Civilian

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About the Album

This album shows Gentle Giant's "rocking" side with short, simpler tunes. Some fans hate this album. Others like it, claiming that even though it is more pop-influenced than previous Gentle Giant works, it is still a good album.

Civilian was Gentle Giant's final album, not counting the compilations and live albums released after their breakup.

The bonus track Heroes No More appears on both the One Way and Terrapin CDs. The Terrapin track is taken from an old cassette recording, but the One Way track comes from the original master tape.

Musicians

Gary Green - All guitars

Kerry Minnear - Keyboards, vocals

Derek Shulman - Vocals

Ray Shulman - Bass, acoustic guitars, backing vocals

John Weathers - Drums, backing vocals

Other liner notes:

  Words and music by Gentle Giant
  Recorded August-November, 1979

  Thanks to: Skinny Bishop for providing fine vintage equipment, etc.
  Sibecor Corp. for their Norman guitars, Yamaha drums and Rotosound strings

  All songs © 1980 Alucard Publishing Ltd.

  An Onward U.S. production engineered and remixed by
  Geoff Emerick at Sound City, Van Nuys, California
  Tape operator: Torrie Swensen;
  Bijou Studios, Hollywood, California
  Second engineer: David Zammit;
  Wessex Studios, Highbury, London
  Second engineer: Mike Shipley
  Design: Nancy Donald/Ginger Canzoneri
  Photography: Dan Weiner

Track List

  1. Convenience (Clean And Easy) (3:14)
  2. All Through The Night (4:20)
  3. Shadows On The Street (3:18)
  4. Number One (4:39)
  5. Underground (3:48)
  6. I Am A Camera (3:33)
  7. Inside Out (5:51)
  8. It's Not Imagination (3:59)
    Ending of the album ("That's All There Is")
  9. Heroes No More (4:25) - bonus track

Lyrics

All lyrics reproduced with the permission of DRT Entertainment (USA) and Alucard Publishing, Ltd. (UK).

We also have the lyrics in French.

- English lyrics submitted by Jerry McCarthy

Convenience (Clean And Easy)

Lead vocals: Derek

Plastic, plastic, take the modern way.
Simulation, for my instant day.
Why should I care, if you say that it's no good.
It's for me, can't you see?
Convenience, everything is clean and easy.

I can't read, but then I watch T.V.
Stimulation, they can do it for me.
How can you say, what is right and what is wrong.
It's for you, for me, too.
Convenience, everything is clean and easy.

Just believe me, it runs like a big machine
It's just for me, can't you see?
Convenience, everything is clean and easy.

All Through The Night

Lead vocals: Derek

Everyday they clock me, everyday is just the same.
And the people I see, wear the same face as me.
As I turn the handle, time goes slowly by.
Is that all that there is until the day that I die?

[Chorus]
All through the night.
Through the night.
All through the night.
I can't believe I'm free til morning.

If I wipe the dirt and sweat,
Then I find that more's still there.
If the summer don't get you,
Then the winter always will.
Try not to think, it never gets nowhere.
But at least everyday ends, and the night's always there.

[Chorus]

Shadows On The Street

Lead vocals: Kerry

And we're sitting here
Wondering where the peaceful night has gone.
Over factories.

Shadows on the street, our lives still go on.
Another day, the songs the same.
Forget our dreams, and play the game.

The shadows on our street are clearer now, in light,
We see, this is as it's meant to be.
Don't look there, just look at me.

And it's waking now
And the grayness of the day will be here,
Want you near.

Number One

Lead vocals: Derek

You walk in here, and it seems you think
You own the place.
You ruin the sinks and you write on the wall.
After all the consideration given you,
I thought you would be grateful,
But no, you're not at all.

[Chorus]
What can I do, what can I do, I've tried.
What can I say, do it my way.
Don't you forget, never forget,
I'm Number One, yes, I'm Number One.
Number One, and you're still no one.

You say you're angry,
It doesn't make much sense to me.
You're paying your rent,
And at least you've got a job.
I've explained all the sacrifices offered you.
You take them without thanks,
I forget that you're still slobs.

[Chorus]

Underground

Lead vocals: Derek

Wheels go 'round, from end to end,
A passage run, go down, descend.
And underground the air is stale
With blurring light and endless rail.
On the wheels in motion, underground.

