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The Vinyl Issue: Peter Hammill

Riots, UFOs and heart attacks: Peter Hammill recalls life in Van der Graaf Generator, and explains why he re-formed the band while continuing his own restless, experimental solo career.

We’re in Padua, Italy, in 1975, and Van der Graaf Generator are starting to grasp that they’ve finally gone too far out and may not make it back alive.

Five thousand of the fans who took the band’s majestically ferocious, beyond-prog album Pawn Hearts to No.1 in Italy are roaring with approval. But up in the rafters of the abandoned factory where they’re playing, hooded intruders are throwing metal bolts and bricks down on the band. Blinded by stage lights, the musicians can’t see the potentially fatal missiles until they smash onto their instruments. Their assailants might be fascists or communists. The band continue playing extreme music that seems built to deal with such forces. They’ve been heading towards a crash like this for a while.

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