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Soft Machine

Band, 1966-1968 GB, Canterbury
Rock and Jazz

Australian poet, guitarist, singer, composer and performance artist Daevid Allen moved to Paris in 1960. Inspired by the emerging 'Beat Generation' of writer's works he'd discovered whilst working in a Melbourne bookshop he moved into a room in Paris's 'Beat Hotel' and spent time around the city's Latin Quarter. There, he rubbed shoulders with Terry Riley and William S. Burroughs, gaining free access to the area's jazz clubs. Influenced by the music philosophies of Sun Ra he formed the Daevid Allen Trio, a free-jazz outfit which performed in Burroughs' theatre pieces based on that writer's novel 'The Ticket That Exploded'. In 1961 Allen travelled to Canterbury, England, where he met 16 year-old Robert Wyatt (who was the son of his landlord). Their mutual interest in jazz resulted in a few gigs, in London in 1963, as the Daevid Allen Trio (with Hugh Hopper on bass and Mike Ratledge occasionally guesting on piano). Around the same time, Wyatt formed the Wilde Flowers with the Hopper brothers, Hugh and Brian Hopper, with Kevin Ayers on vocals. The impetus behind the formation of Soft Machine occurred in a meeting of Daevid Allen and Kevin Ayers with Texan millionaire Wes Brunson in Deya, Majorca, on Easter Sunday 1966. Brunson agreed to put up the money for a new band, which allowed the group to buy equipment and rent a rehearsal room near Canterbury. The original line-up consisted of Robert Wyatt on drums and vocals, Mike Ratledge on keyboards, Daevid Allen on guitar and Kevin Ayers on bass and vocals. From May 1966 they gigged as Mister Head (aka Mr Head) and became Soft Machine in August 1966. The name was taken from a William S. Burroughs novel 'The Soft Machine' (part of The Nova Trilogy), with agreement from the author. The title The Soft Machine encapsulates the Human Body, and the main theme of the book - as explicitly written in an appendix - concerns how control mechanisms invade the body. One poem, entitled Mens (Man, as in 'human'), by Dutch-American hematologist and poet Leo Vroman starts with the line: "Man is a soft machine..." Mike Ratledge says of this : "... Soft machine was a generic term for the whole of humanity, and we were all soft machines... I guess our basic assumption was that what we liked, everybody else was going to like as well, that we all had things in common, and therefore we all are soft machines, and we were all going to like Soft Machine music. It might have been a false assumption, but I hope it's true". In January 1967, the band's first single release, Love Makes Sweet Music, was recorded.. Celebrating its release on February 22nd 1967 the band gave a press conference at The Speakeasy, performing that evening at The Roundhouse as the opening act for the Jimi Hendrix Experience - where Hendrix jammed with them on bass. Allen recalls their introduction to The Speakeasy by Giorgio Gomelsky, the promoter, producer, founder of the Crawdaddy Club and original manager of both The Yardbirds and the Rolling Stones; “He would take us there and ply us with whiskeys on the expense account. We’d meet all the big stars at the time. It was like being at court, only a rock ‘n’ roll court. ‘Cause the Beatles were there, the Rolling Stones were there – everybody, all the big names, would gather at the Speakeasy at this particular time.” [From the book 'Soft Machine: Out-Bloody-Rageous' by Graham Bennett]. Three months later, a collection of demos was recorded at