Soft Machine was not a household name and never topped the charts, but they were a very good example of late sixties British progressive rock. They played long, elaborate songs characterized by an amazing amount of instruments, carefully thought out flights of fancy and just the right amount of whimsy. Like their rivals, Pink Floyd, their sound was based in traditional English folk amplified through Merseybeat, but there were many psychedelic, jazz pop layers on top and underneath. Kevin Ayers, who played in a precursor version of the band and continued to push the envelope after Soft Machine in Gong died Monday in France. He was 68. Here he is in his prime with bat wing eyes:


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