Steve Hillage: Hurdy Gurdy Man (1979)

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Steve Hillage: Hurdy Gurdy Man (1979)

True story of my first experience with this track off Steve Hillage's double live album Live Herald which appeared at the peak of punk/New Wave era when men with long hair, beards, bell bottoms and guitar solos were incredibly unfashionable.

It was late one evening and in the privacy of my own home I quietly self-medicated and slapped on this for some deep immersion.

Hillage was that rarity in the era, a prog-rock guitarist who -- to paraphrase the words of Chris Welch who reviewed this for Melody Maker -- never once became boring. He was rock for sure, but he was also pulling in electronics (he would later make some terrific electro-ambient albums and work with The Orb) . . . and so with a clear conscience knowing I should have been listening to the Clash or Costello etc, I hunkered down for the long haul and what Welch called "a guided tour of Nirvana".

Towards the end of side one was this version of Donovan's Hurdy Gurdy Man and at one point -- very well medicated by this point -- I stood up for some reason . . . and immediately sat back down.

It was if my head had gone through some weird dimension in sound which slurred and distorted the words, like I'd been toppled sideways. I sat in fearful silence thinking I'd done it to myself at last, just as people had warned me. I'd lost my marbles, hearing, perspective or something.

The next thing I would be heading to the window in the belief I could fly. I recall being genuinely scared.

After some minutes I regained perspective and got up -- slowly -- and pulled the needle back to the start of the track and stood listening intently.

And sure enough, to my great relief, there was a strange effect on the album which had come at exactly that moment I had stood up.

Dip a toe in this one if you will, but be warned: if you have "prepared" yourself and are sitting down, don't suddenly stand up at 1.43.

And if you dare, for another and very different version of Hurdy Gurdy Man, try this

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory use the RSS feed for daily updates, and check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.

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Peter Huitson - Apr 7, 2012

Awesome cover version of a great song - looks like another trip to Amazon for me!

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