Experimental Rock

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Soft Machine
United Kingdom

Years: 1966 - 1968; 1969 - 1984
Styles: Art Rock, Canterbury Scene, Experimental Rock, Jazz Rock, Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Rock


Larry Nowlin - Guitar (in band: 1966)
Daevid Allen - Bass Guitar, Guitar, Vocals (in band: 1966 - 1967)
Kevin Ayers - Bass Guitar, Guitar, Keyboards, Lead vocals, Piano, Vocals (in band: 1966 - 1968)
Robert Wyatt - Bass Guitar, Drums, Hammond organ, Hohner Pianet, Keyboards, Lead vocals, Vocals (in band: 1966 - 1968; 1969 - 1971)
Mike Ratledge - Celesta, Electric piano, Fender Rhodes , Flute, Grand piano, Hammond organ, Harpsichord, Hohner Pianet, Keyboards, Lowrey organ, Organ, Piano, Synthesizer (in band: 1966 - 1968; 1969 - 1976)


Andy Summers - Guitar (in band: 1968)
Hugh Hopper - Acoustic guitar , Bass Guitar, Guitar, Saxophone (in band: 1968 - 1973)
Mark Charig - Cornet (in band: 1969)
Nick Evans - Trombone (in band: 1969)
Lyn Dobson - Flute, Saxophone (in band: 1969 - 1970)
Elton Dean - Fender Rhodes , Keyboards, Saxophone (in band: 1969 - 1972)
Phil Howard - Drums (in band: 1971)
John Marshall - Drums, Percussion (in band: 1971 - 1984)
Karl Jenkins - Baritone saxophone, Celesta, Electric piano, Grand piano, Keyboards, Oboe, Piano, Recorder, Saxophone, Soprano saxophone, Synthesizer, Tenor saxophone (in band: 1972 - 1984)
Allan Holdsworth - 12 string guitar, Acoustic guitar , Guitar (in band: 1973 - 1975)
Roy Babbington - Bass Guitar (in band: 1973 - 1978)
John Etheridge - Guitar (in band: 1975 - 1978)
Alan Wakeman - Saxophone (in band: 1976)
Ray Warleigh - Saxophone (in band: 1976)
Percy Jones - Bass Guitar (in band: 1976 - 1977)
Ric Sanders - Violin (in band: 1976 - 1978)
Steve Cook - Bass Guitar (in band: 1977 - 1978)

Biography Picture    Soft Machine formed in 1966 by ex-Wilde Flowers members Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers, who meet up with Australian beatnik, Deavia Allen, and former Oxford Ubiversity student Mike Ratledge. The other members of Wilde Flowers  (Pye Hastings & Richard Coughlan) went on to form Caravan.[1]

    A trip to Majorca in 1966 by Allen and Ayers led to chance meeting with a monied, freakfrendly American by the name of  Wes Brunson, who agreed to finance the incarnation of Soft Machine , foundy named Mr. Head. Moving to London, the band regrouped abd after phoning William Burroughs to ask his permission, adopted the Soft Machine moniker. Together with Pink Floyd, the band formed the venguard of the psychedelic revolution, playing ssouch legendary London gigs as the International Times launch at Roundhouse.[1]

     Early in 1967, they were signed to Polydor by Chas Chandler, who employed the services of Softs fan Jimi Hendrix on the B-side of their debut single, “Love Makes Sweet Music” (1967). The single was basically a pop song and entirely representative of the band’s live free-form improvisation that took it cue from avant-jazz of artists like Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane. After a gig in St. Tropez (where they play an hour long version of Ayer’sWe Did It Again” to the assembled Parissian elite), Allen was refused re-entry to the UK due to an expired visa, remaining in France and subsequently forming uber-hippies, Gong.[1]

     Pared down to a trio, Soft Machine underwent a gruelling tour of America supporting Jimi Hendrix. During a short break in the middle of the tour, the band recorded their eponymous debut for Probe records, a US-only affair which incredibly, still hasn’t had a full UK release almost 30 years on. A pioneering hybrid of psychedelic jazz improvisation, the album was the first and last to feature Kevin Ayers, who took off for Ibiza at the end of the USA tour.[1] Picture    Recruiting Hendrix roadie Hugh Hooper, the band recorded another album for Probe to fulfill contractual obligations. Soft MachineVolume Two” (1969) was another idiosyncratic classic, containing a backwards rendition of the alphabetic and a multitude of highbrow cultural references. Employing such live instrumentation as saxophone, trombone and cornet, the band increasingly moved towards jazz fusion and “Third” (1970) was largely instrumental, save for Wyatt’s sublime mediation, “Moon in June”. The other band members refused to have any serious inolvement with the song, a crucial factor in Wyatt’s eventual split from the group. As Soft Machine moved further into tepid jazz-rock territory, Wyatt become increasingly frustrated add was eventually pushed out after “Fourth”.[1]

     After differences over the group's musical direction, Wyatt left (or was fired from) the band in August 1971 and formed Matching Mole (a pun on machine molle, French for soft machine. Also said at the time to have been taken from some stage lighting equipment "Matching Mole".). He was briefly replaced by Australian drummer Phil Howard, but further musical disagreements led to Howard's dismissal after the 1971 recording of the first LP side of"Fifth" (1972) and, some months later, to Dean's departure. They were replaced respectively by John Marshall (drums) and, for the recording of "Six" (1973), Karl Jenkins (reeds, keyboards), both former members of Ian Carr's Nucleus, and The Softs' sound developed even more towards jazz fusion.[2]

    In 1973, after the release of "Six", Hopper left and was replaced by Roy Babbington, another former Nucleus member, who had already contributed with double bass on "Fourth" and "Fifth" and took up (6-string) electric bass successfully, while Karl Jenkins progressively took over the role of band-leader and main composer. After they released "Seven" (1973) without additional musicians, the band switched record labels from Columbia to Harvest. On their 1975 album "Bundles", a significant musical change occurred with fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth adding guitar as a very prominent melody instrument to the band's sound, sometimes reminiscent of John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, setting the album apart from previous Soft Machine releases, which had rarely featured guitars. On the last official studio album "Softs" (1976), he was replaced by John Etheridge. Ratledge, the last remaining original member of the band, had left during the early stages of recording.[2]

   The Soft Machine name was used for the 1981 record "Land of Cockayne" (with Jack Bruce and, again, Allan Holdsworth, plus Ray Warleigh and Dick Morrissey on saxes and John Taylor on electric piano), and for a final series of dates at London's Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in the summer of 1984, featuring Jenkins and Marshall leading an ad hoc lineup of Etheridge, Warleigh, pianist Dave MacRae and bassist Paul Carmichael.[2]

    Soft Machine split in 1984.

1. The Great Rock Discography - Martin C.Strong, Four Edition, by Canongate Publishing, Ltd. Edinburgh,  p. 767
2. Source:


The Soft Machine (Dec, 1968)
Volume Two (Sep, 1969)
Third (Jun 6, 1970)
Fourth (Feb, 1971)
Fifth (Jul, 1972)
Six (Feb, 1973)
Seven (Oct, 1973)
Bundles (Oct, 1973)
Softs (1976)
Land of Cockayne (1981)

Singles & EPs

Love Makes Sweet Music (Feb, 1967)
Joy Of A Toy (Nov, 1968)
Soft Space Part I (Apr 14, 1978)

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