Ooh baby, when that human music plays I don't know why...
October 19, 2010 1:11 AM   Subscribe

"The Soft Boys came into my head in Cambridge, in the hot, dry summer of 1976 while punk was being conjured up by a small group of artists and villains in London...."

The Soft Boys originally consisted of Robyn Hitchcock (vocals and guitar), Rob Lamb (guitar), Charlie Gillett, (guitar), Andy Metcalfe (bass), and Morris Windsor (drums). Alan Davies replaced Lamb after just four shows, and Kimberley Rew replaced Davies in late 1977. Matthew Seligman replaced Metcalfe in 1979.

The band's original incarnation lasted for less than five years, and produced just one EP (Give It To The Soft Boys), one single ("(I Want to Be) An Anglepoise Lamp" b/w "Fatman's Son"), and two full-length albums (A Can of Bees and Underwater Moonlight). Today Yep Roc Records is re-releasing A Can of Bees and Underwater Moonlight. This marks the first time A Can of Bees has been in print since 1992, and the first time the album has been released on CD with its original 1979 tracklist.

A Can of Bees:

1. Give It to the Soft Boys 2. The Pigworker* 3. Human Music 4. Leppo and the Jooves 5. The Rat's Prayer 6. Do the Chisel 7. Sandra's Having Her Brain Out* 8. The Return of the Sacred Crab 9. Cold Turkey 10. School Dinner Blues 11. Wading Through a Ventilator(live)

*alternate version, couldn't find the original

Underwater Moonlight

1. I Wanna Destroy You 2. Kingdom of Love 3. Positive Vibrations 4. I Got the Hots 5. Insanely Jealous 6. Tonight 7. You'll Have to Go Sideways 8. Old Pervert 9. Queen of Eyes 10. Underwater Moonlight

Those who purchase the digital version of Moonlight will also receive all of the bonus tracks from Matador Records' 2001 release of the album, as well as some other previously unreleased tracks.

Underwater Moonlight...And How It Got There
(2001 Matador Reissue):

11. He's a Reptile 12. Vegetable Man 13. Strange 14. Only the Stones Remain 15. Where Are the Prawns? 16. Dreams 17. Black Snake Diamond Rock 18. There's Nobody Like You 19. Song No. 4 20. Old Pervert (Section 1) 21. Like a Real Smoothie 22. Alien 23. Bloat (Extract) 24. Underwater Moonlight (alt. version) 25. She Wears My Hair* 26. Wang Dang Pig 27. Old Pervert (Section 2) 28. Insanely Jealous (alt. version) 29. Leave Me Alone 30. Goodbye Maurice or Steve 31. Old Pervert (Section 3) 32. Cherries 33. Amputated 34. Over You 35. I Wanna, Er... (Extract) 36. Old Pervert (Section 4)

*I cannot find this online, and it is killing me, because it's one of my favorites. The band at their loveliest, and Byrds-iest.
posted by Rangeboy (25 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
I Wanna Destroy You is an incredible song. Some covers of it are pretty rad too. The one that comes to mind immediately is the Circle Jerks.

It took me a really long time to realize that this weird, slower version of the song was actually, the original.
posted by alex_skazat at 2:07 AM on October 19, 2010

I've got the original Soft Boys EP. And you haven't.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:14 AM on October 19, 2010

Whatever they are, the Soft Boys and Robyn Hitchcock are NOT among the villains but among the artists in the great story of rock. Love those Positive Vibrations! Bless the Robyn who gave us balloon man and vibrating. (Except when he sucks, which is kind of occasionally.)
posted by Faze at 3:57 AM on October 19, 2010

> the first time the album has been released on CD with its original 1979 tracklist

Not exactly true; the 1992 release has the original tracklist plus a few, all in the same order, so we're celebrating paying more for less than we got 18 years ago. Woo.
posted by scruss at 4:31 AM on October 19, 2010

Great post. That's fantastic news about the Yep Roc reissues. I paid far too much a few years back for a used copy of A Can of Bees.

If I were pressed for a pat description of the Soft Boys, I'd say they were a collision of three B's: Barrett, Byrds, and Beefheart. A lot of Hitchcock's solo stuff is great, but it mostly eschews the Beefheart influence- the shambling and shuffling that made the Soft Boy's so exciting.

If I may springboard off your post, here's the great postmortem collection Invisible Hits (well, most of it, at least):
Wey Wey Hep Uh Hole
Have a Heart, Betty (I'm Not Fire Proof)
The Asking Tree
Muriel's Hoof/The Rout of the Clones
Let Me Put It Next To You
When I Was A Kid
Rock n Roll Toilet
Love Poisoning
Empty Girl
Blues in the Dark
He's a Reptile
Have a Heart, Betty (I'm Not Fire Proof) [take 2]
Rock n Roll Toilet [take 2]
When I Was a Kid [Original Mix]
Love Poisoning [Original Mix]
Wey wey hep uh hole [live]
posted by Dr-Baa at 4:32 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Paul Slade - I've got two copies. This round of reissues is redundant for me, but I hope it helps them reach a wider audience.

