Esoteric Recordings Mark Powell takes us through the unboxing of a new re-mastered limited edition boxed set of the classic debut album by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, THE AEROSOL GREY MACHINE.
Van Der Graaf Generator were true pioneers of so-called Progressive rock, and their impressive career spanning five decades features many ground-breaking works. Always progressing stylistically in the true sense of the word, Van Der Graaf Generator’s music remains inspirational. Formed in Manchester University in 1967, VDGG initially featured Peter Hammill (vocals, guitar), Chris Judge Smith (drums, vocals) and Nick Pearne (organ). The band signed to Mercury Records in May 1968 after the submission of a two-track demo tape. Nick Pearne departed the fold and Hammill and Smith relocated to London recruiting keyboard player Hugh Banton. By the Autumn of 1968 the band had signed a management contract with Tony Stratton-Smith and had recruited drummer Guy Evans and bassist Keith Ellis into the group. This line-up recorded the single ‘People You Were Going To’ & ‘Firebrand’ in 1968 and a session for BBC Radio One, before Chris Judge Smith departed. The ‘People You Were Going To’ single, issued in January 1969, was withdrawn just days after release due a contractual dispute with Mercury Records.
After several months of touring, including a support spot for the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Royal Albert Hall, the band broke up after the theft of their equipment and on-going contractual difficulties. THE AEROSOL GREY MACHINE sessions began life as an intended solo album for Peter Hammill, featuring Banton, Evans and Ellis as session players. However, the album appeared in September 1969 in USA only credited to VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR as part of a contractual settlement which enabled the band to sign to Tony Stratton-Smith’s newly formed Charisma label later that year (for whom they would record a series of classic albums). A planned UK release by Mercury of THE AEROSOL GREY MACHINE (which featured a different and lavish gatefold sleeve design) was shelved after a handful of test pressings were made.
This deluxe set celebrates the 50th anniversary of the very first VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR release and features the re-mastered album, an additional CD of rare & previously unreleased tracks including two previously unreleased demos from 1967, the complete BBC Radio Top Gear session from 1968 (including the “lost” previously unreleased version of ‘Octopus’) & the single tracks ‘People You Were Going To’ and ‘Firebrand’, a facsimile 180 gram vinyl LP of “The Aerosol Grey Machine” (cut at Abbey Road Studios) housed in the impossibly rare unreleased British gatefold sleeve design, a 7-inch single of the very rare withdrawn release ‘People You Were Going To’ b/w ‘Firebrand’, a lavish book with many previously unseen photos and cuttings and an essay by Sid Smith featuring an exclusive interview with Peter Hammill and a replica 1968 poster designed by Peter Hammill.