|An interview with David Jackson by Mick Dillingham
|Awestruck - We recorded our third album, 'Pawn Hearts', again with Robert Fripp guesting on guitar (as he did on 'H to He'). There had been a feeling within the band that for recording purposes a guitar was needed at points. Hugh and I didn't feel this, but Guy certainly did. Nic had a done a bit of guitarring on 'H to He', but the argument went out of the window when the chance came not to have 'some' guitar on the album but Fripp! I remember hearing 'Court of the Crimson King' while I was in 'Heebalob' and the music was unbelievable, it had the same impact as 'Sgt Pepper' had before. The possibilities it opened, especially in the direction I was going, were amazing. At that time Fripp was seen as an innovator and it certainly gave us massive credibility having him on there. But when you actually met the guy and saw him work, it was something magical. I can remember him coming down to Trident (Studios), setting all his pedals up and plugging his guitar in, putting his headphones on although he'd never heard the track before, he recorded this amazing solo on it first take - and that first take was the best, he didn't improve on it. He actually ended up rejecting it, there were a couple of off notes because he didn't know where the track was going at points, but there was a spirit about that first take which was supreme and we were all awestruck.|
|Plague of Lighthouse Keepers - With 'Pawn Hearts' the band became even more interested in studio techniques, particularly editing - this was how the side-long 'Plague of Lighthouse Keepers' came into being. We actually conceived that piece of music, and the story, in nine sections. On 'H to He' we had already started recording tracks in sections because of the very nature of those recording sessions. We also invented the 'crossover', where half the band would be playing one piece against the other half playing another so there would be all these currents and sweeping effects.|
|We were really good at it and the effect was tremendous, but it was too difficult to re-create live at that time. We mastered live crossovers later on Meurglys III. 'Pioneers over C' from 'H to He' was beyond the pail - it was impossible to do live, and as for 'Plague of Lighthouse Keepers', well it could never be done. Whenever we played Europe there were always offers to do TV shows - there was one time that we turned up at some Belgian TV station and they said to us "Ah, you are now ready to do 'Lighthouse Keepers'. We have the candles and sparklers, everything is ready." We just panicked - nobody had warned us, but there seemed no way out of it so we did it in sections and edited it together. I'm glad we did - I've only seen it once and I was very moved by it. But then it wasn't really live and Van der Graaf live and Van der Graaf recording remain two separate entities.
The Lost Pawn Hearts - We had mixed feelings about 'Pawn Hearts' because we'd recorded a double album and it had been decided that it was not 'prudent' to release a double LP at that time, so it had to come out as a single album. There was a track called 'Archimedes Agnostic' I think, and Guy had a backwards drum piece. The other titles are lost to oblivion though, as is the master tape. It's the biggest mystery of all: what happened to the lost half of 'Pawn Hearts'? We put a lot of work and ideas into it, one time we went into the studio and set up everything and then played a Van der Graaf song live straight off, recording it in mono and putting it onto one track of the 24 - then we did the same thing on the second track with a totally different song and so-on until at the end of the day, we had twenty four Van der Graaf Generators all playing simultaneously. We mixed it all together and used a section of it on 'Lighthouse Keepers' near to the line '...maelstrom of my memory' although to be frank, hearing it back now it hardly seems worth the effort.
|Theme One - 'Pawn Hearts' came out at the end of 1971, just after Peter's first solo album, 'Fool's Mate', which we all played on. Peter was so creative, and always wrote far more songs than the band could possibly use, so solo albums became the outlet for all this material. Our next release was the 'Theme One' single. A lot of our time was spent driving up and down to and from University gigs in the North of England, and the high spot of these overnight drives would be when Radio One started at 6am with this specially-written George Martin piece, 'Theme One'.|
|So we started playing it at soundchecks - the melody was easy but the organ bit was phenomenally difficult. But Hugh worked it all out, and Guy just picked up the drum pattern and it became a roadie favourite! They were always demanding it and one night in Munich, we performed it as a second encore and the audience just went wild. People from the record company were there, and they immediately put us into the studio to record it and the B-side 'W'. I absolutely love 'W'. I think it's a really poignant song - the antithesis of the A-side. The single was real commodity, people had to have it and it sold by the thousand on the Continent. We seemed to be moving to a different level sales-wise because of it. But, it was a dual-edged sword because being instrumental, Peter wasn't on it. Our most successful record so far, and he didn't play a note on it - the irony of it! It became part of our live set and Peter would just go crazy during it, running and jumping like a maniac. It was good theatre, with us storming through the piece while Peter just went berserk, but he was probably going berserk in his head as well.|