follow us in feedly
The Soft Machine on BBC’s ‘Anatomy of Pop,’ 1971
12:20 pm


Soft Machine

If you need a break from the campaign 2016 madness, we recommend some time with the groundbreaking progressive jazz-rock combo known as the Soft Machine.

On January 10, 1971, BBC One played a segment on the program Anatomy of Pop showcasing the leaders of the experimental Canterbury scene. It’s an 8-minute clip in black & white featuring both interviews and live footage, although not any one song is played to completion (they did tend to go long, you know). These were the Wyatt/Ratledge/Dean/Hopper years of Third and FourthThird had come out the previous June, and Fourth was just a month away from release.

All four members are interviewed, but it’s Robert Wyatt who does most of the talking—he amusingly says that it was “quite hard work” learning to get into Charlie Parker. However, that needn’t suggest a negative assessment, on at least two of his albums (Radio Experiment Rome, February 1981 and Flotsam Jetsam) Wyatt played Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce.”

In between the epic solos, make sure you get out to VOTE if doing so early is an option in your precinct.

After the jump, Soft Machine on German TV’s ‘Beat-Club’ back in March of 1971…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
It’s so nice to be a beautiful girl: Meet J-Pop’s avant garde sweetheart Kahimi Karie
12:43 pm


Soft Machine
Kahimi Karie

There was a while there in the mid to late 90s when it looked like Japanese pop chanteuse Kahimi Karie would break out of Tokyo’s hip and fashionable “Shibuya-kei” scene (which included Pizzicato Five, Plastic Fantastic Machine, Dee-lite’s Tōwa Tei and others) to find international stardom. She certainly had the potential, the looks and the style. I think when European and American music fans first discovered her, it was assumed that there might be other, similar J-Pop singers like her still to find, but this sadly wasn’t the case. Kahimi Karie (real name Hiki, Mari) was unique within that category, if she even deserved to be lumped in with J-Pop at all.

Influenced by the French yé-yé singers of the 1960s and finding her own Serge Gainsbourg(s) in the persons of then boyfriend Keigo Oyamada (aka the brilliant Cornelius) and quirky Scottish performer Momus, Karie’s whispery, half-spoken Claudine Longet-esque vocals were the perfect gloss on a pop confection that looked backwards and forwards equally.

Her best-known single “Good Morning World” was commissioned for use in a Japanese cosmetics company’s TV commercial. The song’s playful, nearly nonsensical dada lyrics named-checked a Fall song (“How I Wrote ‘Elastic Man’”) and it utilized a particularly effective sample lifted from the Soft Machine’s “Why Am I So Short?Talk about two insanely cool dog whistles to smuggle into a corporate advertising jingle. Bravo!

There was much to like in the Kahimi Karie package, but for whatever reason, other than the small hipster J-Pop audience, few outside of Japan took notice.

Karie’s sound has radically changed over the years as she’s collaborated with the likes of Arto Lindsay, Add N to (X) and Yasuharu Konishi. Now 48 and living in New York after a long period of residing in Paris, it seems like she has turned her back on hoping for another mainstream pop hit. Recent projects have been produced in collaboration with Japanese noise rocker Yoshihide Otomo and experimental musician Jim O’Rourke. She actually hasn’t been that active in music for many years and her website, infrequently updated, seems to indicate that she might be involved with fashion and bag design these days.

“Good Morning World” written and produced by Momus:

More from Kahimi Karie after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Frontiers of Progressive Rock’: Five incredible jams with ELP, King Crimson, Yes, and others

Lordy lord, do I love footage from the old Beat Club program from Germany in the early 1970s. (The show later turned into Musikladen). Last week we brought you some smokin’ hard rock jams including MC5, Alice Cooper, and the New York Dolls that originally appeared on Beat Club. This week we move onto prog—and the results are nearly as sublime.

This compilation is known as Frontiers of Progressive Rock (and was originally released on a Laserdisc), features five excellent prog bands in their prime, just fucking shit up. Yes, Soft Machine, the Nice, King Crimson, and the biggest seller of them all, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer are each represented with an early gem, and all of them just go to town. My favorite moment comes when Keith Emerson, dressed in glittery blue and green, hurls himself over his second organ and then rocks it back and forth from behind before playing a few notes from the “wrong” side.

