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Hammill, Peter

Entry updated 26 October 2021. Tagged: Music, People.

British composer and musician, best known as the lead singer of Van der Graaf Generator. His solo releases, most of them similar to the prog-rock complexities of his group work, have been varied and, often, rather wayward. Popular success has eluded him although he inspires great devotion in his fans. "Imperial Zeppelin", on Hammill's first solo album Fool's Mate (1971), is an unusual example of steampunk SF-pop, possibly indebted to Michael Moorcock's Edwardian fantasies. His second solo work, Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night (1973) was released after the break-up of Van der Graaf Generator, and contains a lengthy composition originally intended for that band, "(In the) Dark Room/The Tower", which atmospherically embroiders a Tarot-related dark-fantasy narrative. The Future Now (1978), perhaps Hammill's best solo release, is (despite its title) not sf, focused as it is on the second rather than the first of its titular nouns; and the apocalyptic intimations of pH7 (1979) – the last major label the consistently uncommercial Hammill recorded – satirically refract the present rather than looking to any future. The effortfully Edgar Allan Poe-like Gothicism of the long song "A Louse is not a Home" (on The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage, 1974) anticipated one of Hammill's most ambitious projects, an opera based on Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher. This work, with a libretto by Hammill's Van der Graaf Generator bandmate Christopher Judge Smith (1948-    ), was released as an album in 1991, although it has never been performed live. [AR]

Peter Joseph Andrew Hammill

born Ealing, West London: 5 November 1948


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