Soft Machine

Soft Machine Biography

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, with Kevin Ayers on vocals.

The impetus behind the formation of Soft Machine occurred in a meeting of Allen and 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 was recorded. Love Makes Sweet Music / Feelin' Reelin' Squeelin'. Celebrating its release on February 22nd 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 .... Click here to read the full bio on DISCOGS.

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