The Aerosol Grey Machine Mercury cover The Aerosol Grey Machine Mercury label The Aerosol Grey Machine Mercury label The Aerosol Grey Machine Mercury cover
Back Cover (Mercury) Front Cover
The Aerosol Grey Machine cover The Aerosol Grey Machine Fontana label The Aerosol Grey Machine Fontana label The Aerosol Grey Machine cover
Back Cover (Fontana) Front Cover
The Aerosol Grey Machine Vertigo label The Aerosol Grey Machine Vertigo label
(Vertigo - Italy)
The Aerosol Grey Machine Vertigo label The Aerosol Grey Machine Vertigo label
(Vertigo - Holland)
Track List (album)
1. Afterwards
2. Orthenthian St (Part I)
3. Orthenthian St (Part II)
4. Running Back
5. Into A Game
6. Aerosol Grey Machine
7. Black Smoke Yen
8. Aquarian
9. Necromancer
10. Octopus
Track List (Fie! CD)
1. Afterwards
2. Orthenthian St
3. Running Back
4. Into A Game
5. Ferret and Featherbird
6. Aerosol Grey Machine
7. Black Smoke Yen
8. Aquarian
9. Giant Squid
10. Octopus
11. Necromancer
(Norfolk, 1967)
(West Kensington, 1969)
(Old Windsor, 1966)
(West Kensington, 1969)
(West Kensington, 1969)
(A bus in Manchester, 1967)
(Manchester, 1968)
(Southampton, 1967)
(Kensington Court, 1967)
(Follow links for lyrics - use your BACK button to return here)

Promo   Promo
Mercury Promo (USA)

There are 4 versions of the USA Mercury release.
The different versions have matrix numbers as follows
(seen near the run out groove):
1) Squid One stock copy (orange label) SR 61238 BM2
2) Squid One promo copy (white label) SR 61238 BM2
3) Necromancer stock copy (orange label) SR 61238 BM5
4) Necromancer promo copy (white label) SR 61238 BM5

Mercury Reissue
Mercury Re-issue (1999)
Orthenthian Street - "The street in question does not exist, although a search for it, and the hotel we believed it to hold among its houses, took well over an hour: symptomatic, perhaps, of life in bands! This was the first song of mine which dealt - if obliquely - with that lifestyle and the endless vistas of motorways and assorted potential destructions. If it is claustrophobic and inconclusive then that only serves to further its point."

Aquarian - "This song has a chequered history of assorted titles and intentions: originally to be a celebration of the incoming Aquarian Age, it went through a phase of being a hymn to an assorted band of troubadours bound together under the aegis of a certain record company. After the sufferance of no little trial and tribulation at the hands of this concern, I had no regrets as I withdrew my lyrical support from it and re-engaged the song on its old rails. Pitfalls abound in any eulogising songs, and since this time I have been more concerned with my doubts in songs rather than with certainties which are fickle as the seasons.
The first performance of this song was on platform 6 of Derby Midland Station (a fine institution), to a surprisingly rapt audience of porters, fellow-travellers and Chris Judge Smith."

Octopus - "These lyrics, dealing with a similar case of disorientation and inability to over-view, were written in the snow-besieged Students' Union of Southampton University. The original Octopus took the form of a mural in the flat of the lady concerned and it is, in a way, validatory that the relationship was neither consummated nor clarified."
- Peter Hammill from Killers, Angels, Refugees (1974)

The Aerosol Grey Machine German price tag
(German price tag)
"When I originally signed to Mercury in 1968, it was as a member of VdGG, then comprising myself and Chris Judge Smith. By late in the year, of course, the line-up was myself, Hugh, Guy and Keith Ellis and we were managed by Tony Stratton-Smith. At this point Mercury considered that they had the band signed up, but Strat insisted - rightly - that the other members should not sign up to what was a pretty dreadful deal. Mercury therefore refused to let us record. After our equipment was stolen (not for the last time) the band broke up. At this point there seemed no reason for me NOT to make a solo record to Mercury, to whom I was undoubtedly, if rashly, signed. Thus was made "Aerosol". Subsequently, we decided to reform and I was released from the Mercury contract on the condition that they could release "Aerosol" as a VdGG work".
- Peter Hammill in an interview with Mju:zik magazine, February 1998

"I had been engaged by Mercury Records. Peter Hammill had a contract with them and had a problem, as they didn't want to set the group under contract; so they gave him two days of studio to record an album. Two days! We made "The Aerosol Grey Machine". And it was in the Trident Studios because I liked Ken Scott, who had worked as a sound technician on "A Salty Dog" of Procul Harum. But Scott was working only with the biggest producers, so they gave me Robin Cable who was even better, and in fact he recorded all Elton John's albums".
- John Anthony in an interview with Mju:zik magazine, February 1998

Walrus Review
Walrus magazine

Back of cover

"A pretty pass in the rear-view mirror,
It's coming on the overtake;
I've got to stop panicking, got to stay cool,
got to learn to live with my mistakes....."
(from "What I did"...later)

The CD version of "The Aerosol Grey Machine" (no wonder it didn't sell in the US - they spelt Gray wrong!) is accompanied by a booklet containing some very interesting stories by Peter Hammill of the early days of the band - READ IT HERE.
Reference is made in Peter's text to the original album sleevenotes, which are reproduced above, but reproduced so tiny on the CD as to render them quite unreadable without a magnifying glass.

