|LIVE AT THE PROMS 1970
1. Out Bloody Rageous
3. Esther's Nose Job
Recorded: August, 13th , 1970 at Henry Wood Promenade Concert, Royal Albert Hall, London
Mike Ratledge: keyboards
Hugh Hopper: bass
Elton Dean: alto sax, saxello
Robert Wyatt: drums
We was invited by Tim Souster, who had an evening using the hall to do what he liked with. I believe he'd heard our second LP, asked us on the strength of that. He discovered us on the way to discovering Motown. Via The Who, I think. Anyway it was brave of him to invite us despite the withering contempt of the posh music establishment. Before our bit, I went out the back for a quick fag and the doorman didn't want to let me back in.
"I've got to play in there", I said. "You must be kidding son," he said, "they only have proper music in there".
Not that night they didn't.
| The Proms in the famous Royal Albert
Hall. Mostly classical ensembles played in the Hall, although it once
was entered by The Mothers of Invention in a peculiar way and after
that banned for pop groups. Soft Machine wasn’t a pop group anymore,
but an amplified jazz group. Remember Miles Davis and his electronic
outings; Soft Machine was England’s counterpart and also they were
very popular in music polls. Being invited to play at the Proms was
special; Robert Wyatt mentions that fact in his own and funny way:
“They only have proper music in there” the doorman told. “Not that
night they didn’t”. Although a special occasion, there was no special
program; Soft Machine didn’t change their play-list, they played what
they always did at that time: Esther’s Nose Job, Facelift and
Out-Bloody-Rageous. If they played as loud as always isn’t mentioned,
but the technical troubles they mostly had were taken into the hall as
well. In the beginning weird noises come from Mike’s organ. It doesn’t
work and he tries to get it working by ‘kick starting’ it. He just
gave it his foot and of he goes. The concert is well performed, but
doesn’t stand out if you compare it to others ones. Most themes are
familiar and even solo parts have a familiar approach. Maybe the jazz
side is more upfront, but on the other hand that was the way the band
was developing in the early Seventies. Esther has a long nose, but
that is because Robert’s vocal improvisation is a long one this time.
Hugh fuzz bass has a day off, or isn’t audible because of organ
violence. After almost forty minutes the concert is over, the public
is very enthusiastic, but didn’t take down the Hall. Soft machine was
accepted in the cultural élite.
Paul Lemmens © 2014