Tag Archives: In and Out of Focus

March 4th 1973

“Went up Trevs and got bike wheel” / ” In afternoon took out drawers of bedside cabinet and primed them – gonna paint them red and gold (smart) – Gonna paint chair gold as well” / “In evng (no tibs) recorded In + Out of Focus + Old Songs new Songs – Family”

My word, what a veritable cornucopia of things today eh?

No real idea about the what and the why regarding the bike wheel comment but it appears self-evident on the face of it.

I DO remember (“huzzah” says the crowd) painting my bedside cabinet. It was a six-drawer affair that my Dad had made with his own fair hands a few years earlier, and I was obviously channelling Lawrence-Llewellyn Bowen a few years in advance to spruce  it up a little. It was obviously a well made piece of furniture because my Dad STILL uses it underneath his workbench in his garden shed. Same funky little legs on it and everything.

However, … a gold chair? Blimey, what kick was I on?

I borrowed “In & Out of Focus” back in October 1972, and (even more strangely) I said I sent away money to BUYOld Songs, New Songs” the previous June… so…. erm….. I’m not entirely sure why I was recording either of them again?!

Perhaps I was just copying both to cassette for greater portability?

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January 23rd 1973

“Bort MOVING WAVES – FOCUS – ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT” / “Got opticians appointment” / “Today is the 1st (day) Anniversary of finding my history book”

Why did I write that stupid line about my history book? (Monty Python had WAY too much influence on my teenage brain I reckon!)

I suspect making an appointment with an optician scared me. (It always has). I wonder if this might have been the fateful “contact lens” appointment? (More on that later. If I can bear to write it)

As for “Moving Waves”, my brief review in 1973 may have been somewhat biased? After all my anticipation of finally buying this album had been building for almost a month or more. I suppose that, unlike in later life, I couldn’t afford to have “buyers remorse” about the music I bought. Heavens forbid that a 15-year-old boy should ever make a mistake?!!

If you wake up one morning fancying some shrill yodelling underpinned by mellotrons, flute music, classically-tainted piano and what can only be described as “heavy metal” guitar, then I really can’t recommend “Moving Waves” enough to you!

This album was originally released in 1970 with a totally different cover – and entitled “Focus II” – in Holland, the band’s home country.

Following the astonishing “hit single” success of the quirky single “Hocus Pocus“, the album was repackaged and reissued all over the world.

The album did amazing business in England following an appearance by the band on TV show “Old Grey Whistle Test“. (Something I have spoken of before) It also reached #8 on the USA Billboard album chart.

Side 1 kicks off with the single, then mellows right out on “Le Clochard” a somewhat haunting instrumental highlighting guitarist Jan Akkerman’s more laid back style.

Track 3, “Janis“, was also released as a single (an unsuccessful release in it’s own right… not surprising considering it is perhaps the weakest cut on the album).

Tracks 4 and 5 (“Moving Waves” and “Focus II” respectively) are often considered ‘classic’ Focus compositions, combining Thijs Van Leer’s weird imagery and piano chords over Akkerman’s jazz-influenced guitar work.

The whole of Side 2 is a 23 minute “concept” track (I often wonder if there’s any album in the early 70’s that didn’t include some kind of tripped-out ‘concept’ piece?). “Eruption” is an ambitious suite split into 5 segments which the band pull off with professional aplomb. It’s a captivating musical journey of stunning guitar licks, hammond organ and drum solos, all infused with excitement and melody.

Here’s a 10-minute sample of “Eruption” courtesy of You Tube… you will notice that Thijs Van Leer has forgotten to put his shirt on…

“Moving Waves”, along with “Focus III“, are without doubt my favourite Focus albums. Other Focus albums like “At the Rainbow“, “Hamburger Concerto“, as well as their debut, “In & Out of Focus“, failed to fire my imagination anywhere near as much.

And the least said about 1975’s terrible – and APPALLINGLY-titled – “Mother Focus“, the better. At least IMHO.

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October 30th 1972 (II)

“went up Trev’s – borrowed Ummug. + In+Out of Focus”

… and it was the second part of today’s entry that proved my ‘issue’ was not with Focus but with that particularly bad pressed vinyl.

In & Out of Focus” was Focus’ debut album, originally released at the very start of the seventies. Several decades on there’s not a whole lot I can personally recommend from this album – it was never in my pantheon of “great Focus albums” – but the cut “House of the King” (which I seem to recall was used as theme music for a TV show – maybe a holiday programme?) certainly gave a taster of what the band were about, or more readily, what they would become. Prog-rock innovators.

Focus were formed by Thijs Van Leer, a classically-trained keyboardist & flautist from Holland. Alongside him – at least in the “recognised-as-classic” Focus line-up – were drummer Pierre Van Der Linden, bassist Cyril Havermans and the stylings of a certain Jan Akkerman, who, from that day to this, has always been considered one of the world’s best & technically-gifted guitarists.

I suspect I will have more to discuss about Focus in future diary posts. I’ll bet you can’t wait?!

Ummug refers to Pink Floyd’s 1969 album “Ummagumma”. This was a double album, one LP of which was a live set, the second featuring studio compositions by each of the (then) four members of the band.

This album has never been particularly considered a “good one”, even the band members themselves admitting it comes across as a bit of a “desperate release”. The live portion is very badly recorded (I can’t imagine I kept that half very long at all – it was/is very muddy and, at times, terribly incoherent) whilst the studio contributions are certainly nothing to write home about….

Except for one which I am going to highlight here, but ONLY because 36 years later I still recall it’s title with alarming precision….

Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict

… a peculiar composition consisting of little more than animal sound effects combined with Roger Waters’ synthesized voice looping and and out of itself in a vaguely gaelic manner. If you’ve never heard it before judge it for yourself!

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