My Record Collection: novelist and Hawkwind fan Martin Millar
Glasgow-born, but known for his Brixton-based cosmic punk fiction, the novelist with the award-winning sci-fi alter ego Martin Scott blows the pixie dust from his proggier pleasures.
“The first time I realised I was listening to something that wasn’t pop music was when an older friend played me Emerson Lake & Palmer. I was 13 and I lived in a nice suburb of Glasgow called Bishopbriggs. In those days, bands toured a lot more regularly and I saw many in Glasgow in Green’s Playhouse, an old cinema that held a few thousand people and, unusually, wasn’t licensed – great for us 13, 14 and 15-year-olds. My first gig there was ELP, with the older boy who’d played me the record, and his younger brother, who was my school friend. It was quite a spectacle: Emerson wearing the long boots, a garment quite unknown for a young man in Glasgow. Then there were the two keyboards at once, and getting underneath the instrument, plus sticking the knife in to hold the note. That show was great.
After that, me and my school friends all became big music fans very quickly. An album cost £2, and if you did a paper round, like I did, you could save up for one quite quickly. In town there were the record shops Bruce’s and Listen and a few more. We’d read NME and Sounds, see which bands were coming to the Playhouse and buy tickets – a couple of times I queued all night for Led Zeppelin tickets. We’d listen to the records belonging to our older siblings – Faces and Rolling Stones – but it wasn’t quite our music. We preferred the newer heavy rock of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Zep, but I seem to have known Yes and Close To The Edge all my life. At that time I was fantastically impressed by people’s good musicianship – at some point I’d realise there was more to music than that – and the Roger Dean covers also impressed me.
I loved album covers and later, when CDs came along, I certainly felt a disconnect with music because of the shrinking artwork. It all seemed very exciting – and unusual for a side of an album to be one song. CTTE must be the epitome of prog but there was one thing it lacked – it didn’t have the raw power of Hawkwind.
I have a powerful memory of the Space Ritual tour: there was Lemmy, there was Stacia – fully clothed, to our disappointment – bubbles were coming off the stage and liquid lights were swirling everywhere. The music was so physically powerful, my ears were ringing for days afterwards. I already liked science fiction thanks to my older brother’s collection, but finding a band that managed to fit that in… well, they did a pretty good version with space poetry by Michael Moorcock. I’ve listened to Space Ritual thousands oftimes and never gone off it. Hawkwind weren’t brilliant technical musicians, though, so already I was aware that there were different ways of approaching talent. They also made a lot of funny electronic noises alongside the masterful huge tunes and that was a huge draw for me.