Say It's Your Birthday: Soft Machine Bassist Hugh Hopper

Today is the birthday of Hugh Hopper, the bass player of Soft Machine.

Named after a William Burroughs novel, Soft Machine (formed in 1966)

was one of the most exciting progressive rock bands to emerge from

England during the late '60s. Their first two albums were brilliantly

whimsical fusions of jazz and hard psychedelia. Robert Wyatt's

inventive drumming and appealingly unstable tenor rasp of a voice

enhanced the band's oddball musical attack, as did Michael Ratledge's

off-center keyboard part, Hugh Hopper's distorto-splat bass work, and

Kevin Ayer's manic lead guitar work. After their second album, the

Soft Machine adopted a more pronounced space-jazz approach. After

their appropriately titled Third, the group's lineup began to

change dramatically, and subsequent albums became less interesting. It

is also the birthday of Michael Karoli (Can), Tommy James, Francis

Rossi (Status Quo), and Simon Edwards (Fairground Attraction).