Monday, 4 August 2014


It’s been fairly warm in Los Angeles. I am trying to look at all of my CD’s and decide whether or not I want to keep them. My big list went away about a month ago. I am not overwhelmed by the task of re-typing and looking at everything, but – rest assured – it is a big job.
Last week, I opened a box and happened across a large stripe of Hugh Hopper CD’s. You will perhaps be aware of Hugh Hopper as the superlative bass player of Soft Machine, in their early years. Or maybe you noticed his name on a Robert Wyatt album?
Wayside Music has been touting a 10CD boxed set made from Hugh Hopper’s personal stash of tapes. I won’t pre-order it, but whenever they announce that it’s ready – I will likely buy a copy.
His debut solo album, “1984” (released in 1972) certainly had my attention from the very start of my Canterbury music awareness. Whoa, the guys from Soft Machine seem to be making solo albums – so you had to buy the Hugh Hopper LP with your solo LP’s by Elton Dean (“Elton Dean”) and Robert Wyatt (“The End Of An Ear”) – those two albums are British jazz and the Hugh Hopper LP is…something different.
I did not stick with the Soft Machine, after Robert Wyatt left, but I believe Hugh Hopper did. Imagine my surprise when a release notice for “Hoppertunity Box” walked the pike in 1977. The LP eventually arrived in small numbers, and the packaging told you NOTHING about the rather extraordinary music contained therein. Let’s just say that having Dave Stewart of Egg / Hatfield & The North / Gaskin & Stewart as the keyboard player, and the presence of late sax player Gary Windo makes “Hoppertunity Box” a welcome addition to the British pavilion of the declining years of what was once known as “Progressive Rock”. Yes, it’s ‘rock music’, not really what I would call British jazz.
I played this LP more than a lot of other records; the music really paraded in front of the inspector, suggesting that other avenues were available – progressive rock was not even in decline. The band on “Hoppertunity Box” was the tightest Canterbury rock band I’d ever heard. This is an LP that I can hum from memory.

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