Guide to British Music of the 1960s

March 2013

CD Review

The Incredible String Band - Live at the Filmore 1968

Recorded on the Summer 1968 tour when the band was promoting The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, this live recording captures the Incredible String Band arguably at their peak. The success of Hangman's had catapulted them into larger concert halls. Even the Beatles and the Rolling Stones would turn out to see the ISB at the Albert Hall in London. At the time the band was still just Mike and Robin with girlfriends Rose and Likky yet to join them as performers. Even though the ISB was not well-known in the US, they had already started to attract a cult following on the back of 5000 Spirits as well as a recent live radio appearance. The Filmore gig was also a benefit for the WBAI listener-funded radio station.

While there were just two members in the Incredible String Band, Mike Heron and Robin Williamson, they played a variety of different instruments from guitars and organs to sitar and even bells. The track listing reads like the closest the ISB will ever get to a "greatest hits". This covers from the first album with October Song through 5000 Spirits to Hangmans and Wee Tam & the Big Huge. The latter album had not yet been released but some of the tracks such as Ducks on a Pond are given an airing. Further experiments follow with early snippets of Puppies and Maya. It has been suggested that this version of the much-loved Maya may have been the first time it was ever played live. One of the outstanding tracks is Chinese White from 5000 Spirits that gains a massive roar of approval from the crowd. As the opening track of the album this was the first track heard heard by many String Band devotees.

The Incredible String Band were a great live experience and certainly very different from what the concert halls were used to. A regular feature, revived when Mike and Robin started playing together again in 2000, was inviting audience members onto the stage to play bells. A young Salman Rushdie was one of those invited onto the stage.

Of course, just over a year later the Incredible String Band played Woodstock.....

The CD includes sleeve notes from Robin, Adrian Whittaker (helped by Mike Heron and Joe Boyd) as well as the band's bass player later in their career Stan Schnier who was house manager at the Filmore East the night of this gig. His insights into how the String Band audience differed from the usual Filmore East crowd make interesting and amusing reading.

Release Date: February 2013


Essential Tracks:

  • A Very Cellular Song
  • Chinese White
  • October Song

Track Listing:

  1. Waltz of the New Moon
  2. You Get Brighter
  3. A Very Cellular Song
  4. October Song
  5. Bell Ringing
  6. Pig Went Walking / See All the People / Swift as the Wind / Mercy I Cry City
  7. Ducks on a Pond
  8. Puppies
  9. Chinese White
  10. Maya

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