Life at 33 1/3: Sunglasses after dark

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Soft Machine: Third (Columbia/CBS)

Released: June 6, 1970

An album that it was extremely important to own back in 1970. You made sure it was lying by the record player (never put it back on the shelf!), so it looked as if you had played the album only seconds before your current visitor(s) arrived. They’d know instantly that they had entered the home of a guy who was so much cooler than they had been aware of, he might even be a smoker of avant-garde cigarettes, hanging around with people who practised free sex and wore sun glasses after dark. No way a cool dude like that would’ve followed The Monkees’ on the telly back in 1967.

I have to admit that I did not play the album very often, even though I honestly believed it was groovy stuff. I had the best intentions every time I tried, then I remembered nothing until I woke up (drooling slightly from the corner of my mouth) to the sound of the stylus going tick-tick-tick on the inner groove. It wasn’t easy to achieve coolness in 1970, but Soft Machine were already cult heroes among the chosen few, and they had Robert Wyatt on drums. You just had to keep trying.

Four years later Robert Wyatt had a TOP 30 hit with “I’m A Believer”. Then we were even.

But please, do listen to the album. It is a classic. I was just 18 at the time and should be excused. They played psychedelic jazz and fusion, they helped out on Syd Barrett’s first solo-album, «The Madcap Laughs», they were taking the Canterbury scene to the doorsteps of Miles Davis. Each side of this double album consists of a single composition. You probably will be able to sit through it without falling asleep the way I did in 1970. Actually I do play it these days, on special occasions, and I stay awake.

Contents: Facelift/Slightly All the Time (Including: Noisette/Backwards/Noisette Reprise)/Moon in June/Out-Bloody-Rageous

Produced by Soft Machine

Personnel:

Mike Ratledge – Hohner Pianet, Lowrey organ, piano

Hugh Hopper – bass guitar

Robert Wyatt – drums, vocals, plus (uncredited) Hammond Organ, Hohner Pianet, piano, bass

Elton Dean – alto saxophone, saxello

Additional personnel:

Lyn Dobson – soprano saxophone, flute

Jimmy Hastings – flute, bass clarinet

Rab Spall – violin

Nick Evans – trombone