Looking at the music of Dutch rock band Focus, started in the late sixties by Thijs Van Leer (b /31/03/48) with Jan Akkerman (b 24/12/46). Van Leer still performs and records under the name today (official site here). Akkerman's site here.




Focus Live 03

As we come into 1972 and the beginnings of Focus's international fame there are two more recordings about from Holland plus, significantly, one, possibly two, others, recorded in England.
Of the Dutch recordings, one is from Friday March 31 at the Spinoza Lyceum in Amsterdam. This features what would be an oft repeated running order familiar from the later Rainbow album - Focus 3/AQQA (both then unreleased) with Focus 2 (now including Van Leer's meandering organ intro). These are followed by the long track Anonymous 2 with its bass and drum breaks.
The other (undated) recording is of a performance in a student centre in Wageningen. In addition to the four initial tracks played in Amsterdam there is a recording of Focus 1 before Anonymous 2 and a long version of Eruption plus versions of the St Anthony Chorale (where Van Leer begins by singing in operatic style) and House of the King. The St Anthony element seems to be looking back to the Ramses Shaffy era as much as looking forward to Hamburger Concerto. The version of Eruption includes some quite eclectic elements, including a series of so called 'Bridges' where, after a fairly long ensemble piece including elements from his solo piece Fresh Air, Akkerman is left to solo on electric guitar. Some of this is quite remarkable stuff. He appears to draw on a number of pieces that can be found on his then current and sometimes later albums. After one storming section that anticipates his Prelude:Friends Always there is a brief rendition of Andante Sostenuto. We come back to more familiar Eruption territory via Van Leer's organ in quite Bartokian mode before Van Der Linden takes his turn with a six minute drum solo. This is followed by more Bartok from the band to close.
Focus also did the Pinkpop Festival again at the end of May 1972 and the Great Western Express Festival in Bardney, Lincolnshire (Sunday May 28). The very first Focus gig in England was in 1972, and may have been to 60 people somewhere in Huddersfield. There were also free gigs at the famous Marquee Club in London (Wednesday March 8, Thursday June 1, Friday August 11). The first of the recordings from England is Saturday August 12 1972 at the famous Reading Festival that was so important a break for the band in Britain. Again we have the four track sequence mentioned already. Then comes this time a rather short extract from Eruption and this time the Hocus Pocus/Sylvia/Hocus Pocus (reprise) sequence is preserved.
Recordings also exist of The Melody Maker Poll Winners Concert at the Oval Cricket Ground on Saturday September 30, 1972, when Akkerman and Van Der Linden jammed with the bassist Jack Bruce doing Powerhouse Sod. Focus also opened the show and (possibly) Bert Ruiter and Pierre Van Der Linden backed Rory Gallagher at one point.
Other gigs in 1972 include - in Holland (January 1 Wageningen, June 30 a festival in Rotterdam, August 6 Terborg) and their first tour of England and Wales - a series of around 30 gigs between October 13 and November 18 (as far west as Swansea, as far north as Newcastle, as far easy as Ipswich adn a sfar south as Southampton and Plymouth).
The other recording that possibly comes from 1972 is a BBC recording introduced by whispering Bob Harris, an early champion of the group. We will consider this recording separately.

No comments: