"Soft Machine": Out-bloody-rageous Hardcover – 1 Jan 2001
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Soft Machine were one of the greatest British pioneering bands, they played a pivotal role in shaping psychedelic rock, progressive rock and jazz-rock fusion. Out-Bloody-Rageous is the definitive biography of this ground-breaking band. Based on extensive interviews with members and associates of Soft Machine, it is illustrated with over 80 photographs, posters and clippings and includes a full Soft Machine family tree, concert file, discography and sessionography. It is essential reading for any serious fan of jazz. It traces the lives of Soft Machine's members, pieces together the band's serendipitous formation and colourful career, and unravels the truth, the mystique and the legend behind this most elusive of bands. It recounts the incidents and internal tensions that led to an astonishing 24 different line-ups and places Soft Machine's development in the musical and social context of the time.
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Top Customer Reviews
In the first part Graham Bennett, clearly enamoured of the music, provides a well researched and persuasive analysis of how the very different personalities that made up the first few versions of the band combined to produce a radically new, and ultimately influential, fusion of rock, pop, jazz and the avant garde. The strength of the writing here is in the way the author brings out the undoubted tensions between the different individuals while making it clear how they all brought different strengths and enthusiasms to the music. Particularly interesting is the developing idea that to some extent their originality stemmed from a lack of technical expertise and that it was the struggle to reconcile these all these different ideas at the same time as developing the skills needed to express them that resulted in the particular excitement that characterised these early years.
The second half of the book, documenting the years from 1973 onwards, suffers because it fails to bring a similar focus to bear on the character of Karl Jenkins who gradually took over the leadership of the band from that point until its eventual demise in 1984. Any characterisation of Jenkins, other than the most banal biographical details, is completely absent and while many of his band mates in those later years are happy to pass comment on a wide variety of personal, financial and musical issues, no attempt is made to present their views on him despite the major role he played. Even Jenkins himself is mute. There are no quotes from him directly or even from other interviews with him.Read more ›
Mr Bennett has written an excellent, readable and engaging biography. He is an honest biographer, and doesn't stoop to conjecture or fancy to entertain, but relies on thorough method and a writing style which convincingly captures the mood through the recollections of his interviewees.
The mood that emerges, however, is resolutely downbeat, and though the book is extremely readable, it left me with an uncomfortable sense of loss and discomfort. As the Softs themselves often seem to have been unhappy in the band, and view it as an opportunity missed, Mr Bennett may well have fulfilled his aim in communicating that feeling to the reader.
One effect of producing character sketches from interviewing a group of men who rarely agreed, were often in conflict and inevitably parted on bad terms, is that the negative facets of each of their personalities tend to be more prominent in the descriptions, and it can be discouraging to be faced with your heroes in such a relentlessly negative light. The Softs, especially Hopper, are frank to brutal about the absence of good relations in the band, and whether intentionally or not, rarely seem likable. Wyatt, in particular, comes across badly, although this is balanced by a distinct disappearance of warmth from the narrative after his departure, allowing the reader to retrospectively realize what he had in fact brought to the band.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Too bad "Soft Machine: Out-Bloody-Rageous" has such a cheap-looking cover (why use such a grainy b&w photo on a book about such a colorful band?), because what's inside is first rate! I actually skipped to the part about first trio version of the Softs (the band I had seen, first hand), read through Hopper's departure, then skipped back to the original quartet. But it's all good, Then there are the extensive discographies, a listing of every performance and recording session, and a section about what the various members are doing now. It's all there. Throughly researched and engagingly written.