See also The Early Days page.

Of interest also is the following sleeve note:
"The digital remastering involved in the production of this CD was restorative rather than radical in nature; for the most part levels and fades, rather than EQs, were adjusted. The most notable aspect of the remastering was the cross-fade which has finally united the two halves of "Orthenthian Street." This fulfills the original intention, which was thwarted through simple lack of time (and money) at the mixing stage..."
The original sleeve intended for the UK release is shown below. It never saw the light of day.
This sleeve is owned by a collector who it is believed paid about 500 for it (with no LP).
Back Cover
Front Cover
Left Inner
Right Inner
Cover Cover
The one above surfaced in late 2007, this time with a white label LP.

John Anthony (of Tynemouth) had a bit more to say on this version:
"On Monday I was asked to produce an L.P. for the Van der Graaf Generator, by Thursday we were in the Studio. Up until that time I had vaguely seen the band play the Speakeasy (the playground of the stars) and at the Marquee (the playground) and had heard them perform Octopus on the radio, one Sunday afternoon. I had no idea what numbers we were going to do, or any conceptions of a 'production'. What resulted is what happens when a group 'blows' in a studio. I hope some of it comes through, as we all had a good time. I hardly knew any of the group, but during and after two sessions, became a friend. Peter Hammill was doing all the singing and playing his guitar, and being cool (in the nice way). Hugh Banton ate bananas and drank milk, played piano and organ well and pottered about murmering. Keith Ellis smiles, played his bass and was a nice person. Guy Evans hammered away, intelligently on his drums, and laughed a lot. Jeff played flute on a track or so, and was very quiet.
An assorted crowd of loons were the atmosphere, were the vocal group, were happy and were quiet, during the playback Rob engineered professionally, everyone worked hard."

Jeff Peach pictured on the cover of "Every Which Way" from 1970.

Afterwards single   Necromancer single
Afterwards / Necromancer Single (USA only)

Afterwards promo   Necromancer promo

Afterwards promo   Necromancer promo
Afterwards / Necromancer Promo (USA only)

Afterwards review
Review in Cash Box - 3rd January 1970

Acetate Promo
Herman Permentier's Afterwards acetate promo, created to promote the UK release of the Aerosol Grey Machine that didn't happen

CD 2

CD 2

CD 2
CD 2         CD 2
CD 2   CD 2   CD 2   CD 2   CD 2   CD 2
The Repertoire CD release with Firebrand and People You Were Going To as bonus tracks

"Having waited some 28 years from its original release to see a CD re-issue, we now get two versions within a few weeks of each other! Originally released in America only (on Mercury), this was later issued in Europe on Fontana, but has not been available in any version since the 70's. To make it even more of a collectors item, some early copies were issued with a largely instrumental track titled Giant Squid in place of the song Necromancer, which appeared on all later editions.
The Repertoire version came out first, and features all the tracks from the version that featured Necromancer, with the bonus of both sides of their first single People You Were Going To a one-off for which the tapes were presumed lost. This is the only recorded example of VdGG with Chris Judge Smith singing, on the B side Firebrand. The sleeve notes are by Chris Welch, and the lack of any audible remixing or remastering, or notes from the band, leads me to think that this is not an approved release.
Soon after that came the official release from Hammill's own Fie! label, in which he has gone back to the original tapes, restored the additional tracks Squid 1 and Ferret And Featherbird, which later appeared in a rather different form on In Camera. There are some slight adjustments to fades and equalisation, and it sounds very fine, quite exceptional considering the whole thing was recorded in 12 hours and mixed in 8. Hammill contributes 12 sides of interesting background notes, which give a good flavour of the times and circumstances which led to the making of this record.
Musically this differs from later VdGG, notably by the presence of Keith Ellis's wah-wah bass, which makes a strange squelching noise throughout, and the absence of any saxophone parts (as Dave Jackson hadn't joined yet). It is also, as the notes explain better, more a Hammill solo with friends than the album VdGG would have made if they were extant at the time. They had already broken up when Hammill started recording, but Mercury agreed to release Hammill from an unfavourable contract if he put the band name on the cover. From such uncompromising circumstances an excellent album was nonetheless wrought, outstanding for its period, due largely to Hammill's exceptional song writing abilities and the lack of musical reference to any other bands around at the time.
A treat for Hammill fans who never heard the album, and an essential collection filler for the CD shelf of those that have. The Repertoire version is best avoided, unless you're really desperate to have that first single."
- Alan Terrill in Audion #39, December 1997.

