“I bought Van der Graaf Generator’s Pawn Hearts second-hand from the school notice board. Who would sell that?!” Andy Jackson on where to find great prog

Andy Jackson
(Image credit: Al Stuart)

Where’s home?
Guildford, Surrey. I’ve been here for about five years, after moving from London.

What’s your earliest prog memory?
Top Of The Pops briefly had an album track section and The Groundhogs did it, playing Cherry Red, I think. I never knew such a thing could exist. Also, I remember borrowing King Crimson’s Lizard from a guy at school – I’d never heard anything like it before.

First prog album you bought?
Pawn Hearts by Van der Graaf Generator. Bought second-hand from the school notice board – who would sell that?!

And the last?
Due to streaming I haven’t bought anything for ages. Am I allowed to say Robert Plant? I really like the way he’s reinvented himself.

The first prog gig you attended?
Zappa at Hammersmith Odeon, as was. Totally mind-blowing.

And the latest?
I haven’t been to a gig for decades! They are too damn loud now, I need to look after my ears.

The best prog show you ever saw?
Captain Beefheart, return-to-form era, at The Venue in Victoria [London]. Listening to that music and seeing those five human beings producing it was profoundly cognitively dissonant.

Your newest prog discovery?
Stravinsky! There’s a great book called Proust Was A Neuroscientist [by Jonah Lehrer], and the general idea is that you can only think things that have been thought of before until someone stretches things radically. No one had heard anything even vaguely like The Rite Of Spring before, and it literally blew their minds. If that’s not progressive, what is?

Your guilty musical pleasure?
No guilt – I like great songwriting. I have a regular poker night and any time a significant musician dies we add some of their music. Recent one was Burt Bacharach. Brilliant songs!

Who’s your prog hero?
Zappa for pure musical skill, Eno for deconstruction of working methods. That’s something I’ve really brought to my own music – I own a physical set of [Eno’s creativity-boosting] Oblique Strategies cards, which are a bit of a prized possession.

Outside of music, what are you into?
When I toured with Floyd in the 90s, Rick Wright took me sailing on Tampa Bay on a day off, just in a little borrowed dinghy, which I loved. Now I sail regularly, racing twice a week and odd other times if the conditions look good.

Ever had a prog-related date?
I’ve never met a girl that did prog. They must exist...

What’s the most important piece of prog music?
A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers from Pawn Hearts. It’s still really extraordinary.

The prog muso you’d most like to work with?
[VdGG’s] David Jackson. Even though we have in theory worked together [on Andy’s album 73 Days At Sea] it was remotely, so we’ve never met. I just find his playing wonderful.

Care to recommend us a good read?
The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. Why do we have the morals we have, and why do they vary from person to person? If nothing else, it’s been really clearly written.

The proggy album that gets you in a good mood?
Some of the recent King Crimson three-drummer stuff is great. There’s a great video of Starless – brilliant one-note solo by Fripp.

Your favourite prog album cover?
Predictably it’s got to be The Dark Side Of The Moon. Just such a great piece of commercial art.

What are you up to at the moment?
My album Twelve Half Steps is out now, but I’m already 80 per cent through making the next one, which is really exciting me. I’m a bit like that – my favourite track is always the one I’m working on right now.

Grant Moon

A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Prog, Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.