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).