Silent noise, relentless sound.
Through shuttered aisle, the wheels go 'round.
The day is night, yet never still,
>From port to port, with miles to kill.
On wheels in motion, underground.
Just the locomotion, underground.

Windows dark, no view obscured.
With moving eyes, no sight assured.
Yet moving on, from place to place,
Through corridors, without a face.
On the wheels in motion, underground.
Just the locomotion, underground.

I Am A Camera

Lead vocals: Derek

My eyes are ready,
They're focusing on you.
I'm watching every move and all you do.
I see you everywhere,
I'm here and now I'm there.
Nowhere you can hide, you're still in view.

And when the shutter's open,
Images on my screen,
Sent to the people waiting,
People you've never seen, 'cause

[Chorus]
I am a camera,
Looking at pictures of you.
I am a camera.
SMILE,
Now you see me, now you don't.

I'm always working,
At night and in the day.
I'm your security, that's what they say.
And if you think you're free,
Then turn your back on me.
I'll catch you as you look the other way.

And when the shutter's open,
Images on my screen,
Sent to the people waiting,
People you've never seen, 'cause

[Chorus]

Inside Out

Lead vocals: Derek

As I sit, as the world goes 'round,
In the room I've known before.
Is it me? Am I inside out?
In a dream, as I watch the floor.

Everywhere, see, they are closing in,
(Do I need lifting, do I need lifting.)
But you say, no, there's nobody there,
(Do I need lifting, do I need lifting.)

How the colors seemed so bright,
Now it feels they've lost their glow.
And the dreams, only nightmares now,
Images, from down below.
Everything is spinning 'round,
'Round and 'round I go.
(Do I need lifting, do I need lifting.)
Where's the door, now I don't know.
(Do I need lifting, do I need lifting.)

Funny how I lose control.
Funny how, I don't feel me.
But I do feel I'm inside out.
But I hear, I feel, I see.
Everything is getting dark.
No, please don't lock me in.
Am I here, the light is growing dim.
(Do I need lifting, do I need lifting.)

It's Not Imagination

Lead vocals: Derek

Looked in the papers, looked in the magazines
Wanted to find out, to know.
Was there an answer, was there really something.
Hidden beneath them below.
Searched in the light and underneath the pictures.
Something was written there.
And through the smiles and under all the color
A message on everything there.

[Chorus]
But it's not imagination
Not imagination
It's not me, look and see for yourself.

Didn't believe it, although I saw myself.
Wanted to look there again,
But it was real and everybody saw it.
When it was shown, pointed out to them,
S.e.xisting, s.e.x.exciting
Written where it doesn't show.
What do we see, the product or the message.
So hard to tell I don't know.

[Chorus]
But it's not imagination
Not imagination
It's not me, look and see for yourself.

That's... All... There... Is....

At the end of the album, four words are sung: "That's all there is." (Some CD and vinyl releases are missing this ending, unfortunately.) This sentence was created from music that appeared in four different songs on the album. The words were extracted from the songs and then spliced together.

The words come from:

That's
"I'm your security, that's what they say" (from I Am A Camera, 1:38)
All
"All through the night" (from All Through The Night, various places)
There
"Now they're mine no more" (from Heroes No More, 1:29)
Is
"Everything is spinning 'round" (from Inside Out, 4:27).

This information was uncovered by Daniel Barrett and Marc Caroul.

Heroes No More

(Bonus track)

- Lyrics from Proclamation issue #4

Lead vocals: Derek

They were standing there - they were so near, yet so far away.
Were they so unreal?  Just a dream of someone to be one day?

There was endless fame.  They were heroes, now they're souvenirs.
And through changing years I can still remember - no quite so clear.

Heroes no more -
Stay with me still.
I dream.  I hope.  I always will.

Now they're mine no more as they stand there in the glowing light.
I see every face like my own, but that was another night.

Now they're just a dream of the time known ever left to fall.
Soon the game begins, but those heroes yours always to recall.

Heroes no more -
Stay with me still.
I dream.  I hope.  I always will.

Liner notes

These liner notes are reproduced with the kind permission of the Terrapin Trucking (UK) Ltd.

The twelfth and final Gentle Giant album, 'Civilian', appeared in the spring of 1980, a little over a decade after the bands formation. After ten studio albums in as many years, the band had built up a formidable back catalog of distinctive music which had consistently polarized listeners and defied categorization. True, there had been a steady shift toward a more accessible style, especially after the release of 'Interview' in 1976, but the diverse influences which had been so adroitly combined on their earlier recordings had continued to set their music apart throughout their career.

