Sunday, 10 January 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee with The Incredible String Band

Welcome to my series of Sunday morning music sessions.

This should be the easiest  post of the series because I have loved The ISB for more than 40 years but, in fact, this is, by far, the most difficult: difficult because there are so many tracks to choose from and virtually impossible because opinions are so divided about them. There are those like me who love their music and many others who feel that the ISB are self-indulgent, drug-crazed hippies whose music is only marginally more welcome than death.

Their name comes from the Glasgow folk club owned by one of the founder members, Clive Palmer.  Mike Heron later joined Clive and Robin Williamson.  Their first album – eponymous -  was issued in 1966 and this is as gentle an introduction to their music as is possible.

Everything’s Fine Right Now

Clive Palmer left the group after the first album and in this version the girlfriends of the two remaining band members have joined (Licorice Mckechnie and Rose Simpson).

Aside: Rose Simpson went on to become the Mayor of Aberystwyth.

Well that’s the mainstream bit over.

Smoke Shovelling Song

This video should end at 3m 45s but for some reason runs on silently for more than another 2 minutes plus.  Given our freezing conditions this is quite an appropriate choice about a fire whose smoke freezes.

October Song

This song is about …..   No! better that you let the music and the words wash over you and see how / where you end up.


Their second album “The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion” was released just one year later and The Incredible String Band were starting to influence others – Robert Plant, McCartney.  I read – somewhere – that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards tried to get them to sign for their record label. 

 Painting Box

Here Heron and Williamson sing with Julie Felix – I think – in a beautifully simple song.

Hedgehog Song

There is only one video from this album although I wanted another but couldn’t find it and so you’ll need to follow the links.  This song is about a very knowledgeable hedgehog.

Click on this, highlight the ISB’s track and then click on “Play”.


In 1968 they flirted with mainstream popularity when their third album “The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter” was in the album charts for 27 weeks and, according to Wikipedia, this album sold 800,000 copies in the UK.  The main song on the album was a 13 minute mixture of styles, ”A Very Cellular Song”.

A Very Cellular Song

It takes 2 videos to encompass this song and, probably, a large dollop of patience.

If you’re still with me –thanks – you’re a star!


I’m going to let you off lightly: just one more track from their fifth album “Wee Tam and the Big Huge”


Nine minutes of magic!


As the years passed The Incredible String Band grew in size but apart in music.  Their later years were a disappointment but their early fruit remains so sweet to my ears.


Well, that’s it for another week.  Tune in again next week and thanks for listening.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, Julie Felix. They appeared on her BBC show, singing "see the people laugh, hahahaha".