Artists: Soft Machine

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Soft Machine Biography

Soft Machine was created in 1966 and grew out of a meeting between Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers, who were former members of the legendary Canterbury band, The Wilde Flowers.    They were joined by an Australian beatnik, Daevid Allen, and an Oxford University student, Mike Ratledge. 

Once the band had got together, courtesy of a financial benefactor, they contacted William Burroughs to ask his permission to use the name, The Soft Machine. Burroughs agreed and the band was in business.  Along with other bands, including Pink Floyd, Soft Machine was at the vanguard of the new London Underground music scene.  Not only did Soft Machine regularly play gigs at celebrated clubs like the UFO, they performed for the launch of the International Times magazine at the Roundhouse.

The band was signed to Polydor records and recorded a single called Feelin’ Reelin’ Squeelin’, which featured the talents of Jimi Hendrix, who was a Soft Machine fan.  Away from on the road jamming and experimenting, the single failed to set the charts alight.  This was probably because it was unrepresentative of the band’s sound, which leaned heavily on free form improvisation.

Following a gig in St Tropez, Soft Machine returned to England but Daevid Allen was refused entry due to visa problems.  The band was forced to carry on as a trio with Daevid remaining in France to form Gong.  Meanwhile Soft Machine went on to tour America supporting Jimi Hendrix where, during a short break, the band recorded their debut album which was released by Probe records in America. 

The band recruited Hugh Hopper as their new bassist and made another album entitled Soft Machine 2. By the time of the band’s third and fourth albums, titled, Soft Machine Third and Soft Machine Fourth, they had moved into a jazz-fusion direction.  The members during these years, 1970 through to late 1971, are considered to be the classic line-up of Soft Machine.  Although the band had moved into jazz-rock, it was also highly regarded by fans of progressive rock.

Soft Machine continued through the seventies adding members such as Karl Jenkins and Ric Sanders.  Key members were lost, including Robert Wyatt, who left in 1971 to form Matching Mole before enjoying subsequent solo success.   Mike Ratledge left for a solo career in 1975, leaving the band with no original members.

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