Interviewer: Some of your songs are still hard to get, like the first Van der Graaf Generator single which was only released on the German CD version of 'Aerosol Grey Machine'.
Peter Hammill: It was on the German version, but not on the Fie! one because for me, it's not part of the 'Aerosol Grey Machine' recordings.

Interviewer: It's not fair towards the fans. They first buy the vinyl edition because 'Aerosol Grey Machine' didn't first exist on CD. Then two different editions with different bonus tracks are released on CD.
Peter Hammill: There have been legal complications in negotiations. The German company released the CD before me and I had to put other bonus tracks on it. My version of 'Aerosol Grey Machine' contains all the tracks which were involved in these recordings and 'Ferret And Featherbird' which was also recorded at that time.
              - from an interview by DisAgreement Online in Sandweiler, Luxembourg, May 1999.



The Italian cassette tape



A boxed set was released on 26th April 2019

Review in Shindig magazine

Review in Good Times magazine (in German)

50 years of being different

Exactly half a century ago, the debut album of an unusual band from Manchester named Van Der Graaf Generator (VDGG), entitled THE AEROSOL GREY MACHINE, was released. An opulent box has just been released for this work, which contains not only the remastered original but also a lot of bonus material from that time. Mastermind of these progressive rock pioneers was and is singer, pianist, guitarist, and composer Peter Hammill. The 70-year-old answered the GoodTimes questions by e-mail.

What memories do you have of the sessions that led to AEROSOL GREY MACHINE?

At first, the group did not exist at the time, we had disbanded a few months earlier. Finally, we got together again, we met for a rehearsal in the rehearsal room because some of my pieces were unknown to the others in the band. When they had those pieces on it, everything went very fast: within twelve hours, the record was recorded. And if I remember correctly, mixed too.

How do you personally evaluate this debut in the long VDGG history?

I think the record is very important! Alone due to the fact that we were in the studio for the first time to record not just a single, but a complete album. We have a hard time.

Many media have claimed that this debut is not a "classic VDGG work." How do you deal with this accusation?

You have to know that this disc was intended as a Peter Hammill solo album. Only later did our label arbitrarily decide that the cover should contain Van Der Graaf Generator. Musically, this thing is for me a harbinger of what should then appear under the band name. But honestly: THE LEAST WE CAN DO IS WAVE TO EACH OTHER from 1970 is the true first for me.

How did this opulent box come from, where did the material come from?

I had little to do with it, the conclusion is due to the excelent detective work of the label Esoteric Records as well as the VDGG record collectors and enthusiasts of this group.

If you label VDGG as "Pioneers of Prog Rock" - is that a source of pride, or can you do nothing?

We resisted any kind of categorization from the beginning. Simply because we sounded different than everyone else. If there is a pigeon hole, I prefer the term Underground Group.

How do you define the term "Progressive Rock" yourself?

It stands for something exciting, new. At least in the late 60s had a lot to do with Underground. Under this umbrella were huddled VDGG, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Caravan - but also people like Arthur Brown, Julie Driscoll / Brian Auger, the lncredible String Band or Bonzo Dog. A huge band of artists. Which always encouraged me.

What can we expect from VDGG in the future?

Hopefully a new album next year. But as it has always been with us: nothing definite is known.

Review in Eclipsed magazine (in German)

Psychedelic pop
VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR "The Aerosol Grey Machine"
(5oth Anniversary Ltd Edition) (Esoteric / I-PArt)

Over five decades Van der Graaf Generator also means that the much-vaunted debut of Peter Hammill's band is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. In fact, the quintet first published in 1969 with "People You Were Going To" a single, in which, from today's point of view, especially the B-side "Firebrand", a weird duet Hammill with the then co-founder Chris Judge Smith, points out where the band could have moved, it would not have been resolved immediately. Because "Aerosol" is in fact a solo album of Hammills, which was published for contractual reasons under the name of the defunct group (which, apart from Smith, nonetheless co-plays)., Although the album with none of the later works of the soon to be new there are interesting moments that are more in the direction of former David Bowie or Syd Barrett, especially "Into A Game" and "Running Back" are above-average psychedelic pop songs in which the skills of Hammill already flashing the box is exemplary: it contains on LP and CD (the former in the rare US cover and as a 180g pressing, the latter with the original version of "Ferret And Featherbird", later rearranged on Hammill's solo album "In Camera" officially debuted), one CD with early demos and BBC sessions, a replica of the debut single and a thick book with many photos and an illuminating essay.

*** Sascha Seiler

Back to AlbumsHomeLivelist