from the soft machine to its legacy


:: 1961 ::  Australian beatnik, guitarist and singer Daevid Allen (born January 13th, 1938 in Melbourne) arrives to England and hires a room in Robert Wyatt’s parents’ Wellington house in Lydden, near Canterbury, Kent. Meets Kevin Ayers,  Mike Ratledge and  Hugh Hopper, Robert’s school friends. 

:: 1963 ::  Daevid  plays several gigs in London, where he is currently living, with Hugh (bass guitar) and Robert (drums) under the Daevid Allen Trio name, with Ratledge occasionally sitting in on piano and Mike Horowitz contributing poetry (documented on  Live 1963 cd, released by Voiceprint in 1993). Later that year, Daevid moves to Paris, where he meets William Burroughs and Terry Riley, who turned him on to the making and usage of tape loops. 

:: 1964::  Allen meets Welsh poetess Gilli Smyth.  They beginning a relationship and in following year are movingto Deya, Majorca, to spend 18 months of "an idyllic life, writing poetry and songs". In the meantime, Hugh and Kevin are visting them and  experiments with tape loops. Back in Canterbury, Hugh (bass), Kevin (singing) and Robert (drums & singing), along with Hugh’s older brother Brian Hopper (saxes) and much younger Richard Sinclair (guitar & singing) forms The Wilde Flowers in late summer. Their demos from 1965 to 1966 were released, alongside later line-ups recordings, on The Wilde Flowers  cd by Voiceprint label in 1994.

:: 1966 ::  Around Easter, Daevid experiences what he later called his 'seed vision', in which he mentally saw his future life mapped out in detail - Soft Machine, Gong and everything else. Around the same time, Kevin manages to coax an eccentric American millionaire, Wes Brunson, into funding a band project of his. In August, Allen and Ayers with Robert Wyatt and Mike Ratledge forms THE SOFT MACHiNE band, named after William Borroughs novel. David secured author’s permission for this.

:: 1967 :: In January, The Soft Machine recorded their first single, consisted of Ayers' songs Love Makes Sweet Music and Feelin' Reelin' Squeelin' (sung by Wyatt and Ayers) and released in February on Polydor.  Demo recordings for proposed album, produced by Giorgio Gomelsky are made in April at De Lane Lea studios in London, later frequently bootlegged and released officially first in second half of 7o’s as Jet Propelled Photograph or At The Beginning on Charly label. When returning from playing in France, Allen is not permitted to go back to England due time out visa. He returns to Paris, where he forms Gong with Gilli Smyth in 1968. Mike, Kevin and Robert are continuing as trio.

 :: 1968 :: The Soft Machine plays two American tours as support act for Jimi Hendrix Experience. The Soft Machine album is recorded during second tour and  is released by ABC /Probe in USA. After returning from America, Kevin decides to leave music for living in Majorca and fishing. Next year he will start his succesful solo career. Mike and Robert teams up again with Hugh, who was in America as The SM tour manager, or precisely said, roadie.

:: 1969 :: Volume Two album is recorded in London and released again on Probe. Brian Hopper is complementing trio with saxes in studio, as well as on subsequent concerts. The SM records their trio performance at Paradiso, Amsterdam for possible live album, but are not satisfied with results. Recording is being heavily bootlegged again and oficially relaeased as Live At The Paradiso 1969 by Blueprint in 1995. Later that year, whole brass front line of pianist Keith Tippett’s sextet, namely Elton Dean, Mark Charig and Nick Evans are hired by The Soft Machine, and even second saxophone player Lyn Dobson is added to expand trio to septet. Due to amplification and financial problems on the road, first Charig and Evans leaves after brief French tour of fall 1969, then also Dobson in early 1970. Soft Machine became a quartet for next few years.

:: 1970 ::  Double album Third is released on CBS, comprised of 4 compositions – Facelift (HH), Slightly All The Time (MR), Moon In June (RW) and Out-Bloody-Rageous (MR). Robert sings and plays all instruments on first half of Moon In June. Also Robert's first solo album, The End Of An Ear, marked with “*Out of work Pop Singer” note and  including Elton Dean and Marc Charig, is released by CBS around same time. Of course, during 1969-70, SM were inspired by recent Frank Zappa’s larger bands, and albums & concerts by electric Miles Davis bands, where fellow Englishmen John McLaughlin and Dave Holland was sharpening their teeth. But what they did on Third is much more complex and unheard before.

