I like groups who have the ability to take themselves lightly but still produce wonderful music. Focus is certainly one of them. Their most successful hit was “Hocus Pocus“. With all the crazy elements they put into the piece, their music and their playing is superb. They were formed by Thijs van Leer the organist and flute player. Watch them on a live TV show from the 70’s playing, van Leer is on the “special effects“:
It made me laugh to tears at the time. The full version is a bit slower and stretches over more time:
Another Focus famous piece is Sylvia. Both Hocus Pocus and Sylvia were incorporated into commercials and movies:
The original Genesis line-up in 1967, with Anthony Phillips, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel and Chris Stewart. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Rhythm is one of the things that get me in music. The more a-symmetric the rhythm the more it draws me into it and the more I feel the need to decipher it.
“Apocalypse in 9/8 (Co-Starring the Delicious Talents of Gabble Ratchet)” is an extraordinary piece of music which is actually the 6th part in Genesis’ Supper’s Ready (Originally from Foxtrot). The Apocalypse is played in 9/8 meaning 9 beats in a bar. It is very complex and hard to follow for the untrained ear. As you can imagine it had a magnetic effect me. The rhythm plus the organ sound and the out of sync melodies heard in the background draw me completely into the music. It’s almost like a religious experience.
I never really searched on what was is behind the Apocalypse. Only now when writing this post, I looked at Wikipedia under “Supper’s Ready”. It all became clear: “In an interview, Peter Gabriel summed up “Supper’s Ready” as “a personal journey which ends up walking through scenes from Revelation in the Bible….I’ll leave it at that”.
Drums are used in tribal ceremonies as a mean to get the audience excited, a similar effect exist in modern days popular music. If rock music was a religion then the “Apocalypse in 9/8” would definitely qualify for its Mass.
To get to Foxtrot on amazon please click here.
Cover of Tubular Bells
Now where did Mike Oldfield go? If I had enough patience to watch the opening ceremony of the London Olympics I could have seen him there…
The hours I spend listening to Tubular Bells… Almost all of its first part is instrumental but at the end, Oldfield “invites” each instrument one by one to join the music. The last to join is of course the Tubular Bells. This brings the 1st part to a wonderful, yet still gentle climax. The 2nd part features a very musically gifted caveman and the cheerful tune of the Sailor’s Hornpipe. You’ve got to listen to it to understand.
Tubular Bells was the first record to appear on Richard Branson’s Virgin Records in 1973. Its opening theme also appeared on the soundtrack of The Exorcist.
It was nice to see how the two parts are about 20 something minutes long. Just enough to fit one side of a vinyl record.
Mike Oldfield is still active, now that I know where he is I have some musical catching up to do…
Click here to get to Tubular Bells on Amazon
Heard Camel‘s Rhayader on my cable’s music channels. It was great hearing them again. I’m always impressed by how much Progressive Rock groups were able to get inspired by Classical Music without loosing their own touch and sound. Camel’s Rhayader is a good example to that.
The following YouTube video shows Camel live doing Rhayader and then Rhayader Goes To Town live in 1977.
Click here to go to the The Snow Goose album on Amazon
Pink Floyd—The Wall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Saw a real good documentary on the history of the rock last night. 60’s to 80’s rock to be precise. History of music in general is all about the continuous chains of inspirations and influences, starting as early as the dawn of humankind. The program’s starting point was Syd Barret and his influence on Pink Floyd, David Bowie, all the way to Roxy Music.
Watching this excellent program you can understand who did what and to whom but as I’m sure you’ll agree, to really understand music you need to spend much more than one hour listening to it.
The constant tension between the search for the right form of expression and the way the audience perceive them, haunted musicians long before the 60’s. Roger Waters wanted to protest against the rioting crowd at the grandiose Pink Floyd performances. In order to prove the disconnection between the group and its crowd, he conceived the idea of building The Wall, live on concert, to symbolize this gap (as well as other ideas). Continue reading