Soft Machine evolved through various jazz-oriented per-sonnel. The group took their name from William Bur-roughs' novel after Australian guitarist, Daevid Allen, brought the influence of Terry Riley and tape-loops to the basic Kentish line-up of Kevin Ayers (bass, vocals), Mike Ratledge (keyboards, born 1943) and Robert Wyatt (drums, vocals).
They appeared regularly opposite the Pink Floyd in London, participated in a couple of abortive recording ses-sions in 1967, and presented their music (free improvisation over a rock base, plus vocals) in France with great success. Allen was refused re-entry to Britain because of visa and passport difficulties, and it was as a trio that the band under-took a gruelling American tour with Jimi Hendrix in 1968; they broke up after cutting their first LP for Probe in New York. When the album proved successful, they re-formed with Hugh Hopper (born 1945, a sympathetic sideman from. the days when they called themselves the Wilde Flowers) re-placing Ayers on bass. More albums (on CBS /Columbia) followed, featuring Wyatt's songs and Ratledge's angular experiments with time-signatures.
Four jazz hornmen were added for a French tour, and saxophonist Elton Dean stayed with them; their now strongly jazz-influenced sound, with fewer Wyatt vocals, represented rock at the London classical music Proms in 1970, and Wyatt left to form Matching Mole in September, 1971, shortly after an appearance at the New-port Jazz Festival. The jazz flavour remained, with Phil Howard then John Marshall on drums, Roy Babbington re-placing Hopper, and Karl Jenkins (keyboards, oboe and baritone saxophone) replacing Dean; on the Six album, jazz riff structures and Rileyesque pieces rub shoulders. More recently, jazz guitarist and violinist Alan Holdsworth has injected a slightly more urgent feeling into their brilliantly Played, carefully structured improvised rock, as on their 1975 Harvest album.