An interview with David Jackson by Mick Dillingham
Page 5
Generator Mania - We went to Italy for the first time at the beginning of '72. We thought this 6 week tour was a bit risky, and we weren't getting paid much for doing it - maybe £150 a gig. We had visions of playing to half-empty halls. When we got off the 'plane there was a sizeable crowd of people waving. "Who are they waving at?" we asked. "You" replied the promoter. "Why?" "Because you're Van der Graaf Generator!".
On the way to our first concert, which was in a big theatre in Milan, the cars got caught up in this massive crowd. The army were there and the police were trying to control all these thousands of people. We thought it was some massive civil unrest or something, and we realised the gig was probably cancelled. Smoke bombs were being thrown by soldiers into the crowd. "What's happening here?" we asked, "It's because Van der Graaf Generator are here", came the reply. And it went on like this for the whole six weeks. We were doing two concerts a day, and always more than sold out. 'Pawn Hearts' went to Number One in the Italian charts for 12 weeks, and was seen as the ultimate album by the ultimate band. The tour was like the prophets have landed. All this and we were still getting £150 a gig! After six weeks we arrived back in England absolutely exhausted, but almost immediately we had all these Italian promoters outbidding each other in trying to get us to do another tour. With the increased money on offer, we couldn't resist going back again. So we went back and did another tour, this time doing three gigs a day! And then after we arrived home from that another promoter got in contact so we went back a third time doing four gigs a day... it was like a love story - us and Italy. You'd been doing this music and you'd reached a ceiling in England, and then you'd flogged yourselves around Europe and reached a ceiling there. And then you'd suddenly step out of a car at 6 o'clock in the morning somewhere in Italy and somebody walking along the street would immediately recognise you and start going mad, shouting "Jaxon! Jaxon!". You couldn't go anywhere without this lunatic 'Generator mania' breaking out.
We had done far too many gigs in too much heat without a break, and by the end of June we were overdue recording the next album. We'd already had a break for rehearsals during the second and third Italian tours, we rehearsed stuff for the new album (that eventually turned up on Peter's second solo album instead, 'Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night') and even played some of it on that last Italian tour, but we'd overdone it all and when we arrived home after that tour, Peter left the band. All the constant work, three years without any spare time and never any space between us, always recording or touring, and we were burnt out. Peter said he'd had enough, and resigned from the band. Jaxon
Randy California and The Lemon Hemispheres - All through that Summer and Autumn of '72 the 'phone would ring; another Italian promoter offering me even more Lire to reform Van der Graaf Generator around myself to tour Italy. I could have taken any old band there, as long as it was under the same name - it had the Midas touch in Italy. Neither Hugh nor Guy or myself could possibly contemplate such a thing though. The idea of Van der Graaf Generator existing without any one of the four of us was utterly ludicrous, unthinkable. So when Peter resigned, it was the end of the band. After three years of no rest at all, we then had two years of nothing but rest. Peter made more solo albums and we all played on them, and at various times we played live with him. On 'Silent Corner and the Empty Stage', Randy California played on one track - 'Red Shift'. At the recording session in Notting Hill he was extremely quiet and withdrawn; he knew no-one. Apart from his guitar playing, one thing was striking in rehearsal: I remember he had a large brown paper bag full of about two dozen lemons. Frequently he would take a knife, cut one in two and devour the insides as one might an orange. It made our teeth go on edge every time he did this (unsurprisingly!) and at the end of the session the bag was empty and the bin was full of lemon hemispheres. He told us that he needed vitamin C and that he lived on lemons - he certainly was extremely delicate looking!!

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