'Civilian' was the final stage in Giant's move toward a more mainstream approach. It was unique among their albums in that the material was written and recorded in America, the territory in which the group had increasingly seen their greatest chance of commercial success. From the outset, vocalist Derek Shulman had shouldered much of the responsibility of dealing with the business side of Gentle Giant, and by the late Seventies, whilst continuing as an active band member, had effectively assumed the role of manager. His decision to relocate in Los Angeles in 1979, the first and only year of the band's existence during which there was no new Giant album, reflected the group's desire to succeed in the US marketplace.

With Derek settled in California, and after a longer than usual break from the routine of writing, recording, and touring, Gentle Giant reconvened late the same year to begin work on a new album. With a view to achieving a more Transatlantic feel, the band moved temporarily to Los Angeles, where the material for 'Civilian' took shape over a five month period stretching into early 1980. Keyboard player Kerry Minnear, by this time married and with a young daughter, found the exercise something of a strain: 'I must say I didn't really like it over there... I found LA an uncomfortable place, rather threatening. We spent four months writing and another month recording, but I don't have particularly fond memories of any of it.'

Bassist Ray Shulman was equally unimpressed: 'I had a horrible time... I hated the whole process of going over to California to write, it seemed so unnatural. It definitely wasn't a good experience for me, although I would have to admit it proved quite interesting.'

Whether the band achieved their goal of a more American ambience is open to debate. 'Civilian' is for the most part, a fairly straightforward high-energy rock album, undoubtedly a musical vindication of Giant's decision to move further towards the rock mainstream, and the logical conclusion of the work begun on 1977's 'The Missing Piece' and continued on 'Giant for a Day' the following year. As for a more American flavor, the main concession to US taste is probably in the song structures, which are generally uncomplicated, but somehow Gentle Giant retained a quintessentially English quality despite all their efforts to accommodate the American ear.

Starting with 'Convenience (Clean and Easy)', a blistering opener which focuses on the American way of life, 'Civilian' once again shows Giant's ability to write and play in a number of styles. Although the medieval influence has almost totally disappeared, the brooding magnificence of 'Inside Out' and the delicate keyboard work on 'Shadows on the Street', the latter reminiscent of mid-Seventies pieces such as 'Freehand' and 'No God's a Man', maintain the Gentle Giant tradition. Elsewhere, upbeat rock numbers are littered with the prominent motifs and complex instrumental interplay which had always characterized the band's output.

As a bonus on this, the first reissue of 'Civilian', and therefore it's first outing on CD, a rare previously-unissued tack is included. The sheer complexity of Giant's music and the lengthy process of recording each number to their own exacting standards, meant that the band committed hardly anything to tape which did not make it onto a finished album. 'Heroes' was a rare exception. Recorded during the 'Civilian' sessions, it failed to appear only because of the need to keep running times down on the old vinyl format. Sadly, the original 24-track master of 'Heroes' has been lost so a cassette copy has been used to allow it's inclusion here, but any loss of quality is more than offset by it's rarity value.

Despite the obvious strength and immediacy of 'Civilian', opinions of the album differ widely within the group. Ray Shulman's intense dislike of the American experience probably goes a long way to explaining his antipathy. He has previously described it as 'a disaster', and more recently said: 'It didn't feel as if it was going anywhere... Even now, I just can't listen to it." Kerry Minnear found himself contributing more to this album than to it's immediate predecessors, and professes himself to be happy with the results. Drummer John Weathers, the only member of Giant still gigging (with Welsh survivors Man), remains most enthusiastic: 'It was a fantastic album... There's some tremendous stuff on there. For me 'Number One' is one of the best things we ever recorded.'

Sadly for the faithful few, 'Civilian' was to be Gentle Giant's swansong. After a short break, the band met in New York for some promotional work prior to their scheduled Spring tour of the States. Kerry had never enjoyed touring, but now the prospect of a lengthy separation from his wife and child whenever the band took to the road was enough to convince him that it was time to call it a day. He broached the subject with Derek during their stay in New York and was surprised to find that the vocalist had been thinking along much the same lines. Considering it better - and fairer - to do so sooner rather than later, the two immediately announced their decision to quit. There was no question of Gentle Giant continuing without them, and the group went on to fulfill their live obligations in the knowledge that they would be their last.

