When was Soft Machine formed?When did it split up?

Soft Machine was formed in August 1966, although gigs(under the name of Mister Head) were played as early as May. It splitup in December 1968, re-formed in February 1969 and carried on untilthe late 1970's through many line-up changed leaving no originalmember onboard. It re-formed briefly in 1980 and 1984.

What was the Soft Machine'soriginal line-up? What was the last line-up?

The original line-up (1966)consisted of RobertWyatt on drums and vocals,MikeRatledge on keyboards,DaevidAllen on guitar andKevin Ayerson bass and vocals. For abrief time, American guitarist Larry Knowlin was also a member, butleft after only a handful of gigs. Subsequently, Hugh Hopper, EltonDean, Karl Jenkins and JohnMarshall were majormembers.

The final line-up, assembled for aseries of gigs at London's Ronnie Scotts Club in 1984, consisted ofKarlJenkins andDave MacRae on keyboards, John Etheridge on guitar, Paul Carmichael on bass and John Marshall on drums.

How did the original members ofSoft Machine meet? Had they worked together previously?

Daevid Allen and Robert Wyatt first became acquainted in 1961 when Allen, who hadjust arrived in England from Australia, rented a room at Wyatt's inLydden. The two discovered a mutual interest in jazz, which resultedin a few gigs as the Daevid Allen Trio (with Hugh Hopper on bass and Mike Ratledge occasionally guesting on piano) in London, in 1963.Around the same time, Wyatt formed the Wilde Flowers with the Hopperbrothers, Hugh and Brian. The original line-up includedKevin Ayers on vocals, who left in July 1965.

The impetus behind the formationof SoftMachine in 1966 wasprovided by the meeting of Allen andAyers with Texan millionaire Wes Brunson inDeya, Majorca, on Easter Sunday. Brunson agreed to put up the moneyfor their new band, which allowed them to buy equipment and rent arehearsal room near Canterbury.

Why did they choose the nameSoft Machine ?

Mike Ratledge : "The name camesecond hand through a book by William Burroughs called 'The SoftMachine' and he in turn had taken it from a lecture by a physiologistin America... Soft machine was a generic term for the whole ofhumanity, and we were all soft machines... I guess our basicassumption was that what we liked, everybody else was going to likeas well, that we all had things in common, and therefore we all aresoft machines, and we were all going to like Soft Machine music. It might have been a false assumption but Ihope it's true".

How many albums did SoftMachine release ?

Soft Machine released 10 studio albums of previouslyunreleased material : Volume One(1968), VolumeTwo (1969),Third (1970), 4 (1971),5 (1972), Six Album(1973), Seven(1973), Bundles(1975), Softs(1976) and Land OfCockayne (1981).

The live album Alive And Well - Recorded inParis (1978) consistedonly of previously unreleased compositions. Only one track ("AllWhite") on the live album of the double-set Six Albumwas already on 5. Thesingle "Love Makes Sweet Music" c/w "Feelin' Reelin' and Squeelin'",released in 1967, consists of two songs unavailable on any album(although they were included on the triple-album compilation Triple Echo).

The album Jet Propelled Photographs compiles demos recorded in April 1967, including songs later re-recorded on official albums by Soft Machine, Kevin Ayers and Daevid Allen, as well as some unavailable elsewhere. The triple-album compilation Triple Echo (1977) includes a version of "She's Gone" that is unavailable elsewhere, and radio sessions that were later included on the double CD release The Peel Sessions, and more recently (in more complete form) on the two volumes of Hux Records' BBC Radio 1967-71 & 1971-74.

Many albums of previouslyunreleased live and studio recordings have seen the light of day inthe past few years :

Have Soft Machine's albums beenreissued on CD? On which labels?

Why were particular titleschosen for albums and compositions?

Who were Soft Machine's maincomposers ?

In the early days, a lot of songsby HughHopper (not yet a bandmember, but its roadie, and a former bandmate of Kevin Ayers andRobert Wyatt in the Wilde Flowers) were used, but these were mostlysongs from the Wilde Flowers' repertoire ("Memories", "I Should'veKnown", "A Certain Kind"...). Ayers,Wyatt and Daevid Allen also contributed individual songs. As the musicbecame more instrumentally-orientated, Mike Ratledge became more dominant, as did Hugh Hopper. Later, Karl Jenkins (who joined in 1972) became a major writing force inthe band, and after Ratledge's departure in 1976 he composed almostall of the band's material.

How much, and where, did SoftMachine tour?

A chronology of Soft Machine's tours is available on this site.

What were the reasons formembers departing?

What have the former bandmembers been doing since leaving Soft Machine?

Last updated : October 2008