My Prog Hero: New Order bassist Peter Hook on Tony McPhee of Groundhogs

A portrait of the groundhogs

“I’ve listened to a lot of prog rock in my time. As a kid – we’re going back to Salford, 1968, when I’m about 12 – you’re always looking for something exciting and this was one of the phases I went through. It started with Wishbone Ash and Curved Air… but one of my great favourites were Groundhogs. What a wonderful, wonderful guitar sound. They were absolutely revolutionary at the time. My favourite album of theirs is Split.

It was Barney [Bernard Sumner from New Order] who introduced me to them, there was that thing about one-upmanship among us with our record collection. In those days you’d walk around with the latest cool record under your arm. There was a lot of sharing, we talked about music all the time. Somehow he’d come across the band and turned us all onto them. I was grabbed by Split’s cover and the way the tracks are numbered. It’s an album with such a unique sound and Tony McPhee’s also a very individual vocalist so you’re hooked straight away by a few elements. It was harsh and edgy and it did sound like the nightmare he was trying to describe. Prog rock usually has a softness to it and intricacy. I was starting to get into Sabbath, Purple and Zep, rock music with a certain delivery. Split wasn’t one of those prog records you disappeared into, it delivered on the same rock angle with shorter tracks – there’s a huge difference between what they were doing and Mountain with their live, 20-minute Nantucket Sleighride [laughs]. Some of my favourite groups are three-pieces – from Cream to Jimi Hendrix – and I adored seeing that formation with the Groundhogs.

It would be years until I picked up an instrument myself – I formed a band in 1976 when I was 20 and I didn’t even own a bass. I went through pub rock and punk, then found my own music. But I still have all my vinyl and find myself going back to things like prog when I want to listen to an album. Concentration and indulging in listening time is the key to enjoyment.

Ooh, I can’t wait to get back home to listen to all these records!”

For Peter Hook & The Light’s tour dates, see bit.ly/peterhookandthelight.

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