Guide to British Music of the 1960s

October 2021

Book Review

On Track: The Incredible String Band by Tim Moon

The Incredible String Band were one of the more unusual bands of the 1960s/1970s. They had a huge "cult" following including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and, very clearly, Led Zeppelin. Their music was quite unique, moving from a pure folk beginning through to a more experimental and "psychedelic sound, no doubt helped by certain substances. They were amongst the pioneers of world music with Mike Heron's sitar playing adding an eastern element while Robin Williamson's collections of "exotic" instruments added some more unusual sounds to the picture. They played the Woodstock Festival in 1969 although their below-par performance was omitted from the final film and soundtrack and has only recently been officially released.

The songs varied from mystical stories to short, more commercial, pieces although to call them "pop" would be a bit too far. Subjects included clouds, hedgehogs, amoeba, caterpillars, minotaurs and more. Most songs were written by Robin Williamson or Mike Heron although Rose Simpson's replacement, Malcolm LeMaistre, contributed a few over the later LPs and there were a small number of collaborations.

Tim Moon's book analyses the breadth of the Incredible String Band's work in chronological order of the albums they were on. The few singles the band released are not included separately as they appeared on the albums. The analysis is not too detailed which makes the book much more readable. The information about each song makes very interesting reading alongside listening to the album and is accessible enough for even the casual listener to understand. More hardcore listeners will prefer the analysis of certain songs included in BeGlad magazine (increasingly available on-line at www.makingtime.co.uk/beglad) or in the BeGlad compendium.

Author Tim Moon is clearly a big fan and there is passion in the song descriptions. However, this does not obscure critical analysis. Some songs are far more accessible than others, some are seen as self-indulgent, some are clearly influenced by the band's then immersion in scientology. Quite simply, there is a breadth of output from this legendary band and Tim Moon's work will help listeners understand the songs. The reader and listener will then be in a position to emulate Robert Plant and "follow the instructions."

Published: 16 July 2021

Sonicbond Publishing

   

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