VOLUME ONE

  1. Hope For Happiness
  2. Joy of a Toy
  3. Hope For Happiness (reprise)
  4. Why Am I So Short?*
  5. So Boot If it All
  6. A Certain Kind
  7. Save Yourself
  8. Priscilla
  9. Lullabye Letter
10. We Did It Again
11. Plus Belle Qu'une Poubelle
12. Why Are We Sleeping?
13. Box 25/4 Lid

Recorded: april 1968 at the Record Plant, New York
Released: december 1968
* Actually this was I Should Have Known,
a Hugh Hopper composition, but now with new lyrics from Robert

The 2009 remastered cd-edition includes "Love Makes Sweet Music" and "Feelin' Reelin' Squeelin'", respectively Side A and Side B of their first single, issued in 1967

Mike Ratledge: piano, organ
Robert Wyatt: drums, voice
Kevin Ayers: bass, guitar, voice
with:
Hugh Hopper: bass (13)
The Cake (Jeanette Jacobs, Barbara Morillo and Eleanor Barooshian): backing vocals (12)

Cover(ed)up lp with blue bikini for those who...
   
the first 7" vinyl single

Japanese remaster cd with turnwheel (2006)
   
combination of Volume One & Two on one cd
The Soft Machine Collection, that is both Volumes (cd)

Volume One and Two on 2 lp-set: Milestones

   
Alternate cover-version (dutch-lp)
cover stripped bare (lp)
   
japanese version (cd)
record bazaar pop-release (lp)
   
another dutch lp under different name: We Did it Again
and a french lp-version
   
the American way: Soft Machine - 2lp - both volumes
the French way: Architects of Space Time - 2lp - both volumes


kevin - robert & live liquid lights


a colourful band
Close your eyes and visualize this group!
Children of World War II, long hair, shades, multi-coloured, paisley-patterned shirts, offbeat hats, beads, bells and bikini shorts. Three British 'drop-outs' stranded on the French Riviera and sleeping on the beaches. But they have a panel truck bulging with electronic hardware. And soon their sound fills the first half of Jean Jacques Lebel and Alan Zion's Festival Libre at St. Tropez, loosening up audiences for a play by Pablo Picasso, Desire Caught by the Tail.
Now, open year ears and listen to their music!
It's a Now-sound, swings like jazz, rocks like rhythm-and-blues, hairy with fuzz-box distortion, of-the-keyboard with electronic atonalities - the sound of music updated by the music of sound.
The word-of-mouth, as well as critical panegyrics, from the south of France in American, British and French underground publications, eventually brought the group to these shores. During the past year, it has 'lived' in its panel truck, covering the underground of sound-and-light discotheques, blowing the minds of sophisticated listeners at N.Y.'s Museum of Modern Art, and co-starring with the Jimi Hendrix Experience in a record-breaking, cross-country tour.
In this, its debut album, the contrast between the group's hippie-crude appearance and its cultivated background, it's reflected in the absorbing tensions of the music. The drive is to synthesize the diverse sounds of jazz and rock in an electronic continuity. "Continuity" is the precise word, for even in personals, the group's sets are like suites, with an organ-drum interlude serving as bridge to the next tune. The lines of succeeding numbers frequently echo, or are developments, as with Hope for Happiness in this album, of a preceding number.
"We play hour-long sets," Mike Ratledge explains, "developing a concert style. The compositions are spaced with improvisations from drum and organ and punctuated with songs. The light show diverts the eye from the mind to the bodily functions. Soon, the audience is up on its feet. As the dancers react to the organic rhythms, the regular steps modulate into free form and movement."
The music of The Soft Machine includes shock values of unstructured composition, although many of their works are songs. Electronic devices add the impact of sensory bombardment. But these effects are mere gimmicks unless they are used with sensitivity and logic. The Soft Machine is an exciting testimonial: men need machines but machines need men and ideas to produce meaningful experience. The group creates music that is meaningful, also appealing, because it has good taste, craftsmanship, and, most of all, involvement. The track of Joy of a Toy tells it like it is!

Arnold Shaw (from the original innersleeve)
Organist Mike Ratledge of Canterbury, U.K. won a scholarship in English at Simon Langton School in Kent, won a prize in Philosophy at oxford, and took honours in Psychology and Philosophy (1966). Then, applying too late for a grant in graduate studies at an American University (in poetry), he joined an avant-garde jazz group. London was groovin' to rock. Being the kind of person "who does what's there" - in his words - he took the rocky road.