:: 1971 ::  Album Fourth, mostly composed by HH and recorded in Autumn 1970, is released by CBS and include guests Roy Babbington (double bass), Mark Charig, Nick Evans, Jimmy Hastings (alto flute & bass clarinet) and Alan Skidmore (tenor sax). Their best album ever due to my ears, and their jazziest with greatest Robert’s drumming.  Aside of four-part Hugh’s composition / collage Virtually, which occupies side two, highlight is Ratledge’s opening piece, swirling Teeth, and also future standard, Hugh’s brilliant psychedelic ballad Kings and Queens is there.. On March 11th, SM records BBC Radio 1 In Concert programme at Paris Theatre, London, probably their best ever live recording, released later as Soft Machine & Heavy Friends.  Elton Dean’s unnamed debut album is released on CBS (reissued on Cuneiform with bonus tracks as Just Us in 1998) and includes Mark Charig, Neville Whitehead (electric bass), Phil Howard (drums), Mike Ratledge and Roy Babbington.  In autumn, Robert leaves SM and is replaced first by Phil Howard, and then, after recording of first half of Fifth album, by John Marshall (of Nucleus, Jack Bruce and John Surman). Wyatt forms Matching Mole, which name is word play with Fench translation of Soft Machine – Machine Mole.

:: 1972 ::   Fifth album is finished and released, with only guest Roy Babbington (double bass) on whole side 2. Mike Ratledge is main composer on album, with a piece by Hopper, Dean and Marshall. Elton Dean leaves and is replaced by Karl Jenkins of Nucleus, who plays mainly oboe, baritone & soprano saxes and electric piano. Aside of Nucleus, Marshall and Jenkins were playing together for the first time in the band of bassist Graham Collier in late 60’s. During october ~ december, album Six is recorded, a double LP with one live and one studio record, where Ratledge, Hopper and Jenkins conquered compositional duties. Spacious tunes The Soft Weed Factor and Chloe and the Pirates became concert classics.

:: 1973 ::  Hugh Hopper’s first solo album 1984 (CBS 1973 / Cuneiform 1998) includes John Marshall, Nick Evans & Pye Hastings (of Caravan).  Six is released on CBS, Hugh Hopper leaves and is replaced by Roy Babbington on 6-string bass guitar.  SM plays NDR Jazz Workshop in Hamburg, with guests Gary Boyle (guitar), Art Themen (tenor sax) and Hugh Hopper (bass and loops in his 1983  composition). In July, album Seven is recorded and released later same year on CBS. Composed mainly by Jenkins and Ratledge, Seven is logical continuation of previous album in a form of shorter, mostly interlinked pieces. Hugh Hopper joins percussionist Stomu Yamash'ta's East Wind for two albums: Freedom Is Frightening (Island 1973) and One By One (Island 1974).

:: 1974 ::  Hugh Hopper’s Monster Band including Elton Dean tours France, recording surfaced in 1979 as side 2 on Hugh’s album Monster Band (Atmosphere, reissued by Culture Press, 1996). Hopper also joins Isotope, fusion band of his East Wind bandmates Gary Boyle and Nigel Morris, for Illusion (Gull 1974) album.  Guitarist’s guitarist, highly original virtuoso Allan Holdsworth (previously in Jon Hiseman’s Tempest) joins SM after Marshall’s suggestion. Allan was playing also on Belladona  album by Nucleus’ leader, trumpeter Ian Carr, together with Babbington. 8th SM album Bundles is recorded in July. Music is fresh and inventive, but much closer to American jazz / rock fusion movement of mid 70’s, than to previous SM output. Robert Wyatt releases Rock Bottom (Virgin 1974, featuring Hugh Hopper, Richard Sinclair a.o.), first of his many albums to come after his serious injury earlier in the year.

:: 1975 ::  Bundles is released in May on EMI’s progressive label Harvest. Shortly after that, Holdsworth is no more in Soft Machine, as he accepted offer to join Tony Williams’ Lifetime. He suggest John Etheridge (of Daryl Way’s Wolf) as his replacement. New line-up with added saxophonist Alan Wakeman (Rick’s cousin) records Softs, another solid spacey fusion collection, where Mike Ratledge, last original member of the band, plays his trademark organ in only one track.

