Living in the Heart of the Beast

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the Kalahari Surfers album, see Living in the Heart of the Beast (album).
"Living in the Heart of the Beast"
Song by Henry Cow with Slapp Happy from the album In Praise of Learning
Released May 1975
Recorded February–March 1975, England
Genre Avant-rock
Length 15:30
Label Virgin
Writer Tim Hodgkinson
Composer Tim Hodgkinson
Producer Henry Cow, Slapp Happy and Phil Becque

"Living in the Heart of the Beast" is the title of an extended song written and composed by Tim Hodgkinson in 1975 for the English avant-rock group Henry Cow. It was recorded in 1975 by Henry Cow with Slapp Happy, who had recently merged with Henry Cow after the two groups had recorded a collaborative album, Desperate Straights the previous year.

"Living in the Heart of the Beast" was the first of two "epic" compositions Hodgkinson wrote for Henry Cow, the second being "Erk Gah" (1976), later known as "Hold to the Zero Burn, Imagine".[1]


Tim Hodgkinson began writing "Living in the Heart of the Beast" in mid 1974 and presented it a few months later to Henry Cow as an unfinished and untitled instrumental. The group cut the piece up into fragments, interspaced them with improvisational sections, and performed it live.[2] One such performance, Halsteren was recorded in Halsteren in the Netherlands on 26 September 1974, and appears in Volume 2: 1974–5 of The 40th Anniversary Henry Cow Box Set (2009). This instrumental suite was also performed in Groningen in the Netherlands two days later, and part of it was released as "Groningen" on Henry Cow Concerts (1976). In early 1975, after a successful collaborative album, Desperate Straights with Slapp Happy, the two groups decided to merge, and Henry Cow, for the first time, acquired a vocalist, Dagmar Krause from Slapp Happy. Plans were made for "Living in the Heart of the Beast" to be recorded for Henry Cow's next album, this time with vocals and lyrics added.

Hodgkinson commissioned Slapp Happy's songwriter Peter Blegvad to write lyrics for the piece for Krause to sing. However, after several attempts, Blegvad (who was soon to be asked to leave the band) admitted that he was "out of [his] depth", and Hodgkinson wrote the lyrics himself.[2][3] Blegvad presented a slightly different interpretation of this situation in a 1996 interview with Hearsay magazine, stating "The piece that got me kicked out [of Henry Cow] was "Living in the Heart of the Beast". I was assigned the task for the collective to come up with suitable verbals, and I wrote two verses about a woman throwing raisins at a pile of bones. [...] Tim Hodgkinson said, 'I'm sorry, this is not at all what we want’, and he wrote reams of this political tirade. I admired his passion and application but it left me cold. I am to my bones a flippant individual. I don't know why I was created thus or what I'm trying to deny, but it clashed with the extreme seriousness."[4]

"Living in the Heart of the Beast" was recorded in February and March 1975 and released on In Praise of Learning in May 1975. It is a 15-minute piece that opens with an "atonal, highly distorted electric guitar solo" and closes with a "stately modal march".[5]

After recording the album, the Henry Cow/Slapp Happy merger ended, but Krause elected to remain with Henry Cow. The final song version of "Living in the Heart of the Beast" was performed live by Henry Cow between 1975 and 1977. In a concert with Robert Wyatt at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris on 8 May 1975, Wyatt joined Krause in singing the closing verses.

In 1986 "Living in the Heart of the Beast" inspired the title of the Kalahari Surfers' second album, Living in the Heart of the Beast. Former Henry Cow members Chris Cutler and Hodgkinson had toured with the South African band across Europe in the mid 1980s and Cutler's Recommended Records had released several of their albums.

Live recordings[edit]

Two live recordings of "Living in the Heart of the Beast" appear in The 40th Anniversary Henry Cow Box Set:

  • 8 May 1975 in Paris, France (Volume 2: 1974–5) – a concert with Robert Wyatt, who joins Dagmar Krause on vocals near the end of the piece.
  • 25 August 1976 in Vevey, Switzerland for the Swiss TV program, Kaleidospop (Volume 10: Vevey) – released on the only known video recording of Henry Cow.[6][7]



  1. ^ Kelman, John. "Henry Cow: The 40th Anniversary Henry Cow Box Set". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  2. ^ a b Cutler 2009, vol. 1–5, p. 12.
  3. ^ Cutler 2009, vol. 1–5, p. 39.
  4. ^ Blegvad, Peter. "Peter Blegvad Retrospective: Blegvad on Blegvad". Hearsay 1996 (12). Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  5. ^ Macan, Edward (1997). Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture. Oxford University Press. p. 1973. ISBN 0-19-509888-9. 
  6. ^ The 40th Anniversary Henry Cow Box Set, Volume 10 DVD liner notes.
  7. ^ Couture, François. "Henry Cow: The Road, Vols. 6–10". AllMusic. Retrieved 2009-07-23. 

External links[edit]