Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Hammill's solo career began with Fool's Mate (1970), while still a member of Van der Graaf Generator. To some extent it is difficult to separate Hammill's solo work during the 1970s from his work with the band, since not only did he write Van der Graaf's lyrics, but he also recorded many of his 'solo' songs with various members of the band. In general, however, solo Hammill is concerned with more personal matters, while the band's songs deal with broader themes. His earlier work was largely existential in nature and many of his solo album lyrics are literary, poetic and amongst the most sensitive and intelligent and complex expressions of angst and a search for meaning in the history of music. Indeed, his work ranges from relatively simple riffs to infinitely complex pieces.
Hammill recorded a series of diverse albums following Van der Graaf Generator's split in 1972. Among these, Nadir's Big Chance (1974) is notable for its anticipation of punk rock. Hammill was explicitly cited as an influence by Johnny Rotten in a 1977 radio interview.
In 1974 Hammill published a book, Killers, Angels, Refugees (Charisma Books, London), a collection of lyrics, poems and short stories. This was later reissued by Hammill himself (Sofa Sound, Bath) and was followed by a sequel Mirrors, Dreams, Miracles (1980).
Hammill's solo career resumed in earnest after the final demise of Van der Graaf Generator in 1978, and has continued to the present day. Many different styles of music appear in his work, among them avant garde electronic experiments (Loops and Reels; Unsung; Spur of the Moment), opera (The Fall of the House of Usher); solo keyboard accompaniment (And Close as This); solo guitar accompaniment (Clutch); and band recordings (Enter k).
Many consider Hammill's voice to be the most distinctive element of his music. As a former Jesuit chorister, his delivery is invariably middle class English (rather than Americanised) but ranges in tone from peacefully celestial to screaming rants (which are nevertheless highly controlled). Singing in registers from baritone to high falsetto, he growls, croons, shrieks and shouts in ways that have drawn comparison with the guitar playing of Jimi Hendrix.
Lyrically, Hammill commonly revisits a number of themes including: love; human relationships; aging and death; human follies; politics; self-awareness and introspection; religion; and current affairs. The science fiction themes of Van der Graaf Generator's music are mostly absent in his later work. Despite the complexity of his work, Hammill's output is prolific, typically with new albums once or twice a year. As a result, his varied catalogue stretches from band and early solo albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s through to increasingly difficult and more inaccessible offerings around the millennium.
Hammill's recordings are released on his own Fie! Records label.
Hammill survived a heart attack in December 2003. He was awarded the prestigious Italian Tenco Prize for songwriting at the end of 2004.
During 2004, Van der Graaf Generator (including Hammill) reformed, writing and recording new material for release in early 2005.
- Fool's Mate (1970)
- Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night (1972)
- The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage (1972)
- In Camera (1973)
- Nadir's Big Chance (1974)
- Over (1976)
- The Future Now (1978)
- Vision (compilation) (1978)
- pH7 (1979)
- A Black Box (1980)
- Sitting Targets (1981)
- Enter k (1982)
- Patience (1983)
- The Margin (live) (1985)
- The Love Songs (compilation of re-recorded back catalogue) (1984)
- Skin (1986)
- And Close as This (1986)
- In a Foreign Town (1988)
- Out of Water (1989)
- Room Temperature Live (1990)
- The Fall of the House of Usher (1990)
- Fireships (1991)
- The Noise (1992)
- Loops and Reels (1993)
- There goes the Daylight (live) (1993)
- Roaring Forties (1994)
- Offensichtlich Goldfisch (in German) (1995)
- The Peel Sessions (BBC radio sessions) (1995)
- X my Heart (1996)
- Sonix (1996)
- Everyone You Hold (1997)
- This (1998)
- Typical (live) (1999)
- None of the Above (2000)
- What, Now? (2001)
- Unsung (2001)
- The Margin + (live; a reissue of the 1985 album with a second disc of additional material) (2002)
- The Thin Man Sings Ballads (compilation) (2002)
- Clutch (2002)
- Incoherence (2004)
- Spur of the Moment (with Guy Evans) (1991)
- The Union Chapel Concert (with Guy Evans and others) (1997)
- The Appointed Hour (with Roger Eno) (1999)
- Sofa Sound (official site)
- Peter Hammill and Van der Graaf Generator fan site
- Russian Peter Hammill and Van der Graaf Generator Page
- Peter Hammill - The Brazilian fan site
- [http://www.progarchives.com/ find a P.Hammill page in a very complete prog rock database
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