:: 1976-77 ::  Hugh HOPPER ~ Elton DEAN~ Keith TiPPETT ~ Joe GALLiVAN quartet tours Europe and records Cruel But Fair  in Oslo (Compendium 1977 / One Way Records 1995) plus Mercy Dash in London, which was not released until 1985 (Culture Press, cd reissue in 1996). During these two years, Dean and Hopper are also members of great Carla Bley Band, documented on European Tour 1977 album (Watt 1978).  EMI releases 3 LP compilation Triple Echo, including first single, some of Gomelsky 1967 demos and previously unreleased early SM recordings. Also Hugh Hopper's second solo outing, a masterpiece named Hopper Tunity Box (Compendium 1977 / Cuneiform 2oo7), recorded after Hugh leaves Isotope and featuring Elton Dean is released.

:: 1978 ::  Hugh Hopper,  Elton Dean,  keyboardist Alan Gowen (of Gilgamesh / National Health) and drummer Pip Pyle (of Gong and Hatfield And The North) forms SOFT HEAP.  Live album was recorded during May French tour, where Dave Sheen substituted for Pyle, who was touring with National Health at that time. It was released under HOPPER / DEAN / GOWEN / SHEEN (or later SOFT HEAD) moniker as Rogue Element (Ogun, reissued on cd with bonus tracks in 1996). Untitled Soft Heap  studio album, recorded during October in London and released on Charly label (remastered cd on Esoteric Recordings, 2oo9 ), is still one of the brightest moments among Hopper-Dean post SM collaborations. SM releases live album Alive &Well; Recorded in Paris (Harvest / Esoteric expanded remaster 2cd) with another line-up of Marshal, Jenkins, Etheridge, Steve Cook (bass) and Ric Sanders (violin). A good record. Second Gilgamesh album Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into (Charly 1978 / Esoteric remaster cd) includes Hugh Hopper. 

:: 1979 ::  Alan Gowen & Hugh Hopper duo recording Two Rainbows Daily (Europa 1979 / Cuneiform Rune 77 cd with trio bonus tracks) is released.

:: early 8o's :: Hugh replaces Richard Sinclair in Phil Miller's IN CAHOOTS, SM releases final studio album Land Of Cockayne, Karl Jenkins' studio project with various musicians including John Marshall, Allan Holdsworth, Jack Bruce, John Taylor a.o. (EMI 1981).

:: 1985 ::  Dutch musicians, fans of SM and HH, convinces Hugh, inactive in music for about 5 years, to play his tunes with them. HOPPER GOES DUTCH band tours Holland in September, and then twice again during next two years. Recordings appeared on cds Alive (Voiceprint 1993) and Meccano Pelorus (Wayside 1991).

:: 1988 ::  SM concert from Royal Albert Hall in London issued as Live At  The Proms 1970  (Reckless, later reissued as Live 1970  on Voiceprint with 2 additional,  poorly sounding excerpts from 1970 French quintet gig, and finally as bonus disc to Third  2oo7 Sony BMG remaster).

:: 1991 ::  SM Peel Sessions double cd is released on Strange Fruit label and contains great version of Moon In June, with Robert singing different lyrics, improvised in studio.

:: 1993 ::  SHORT WAVE with HH, Phil Miller, Pip Pyle and Didier Malherbe releases album Live on French Gimini label, SM BBC Radio 1 In Concert from March 1971 (Windsong, later reissued as SM & Heavy Friends – BBC In Concert 1971 on Hux, RW~MR~HH~ED w/ Marc Charig, Neville Whitehead, Phil Howard, Ronnie Scott, Paul Nieman and Roy Babbington).

:: 1994 ::  Hugh Hopper & Kramer collaboration album A Remark Hugh Made (Shimmy Disc 1994) include Robert Wyatt’s voice and words on Free Will & Testament song. Another BBC Radio 1 In Concert disc, this time from July 1972, is released by Windsong (reissued as Soft Stage – BBC In Concert 1972 on Hux, MR~HH ~JM~KJ). 

:: 1995 ::  Hugh with Fred Chalenor and Elaine Di Falco of Oregon based band Cavemen Shoestrore started virtual collaboration on (CAVEMAN) HUGHSCORE project, their 3rd album Delta Flora (Cuneiform 1999) include Elton Dean and Hugh’s old composition Facelift, as well as new Hopper / Wyatt song Was a Friend and is one of the finest post-SM releases. Hugh Hopper’s Franglodutch Band recording Carousel is released on Cuneiform. SM Paris concert from May 1972 is released as Live In France (One Way Records double cd, reissued in 2oo4 on Cuneiform as Live In Paris, May 2nd, 1972, MR~HH~ED~JM). Virgin UK releases Song of Sanctuary, first album of Karl Jenkins’ successful then new age / symphonic project Adiemus with singer Miriam Stocley, Mike Ratledge is credited for percussion programming. More Adiemus albums follows in next years, all without Ratledge contribution.

