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Peter Blegvad – Gold (90s – 88)

May 24, 2013

In August 1997 I presented my first radio program on 2UNE. I’d been visiting the station on and off for a year as my friends were already presenters. I’d actually signed up at the start of the year with the aim of producing radio comedy. Whiplash from a car accident put paid to the head writer after the first two episodes were recorded so my hope of following int he footsteps of the Goons was quashed. Thus I moved onto presenting movie programs.

Before that first show I nervously searched through the record library. There I found a single by Deborah Conway, an Australian singer whose pop-rock I was a quasi-fan, and whose name definitely stuck on seeing her naked in an Australian Indie movie playing on the ABC during my mid-teenaged years. Then there was her Nutella-covered picture on the cover of her second album, Bitch Epic. I can no longer remember much of what went on inside the head of that teenaged boy but being in an isolated country town you got whatever introduction to the opposite sex life threw at up, and basically had to work out how to deal with it.

Confused teenaged digression aside, the Conway single was plucked unheard from twenty thousand releases similarly unheard, because I trusted Conway to deliver a good song. As I went to play the lead single on air, I noticed the B-side was a cover of Gold by Peter Blegvad. Bells went off in my head and I keyed in track two, got through one of my first ever talk breaks on adrenaline and pressed play.

Tracking backwards, The Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock and the rec.progressive usergroup were partially to blame these alarm bells. Already a Mike Oldfield devotee, having heard Eno in rock mode, Jean-Luc Ponty and finally some King Crimson I took to the new-fanged WWW thing to seek out more artists. What I got was a convoluted DNA of sub-genres and share membership. One such sub-genre, linked in part to Mike Oldfield, was Rock In Opposition, and the main member of this genre was the group Henry Cow, and its relatives Slapp Happy and The Art Bears.

Tracking down released by this trio became something of a holy grail which was only partially achieved at the turn of the Millennium. But from the pags of GEPR I discovered Peter Blegvad was a member of Slappy Happy and thus Henry Cow when the two bands merged in the Seventies. I also read of his solo career. Thus the discovery of a hearing one of his songs covered was a remarkable piece of serendipity. On Conway wearily singing the words I decided Blegvad was not only worth tracking down, but was a wonderful songwriter.

It was only later I discovered Blegvad was one of those great song writers who had a niche following but never a huge one. He was one of those artists Virgin records decided was a project worth perusing in the same way kept on David Sylvian and King Crimson long after commercial appeal had dimmed.

Later I discovered Blegvad’s work veered between brilliant to slightly bewildering. I think it was the mid-80s songs which sounded mid-80s. I only purchased King Strut and Other Stories – the album containing Gold – because was produced by both Andy Partridge of XTC and Anton Fier of the Golden Palominos, two names I trusted. And I discovered Blegvad’s version was even more world-weary and wonderful than the three odd minutes from Conway which lit up my first ever radio broadcast.

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