DeLane Lea Studios with producer Giorgio Gomelsky, but not officially released until 1971 as two compilations on the French BYG Records label. At that time, Soft Machine had already become something of a 'cult' band on the London psychedelic scene, gigging at places like the Zebra Club, The Marquee, The Roundhouse, UFO (Underground Freak Out club) and Middle Earth. Light shows were also developed with Mark Boyle's Sensual Laboratory. On April 29th, 1967, they took part in the '14 Hour Technicolor Dream', an event set up by the underground paper 'International Times', which also featured Pink Floyd, the Move, Alexis Korner, Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Tomorrow, Mothers of Invention, Velvet Underground and artists such as Alan Ginsberg and Yoko Ono. During the summer of 1967 the band toured France, performing at psychedelic events along the Cote d’Azur such as Jean-Jacques Lebel’s “Sunlove Happening” and Eddie Barclay’s “La Nuit Pschedelique”. For three weeks they provided daily musical “transmissions hallucinatoires” for wildly popular performances of “Le Désir Attrapé par la Queue”, a Pablo Picasso play produced by Lebel at the Festival de la Libre Expression outside Saint-Tropez. A legendary performance of “Do It Again” helped Soft Machine to make an enormous impression in France and, by the end of the Summer of Love, they became the favorite band of the French avant-garde. On the way back Daevid Allen was refused re-entry to England and stayed in France, moving on to various projects before forming Gong two years later, while Robert Wyatt, MIke Ratledge and Kevin Ayers decided to carry on Soft Machine as a trio. In February 1968, Soft Machine embarked on a three month US tour (opening for the Jimi Hendrix Experience), recording their first album during their touring schedule in New York in four days in April 1968, with production handled by Tom Wilson and former Animals bassist and Hendrix producer Chas Chandler. Although quickly made and not particularly well-recorded, the band's eponymous album The Soft Machine (1968) is now considered a classic of the extraordinarily creative post-psychedelic and pre-progressive period of the late 1960's. The band split up in December 1968, re-formed in February 1969 and carried on until the late 1970's through many line-up changes and leaving no original member onboard. It re-formed briefly in 1980 and 1984. Robert Wyatt formed Matching Mole in October 1971. "Matching Mole" is a clever mis-pronounciation of "La Machine Molle", the French title of William Burroughs' novel "The Soft Machine". Years active: 1966–1968 1969–1978 1978–1983 (as Soft Head) 1980–1984 1999–2002 (as Soft Ware) 2002–2004 (as Soft Works) 2004–2015 (as Soft Machine Legacy) 2015–present Current members: ● John Marshall – drums, percussion (1971–1984, 2015–present) ● Roy Babbington – bass (1973–1976, 2015–present) ● John Etheridge – guitar (1975–1978, 2015–present) ● Theo Travis – saxophone, flute, piano (2015–present) Guest/Substitute musicians: ● Nic France – drums, percussion (at least for one show: on 26 March 2016 in Sheffield Green, East Sussex, UK; substitute for John Marshall) Former members: ● Mike Ratledge – keyboards, flute (1966–1968, 1969–1976) ● Robert Wyatt – drums, vocals, keyboards, bass (1966–1968, 1969–1971) ● Kevin Ayers – bass, vocals, guitar, keyboards (1966–1968; died 2013) ● Daevid Allen – guitar, vocals, bass (1966–1967; died 2015) ● Larry Nowlin – guitar (1966) ● Andy Summers – guitar (1968) ● Hugh Hopper – bass, saxophone, guitar (1968–1973; died 2009) ● Elton Dean – saxophone, keyboards (1969–1972; died 2006) ● Lyn Dobson – flute, saxophone (1969–1970) ● Mark Charig – cornet (1969) ● Nick Evans – trombone (1969) ● Phil Howard – drums (1971) ● Karl Jenkins – oboe, saxophone, keyboards, synthesisers (1972–1984) ● Allan Holdsworth – guitar (1973–1975; died 2017) ● Alan Wakeman – saxophone (1976) ● Ray Warleigh – saxophone (1976; died 2015) ● Ric Sanders – violin (1976–1978) ● Percy Jones – bass (1976–1977) ● Steve Cook – bass (1977–1978)