I also really love how much of a premium Beat Club placed on ridiculous video effects. The ELP number has oscilloscope readings projected onto the back wall, whereas the entire Soft Machine number is enring’d in an orange halo on the screen. Meanwhile, during the Yes song a kaleidoscope effect is used wherein the center of the image is “reflected” around itself—you have to see it to get it. For some reason the Yes track incorporates a large revolving head suspended over an old-fashioned chair of some sort…. anyway, I love the intensity with which the bands play their songs, I love the varied instrumentation (violin, saxophone, etc.), and I love the acid-freakout visuals. If you’ve got nothing else going on, I recommend turning this on and finding a pharmaceutical or two to help you enjoy the day.


Track listing:
Emerson, Lake & Palmer: “Knife Edge”
King Crimson: “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic”
The Nice: “Hang On To a Dream”
Soft Machine: “Composition Based On 3 Tunes” (Medley of “Out-Bloody-Rageous,” “Eamonn Andrews,” and “All White”)
Yes: “Yours Is No Disgrace”


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Ester’s Nose Job: Dazzling live Soft Machine concert in Paris, 1970
04:03 pm


Soft Machine

With their Third album in 1970, Soft Machine practically discarded their previous sound and instead of just hinting at it (strongly) made a dive headlong into jazz rock fusion. At the same time Miles Davis was completely changing the course of popular music with his Bitches Brew, Soft Machine were exploring similar terrain, but coming at it from a different starting place, in their case, the psychedelic underground of the UFO Club (which also spawned Pink Floyd).

With Third they gave up any pretense of being a “rock” group with the intense opening song suite “Face Lift” lasting nearly nineteen minutes! The exciting, improvisatory nature of their live performances meant that no two concerts were ever alike.

That such out-bloody-rageous music would be taken seriously enough to be afforded two half hours of French network television in 1970—how many channels did they even have back then, I wonder—is, of course, a sign of that time, but also that Soft Machine were actually a pretty huge group in France. This wasn’t the first time the band was given an extended TV slot, nor would it be the last.

The way this is shot is distinctly continental, eschewing the typical British and US TV tropes of shooting a live band and trying to create an artificial tension. There’s enough tension in the music already and the venue itself, Theatre de la Musique in Paris, is spectacular. When Robert Wyatt is doing his vocal improvisations, the camera is ON him. Similarly, during his solo on “Eamonn Andrews,” we’re seeing Elton Dean’s face. This is the short-lived five-piece line-up of Soft Machine when Elton Dean, Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper and Robert Wyatt were joined by Lyn Dobson on soprano sax, flute, vocal and harmonica.

In part one they do “Facelift"and “Esther’s Nosejob.” In part two, the set consists of “Eamonn Andrews,” “Backwards/Mousetrap” and “Out-Bloody-Rageous.” This originally aired on the POP2 series.  Click here for the entire concert (I can’t embed it).

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Lady June’s Linguistic Leprosy’: Art rock obscurity featuring Brian Eno and Kevin Ayers

When she died of a heart attack in 1999 at the age of 68, her obituary in The Independent called “Lady” June Campbell Cramer “a great British eccentric and cosmic prankster.” That’s already a pretty good claim to fame, but the obit went on to say that her “most achieved performance was herself: she succeeded in turning her existence into living art, bristling with humour.”

“Lady” June—the honorary title given to her due to her upper-crust, aristocratic voice (she sounded like a stoned Judi Dench) and the fact that she was the de facto landlady of many a progressive musician from the Canterbury set—was a sort of free-spirited hippie bohemian poetess and multimedia performance artist who ran with the crowd that included Gong and Soft Machine, who she first met in Spain in the early 1960s.

According to Daevid Allen, who was in both groups, June’s Maida Vale flat was “London’s premier smoking salon”:

“She was ferocious in the mornings until the first joint arrived: she’d hover over you with a wet cloth demanding that you clean the stove.”

Gilli Smyth of Gong, Allen’s wife, was her best friend, and it was at a dual birthday party June threw for herself and Smyth that a drunken Robert Wyatt fell out of a window, falling four stories and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

In 1973, June took part in the chaotic BBC Radio 4 series If It’s Wednesday It Must Be… with Kenny Everett and former Bonzo Dog Band member Vivian Stanshall. Later that year she recorded Lady June’s Linguistic Leprosy, her surrealist poetry set to music by her longtime friend (and longtime tenant) Kevin Ayers and Brian Eno, who lived nearby. The recording was made in the front room of her apartment (along with Gong’s drummer Pip Pyle and David Vorhaus of White Noise) and is said to have cost just £400. A wary Caroline Records—a Virgin subsidiary set up to release things with little to no commercial potential in the first place—pressed up just 5000 copies, but the album sold out quickly when news of her famous collaborators got around. June performed on bills along with Gong, Hawkwind, The Pink Fairies and Hatfield and the North.

