My first encounter with GG was in the cut out records section of the Frankfurt PX around 1975. I was stationed there in the US Army. For 99 cents the PX had a copy of Free Hand. I also picked up a few David Sancious and Tone (my second favorite band in the world) LPs along with some Billy Joel. I think I spent $10 and got 10 great albums in all. After listening to Free Hand about 100 times (I taped it back to back so I could hear over and over without having to change the tape), I convinced my bass player, Thom "T" Thomas from Detroit, to come over and check it out. I was in a weekend soul band called Sound Trek out of Frankfurt. Thom was quite impressed, even though it was very different from the Crusaders, Jeff Beck, and other types of music we were used to hearing. I got all the GG LPs I could find and started listening the them (although Free Hand remains my favorite to this day).
Thom and I saw GG on 28 Sept 1976 in Offenbach, Germany. I took a bunch of slides that all came out kinda blurry (it was a 110 camera with no controls to focus, not that I could have anyway). Slides can be seen at http://www.kingbeat.com/gentlegiant/. We were a little stoked up on wine and hashish, but I remember enough of the show. It consisted of almost all the songs on Free Hand and the opening act, Banco, was OK (they seemed slow and a little boring but were not booed or anything). GG was magnificent, loud, and so energetic and much fun to watch. They had the surround sound violin, the GG mask on the slide show, the 5 man drum solo, the recorder quintet, etc. going on. The crowd seemed to know all their songs and was probably about 1/5th American (I think the place held about 1000 people). I think I was a little shocked that anyone could play so well musically and be so versatile. I hadn't seen Zappa yet (did later, but it wasn't as good overall). I was really impressed with the dynamics and theatrics, as well as the tone. Being a keyboard player myself, I wanted to give up music after seeing them perform live. It did, however, encourage me to write better songs, one of which I still have yet to record that was written as a tribute to this GG particular concert performance. I'll make sure to send Dan a copy when it is done. And yes, it does have five part vocals and a harpsicord. Since my wife plays the Celtic harp, I'll stick that in also.
The one thing I notice in all these writings is about how much GG really means to all of us, still after all these years (it has been 30 for me). I have over 1200 LPs, yet I still listen to my GG stuff (now on CD/DVDs) more than all the other music I own put together. It is almost a religious experience, and I can't get enough of it, ever. To think of all the crap that GG had to go through (opening for ZZ Top, etc), getting booed, having bad acoustics, being late to gigs, being sick on stage, etc., yet they still were not only world class musicians at all times, they were (are) world class human beings, representing the best in humanity and the arts. OK, maybe this sounds a little preachy, but, if I were stranded on an island, their music would be in the top two things I would need to survive (right after air). Being fortunate enough to have been a working musician during the 60's (top forty has never been so good since) is one of the things I'm most thankful for. The other is having experienced Gentle Giant in person, and for knowing there many others like me who treasure that gift.