Robert John Godfrey is talking about Barry Manilow. He’s explaining the crucial difference between his idea of a love song and Barry’s. He also discusses the eternal cycle of life, the band’s desire to operate outside the system (“a slap in the face for EMI”) and how this world may be “a gutter” but we can still have a good time in it. He’s a highly capable, articulate talker, but The Enid have been Godfrey’s chief vehicle of expression for over four decades. Their most recent album, Dust, said to be his sign-off, is a triumph. Back in 1984 they weren’t the most fashionable outfit – were they ever? – but their unique blend of rock and classical ambition made for some epic, curious sounds. The DVD here, first released in 2004 and now cleaned up with two added CDs of the music, captures them playing two shows (it’s actually three: the daytime and night-time gigs at the farm are edited together). The first’s on their home ground, the second at a Stonehenge free festival for the summer solstice (at which Roy Harper and Hawkwind also played).
Filming of gigs was still undergoing its learning curve, and the footage appears elementary by modern standards. Cameras chiefly switch between cheerful, chubby Godfrey with his big beard and white workman’s overalls and the guitar heroics of Steve Stewart. What’s uncanny is the range of sounds they (and the rhythm section) emit, with numbers like Then There Were None and Flood displaying a healthy mix of grandeur and humour. By the end of the Stonehenge show, Godfrey is launching into a knockabout version of Wild Thing, confirming his quintessential Britishness with frequent use of the adjective “naughty”. There’s insight into Godfrey’s anti-establishment philosophy, and the music is consistently surprising, shifting modes regularly. As a film this is rough and ready, primitive rather than polished, but that innocence gives it a visceral, intimate edge. A document of a key chapter in a commendably strange career.