Monday, 15 December 2014

1975 (part two) - Tangs rule ok

After Genesis - Tangerine Dream.  This was no ordinary concert.  This took place in Liverpool Cathedral, one of four cathedral performances by the Tangs in the UK in 1975.

(Note: Roundabout this time Virgin Records ran a double page colour spread in NME showing a (drawn) brick wall with (fake) graffiti on it saying stuff like D'Oyly Carte Squeaks and Tangs Rule OK without any explanation who the Tangs were.  Those of us who knew knowingly called Tangerine Dream the Tangs ever afterwards.  Because it was so inappropriate. The advert above is a variant on the one I remember.)

So first of all, Liverpool Cathedral.  If you want a cathedral - we've got one to spare.  There's the Mersey Funnel, which is the Catholic one, with the four bells, known as John, Paul, George and Ringo.  Ringo is the littlest one, named after Mr Starr on account of being out of tune.  And at the other end of Hope Street is the Anglican Cathedral.  It was here that Tangerine Dream played on 16th October 1975.

Tangerine Dream were a trio of German musicians, Edgar Froese, Peter Baumann and Chris Franke whose chosen instruments of mass distraction were synthesizers.  Nowadays I can set my iPad up to produce a 40 minute suite that sounds as close to Tangerine Dream as you ever need to get.  Back then you would have had to have a degree in engineering to build a synth in the first place.  Secondly you would have had to have balls of steel to imagine that anyone would buy this kind of music or go to this kind of gig.  But people did buy it and people did go to the gigs, the Cathedral was packed.

In the Middle Ages cathedrals were built for a number of reasons.  Venerating God was one, but that's not the whole story.  There was an element of showing that our city is greater than yours, or our king is more pious and humble than yours.  There was an element of subjugation too; the people of a city would be so impressed by the might of the Church and the Establishment that they wouldn't dream of revolting.  The size and scale of the buildings was part of this but so was what went on inside.  Pomp and circumstance, the ritual and routine, all designed to create a sense of awe and wonder.  Music played its part and the acoustics of churches and cathedrals developed to maximise its effect.  I heard the Hilliard Ensemble in Chichester Cathedral and found it hard to believe that four unamplified voices could fill that space.  But fill it they did because the cathedral itself was the sound system.

Tangerine Dream filled Liverpool Cathedral with electronic instruments and a bloody big PA.  It was all encompassing; filling every nook and cranny of the building (Neither of Liverpool's cathedrals date from the Middle Ages.  Both are 20th century buildings.  But the Anglican cathedral in particular has learned the lessons of the past.).  What did it sound like?

Tangerine Dream made records.  You can listen to Rubicon or Phaedra a hundred times.  When Tangerine Dream performed they didn't play the "songs" from the records.  They didn't, I'm sure, make it up as they went along, but they improvised.  When they played live you were hearing something new, something that hadn't been written yet, something that would be lost on the wind when it ended.  This is part of the reason it was special: outside of the people in that room, there and then, nobody would ever hear this.  Until the Internet.  When anyone, anywhere in the world can type into a search engine Tangerine Dream Liverpool Cathedral 1975 and find this:

I'll add some scans of the tour programme later.  So, come back y'all.

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