PortraitRobert Wyatt
voc, dr *1945 GB
PortraitDaevid Allen
g, voc 1938-2015 AU
PortraitKevin Ayers
voc, g 1944-2013 GB
PortraitAndy Summers
g *1942 GB
PortraitHugh Hopper
b, eb 1945-2009 GB
PortraitElton Dean
as, ep 1945-2006 GB
PortraitTheo Travis
fl *1964 GB
PortraitNick Evans
tb *1947 GB
PortraitMike Ratledge
org, ep *1943 GB
PortraitLyn Dobson
fl, ts, ss GB
PortraitMarc Charig
cor *1944 DE
PortraitKarl Jenkins
p *1944 GB
PortraitJohn Marshall
dr, perc *1941 GB
PortraitRoy Babbington
eb, b *1940 GB
PortraitAlan Skidmore
ts, sax *1942 GB
PortraitAllan Holdsworth
g *1946 GB
PortraitRic Sanders
vn *1952 GB
PortraitRay Warleigh
fl, sax, as 1938-2015 GB
PortraitDick Morrissey
ts, fl 1940-2000 GB
PortraitAlan Wakeman
ts, ss *1947 GB
PortraitPhil Howard
dr AU
PortraitSteve Cook
eb, b *1948 GB
PortraitJohn Etheridge
eg, acg, g *1948 GB
Popular Tracks   
Priscilla on The Soft Machine by Soft Machine
Aubade on Softs by Soft Machine
Why Am I So Short? on The Soft Machine by Soft Machine
Hazard Profile, Pt. 4 - 2022 Remaster on Bundles by Soft Machine
Hazard Profile, Pt. 1 - 2022 Remaster on Bundles by Soft Machine
Joy Of A Toy on The Soft Machine by Soft Machine
The Man Who Waved At Trains - 2022 Remaster on Bundles by Soft Machine
A Certain Kind on The Soft Machine by Soft Machine
Slightly All The Time - Remastered 2006 on Third by Soft Machine
We Did It Again on The Soft Machine by Soft Machine

Track list and 30sec audio provided by

Band Membership

Title Artist Year Type
Hidden DetailsSoft Machine2018Album
We Did It Again PlusSoft Machine2018Compil.
MoonJune Years 2002-2018 (Sampler)Soft Machine2017Album
Switzerland 1974Soft Machine2015Album
Live In The 70sSoft Machine2015Compil.
WonderlandSoft Machine2015Compil.
Turns On (An Early Collection)Soft Machine2014Compil.
Live In 1970Soft Machine2014Compil.
Bundles In MarseilleSoft Machine2014Album
Tanglewood TailsSoft Machine2014Compil.
Recorded For John Peel's Top Gear ShowSoft Machine2012Album
Over 'N' AboveSoft Machine2012Single
Hazard Profile: Live At Syracuse University New York 1974Soft Machine2012Album
ProtoSoft Machine2012Album
Live At The Roundhouse 1971Daevid Allen & Gilli Smyth With The Soft Machine2012Album
Original Album ClassicsSoft Machine2010Album
BundlesSoft Machine2010Single
Tales Of Taliesin (The EMI Years Anthology 1975-1981)Soft Machine2010Compil.
NDR Jazz WorkshopSoft Machine2010Album
Queen Of The MoonSoft Machine2010Album
British Rock - Viewseum Vol. 6Soft Machine, Man, Brian Auger & The Trinity, Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, Shocking Blue2010Album
Live At Henie Onstad Art Centre 1971Soft Machine2009Album
DropSoft Machine2009Album
Allan Last StandSoft Machine2009Album
Alive In Paris 1970Soft Machine2008Album
Даёшь Музыку MP3 CollectionSoft Machine2007Compil.
Middle EarthSoft Machine2006Album
Floating World LiveSoft Machine2006Album
Middle Earth MastersSoft Machine2006Album
GridesSoft Machine2006Album
Out-Bloody-Rageous An Anthology 1967-1973Soft Machine2005Compil.
Orange Skin FoodSoft Machine2005Compil.
