There were a handful of records that would be passed around at school, Space Ritual, by Hawkwind, Leg-End by Henry Cow. You by Gong any number of Magma and Pink Fairies albums along with the Pretty Things, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Can and Syd Barrett. They were the sounds of the outsider, those who could not always make the rugby team or cricket team and may fall over their own shoelaces if engaged in a cross country race.
It was music that was perhaps too difficult or strange for the Marillion and OMD loving masses. It was an entry to an altered state that may leave you forever changed or damaged. It was music that was a solitary experience best listened to in the dark so that nobody could watch the convulsions and drooling as it happened.
The pinnacle of this listening experience was a double album by Tangerine Dream called Zeit. I am not sure who actually owned this record, it was ever present being passed around on a Friday afternoon and then cradled under the chosen ones arm as they headed for the door and the bus and their own experience with Zeit. It was however not everyone who got passed this record. I am not sure who the librarian was of the odd and strange records passed around but he was a snob to be sure.
There was a certain relentless move of the album through the outsider elements of my school until it came to be my time to be chosen. I to this day remember the weight of the record under my arm as I walked along Eaton Rd. to Prescot Rd and the Number 10 bus that would eventually result in the H6 or 8 that would take me home and my future fate. I had heard the stories from others, horrible terrifying impenetrable and ultimately didn’t make it through the album.
This was the record that had ruined reputations, lost friendships and caused any number of strange psychological disorders throughout the sixth form. This was the serum to all that was normal and safe and ordinary.
I had of course heard Tangerine Dream before, their melodic and catchy shorter tracks and the sprawling psychedelic longer tracks, they were at the time what I would consider conventional, the type of music you may drift off to sleep to. Meditative almost. I figured I had a pretty good idea what to expect and was convinced it couldn’t be that bad.
That night as I placed the record on the turntable and wrapped my ears in headphones, I know I would end the night listening to Tommy Vance on the Friday Rock Show and everything would be okay and on Saturday I would head out to town see some live music, drink some beer, be loud around the old guys in the Marlborough and head off to the Goo’s to sleep it off and eat his mums cooked breakfast on Sunday. We may even meet up early on Saturday play D&D and listen to the Scorpions at Johns ifs things were slow.
Four sides, four tracks how difficult could it be. 70 minutes or so later I was convinced my world may have changed. It was the bit between the tracks on every Floyd album, discordant melodic, shocking, terrifying, like slow moving fear coming to consume you. This had to be the shit Stephen King listened to in order to write those books to terrify a generation, this was revolutionary and almost impossible to describe.
I never went out that Saturday instead I called up a young woman named Debbie and went on our first date, she thought me “brooding and moody and fascinating,” her words. We went to see Escape From New York, probably at the Futurist, Debbie loved the soundtrack, my ears it seems had been polluted, changed, affected or infected, who knows, synth music was never the same.
The following Friday I handed the record off to the next victim having lain on the floor for a week listening to it every night, consumed by the slow moving, glacial inevitability of the music. Almost pushed to the ground by the sound.
It has taken me almost 40 years to buy Zeit. Once I bought it it sat in it’s space on the Tangerine Dream shelf waiting for me to take the time to listen, experience. This weekend I dropped it on the turntable and I was 17 again, fearful and grateful at the same time. transfixed and forever changed. Unknowingly Zeit changed the way I listened to music, it was the barometer for strange, at times it was the loudest and quietest album I could remember. Spending that week with it also changed my weekends, well about 50 percent of them.