & white, sometimes grainy; if in colour, they veer from Eastmancolour through to (dreamed) naturalism. Sometimes they're in full focus, sometimes blurred at the edge of the frame. Sometimes 8mm. jerky, sometimes flary video. That's the magic lantern of song for you.

Starting with such a sequence of love/character songs, of fleeting visual images, serves much the same function as does the slow burn into My Room: a gradual absorption of the night's atmosphere, the opportunity to try on different sets of clothes.

Time to Burn, the last song in the first piano set here, begins to move things into a more general direction. A shift. By now I will almost certainly be comfortable in my discomfort & fully focussed on the job in hand; at the same time, I will have begun to forget myself. If things have not already started to fly, they should do so now....

And so, the move to guitar. As I've said, in all of these performances (somewhat uncharacteristically) I'm playing electric rather than acoustic, but the function of a shift in gear & perspective remains the same. The Comet, another 'traditional' opener, again gives me an opportunity to settle into things with the perspective of a change in instrument (and location), before ending up in an absolutely full-on state. Because Comet, once begun, proceeds fairly rapidly into helter-skelter it's a great song with which to convert to guitar. The sheer physicality of the instrument is hard to describe...hands striking strings rather than keys are evidently more immediate, yet the fulcrum of physicality with guitar is often a point somewhere off the right shoulder; or the balance is in the exact positioning of the feet. The geometry of the whole thing becomes really important here; if it's wrong then the guitar can never be an adjunct of one's own body, which is the only way it can work. Forgive me, I drifted there, for a moment, into the absolute this is how it feels, which is particularly (physically) evident with guitar songs....

After the blast of The Comet (or whatever other song occupies this slot, which will normally have fulfilled most of the functions or established the criteria outlined above) I usually like have a song or so of comparative calm. Here there are three such pieces: I will find you & Ophelia are both love songs of sorts & Given Time (included here because it was typical of the period - having been played in the aforementioned group format, which rang in my ears even through these solo versions - rather than as a song which has been played many times over the years) is somewhat more meditative.

By this stage in proceedings one is beginning to look for another epic blast on guitar, usually the last one before returning to piano. Here comes Modern , featuring something of a rarity: some way into the song the guitar begins to control the keyboard & one finds oneself in absolutely NOT acoustic guitar, singer-songwriter territory. I've never wished to be hamstrung by the chase for technological breakthrough, but every so often it's interesting to see how envelopes can be stretched.... Soon, though, what passes for normality returns & then it's full-pelt all the way to the end, tonsils to the world.

This is the end of the first CD. In normal circumstances, as I've said, it would probably be the end of the guitar set as well. But we're not in normal circumstances, so CD 2 starts with the Chris Judge Smith song Time for a Change, which I've long found a good structural piece to slip into the architecture of a set as simultaneous hold-up & accelerator.

Patient follows - again, a traditional guitar set closer. As with Modern, things get pretty wild in there. This version particularly so. There's a lot of space to roam in this tune....

And it's back to piano. Stranger Still is a song which is easy to inhabit on stage, if demanding on lungs, fingers & inspiration. In some ways it's talking about the very act of singing; certainly the strangeness of the event in which it's taking place is central to the performance. Because one's in sight of the end any remaining caution can now be thrown to the winds....

And yet there's still time for a few serious words.… Our Oyster & Shell are next: these pieces are more declamatory than actor-ly & are typical of the material I would choose at this point in a set, as considered breaths before the gathering of energies for the close. That's far from saying that they're not dangerous to play. Both have hidden traps & instant demands on resolve & technique. Played low down in the order like this they're more likely to be filled with emotion rather than consideration.

In sight of the finishing tape. A Way Out is a piece I've often played last or next-to-last. It runs somewhat counter to the general theory of 'crank it up for the finish', but I find that something of intimacy like this gives a firm final stamp to the evening. I think I should let this moment of quiet focus speak far itself.

And a closer: in any period of playing, I'll usually finish with a particular song, so that the set is completed in a familiar way. (You will, perhaps, have gathered by now that the choice of songs is as much to do with my own consideration of the shape & dynamic course of an evening as it is to do with their own individual merits - reason enough, I've always felt, for me to ignore the sometime calling for requests, which will nearly always throw the picture out of joint....) Traintime has often been one of these. It's such an energetic song to perform that I can really feel I've given my all by its conclusion. Actually, the breath is normally completely taken away!

And of course there's an encore, usually. I still don't regard the encore as part of the set, so one is never chosen beforehand; nor, indeed, do I regard it as an obligatory part of proceedings. But there usually is one. Things can go in several ways at this point: something rare, something calming & sensitive.. .or another blast. In this 'tonight' it's a blast: The Future Now. Hup! Hup! Hup!
So it's over till the next. And Finally

A few final points: in most cases, the performances are complete. Only two songs are edited from one physical location to another: Curtains & Just Good Friends….but I can no longer tell where the edits come. In order to get some sense of cohesion - although not of actual audio verite - applause from one place has sometimes been appended to or precedes a performance from another. The applause is also truncated between Traintime & the 'encore' of The Future Now: I do usually make it my business to go back to the dressing room rather than hovering the in the wings to soak up the applause!

I'm not, though, trying to pretend that this is all one performance…the sound & tenor changes themselves deny that. I've also stripped away any chat/announcements/expressions of thanks of my own from the recordings. It remains my belief that I'm there to play rather than to talk & I am in any case at my most On Stage when I'm immersed in a song rather than emerging from it. Nothing I said could explain the music better, I hope, than it does for itself. Nonetheless I hereby I express my thanks to all the audiences here present!

Finally, the performances here are not, of course, definitive. In nearly all cases, they've bent the original songs into somewhat unfamiliar shapes. In general, I've given favour to those renderings which are most dramatic, I suppose: those in which I've inhabited the characters involved most fully. I suppose it's possible that some of these will never be played again; others will doubtless make many more appearances on stage. Whatever: all of them have or have had their lives, with which mine has run in parallel.

That's what I do on stage, especially solo: inhabit the lives of songs, trying to make each performance unique. I hope you find some of that effort pinned down, butterfly-like, here. What a modest little sentiment, quite unlike those of that stage man....

Huh, typical!' (PH).

(P) © 1999 FIE! Records

FIE! Records