Live ChronicleSoft Machine2005Album
British Tour '75Soft Machine2005Album
Breda ReactorSoft Machine2004Album
Somewhere In SohoSoft Machine2004Album
Six + SevenSoft Machine2004Compil.
BBC Radio 1971 - 1974Soft Machine2003Album
BBC Radio 1967 - 1971Soft Machine2003Album
MP3 CollectionSoft Machine2003Compil.
Kings Of CanterburySoft Machine2003Compil.
FaceliftSoft Machine2002Album
BackwardsSoft Machine2002Album
Soft Machine Turns On Volume 2Soft Machine2001Album
Man In A Deaf Corner (Anthology 1963 - 1970)Soft Machine2001Compil.
Soft Machine Turns On Volume 1Soft Machine2001Album
NoisetteSoft Machine2000Album
Hazard ProfileSoft Machine2000Album
Fourth/FifthSoft Machine1999Compil.
Live 1970Soft Machine1998Album
VirtuallySoft Machine1998Album
SpacedSoft Machine1996Album
Live In FranceSoft Machine1995Album
The Best Of Soft Machine - The Harvest YearsSoft Machine1995Compil.
Live At The Paradiso 1969Soft Machine1995Album
FusionSoft Machine1994Album
Moon In JuneSoft Machine1994Album
BBC Radio 1 Live In ConcertSoft Machine1994Album
BBC Radio 1 Live In ConcertSoft Machine1993Album
Softs / Alive And Well (Recorded In Paris) / BundlesSoft Machine1992Album
As If...Soft Machine1991Compil.
The UntouchableSoft Machine1990Compil.
The Peel SessionsSoft Machine1990Album
In ConcertSoft Machine1990Album
LiveSoft Machine1990Album
Live At The Proms 1970Soft Machine1988Album
Soft MachineSoft Machine1987Compil.
Old MachineSoft Machine1985Album
Canterbury TapesSoft Machine / Kevin Ayers / Robert Wyatt1983Compil.
Land Of CockayneSoft Machine1981Album
Alive And Well Recorded In ParisSoft Machine1978Album
Soft SpaceSoft Machine1978Single
Triple EchoSoft Machine1977Compil.
SoftsSoft Machine1976Album
BundlesSoft Machine1975Album
Extracts from BundlesSoft Machine1975Single
Nettle Bed / Love Devotion & SurrenderSoft Machine / Santana1974Single
SevenSoft Machine1973Album
SixSoft Machine1973Album
The Soft Machine CollectionSoft Machine1973Album
Rock Generation Volume 7 - Gary Farr & The T-Bones + The Original Soft MachineGary Farr & The T-Bones + Soft Machine1972Album
FifthSoft Machine1972Album
Rock Generation Vol. 8 - Soft Machine + Mark Leeman 52, Deep Feeling, T-BonesSoft Machine + The Mark Leeman Five, Davy Graham1972Album
PlaybackSoft Machine / Boz Scaggs1972Compil.
Faces And Places Vol. 7Soft Machine1972Album
Soft Machine - GongSoft Machine, Gong, Daevid Allen, Robert Wyatt, Gary Wright, Kevin Ayers1971Compil.
FourthSoft Machine1971Album
TeethSoft Machine1971Single
The Soft MachineSoft Machine1970Compil.
ThirdSoft Machine1970Album
Volume TwoSoft Machine1969Album
SoftSoft Machine1968Album
The Soft MachineSoft Machine1968Compil.
The Soft MachineSoft Machine1968Compil.
Joy Of A Toy / Why Are We Sleeping?Soft Machine1968Single
The Soft MachineSoft Machine1968Album
Love Makes Sweet MusicSoft Machine1967Single
Out Of TunesSoft MachineSingle
MP3 CollectionSoft MachineAlbum
Bundles In UniversitySoft MachineAlbum
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To all the music fans that are contributing on Discogs, MusicBrainz and Wikipedia. Thanks to Franz Flückiger for providing Storygram used to visualize band membership.
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