Drummer Robert Wyatt of Bristol, also educated at the Langton School, was tutored by George Neidori in piano, violin, trumpet, drums and stone carving. Wyatt also plays cello, bass and guitar, and serves as the group's lead vocalist. Two summers spent at the Spanish island home of the poet-novelist Robert Graves, a friend of his parents, led to his playing at the Majorca jazz Club. He thinks of himself as "just a rock-and-roll drummer." But he astonished The Village Voice's Michael Zwerin on a drive along the French Riviera by singing note-for-note, Charlie Parker's bop solo on Donna Lee.

Lead guitarist Kevin Ayers of Berne Bay, U.K., left school at Essex to see London, became a Canterbury pilgrim (where he met and roomed with Ratledge and Wyatt), and migrated to Majorca, writing songs along the way, experimenting with arrangements, and playing at being an amateur illustrator.

(from the original innersleeve)
The first Soft Machine album was simply named Volume One. But the history of the band was much longer. In 1966 Kevin Ayers, Robert Wyatt and Daevid Allen had formed a band. Halfway the year Mike Ratledge joined. The name was changed from Mr. Head to The Bishops of Canterbury, again to be changed into The Soft Machine. This after William Burroughs book. They even asked permission to use the name. Performing a lot, the band became very popular in the more progressive part of music lovers. Together with their friends from Pink Floyd they became the ‘forefront’ of psychedelic and/or underground music. Often they performed at the same venues, take the UFO. At the end of the year they recorded two tracks, Love Makes Sweet Music and Feelin’ Reelin’ Squeelin’, which ended up as the A and B side of the first single. The single was played by various pirate radio stations and also by John Peel (The single was never again released on CD until the 2009 re-release on Polydor as a bonus). Early 1967 the band recorded nine tracks with producer Giorgio Gomelski. That could have been their first album, but things didn’t go the way they thought. There were all kinds of problems. Allen wasn’t satisfied with his guitar playing although he thought that Robert played great. The tracks were released in 1971 on two separate albums. The first album was Rock Generation 7 with Gary Farr & the T-Bones with on the other side Soft Machine’s: That's How Much I Need You Now, Save Yourself, I Should've Known and Jet-Propelled Photograph. The second album, Rock Generation 8 had five tracks: When I don’t Want You, Memories, You Don’t Remember, She’s Gone and I’d Rather Be With You. The other side was filled with tracks from Mark Leeman Five and The & Davy Graham. Right! The album would be released under various names and various covers. So far for quality.
1967 was the year of the famous 14-Hour Technicolor Dream and performances at the Cote d’Azur in France. They also performed in Saint Tropez in a play written by Pablo Picasso: Le Désir Attrapé Par Le Queue (Desire Caught by the Tail). Words spread around and the band was hot at the time. So ‘hot’ that they could perform 'We Did it Again' for over an hour. How is that for repetitive music! At the end of the summer the band returned to London, but unfortunately Allen (as Australian without valid work permit) was refused entrance in the UK. He had to stay in France. In fact he didn’t mind and started his own group: Gong. The trio ended up with Chas Chandler, who was at that time manager of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Early 1968 both groups were sent to the US for a long and chaotic tour. Their only roadie at their disposal was friend Hugh Hopper. The tour was a success, enough to get the band a record deal with ABC/Probe for two records. April was their recording month; it took place under supervision of Tom Wilson, who had taken the chair for no one less than Frank Zappa and Velvet Underground. Their song dominated album was recorded fast. Most songs weren’t new and already played live during the tour. Great songs with philosophic view, Why Am I So Short? And Why Are We Sleeping? Some daring funny: We Did it Again and again and again, etc. Volume One was clearly a group product, not that much soloing going on, no one to stand out. All songs are short and tight. Most remarkable maybe is the last track, Box 25/4 Lid, very short, just 47 seconds and sounding very different compared to the other tracks. Piano and fuzz bass? Mike and Hugh, a preview for Volume Two? In fact Hugh had written many of the tracks, as had Kevin. But Kevin had left and Hugh entered. Volume One is a splendid record which shows a great band performing music of a new era. Fresh and vibrant, daring, new and exciting. They really were children of their time. Even today it sounds great and should be in every serious record collection. Not only the music was great, the cover with the turn wheel was great as well. Remember it was 1968! Even today a cover to have in your collection.

Paul Lemmens © 2012/2014