Jazz is not like Marmite. When it comes to that disgusting yeast extract you either love it or you hate it – and you now know my position on the matter – but there is some jazz I like and some I just can’t bear. I don’t know why – I’m nowhere near enough of a musicologist to understand the technicalities. To coin a phrase, I just know what I like.
And I do like Soft Machine. I was at university in Canterbury, the group’s home town, for three years at the beginning of the seventies. They used to rehearse in one of the subterranean rooms of Rutherford College and I remember once sneaking a peek at their set-up. They obviously played the university a few times and I was definitely present, even if, for various reasons, the memories are somewhat hazy.
Many is the evening I spent in my college room with their double album ‘Third’ murmuring away in the background. Sometimes I was even studyng.
If it wasn’t for my personal connection with Soft Machine, I would almost certainly have led with Bruce Springsteen – if for nothing else, to demonstrate that it didn’t all end for me, musically, by about 1975.
Springsteen was up and running by then, of course (and is still playing high-energy three-hour shows, by all accounts), although I can’t recall hearing anything by him until a few years later. I do clearly remember, though, that the first Compact Disc that I ever heard was ‘Born In The USA’.
Not only does Springsteen play terrific, irresistibly driving rock ‘n roll, but he writes lyrics that are intelligent and thoughtful. And that’s a powerful, attractive combination.