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 New stars on the horizon - Hit Parader - November 1968


The Soft Machine became the new musical tide pullers in the South of France where they were cross fertilized by the illumination of the Sensual Laboratory of Mark Boyle. Integrating sight and sound, they opened a fantastic discotheque in St. Aygulf bay, St. Tropez. The club designed by Keith Albarn, was especially created around the music and the light show. When the building was completed, it looked like a vision from space, iglooed with four wings rising at the centre in a concentric stack, with four shoulders jutting out at the base. Inside the building, at the centre was a stage, seven feet off the ground where the Soft Machine played and the light show was given. The skin of the building was only an inch thick, so the sound coruscated off the exterior, carrying across the bay to the neighbouring inlets, causing concern to the bourgeois campers. It was a total experience. Of course, the inevitable happened. Crowds came in the daytime to hear rehearsals and in the night time to leap out of their encapsulated selves, dancing to exhaustion, then running to the water some twenty yards away immersing themselves sauna style; then creeping from the water's edge into the darkness of the moon.

The Soft Machine speaks for itself: “Allen Zion, film maker, and Jean-Jacques Lebel, Pope of Happenings, who were opening Théâtre Libre in St. Tropez, heard us and flipped. We were hired to inaugurate the opening. They had planned a film show and happening as the second part of their evening; the first part, a play by Picasso, ‘Desire Caught By The Tail,’ featured Rita Renoir, strip queen of the Crazy Horse saloon in Paris. She dug us and with the ensemble said put the Soft Machine on in the first part to loosen up the audience, then drop the play in and let the depth charges happen. We did.”

"We play hour long sets developing a concert style. The compositions were spaced with improvisations from drum and organ punctuated with songs. The organic rhythms began to flow. The light show diverted the eye from the intellect to the bodily functions and soon, like the pied piper, the audience was dancing on the stage, changing their normal styles to free form and movement. We had arrived at new departures, the Soft Machine, architects of space time.” “Kevin Ayers developed new songs, Robert Wyatt became a drum master and counterpoint to Kevin while Michael Ratledge's organ settled compositions on the improvisations flying like a bird liberated from space. We were creating bridges between musical idioms. Mike Zwerin, critic of the Village Voice, wrote a stunning article, Earle Brown, modern American composer said, "This is the type of music I'm trying for also.” Yvette Romi wrote an article in the Nouvel Observateur, Paris, hailing us as the Futuristic Beatles. Invitations came rolling in, Café des Arts, St. Tropez and Eddie Barclay's soirée to name but three. We closed the season with invitations from the European capitols. The North awaited.

"At the Edinburgh Festival we added a dance troupe from Paris to give an experimental performance entitled ‘Lullaby For Catatonics.’ The evening was a critical success. We then accepted Amsterdam TV, where the light show caused an artistic sensation, while the music changed the idea of what's happening on the pop scene in Great Britain. We opened a fantastic club named The Birds where the revolution set in; and are negotiating a film. Paris, with its scorpion string, teased us onto TV, Camera 3 and Dim Dam Dom. From there we went to the Biennale where again we joined the dancers in a fantastic whirlwind. This time the word from the South of France caught up with us. There were calls at the rate of 110 an hour to see the show. Both nights were sold out and the calls were still coming in for a big concert." Keep your eyes and ears on the Soft Machine. Let it happen and watch it soar.

Cramdom Bentley

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