Take Five: Steve Hillage

Let’s Take Five with Steve Hillage…

Guitarist Steve Hillage celebrated his 71st birthday recently (August 2). The acclaimed musician was a notable player in the Canterbury, England rock scene of the 1960s, a member of European psychedelic/jam band Gong, and a key influence on modern-day trance, electronica and other boundary-pushing genres. Here are five classic tracks featuring Steve Hillage.

Arzachel – “Clean Innocent Fun” (1969) Adopting the pseudonym Simon Sasparella, Hillage played lead guitar and sang in a late ‘60s group called Uriel. The group split before it got around to recording, with most other members going on to form jazz/rock outfit Egg. Uriel reunited briefly, re-branding as Arzachel, and released a self-titled LP of heavy psychedelia in 1969.

Khan – “Stranded” (1972) In 1971, Hillage formed Khan, a progressive rock band. Like Arzachel, the gorup released only one record before splitting. Like Arzachel’s LP, Khan’s Space Shanty was for many years an extremely rare and highly sought-after collector’s item. (Both have since been reissued).

Gong – “I Never Glid Before” (1973) The second in the French band’s “Radio Gnome Invisible” trilogy, Angel’s Egg was also the second of the group’s albums to feature Steve Hillage on guitar. Hillage wrote “I Never Glid Before” for the group; its boogie-meets psychedelia character was and remains unique and distinctive.

Steve Hillage – “It’s All Too Much” (1976) By 1976 Hillage and his longtime partner (in life and music) Miquette Giraudy had relocated to the U.S. and began work on a solo album, L. Collaborating with Todd Rundgren and backed by Rundgren’s group Utopia, Hillage recorded his most accessible outing to date, scoring a Top Ten album in the UK. Hillage put together a live band and toured widely, opening for Queen and Electric Light Orchestra. The album’s cover of George Harrison’s Beatles-era classic is among L’s highlights.

System 7 – “Eclipse” (2013) These days – after influencing a generation of modern-day bands like Ozric Tentacles, Hillage and Giraudy have moved toward making ambient dance music under the System 7 banner. The prolific group’s sound might be different than Hillage’s early work, but the sweeping, wide-screen majesty remains in full effect.

Watch for an interview with Steve Hillage, coming soon to Musoscribe.