PAWN HEARTS – VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR

Posted: August 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

Released October 1971          Charism Records CAS 1051

Artist  –  Paul Whitehead.

Paul Whitehead was born in Dartford, Kent, near the end of world war 2.  As a child his interests were painting and drawing, and his schooling suffered as a result.  He designed his first record cover in 1967 for Fats Domino.  He then became  in a way the in-house designer for Liberty Records after which he moved on to became the art director for Time Out Magazine in London.

Many bands both new and established passed through the Time Out office seeking reviews for their latest release, and his skills as a designer were often called upon. He met Genesis, through their producer, a relationship was struck and he went on to produced the now classic artwork for ”Trespass,” ” Nursery Cryme” and ”Foxtrot”.  He also worked with Van der Graaf Generator another band signed to Tony Stratton Smith’s Charsima Records label.

Pawn Hearts, being the second time he had worked with the band.  Vocalist Peter Hammill had given him a brief for the artwork ”no matter who you are, or how successful you are,  you are merely a pawn in a game”.

In his painting for the album he places figures from history in transparent pawn chesspiece containers. These figures float strangeley above the earth which is surrounded by a curtain of clouds.

The inner gatefold infra red photograph was taken at Luxford House, Crowborough, Surrey.

*”The picture inside was completely spontaneous (in form!) 
originally we’d intended a picture of us playing Crowborough tennis, a VdGG
invention involving the table we’re standing on and the football under Dave’s
arm… I won’t try to explain the rules, as it’s quite complicated, but a very
energetic game of skill!! So we took lots of shots of that (all of which are
equally weird, and some of which may yet be used) and then had a few frames
left, so got into the psychedelic Nazi’s trip! When we saw the effect, the pose,
infra red film and all, we instantly overcame any inhibitions about freaking
people, and knew it HAD to be that! The black shirts and yellow ties,
incidentally, are not as directly connected to it as might be thought… they
arose from conversations in the making of Pawn Hearts, in which we decided that we were
going so far out inside (you can take that any way you want, musically,
emotionally, psychically), that all we could do was have a “blackshirts” society
to denote our outsanity. It’s a bit of a self-defeating concept, but only 1/4
serious!! So for this cover, this idea came back! I hope all that makes some
sense, but it’s difficult, because people know us through the music, yet
this is only peripherally in the music, and has more to do with the unrealities
in which we live….(guarded) explanations in song on the next album, I hope!!”

 Peter Hammill in a letter to Jem Shotts, 21st February 1972
www.vandergraafgenerator.co.uk

The album was originally intended to be a double album and like Pink Floyd’s ”Ummagumma” the idea was to split it into two parts Disc 1 –  would have contained the three tracks that make up Pawn Hearts,  while Disc  2 – would have been made up of three solo tracks,  one each by Guy Evans, Hugh Banton and David Jackson.

Charisma records did not wish to release it as a double album so the plans were halted.  The instrumental tracks were later found in Virgin Records archives and the tracks were released as bonus material on the 2005 expanded remaster. Guy Evans – Angle of Incidents, Hugh Banton – Diminutions and David Jackson – Ponkers Theme.

The album got its title when David Jackson the bands saxophonist  told the band he’d ”return to the studio the following day to record some pawn hearts when he actually meant to say he’d record some horn parts horn parts.    And a legendary album was christened.

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