The Soft Machine (Hugh Hopper at left)
Listen -The Soft Machine – A Certan Kind- MP3
I hope everyone had a most excellent weekend.
The tune I bring you today has been sitting in the reserve file for a while. Unfortunately, the news last week that Hugh Hopper of the Soft Machine had passed away compelled me to dig it out and post it herein.
Oddly enough, though my affinity for the Soft Machine these days runs toward their early Canterbury psychedelia, the very first time I heard the band was another story entirely. As mentioned in this space previously, as a lad I used to haunt the only local record store, Music Den at the local “mall”. Aside from the fact that Music Den was in most ways typical of a chain record store, i.e. heavily stocked with the hits of the day on LP, cassette and 8-track, they also had a huge selection of what used to be called ‘cut outs’, those being records returned to the distributor as unsold, then sent back out into the world with a gouge in the cover to be sold at a discount price.
An enterprising soul could stroll into Music Den with a fiver in your hand and leave with three or four albums. It was on one such occasion that I purchased the album ‘Soft Machine Seven’.
Displaying sinister black and white photos of the band on the cover, ‘Seven’ was a powerhouse of early 70s prog cum fusion that warped my still largely unformed mind for some time, at one point forming a short-lived group (keyboards, bass, drums) based largely on the sound of the very record.
It was a decade later before I was turned on to the original sounds of the Soft Machine.
The tune I bring you today is from their very first album (‘Volume One’), and just happens to have been written by the late Mr. Hopper, though as far as I can tell he had yet to join the band*.
‘A Certain Kind’ is a fine bit of mid-to-late 60s, vaguely soulful Brit progressive sounds.. All you really hear for most of the song is a funereal organ and bass, along with the vocal by Robert Wyatt, joined mid-song by his jazz-inflected drumming. The overall effect is like a considerably less overwrought Procol Harum (a band I dig, but listen to ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ and I think you’ll see what I mean).
I hope you dig the tune, and remember Hugh Hopper.
*Hopper was composing for the Soft Machine as early as 1967 but did not record as a member of the band until 1969. Hopper had been a member of early Canterbury groups the Daevid Allen Trio and Wilde Flowers