:: 1996 ::  Unreleased SM recording including studio manipulations, made in 1969 for accompanying Petr Dockley’s multimedia show, is made available through Silver Springs, Maryland based US label Cuneiform as Spaced  (RW~MR~HH w/BH). 

:: 1998 ::  SM live recording, made for Radio Bremen in March 1971, was released as Virtually (Cuneiform, RW~MR~HH~ED).

:: 1997 ::  DEAN~HOPPER~CLARKE~KNiGHT records freely improvised session, released as The mind in the trees  (Blueprint 1998). 

:: 1999 ::  DEAN~HOPPER~TiPPETT~MARSHALL as SOFT WARE plays concert at Augustusburg Castle church, Germany, during opening evening of visual arts exhibition on September 4th. I was there ;)

:: 2ooo ::  SM live recording from Fairfield Hall, Croydon, 1970 is released as Noisette (Cuneiform, RW~MR~HH~ED~LD).

:: 2oo2 ::  Newly formed quartet of former SM members named SOFT WORKS ( Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean, John Marshall, Allan Holdsorth ) records album Abracadabra (Universal Music Japan / Tone Center 2oo3) in London and plays first concert in Seattle during Progman Cometh Festival ( David Allen’s University of Errors and Kevin Ayers also there ). Fench Polysons collective plays SM material as POLYSOFT with Dean and Hopper at Le Triton, Les Lilas, France. Concert is released as Tribute to Soft Machine (Le Triton 2oo2). SM live & rare recordings from 1969-70 are released on Backwards (Cuneiform 2oo2,  MR~RW~HH~ED~LD~MC~NE). 

:: 2oo3 ::  SOFT WORKS plays 4 concerts in Japan between August 8th and 11th. On 10th, Dean & Hopper records freely improvised studio set with Hoppy Kamiyama (keys) and Tatsuya Yoshida (drums) in Tokyo. Highlights are released as two-part suite on SOFT MOUNTAiN album (Hux 2oo7). SM BBC Radio 1967-1971  & BBC Radio 1971-1973  double cds (Hux) are covering and expanding earlier Peel Sessions double disc.

:: 2oo4 ::  SOFT WORKS plays in Italy, their last concert took place at Baja Prog Festival in Mexico on March 5. After Holdworth left and was replaced by John Etheridge again, first live appearance of the so-called SOFT MACHiNE LEGACY Project happened at Eskisehir Jazz Festival in Turkey (October 8), second concert was during International Jazz & Blues Festival Ústí nad Labem on October 15, with Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean, John Etheridge and Liam Genockey (of Trevor Watts’ Amalgam, Gillan, Elton Dean, Steeleye Span or Alex Magiure’s Psychic Warrior a.o.) deputing for unavailable John Marshall. Thanks to festival director … and Stěpán Suchochleb of Capricorn Promotions. I was there ;)  SOFT BOUNDS (Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean, Sophia Domancich and Simon Goubert) records Live at Le Triton (Le Triton 2oo5) on June 17th. Rest of this concert, not available on cd, you can find here.

:: 2oo5-2oo6 ::  SML tours regularly and releases Live In Zaandam (Musea / Moonjune 2oo5), New Morning--The Paris Concert (inakustik 2oo6 dvd & 2cd), and Soft Machine Legacy (Moonjune 2oo6), also SM concert recordings Middle Earth Masters  (Cuneiform 2oo6, RW~MR~KA from 1967), Grides (Cuneiform 2oo6 cd / dvd, MR~RW~HH~ED in Amsterdam 1970 and Bremen 1971), Floating World Live  (Moonjune 2oo6, MR~JM~KJ~RB~AH in Bremen, January 1975) and British Tour 75 (MLP 2oo5, MR~JM~KJ~RB~JE in Nottingham, October 1975) are released.  

