Soft Machine, The

Band members               Related acts

Daevid Allen - vocals, guitar (1967-68)

- Kevin Ayers - guitar (1967-68)

- Hugh Hopper - bass (replaced Kevin Ayers) (1969-)

- Larry Nolan - guitar (1967)

- Michael Ratledge - keyboards (1967-)

- Andy Summers - guitar (replaced Daevid Allen) (1968)

- Robert Wyatt - vocals, drums, guitar, bass, cello (1967-)



Daevid Allen (solo efforts)

Kevin Ayres (solo efforts)

- Danatelion's Chariot (Andy Summers)

- Gong (Daevid Allen)

- Matching Mole (Robert Wyatt)

- The Police (Andy Summers)

- Andy Summers (solo efforts)

- The Whole World (Kevin Ayers)

- The Wilde Flowers (Kevin Ayres, Hugh Hopper, 

  Robert Wyatt)

- Robert Wyatt (solo efforts)





Genre: progressive

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  The Soft Machine

Company: Probe

Catalog: CPLP-4500

Year: 1968

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold, gimmick sleeve

Available: SOLD

GEMM catalog ID: SOLD

Price: SOLD

Cost: $66.00


It's interesting how personal tastes change over time.  We bought this LP several years ago and the first time we played it, simply couldn't get through the first side.  Playing it again several years later, it isn't half bad (perhaps not on our top-10 list), but definitely different and worth hearing !


Living in the English university town of Canterbury, Robert Wyatt's professional musical career started as singer/drummer with The Wilde Flowers, whose membership briefly included guitarist Kevin Ayres and Hugh Hopper.  By 1966 Wyatt had left the band, relocating to the Spanish island of Majorca.  In Majorca he crossed paths with Ayres, singer/guitarist Daevid Allen and keyboardist Michael Ratledge.  Finding common musical ground, the four decided to form a band.  Under a number of different names, including The Four Skins, the band began rehearsing and playing local dates.  They also acquired a manager in the form of Michael Jeffries and settled on a new name - The Soft Machine.  1967 found the quartet in London, where, with the addition of California born guitarist Larry Nolan (who quickly quit the group), their unique mix of jazz, psychedelic, rock and experimental moves quickly attracted attention among the city's in-crowd.  An in-demand act at places such as the UFO Club, they also attracted the attention of American recording artist/producer/manager Kim Fowley.  Impressed by the band's eclecticism, Fowley pursued Polydor Records to signed them to a contract.  In addition to financing a large quantity of demo material, Polydor released the Fowley penned and produced 1967 single "Love Makes Sweet Music" b/w "Feelin' Reelin' Squalin'" (Polydor catalog number BM-56151).  


While the "A" side was relatively commercial, it sold poorly leading the band to decamp for France, where they played at numerous festivals and became involved in the production of Picasso's play 'Desire Attrappe Par la Queue'.    Unfortunately, when they returned to England, Australian Allen was refused a new visa.  He subsequently went back to France, where he formed Gong.  Allen was briefly replaced by former Danatelion's Chariot guitarist Andy Summer who helped out on an extended American tour where they opened for Jimi Hendrix.  Their performances captured the attention of Hendrix manager Chas Chandler and ABC's newly formed Probe subsidiary.  


Co-produced by Chandler and Tom Wilson, musically "The Soft Machine" was quite unique for it's time.  Recorded as a trio, Ayers, Ratledge and Wyatt (along with former Wilde Flowers bassist Hugh Hopper), all contributed material to the LP.   Seamlessly merged into a pair of side-long suites, tracks such as "Hope for Happiness", "Why Am I So Short?" and "Priscilla" offered up a freewheeling mix of jazz, outright experimentation, psychedelic touches and conventional rock moves.  Normally that description wouldn't do much for us, but somehow the mix actually managed to work this time out.  That isn't to say the album's perfect - there's plenty of needless fluff (and drum soloing), but taken as a whole, the album's quite intriguing and stands as one of their best offerings.  Curiously, in view of the band's UK roots, the LP only saw an American release.  (The LP was originally released with an elaborate gatefold sleeve.)


"The Soft Machine" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Hope for Happiness   (B. Hopper - Kevin Ayres - Michael Ratledge) - 4:22

2.) Joy of a Toy   (Kevin Ayres - Michael Ratledge) - 2:56

3.) Hope for Happiness (reprise)   (B. Hopper - Kevin Ayres - Michael Ratledge) - 1:31 

4.) Why Am I So Short?   (Hugh Hopper - Kevin Ayres - Michael Ratledge) - 3:23

5.) So Boot If At All   (Kevin Ayres - Michael Ratledge - Robert Wyatt) - 2:33

6.) A Certain Kind   (Hugh Hopper) - 4:08

7.) Save Yourself   (Robert Wyatt) - 2:38


(side 2)

1.) Priscilla   (Kevin Ayres - Michael Ratledge - Robert Wyatt) - 1:55

2.) Lullabye Letter   (Kevin Ayres) - 4:26

3.) We Did It Again   (Kevin Ayres) - 3:40

4.) Plus Belle Qu'une Poubelle   (Kevin Ayres) - 1:05

5.) Why Are We Sleeping   (Kevin Ayres - Michael Ratledge - Robert Wyatt) - 5:25

6.) Box 25/4 LID   (Michael Ratledge - High Hopper) - 48


Unfortunately, shortly after the album was completed the band called it quits.  Ayers returned to Spain before starting a solo career.  The breakup proved brief with Hopper stepping in as a replacement for Ayers.




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