Progressive Music from The Hague – Groep 1850

21 Feb

Packed with an awkward family photo

Three months in 1966 sparked the progressive rock movement that flourished in the early 70s and gradually fizzled away (it has been revitalized recently by bands like Dream Theater). Obviously, this statement is completely subjective, so take my opinion for what it is. I also love how the founding year is 1966, and, as you know if you read the blog last week, I will be bringing back Music Court March Madness and we will all vote on the best album released in 1966 in a few weeks.

In May of 1966, The Beach Boys released Pet Sounds, and while this album is an early favorite (and a top seed) in the March Madness poll, it also was one of the first (if not first) Progressive Rock albums ever released.

Progressive Rock features creative arrangements, unusual blends of genres (like Jazz/Rock), eclectic (almost baroque) instrumentation, and classical constructions. The songs tend to be long, drawn out, and excellent if you have the time to lie on your floor, stare at the ceiling, and allow music to seep through your skin.

After the release of Pet Sounds (which most definitely pushed the Beatles even harder with their 1967 release about a pepper or something), Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention dropped Freak Out in June of 1966. This simply added onto Brian Wilson’s masterpiece. Then, in July, The Left Banke, a French-inspired New York baroque pop band, asked Renee to walk away (and a few months later they had a date with a pretty ballerina). The three months represented the inception of this new genre and it allowed a whole new stock of bands to flourish, including a mid-60s act from The Hague. A group of musicians who, while being one of the first progressive rock acts, is widely forgotten – until now!

Wait. A grand orchestral piece based on “Frere Jacques,” the old French lullaby. Back up.

Groep 1850 was formed in the Netherlands in 1964 as Klits. I think you can add them to the list of most influential Dutch musicians. A few others immediately come to mind. Golden Earring and Shocking Blue – you know, the band with the lead singer who proclaimed that she was your “pen” *cough* I mean “Venus!”

The original incarnation of the band is not important because they released their first single in 1966 with these members:  Peter Sjardin (vocals, flute, organ), Ruud van Buuren (bass), Daniel van Bergen (guitar & piano), Beer Klaasse (drums) & Rob de Rijke (bass, flute).  Yes, the drummer’s name was Beer. This line-up would change again in 1968, after the band went on hiatus for a year. Sjardin and Bergen remained, but they were now joined by Dave Duba, Dolf Geldof (bass), and Martin van Duynhoven (drums).

Peter Sjardin was of the first line-up and Daniel van Bergen the second. They can be viewed as constants. Let’s get to the music. The band started playing gigs in ’66 and became an underground sensation, even opening for The Mothers of Invention in 1967. In 1968, the band released their first full-length Agemo’s Trip to Mother Earth (picture above). The album cover actually had a 3-D sleeve and it included 3-D glasses (hence why it is today a tough find and BIG LP sell).

“Mother No-Head,” the esoteric piece above, is on that album. It was also released as the A-side of a single in 1967. In every sense of the word, the song is weird. After beginning with a drum beat straight out of Jazzy big band, and a bass/guitar riff from a spaghetti western, a chorus of monks provide background to a deep, unclear incantation. It’s a Dutch Western. Then a flute introduces something straight out of a cheeky British movie soundtrack before more odd vocalization. At around 1:15, I realized that the monks were humming the French lullaby and this made me smile. Then when a twangy guitar plucked the notes of the lullaby I was just flat-out grinning. This is just great! We get some nice keys before we fall back into the beginning (the fleeting flute still there). Why is the progressive? The flute, creative drumming, intricate track layering, and monk chanting.

Here’s another one from the band. “Misty Night” was the B-side of the band’s first single, released in 1966. This certainly feels more psychedelic (even garage) at the start. We get a reverberating (like SERIOUS reverb) guitar at the outset. I kind of like the vocal – despite the fact it is grunt singing at the start. The song then falls into a lull with the relaxed bass and humming.

Here is some more information about them. Click here.

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