Although bootleg recordings of gigs on this final tour show the band had lost none of its power and precision, it was an uncharacteristically undisciplined affair in other respects, as Ray Shulman later recalled, 'It was very decadent in a way, very drunken... I remember our last gig in Milwaukee, we had this crazy prize-giving ceremony, issuing all our road crew with different 'trophies'. The crowd couldn't work it out - They'd come to see a music show, and instead there was this mad spectacle. It became remarkably self-indulgent at times.'

Since Gentle Giant's demise, the Shulman brothers have remained active within the music business, Derek choosing to stay in the States to work for Phonogram, and later running his own label. Ray, meanwhile, returned to England to pursue a career as a producer, initially working with acts on the One Little Indian label, but more recently branching out to build his reputation through work with other artists. Kerry Minnear spent the early Eighties working with a Christian group in Cornwall, contributing to several 'praise tapes', including a collection of Christmas carols for which he wrote new arrangements. These days he makes his living from teaching music, and from the occasional foray into the world of TV music, but has plans to record an album of his more recent compositions when time and money permit.

Guitarist Gary Green elected to stay in America, and according to Ray lives 'somewhere in the middle of nowhere, occasionally putting in an appearance with local bands.' Meanwhile John Weathers thunders on, as powerful as ever, propelling Man to further glories.

'Civilian' was the last in a line of strikingly original albums, each with it's own character, but each recorded with the same care and attention to detail. Gentle Giant were a unique proposition, five talented musicians with the ability to blend widely differing musical traditions into a coherent whole. Ray Shulman later summed up the band's philosophy thus: 'We could never see the point in doing anything twice - we are always looking for something new, something different.' Kerry Minnear contends that 'The chemistry between us was something you could never reproduce - I don't think any of us could ever find it with anyone else. It was a thoroughly professional band, almost total co-operation and tremendous mutual support.'

Their music is undoubtedly not to everyone's taste, but for those who take the time and trouble to listen, the rewards are considerable.

- Alan Kinsman. With thanks for their assistance to Kerry Minnear, Ray Shulman and John 'Pugwash' Weathers.

Press release

This is a Civilian press release, circa 1980.

Since the release of their first album in 1971, the members of Gentle Giant have enjoyed a continuing reputation as one of the first and best of England's "progressive" bands. They're one of the longest-lasting as well; the present line-up consists of four founding members plus drummer John Weathers, who has been in the band for seven years and as many albums.

The Giant's longevity has been no easy thing to come by. The band has survived trials that would rend lesser groups asunder within months: slow acceptance in their homeland; lack of record label support in the vital early stages of their development; the pressures of international touring without adequate preparation; and the obvious difficulties that come with bringing forth music that's adventurous and "different" and with finding an audience for it.

There's plenty in the other side of the balance, and that's what's kept Gentle Giant alive and continuing to adventure. An audience came to Gentle Giant relatively quickly--an international audience, bringing the band fans throughout Europe and North America. The determined spirit of the members of Gentle Giant is not to be dismissed lightly; never has there been any attempt to disband in the face of adversity. And, certainly, there's the music. With their opening out of what had been standard and accepted forms of rock and roll, the members of Gentle Giant make major contributions to the post-Sgt. Pepper listening generation.

All of which is a rather grand way of putting what the group themselves tend to understate. Indeed, when home-turf critics began to dismiss Gentle Giant's early albums as overreaching in their drawings from classical, jazz and pop forms, the group provided a cheerfully disdainful reply--by lighting up a huge, flashing "Pretentious" sign behind themselves onstage during some of the more sophisticated passages.

Derek and Ray Shulman, together with a third brother, Phil, began their musical careers in a number of bands playing dance music--not disco in those days, but largely rhythm and blues. The most notable early incarnation of the Shulman brothers was an organization named Simon Dupree and the Big Sound (Derek was "Simon Dupree" in the event that anybody would inquire), who recorded an album and a few singles--two of which, "Kites" and "For Whom The Bell Tolls," place in the British charts.

As the Shulmans played more and more, they began to grow dissatisfied with what was essentially a limiting format. "We were getting more familiar with our instruments," explains Derek. "It was a natural enough progression, really, growing from our own increased musical awareness and from simple boredom with playing the same old things all of the time."

