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Baker's Dozen

The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Music: Benjamin Myers’ Favourite Music
The Quietus , September 29th, 2021 09:41

Music journalist-turned-novelist Benjamin Myers shares the music that made him a writer from The Slits to Slipknot – and why almost all of it is impossible to write to…


Steve Hillage – Fish Rising

Every fibre in my young being told me that this album was going to be awful hippy nonsense when I bought it for 10p from Music & Video Exchange during one of my early London explorations, which I undertook from the age of fifteen. I even purchased a copy of Punk & Disorderly alongside of it, to provide some sort of cleansing karmic balance (now that is a bad record).

As dark as life was, I think Britain in the early 1970s was a fascinating time, which produced some insane music. That period that came after psychedelia, when the idealism of the hippy dream butted heads with the mundane and squalid everyday reality, is quite unlike any other, and many were still making their own attempts at alternative ways of living. Those years produced some amazing music in the UK underground: Hawkwind, Henry Cow, Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, Caravan, but this is the best of the bunch.

I didn’t even know that Hillage, who plays the guitar like the devil, would later help transform ambient music and looked like a garden gnome, had been in a Gong, a band I now love. Fish Rising is a free-wheeling prog-leaning album about fish, and my discovery of it coincided with my discovery of counter-culture literature – I was reading DH Lawrence, Sylvia Plath, William Burroughs – and early experimentations with psychedelic drugs, all of which made me realise that while I was never going to be a musician.

I did however feel I had things to say, stories to tell and ideas to explore: so I would become a writer instead. Instead of being at the mercy of drummers, I would rely only on myself, and if I failed then I had no-one but myself to blame.