Hitchcock usually gets all the glory as songwriter, but the Soft Boys' two-guitar rock is up there with early XTC or Television for me. Kimberly Rew was (and is) a phenomenal guitar player.
posted by jetsetsc at 5:11 AM on October 19, 2010

Great post. I can't find anything but the lyrics for my favorite Soft Boys song Vyrna Knowl Is A Headbanger.
posted by Sailormom at 5:22 AM on October 19, 2010

Most excellent!

(I am rather annoyed by the trend of contemporary reissues losing huge swaths of bonus tracks from prior issues - looking at you Bowie, Hitchcock, Costello, and Residents. I am well aware of the licensing rationale, but come on now.)
posted by mykescipark at 5:40 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Saw Robyn several times back in the '80s, which was post-Soft Boys but he still did some of the numbers as I recall. Thanks for the nostalgia trip.
posted by Abiezer at 6:06 AM on October 19, 2010

Great music post, thanks.

That's fantastic news about the Yep Roc reissues.

Worth adding that Yep Roc has also reissued all of the early Robyn Hitchcock post-Soft Boys solo stuff, with lots of bonus tracks, including a fantastic, sprawling box set, I Wanna Go Backwards, that collects Black Snake Diamond Role, I Often Dream of Trains, Eye and While Thatcher Mauls Britain (that last one is 2 cds worth of rarities).
posted by mediareport at 6:10 AM on October 19, 2010

At least one of the YT links used a photo (cover art?) involving a nipple, for those who may be looking at work.

Neat music, thanks.
posted by Forktine at 6:12 AM on October 19, 2010

Everybody please listen to the amazing "(I Wanna Be An) Anglepoise Lamp" if you haven't heard it.
posted by escabeche at 6:14 AM on October 19, 2010

If these keep getting reissued ever 18 years, I will keep buying them. I can't help it.
posted by quarterframer at 6:45 AM on October 19, 2010

Robyn Hitchcock is one of my favorites and has always been a gigantic influence on my own songwriting. The Soft Boys stuff is great but what always surprised me the most about it is how much of it is pretty out there and proggy; Hitchcock's solo work (and with the Egyptians) is generally much more straightahead musically.
posted by dfan at 7:08 AM on October 19, 2010

Even their 2002 reunion album Nextdoorland ain't bad, though not quite anything like the earlier stuff.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:45 AM on October 19, 2010

Beautiful stuff. A friend played me "Give it to the Soft Boys" on a third-generation cassette when I was 17, and I've been in love with the band ever since (though it took three years after that, before I ever found any actual recordings for sale... thank god for the internets).
posted by Erroneous at 9:17 AM on October 19, 2010

Some other Robyn Hitchcock reissues coming out have extra stuff added. The Moss Elixir one includes Mossy Liquor which was only out on vinyl.
posted by oneear at 10:25 AM on October 19, 2010

Ooh, that's great news, oneear. I have a special place in my heart for Moss Elixir.
posted by mykescipark at 10:54 AM on October 19, 2010

In 1993, a Robyn Hitchcock solo acoustic show coincided with the worst snowstorm we'd had in a decade. Attendance at the gig was sparse. About three songs in, the whole city lost power. The club was plunged into darkness. Snow swirled down. Instead of stopping the show, Hitchcock took his guitar out to the parking lot, brushed the snow off the roof of his rented Cadillac, and continued to perform. People positioned their cars to shine their headlights onto his makeshift stage, and he played out in the falling snow through much of the night. By the end, a bottle of whiskey had gotten liberated from the cold, dark bar and was getting passed around, Hitchcock was playing requests and making up songs on the spot, a trash can and lid had been pressed into service as an ersatz drum kit, and everyone was singing aloud to every song, whether they knew the words or not.

It was magical.

In an industry rotten with egos and assholes, Robyn Hitchcock really is one of the good guys.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:16 AM on October 19, 2010 [10 favorites]

I saw them live at an in-store event at the long done and lamented Northern Lights in Minneapolis, oh, maybe 1987. They plated acoustic instruments and performed maybe eight songs. I had been familiar with the bad before, somewhat, but this format made it clear just how superb the songwriting was.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:46 PM on October 19, 2010

played. Although, based on bitter old punk's story, they might have plated as well.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:48 PM on October 19, 2010

Holy hell. This is fantastic. I'd never heard any of it; thanks for sharing.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:37 PM on October 19, 2010

Here's Uncle Tupelo doing "I Wanna Destroy You".
posted by chaff at 2:15 PM on October 19, 2010

Robyn Hitchcock once spent the better part of 10 minutes playing with an action figure on stage at a show in Oberlin, Ohio (mmm, maybe 1992ish?). I'd go anywhere to watch him play.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:22 PM on October 19, 2010

> Mossy Liquor which was only out on vinyl

except, you know, it's been on iTunes for four years.
posted by scruss at 4:32 PM on October 19, 2010

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