Groundhogs - Split
Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, late afternoon mid-October 1971 in Plymouth, a naval port in the south west of England, a young boy on his way home from school, took a detour into the centre of town with a friend. This boy had been given some money for his twelfth birthday a few days earlier, and wanted to buy an LP. (You remember LP's - they were what people used to listen to music on in ancient times). This was not going to be just any LP, no, this was quite different. This was going to be this young boy's very first LP. What he chose would, perhaps, determine the course of his musical taste from then on in.
Of course, he was not going in to this completely blind (or deaf if you prefer). What he wanted was Split by the Groundhogs. Although he had never heard it, he was assured by one of his friends, not the one who was travelling with him, that Groundhogs were a good band and Split was a fine album, their newest - it had only come out earlier that year. So, this young boy and his friend got off the bus on Royal Parade and walked to the W.H. Smith shop on New George Street to purchase an LP.
Now, although this boy planned to buy Split he had of course never actually heard it. So, just to make sure, he asked the sales assistant if it be could put on the in store speakers. When the music started, the young boy recoiled somewhat in shock and dismay. This was not what he had been suspecting. The music was very different from anything he had previously heard and that first track seemed to him to carry a dark message of insanity. At that moment, the young boy made a momentous decision. He was not going to buy Split.
For the next half an hour, he and his friend wandered through the small number of racks in the store looking for something to buy. The young boy was determined to buy an LP but now really did not know which one to get. Knowing that the sales assistants were really uptight about customers wanting to hear records before they bought them, he felt he wasn't going to get the chance to listen before he bought. But what should he buy? Luckily his friend was there to advise. The young boy eventually came out clutching a copy of Led Zeppelin II. He hadn't heard it, but he knew that this was a very important purchase.
When he got home, he put it on the old mono phonograph in his parents' living room. His mother didn't like it. His sister asked him to turn it off. But the young boy liked it. He went on to buy all Led Zeppelin's music and that LP set the tone of his musical choice from then on. And he did, indeed, live happily ever after.
I often wonder what direction my musical taste would have taken if, on that fateful day in October 1971, I had walked out of W.H. Smiths with a copy of Split instead. So, when a few months back I was scouring the shelves of my local indie record shop for albums to buy, I came across Split. I downloaded a few tracks off Limewire and decided that it warranted a further listen so I downloaded the whole album, not being able, at the time, to purchase a copy of the CD which seems to be either out of stock or deleted. However, I recently acquired the extended and remastered version with the addition of four live bonus tracks.
Indeed, the first side, with four parts to the title track, is about insanity. The side is an exploration of the mind of someone suffering from schizophrenia. The second side consists of four tracks, of which the best is "Cherry Red", but pretty much in the same vein musically. Groundhogs' music is, in some ways similar to that of Led Zeppelin, blues influenced rock. Groundhogs have a perhaps heavier style and the denser sound is at first impenetrable, but it does take time to get used to it. Musically, and lyrically, it is not on a par. This is good, solid rock, but it is hardly going to set the house alight.
And so I still wonder; would my musical taste have been significantly different had I bought Split instead of Led Zeppelin II? To be honest, I doubt it. But you never know. I suspect Split would have been the only Groundhogs album I ever bought, and would almost certainly have found Led Zeppelin sooner or later.
Interestingly enough, I still have the LP of Led Zeppelin II l bought in that long-gone shop in Plymouth over 40 years ago.
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on 2011-06-05 CharlesMartel Said:
Groundhogs were a pure white blues rock outfit. They were OK but their style had its limitations. I never knew what happened to them.