Soft Machine Live 1974 and 1975

Soft Machine Live 1974 and 1975
SoftMachineBundlesI saw Soft Machine twice; once at a concert at Newcastle Guildhall on 29 June 1974, and again at Reading Festival on August bank holiday weekend 1975. But my first recollections of Soft Machine are much earlier. I recall listening to a Radio 1 in concert by the band in the late 60s or early 70s, and was totally blown away by the experimental free-form improvisation, which was, to a young teenager, simply mind-blowing and unlike anything I had heard; very different from the rock and pop that I was listening to at the time. I held that concert in my mind, but it was a few years until I finally got to see the band. By then they had transformed from the early psych band of the late 60s to a much more jazz-oriented outfit playing purely instrumental concerts, featuring long numbers with extended improvisation. Allan Holdsworth had joined the band and they had become a much more guitar-oriented band. They were promoting their album ‘Bundles’ at the time and the line up at the time was Mike Ratledge – keyboards; John Marshall – drums, percussion; Karl Jenkins – oboe, saxophone, keyboards, synthesisers; Roy Babbington – bass and Allan Holdsworth – guitar. By the time I saw them at Reading Holdsworth had been replaced by John Etheridge.
The 1974 concert that I attended was part of the Newcastle Jazz Festival. I found a review of that concert in Melody Maker, posted on the website of support act the Steve Brown Band: “The Softs began to project their intricate, fluent music to a packed house. Each solo was performed to perfection, especially some stunningly complex drumming from John Marshall. They blended their inborn jazz origin with the essential urgency of rock to full effect and produced a generally rich all-round sound. Allan Holdsworth emerged as one of the all-round stars of the evening with some really fine guitar playing on “Hazard Profile”, “Floating World” and the exceptional “The Man Who Waved At Trains”. If I remember correctly this was a late night concert with doors at 9pm, and Soft Machine coming on stage very late, and sadly we had to leave before the end to catch our train home.
Neil commented on one of my earlier posts on a 1975 City Hall concert by Soft Machine, which I missed: “Soft Machine came on and didn’t speak a word all night to a third full City Hall. Incredible gig – can still picture Mike Ratledge doing a solo bit – as the band were walking off he just played one note that went on forever. Marshall did a lengthy drum solo and Karl Jenkins showed us he had something special and he’s proved it lately with his popular classical works.” (Thanks Neil).
A bootleg exists of the Reading performance I witnessed which records the set as: The Floating World; Ban Ban Caliban; Out of Season; Bundles; Land of Bag Snake; The Man Who Waved At Trains; Peff. Mind-blowing stuff.
An amazing and much missed act, who successfully blended rock, jazz and prog to produce a unique, challenging sound. I notice that John Marshall and John Etheridge sometimes perform these days as Soft Machine Legacy and have been meaning to go and see them.

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