Ork Alarm! # 28
An Irregular Bulletin for Zeuhl Fanatics
- Magma Links
- Rio Links
- Zeuhl Links
Is it possible that one’s current personal musical tastes mirror one’s hairstyle? I’ve noticed a growing trend in my musical playlist. Or should I say a “receeding line”? I’m going back to my roots. I’m not talking Hermans Hermits and The Swinging Blues Jeans, I’m thinking more post pubescent Afgan Coated Prog Rock.
I was born 50 miles from Canterbury, Kent in 1957, perfect timing to be affected by the now ledgendary bands that turned “Canterbury” from a city into a genre. Not for me Roxy Music, Cockney Rebel and Deep Purple. No, Soft Machine, Caravan and all points North of a town in Hertfordshire was my bag. How lucky I was to have fallen for the unfasionable. As a teenager, my weekend hobby changed track. Instead of jumping off the train at Charlton for the football it was all the way to Charing Cross, the walk past Trafalgar Square towards Tottenham Court Road, turn left into Oxford Street, a few shops up on the right ,avoiding the smell of other Afgan Coated individuals (they were made from the hide of Afagan dogs weren’t they?) and there it was! The crappiest little shoe shop in town. Full of Glam Rock stack heels and latest trend multicoloured leather uppers, but what lurked up that back staircase was a revelation. Virgin Records didn’t start as a megastore but this was still a Dr Who’s Tardis full of Alternative music. Where else could you buy a Gong album for 59p? Where else had the first two Magma LP’s? Blimey! They actually let you listen to the record on headphones! It was a unique musical era that could never occur again. Well at least not for me ….
The pivotal moment in the shaping of my musical taste came one night at the Chalk Farm Roundhouse, London. Having dismmissed MDK as “pants” after auditioning the LP at a school friend’s house a few months before, I found myself paying for the privilage of seeing Magma perform! Minor stars (?) on the Canterbury scene, Isotope, were the support band that evening for Magma and after enjoying their set, another likeminded school friend and I were all set for an early trip home with no danger of missing that last train. I don’t know why we stayed, perhaps it was to get our money’s worth, perhaps it was because of the cold concrete steps at the Farm that acted as seating, Whatever the reason, while we were waiting for the feeling in our legs to return … Vander, Blasquiz, Top et al hit the stage…… we sat down again and witnessed the most astonishing concert I have ever been fortunate enough to attend and I’ve never quite been the same since!
I wish I had a good memory. OK. I remember Jannick Top breaking a string, I remember attaining a trance like state during what might have been Mekanïk Zain or an extended section of MDK?? I’d totally lost myself in the music. I can still remember the atmosphere. To describe this is way beyond my literary capabilities but the fact that I can still recall something that happened 30 years ago is testamant to its pride of place in my own life. I remember the energy and the powerful repetitive rhythms but just as important the softer vocal sections. I remember the buzz in the room, like new disciples at a revelation seeing the light. Best of all, I remember leaving the building in a daze, not caring if there was another train back to Abbey Wood Station ever again. And now as I write this, Oh! I wish I had a Time Machine. Thank you Magma, Thank you Christian Vander and Thank you Isotope!!
I became a Magma convert overnight. I quickly snapped up every Album plus the 45 Mekanïk Machine on UK A&M and my Gentle Giant Albums were pushed slightly further back in the cupboard. The following year (I think) we attended another Magma Concert back at the Farm. My feelings were not all that different, albeit that we knew roughly what to expect. The highlight for me of this second coming, just had to be “Lihns”. I can still see Christian Vander sitting, facing me on Keyboards.
The crowd excitement that preceeds a Magma concert is still with us. In a recent issue of the excellent Prog Magazine “Expose” a review of Progfest 2003 gave Magma the ultimate accolade. Which was, that attending a Magma concert was more than just listening to a band playing music, it was a Musical Experience, which leads me on to last year’s big contentious topic on the Avant-Progressive yahoo group.
Why Guapo? Well, I wonder if history may have repeated itself. I’m not attempting to put Guapo in the same league as Magma, but someplace in the UK, a new music fan (probably not dressed in an Afgan) will have walked into a Guapo Concert and left it a changed person. There is every likelyhood that this music has sledgehammered it’s way into the awareness of the occasional young music fan, most of whom will have never heard of Magma, Vander, Top, Zero or Zoyd. There’s nothing quite like the discovery of a “new style” of music. What marvellous moments they have ahead of them!
But the question for the experienced Zeuhl fan is; “What of Guapo and their latest release Five Suns”? Are they a true Zeuhl Band or are they plagiarists? From an afficianodo’s point of view, no band have ever captured/copied the raw feeling of “Zeuhl / Magma” quite like Guapo, but have they overstepped the mark? Are certain sections of “Five Suns” just too similar to be truly appreciated? Whilst plagiarism could be considered the greatest compliment an artist can get, from a musical perspective, originality should always be crowned king. It’s been interesting reading the postings on the Avant-Progressive list. Views seem split down the middle. If you haven’t heard “Five Suns” then you have a fascinating audition to look forward to. Two things spring to mind; Has Chrisitan Vander has heard “Five Suns” and I wonder what Paul Mummery would have written about it?
Personally, I think “Five Suns” is a welcome addition to the fold but I am certainly not against the views of fans who consider Magma the only real Zeuhl Band. It would be correct to state that “Zeuhl” is not and never was, just about instrumentation or bass playing or a distinctive vocal style. The whole Magma package was and still is unique. Zeuhl is Magma and Magma is Zeuhl. So to some extent it is disrespectful to Christian Vander to call other bands “Zeuhl” and likewise it could be considered disrespectful to those bands to pidgeonhole them as “Zeuhl”. Perhaps “Zeuhlike” could catch on in the pubs?
The Ork Alarm! Fanzine was by neccessity a mixed bag. It contained any scrap of news, reviews and articles on the extended Zeuhl music family. As editor, Paul Mummery was obviously the main contributor of any original material, but lots of items were reprinted from other publications. It is doubtful whether permission for use was sought, or granted in many of these cases. It is also doubtful whether any relevent body knew or gave a hoot! The Fanzine had a very limited circulation and the original writers would probably have been delighted that the article had found its spiritual home. The advent of the internet has challenged many areas of life to “keep up the pace”, none more so than the world of Music. There has never been a better time to discover and audition music that you may never have known existed. There’s a plethora of superb, comprehensive Progressive Websites out there in WWWLand waiting for an explorational hit or two from you. The review world is certainly your oyster. Of course, pre-Internet, had you had the inclination and time, you too could have sought out Zeuhl articles. Nowadays it’s a piece of piss! You’re only a search engine and a couple of clicks away from information overload! Still, it’s nice to have things delivered on a plate, so, Ork Alarm! #28 is to be an organic gateway to Zeuhl related material. Check back for updates.