“Lady” June Campbell Cramer returned to Spain in 1975 and became an active and creatively fulfilled participant in the artists’ community of Deya in Majorca. It is primarily for the company she kept—and this one remarkable album—that we remember her today. Lady June’s Linguistic Leprosy was re-issued on CD in 2007 by Market Square.


“The Letter”

“Tourisy”/“Am I”

“To Whom It May Concern”

“Some Day Silly Twenty Three”

“Missing Person,” a gorgeous number from a 1984 French various artists release entitled History of Jazz.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Soft Machine founding member Kevin Ayers dead at 68
12:17 pm


Soft Machine
Kevin Ayers

“Kevin Ayers’ talent is so acute you could perform major eye surgery with it.”
—John Peel

Sad to hear that founding Soft Machine member, Kevin Ayers, one of the most important characters in the history of psychedelic rock, has died at the age of 68. The singer-songwriter guitarist passed away at his home in the French village of Montolieu.

During his career that spanned five decades, Ayers worked with the likes of Brian Eno, John Cale, Syd Barrett, Elton John, Nico, Robert Wyatt, Andy Summers and Gong.

Fun fact: Kevin Ayers is “The bugger in the short sleeves fucked my wife” who is referred to in John Cale’s “Guts.” Cale caught them the night before the famous June 1, 1974 recording.

“Eleanor’s Cake (Which Ate Her)”:

The gorgeous “The Lady Rachel” from 1970’s Joy of a Toy album:

In this clip taken from the POP2 TV series, Ayers (who obviously spoke French pretty fluently in that plummy public school voice of his) performs in Paris at Taverne De L’Olympia, sometime in May of 1970. Supporting the release of his second solo album, Shooting at the Moon, Ayers plays with The Whole World, a group that included a young Mike Oldfield on bass, avant-garde classical composer David Bedford on keyboards (Bedford had orchestrated Ayers’ Joy of a Toy record previously), and the great jazz saxophonist, Lol Coxhill.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Soft Machine live on the French TV, 1967
02:10 pm


Soft Machine

More terrific footage of early Soft Machine. Robert Wyatt on drums and vocals, Kevin Ayers on bass and Mike Ratledge on organ. Killer, brutal take on “We Know What You Mean.”

For a band that were never that commercially successful, there certainly was a great deal of visual documentation of the group made throughout their existence and various incarnations. Not that I am complaining!

There is a bootleg DVD called Dada Was Here that I highly recommend looking out for on the various torrent trackers if you’re a Soft Machine fan. It’s the best anthology of their early performances as you are ever likely to find.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Mind-blowing Early Soft Machine footage, 1968

Via Robert Wyatt and Stuff


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Mind-blowing early Soft Machine footage, 1968

The amount of high quality video footage of the Soft Machine unearthed in recent years has been truly impressive and a godsend to fans of the ever-changing line-ups of the Canterbury prog-rock greats. For me, the earlier the better, so this 1968 performance of the group on French TV is some of the best footage of the Softs, I’ve seen, period.

Showcasing the improvisational brilliance of the classic Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers and Mike Ratledge line-up in a way that their first album did not, this 24-minute long set is a barnstormer throughout, ending on an extended, energetic romp all over their classic,“Hope for Happiness.”

If you’re a Soft Machine fan, this will absolutely blow you away.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Out-Bloody-Rageous: The Soft Machine
06:56 pm


Soft Machine



The death last month of Hugh Hopper saw me pulling out my Soft Machine CDs and giving them a listen again. I go through a Soft Machine phase every couple of years and Hopper’s passing was a good excuse for another. It was also an excuse for me to pull “Out-Bloody-Rageous,” Graham Bennett’s exhaustive Soft Machine’s bio off the shelf again, too. It will forever be the definitive book on the band.

Eccentric pioneers, first of psychedelia, then prog rock, then of jazz-rock fusion, the innovative avant-garde onslaught of the Soft Machine was probably best encountered as a live experience.The odd time signatures and sheer complexity of the music would have been almost stressful to play. This musical tension was probably personally wearing as the band went through 24 different line-ups in its long career.

Sadly, I never had a chance to see the Soft Machine play live, it was before my time, but I have had a chance to see Gong and Kevin Ayers and both shows were delightful experiences. Here’s a particularly hot performance of the Soft Machine performing “Ester’s Nose Job” from French TV circa 1970:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment