Can – Vernal Equinox (OGWT 1975)

I discovered Can at the same time as I discovered Faust and Gong. My reason was not a sudden interest in the avant-garde at the age of 16. It was far more simple than that.

It was one of a trio of albums by experimental “foreign” bands put out at a budget price in 1974 in a bid by their labels (Virgin and, in this case, United Artists) to introduce them to a wider audience.

Attracted by the discount, I sent off for it, as you did in those days, from a mailorder company. When I opened the package I found myself looking at a very peculiar sleeve photo of some white mice in a doll’s house. It was nothing if not intriguing.

The music inside was weird: it had the adventurous questing elements of prog, of which I was never a fan, but the music (much of it instrumental) was harnessed by the anchor of a relentless, robotic rhythm that rarely deviated from its metronomic path.

It had the elements of funk without sounding at all funky, as you might expect from a bunch of pasty-faced Germans, and the arty avant-garde seriousness of Roxy Music, whom I adored.

If I’m honest, my main thought was probably “Not bad for 59p” – an attractive price for a schoolboy dependent on pocket money; though I may have graduated by then to a more grown-up-sounding “allowance” by then.

Nowadays, different story of course – I have every album by Can and recognise them as the profound influence they have been on generations of music to follow. And I still have this LP, one of a limited edition (as the title suggests) of 15,000.

This rare 1975 appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test demonstrates why: Jaki Liebezeit’s extraordinary drumming interlaced with Holger Czukay’s bass, Michael Kroli’s scorching, searing, searching guitar work, Irmin Schmidt performing karate chops on the keyboards.

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