A Hawkwind fan once suggested a caption for this photo:
"Does anyone know where this bit goes?"
For people interested in electronic music, the name Tim Blake is often one that's just vaguely familiar. Despite being one of the great synth pioneers and a particularly brilliant musician, he's tended to be in the shadows a bit.
Possible reasons may be that he came to prominence with Gong, a band with a strong cult following but never really a household name, and his solo albums have tended to be on small labels. In musical terms, Tim Blake has been a major force, but in terms of publicity he's tended to be overlooked. It's a situation that easily affects musicians. Manuel Göttsching has always been in a similar situation, for example. It's said that he's been overshadowed by Klaus Schulze because of the skills Schulze's manager has for promoting his client. Schulze, in turn, had limited exposure in Britain at a crucial point in his career, and it's said that Virgin Records deliberately kept him down so as not to detract from their major electronic act, Tangerine Dream.
Whether that story is true or not, all of this reflects the nature of the music business, where skill and importance often go unrewarded and the finest musicians may easily be pushed to one side in the mad rush for this week's undeserving celebrity.
In the meantime, Blake continues to make music, producing a series of albums that maintain a high level of excellence while always managing to be different from each other, and continuing to play concerts solo, as a duo with Jean-Philippe Rykiel, and with British space rock band Hawkwind. (More about Rykiel and Hawkwind later.)
Some Internet commentators have listed Tim Blake as being French. He was actually born in London, but he's lived in France so long that the mistake is unsurprising. He worked initially as a sound engineer, and it's said that it was actually Tim's encouragement that enabled Hawkwind to play their first gig, in 1969, when the as yet unnamed band basically took over the stage at All Saints Hall in Notting Hill, London, and played a stunning set as `Band X.' It was several more years before he joined Hawkwind - the years with Gong and the early part of his solo career intervened - but he became a friend of the band at this very early stage.
The first encounter with Gong is an excellent story that deserves to be re-told in Tim's own words, as he recounted it on the Planet Gong website:
"So I'd just met this really weird guy - 'Twas January 1971... He suggested I went back with him to France! (Can't get Much Stranger). At the airport an even weirder guy met us ...said "everything will be ok, I'm an Aquarian too", and, after lunch in Les Halles, they took me off to a really Magick place near Sens.
As a sound engineer, I then had to listen to an even weirder bunch of guys playing ....
It was the "Ryhthmic Gliss" - (Fohat, and other names)
Wow! -I couldn't believe it! People playing my kind of music!