:: 2oo6 ::  Passing of Elton Dean on February 28th. Elton Dean Tribute concert at 1oo Club, Oxford Street, London on May 9th ( DREAMTiME - Jim Dvorak / Nick Evans / Gary Curson / Keith Tippett / Roberto Bellatalla / Jim Le Baigue, MARK HEWiNS / MARK SANDERS,   DARTiNGTON iMPROViSERS TRiO - Keith & Julie Tippetts with Paul Dunmall,   SML with Theo Travis,   MAGGiE NiCOLS / JiM DVORAK /  PAUL ROGERS / TONY LEViN,   MARK CHARiG / PAUL RUTHERFORD / EVAN PARKER / LARRY STABBiNS / JOHN EDWARDS / LOUiS MOHOLO-MOHOLO,   HARRY BECKETT / LOL COXHiLL / ALEX MAGUiRE / MARCiO MATTOS / TONY MARSH ). I was there. Dreamtime set is being recently released on Reel Recordings dvd / cd Double Trouble, together with two other special concerts. Another Elton Dean Tribute concert was assembled at Le Triton club, Les Lilas, France, in June 2oo6.

:: 2oo7 ::  New SML studio album Steam (Moonjune), second SOFT MACHiNE LEGACY koncert in Czech Republic at Palác Akropolis (October 4th) with Hugh Hopper, John Marshall, John Etheridge and Theo Travis of Gong, Porcupine Tree, and Cipher (a.o.). Thanks to Rachot agency and Akropolis staff.  DELTA SAXOPHONE QUARTET‘s Dedicated To You, But You Weren't Listening (The Music of Soft Machine), featuring Hugh’s bass and loops on Facelift, is also released by Moonjune.

:: 2oo8 ::  Hugh Hopper Benefit koncert at 100 Club, Oxford Street, London on December 14th (  ALEX MAGUiRE & FRiENDS - Patrice Meyer, Fred Baker, Mark Fletcher, Frank van der Kooij and Robert Jarvis,   SOPHiA DOMANCiCH & SiMON GOUBERT,   DELTA SAXOPHONE QUARTET,   YUMi HARA CAWKWELL,   SOFT TRiO - Eltheridge / Babbington / Marshall,   MiKE HOROWiTZ,   STEVE MiLLER’s IN CAHOOTS ).

:: 2oo9 ::  Passing of Hugh Hopper on June 7th.  Release of Drop (Moonjune), a fall 1971 German tour SM recording with Ratledge, Hopper, Dean and Phil Howard, and Live at Henie Onstad Art Centre 1971  from Norway (Reel Recordings, RW~MR~HH~ED).  Roy Babbington, who was Hopper’s successor in original Soft Machine, now joins Soft Machine Legacy on bass guitar. A kind of tribute, What's Rattlin' On The Moon? A Personal Vision of the Music of Mike Ratledge  by Italian prog keyboardist / composer Beppe Crovella, is released on Moonjune Records.

Here is my Hugh Hopper obituary in Czech

:: 2o1o ::  SML album Live Adventures, recorded during the European tour in October 2oo9,  is out on Moonjune. Also excellent SM concert recording titled NDR Jazz Worshop, Hamburg, Germany from May 17, 1973 is released as cd / dvd (Cuneiform, MR~JM~KJ~RB w/ Art Themen, Gary Boyle & Hugh Hopper).

:: 2o11 ::  Third SOFT MACHiNE (LEGACY) Czech concert at Lucerna Music Bar with John Marshall, Roy Babbington, John Etheridge and Theo Travis is part of established AghaRTA Prague Jazz Festival on May 12th.  May there be more.

:: 2o12 :: Pianist Keith Tippett is guesting on several SML concerts, as he does in years to come . 

:: 2o13 :: SOFT MACHiNE LEGACY releases Burden Of Proof  (Moonjune Records), second one with Travis - Etheridge - Babbington - Marshall line-up. Probably their best album to date, a bit of reminiscent SM Seventh.

: 2o14 :: Cuneiform releases Soft Machine's Switzerland 1974, a cd + dvd live set with Bundless line-up. 
:: 2o18 :: SOFT MACHiNE will play another concert in PRAGUE ::: Palác Akropolis, September 18. Powered by RACHOT Ag. http://www.rachot.cz

Soft Machine’s impact on jazz & progmusic scene is simply huge and maybe widely unrecognised yet.
∑ ~Thanks to Microsoft Office Word 2007, its grammar corrector, blogger.com and SeaSong :7{)


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