Exposé Online banner

David Shaw-Parker — The Lemming Chronicles
((Not on label) no#, 1995, TPB)

by Mike Ezzo, Published 1997-02-01

The Lemming Chronicles Cover art

If you had to summarize, you could call this book a critical appreciation of the albums and concerts of Van der Graaf Generator and Peter Hammill as seen through the eyes of a fan who calls himself "Lemming," a sort of self-deprecating reference to his (once) sycophantic (now cured?) fervor for the music. He chronicles his love of the music over the years and how it relates to his personal life, and his friendship with another aficionado, a character he refers to as "Cog." What makes The Lemming Chronicles so appealing is that you get the story from a fan who was actually there at the time and witnessed the events first hand. All the way from the first time he laid eyes upon the "Four young gangling guys who loped onto the scaffolding stage after a warm introduction by John Peel," to the '71 concert where a friend tripped over Hammill's guitar case backstage, to a very eye-opening account of a Hammill / Keith Ellis duo opening slot for Marillion. It runs to almost 300 pages and is served up with such panache and eloquence of style that even the passages dealing with trivial matters, or those unrelated to the music (and there are quite a few) are entertaining. The hands-down prize winner for best anecdote was his encounter with, what must be, the most obnoxious, stuck-up record collecting fiend in existence — we've all had this experience but the author's was a real doozy! As an added bonus, there is the inclusion of a full discography, as well as a year-by-year rundown of both the group and solo careers.

This is the first (and thus far only) critical analysis of Peter Hammill's work in book form, and I believe it merits high praise. Shaw-Parker is an actor, and being well versed in literature gives his writing superb insight into the composer's mind. His analysis of lyrics and concepts does great justice to Hammill's efforts. What's more he is blessed by that particular British brand of wit that makes me giggle incessantly. If Hammill's unwillingness to cooperate with any "real" biography is anything by which to judge, this may be the only book we'll see on this subject for a while. (There are currently two biography-type books in the writing stage.) The Lemming Chronicles provides a fascinating look into how the huge body of Van der Graaf Generator and Peter Hammill's work is interpreted by a British music lover.

Hammill himself knows and endorses the book, as well. It is published by Fred Tomsett, editor of the fine fanzine, Pilgrims.

Filed under: New releases, Issue 11, 1995 releases

Related artist(s): Peter Hammill, Van der Graaf Generator, David Shaw-Parker

More info

Latest news

Seaprog 2018 Artist Announcements Raise Festival's Profile – Seattle's Seaprog festival has been going since 2013, and the 2018 edition features a slate of artists that's sure to bring more attention to the event. Cheer-Accident, Bubblemath, and Free Salamander Exhibit are in the first round announcement of performers. In keeping with their tradition of focusing on regional artists, they will also present a number of artists from Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. [Edit: Just added: Inner Ear Brigade] » Read more

Adelbert von Deyen RIP – Word reaches us that German electronic musician Adelbert von Deyen has died. His recorded legacy reaches back to 1978, when Sky Records released Sternzeit. Von Deyen, who was born October 25, 1953 in Süderbrarup, was also known as a painter and graphic artist. » Read more

Didier Lockwood RIP – Word reaches us today of the death of one of France's great jazz musicians, violinist Didier Lockwood. His playing bridged many worlds, from traditional jazz to fusion to progressive rock, and his talent can be heard on recordings by Magma, Clearlight, Pierre Moerlen's Gong, and many more. Lockwood was 62. » Read more

10 Years of Fruits de Mer - The Incomplete Angler – Those of you who are faithful followers of Exposé will know that we have been promoting Fruits de Mer and its side labels and releases from nearly its first year. Now music journalist and author Dave Thompson has written a book chronicling the past ten years as a celebration of this milestone. » Read more

Tom Rapp RIP – Singer / songwriter Tom Rapp, best known with the band Pearls Before Swine, passed away on February 12, at the age of 70, after a battle with cancer. » Read more

Previously in Exposé...

East of Eden - Graffito – Hot on the heels of Eclectic’s reissue of East of Eden’s first two LPs comes a brand new recording from the founding lead voices of the band: saxophonist Ron Caines and violinist Dave Arbus....  (2006) » Read more

Listen & discover

Print issues