The Shulmans took a year off before regrouping as Gentle Giant in 1970. Joining them at that time were blues and jazz guitarist Gary Green, a Royal Academy of Music graduate keyboardist Kerry Minnear, and the first of a succession of drummers that would end three years later with the permanent addition of John Weathers--an alumnus of the Graham Bond Organization and the Grease Band. Phil Shulman retired in 1972.

Gentle Giant have recorded eleven albums prior to the 1980 release of Civilian, a prodigious number for any group of musicians. Adding to the confusion Stateside is the fact that the second (Acquiring the Taste) was not issued in the U.S. until after the group's later success, and that two (Gentle Giant and In A Glass House) remain unavailable here except as sought-after imports. The band have label-hopped from Mercury to Columbia, to Capitol, and --now--back to Columbia. Although they have toured the United States and Canada quite successfully, they took a 2 1/2 year recess from the road (and 1 1/2 years from the studio) while preparing Civilian, their Columbia Records reunion.

Civilian marks several changes in Gentle Giant's method of recording. Though they have produced themselves in the past, this time they've brought in Geoff Emerick, the Grammy-winning engineer of such classics as Sgt. Pepper and Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. "We decided to stay away from the control board this time, and do what we do best--play. Being able to do that, with someone we trust running the controls, took quite a burden off our shoulders," says Derek.

Gentle Giant also came to these sessions far more prepared than had been their past experience. Their year and a half away from the studio was spent relaxing (Derek Shulman lives in Los angeles; Ray in New York and London; and Gary, Kerry and John in england); and nine months of songwriting and rehearsal; culminating in three months of recording and mixing. "Ray, Kerry and I wrote together, taped what we had, listened, and taped again before going into the studio with the full band. We had the opportunity to rethink compositions, and to get them absolutely right. We didn't jump into things this time; we approached writing and recording in a much more mature way."

The result is available for all to hear. "the ardent fans who have loved us should be pleased, but I think we will be making some new fans, too."

"Civilian isn't a concept album as such, but it does have the thread of what we're thinking about running through it. The lyrics aren't quite as personal as they may have been in the past; they're much more--how shall I say it?--aware. But there's no heavy social content. We're not politicians, after all. We come from an urban environment, and we try to bring that into our music. When the record goes on the turntable, people will know immediately what the song's about."

In support of the album, Gentle Giant are preparing for a lengthy touring schedule. Derek says that they're looking forward to it. "Back in the early days, being on the road was pretty harrowing. There's a saying among British musicians that if you can make it through your first U.S. tour, you'll be around for a long time. We did, and we have been. This time, we're going to put the album on the road and be a band again... a band of musicians, who enjoy what we're doing. We want to eat, breathe and live Gentle Giant. We're entering the decade with a really optimistic feeling."

Music files

MIDI files

MIDI File Title Album Contributor
Shadows.mid Shadows On The Street Civilian Henrik Johansson

Sheet music

Sheet Music File Title Album Contributor
Underground-bassonly-lgibaudan.pdf Underground Civilian Lionel Gibaudan
Number-one-bassonly-jeffsmith.pdf Number One Civilian Jeff Smith

CD releases

This list is not necessarily complete, and various releases are out of print.

Country Label Information
UK Terrapin Trucking/Road Goes On Forever, RGF CD 1008
(Later relabeled as TRUCKCD 008) (Out of print)
USA One Way Records
UK BGO (Playing the Fool & Civilian)

Details

The bonus track "Heroes" on the Terrapin disc was taken from a cassette tape and is of low quality. The One Way and DRT releases used the real master tape.

Defects

Terrapin disc:

  • The final words sung on the album, "That's all there is," are missing.
  • There is a "click" at 3:36 in track 7, "Inside Out." Also, at 3:08, there is a barely audible dropout.
  • In all track listings, the title of track 5 is incorrectly given as "All Through The Night" (duplicating the title of track 2). The correct title is "Underground." (This was fixed in a later pressing.)
  • In the lyrics section, the title "Shadows on the Street" is incorrectly written as "Shadows in the Street." This error also appears on the original LP sleeve.

One Way disc:

  • Same "click" and dropout as the Terrapin disc. The other Terrapin problems are NOT present.

Reviews

Articles

See also