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A Robyn Hitchcock Chronology

by Bayard Catron

Last updated November 1997


Items in { } from Robyn's program given out at a performance on 3-July-89 in Golden Gate Park, SF (Thanks: Russ Reynolds).

Items in [ ] from Punk Diary: 1970-1989, by George Gimarc; St. Martin's Press, New York, 1994; ISBN 0-312-11048-0; ML3534.G55. (Thanks: Gene Hopstetter).

Items in ( -RH) from Robyn's corrections to the Chronology. (Robyn was kind enough to mark up a copy of this document. His written comments will appear when my scanner arrives. Thanks Robyn!) (Note also that Robyn has now written his own Chronology for the Warner Brothers RH web site.)

Unbracketed items are from the 1976-81 Soft Boys compilation CD booklet, and other interviews.

The Chronology welcomes input from those with vivid memories from history. Matthew Knights kindly offers his memories:

I went to see Robyn and The Soft Boys about 20 times between July '79 and July '81, always in London. Below are some details from a few key gigs I remember.

Big thanks to Matt and if you have something to contribute, or any corrections, please let me know. Feg memories are in italics.

{1863 Jamblat Watashee Hitchcock marries Hanna Prewett.

1903 Sugarbeet Hitchcock marries Julia Cicely Trains.

1915 Marius Stretton Hitchcock drowned in a breathing accident.}

1922 Birth of Raymond Hitchcock, cartoonist, futurist and offbeat science-fiction writer.

{1927 Giant Squid claims the life of Cynthia Mabel Prewett off Dawlish Warren.

1944 Raymond Hitchcock wounded in Normandy.

1953 Robyn Hitchcock born safely in London.}

March 3, 1953 Robyn is born to parents Joyce and Raymond Hitchcock in West London, where he subsequently attends an all-male boarding school.

{1954 Morris Windsor born mainly in Croydon.

(March 3) 1956 Andy Metcalfe born suddenly in Bristol. I see a dead chicken for the first time.

1963 "From Me To You" is the Beatles Second Number One. Kennedy Assassinated. I fall disastrously in love with Sandra Kenrich.

1965 "Mr. Tambourine Man" Number One in July. Still thinkin' 'bout Sandra Kenrich}

1965. When his attempts to build a time machine are met with failure, twelve-year-old Robyn becomes disillusioned.

{1967 Get my first guitar. (Tim Keegan born this same week. -radio int.)

June 1967 "All You Need Is Love" goes Number One.

Sept. 1967 I learn how to tune my guitar.

Aug. 1968 Russia invades Czechoslovakia. I fall in love with Eileen Dibney.

July 1970 Surprise return of Tory government in U.K. Syd Barrett records his last LP. I write my first song "Baby" with schoolfriend Martin Mayer.

Sept. 1971 First solo song--"Chug A Lug" (Just singin' bout my petrol) (Glen Uber asks, was this an RH composition or the Roger Miller song? -bc)

Feb. 1972 First public appearance in folk club with Richard K. West, now living in L.A. (Died November 1993 -RH)

Aug. 1972 I form the Beatles with Martin and others. We play seven gigs in two years.

1973 Martin double barrels his name--he is now a lawyer--the Beatles split. Martin and I still lunch occasionally.}

[Monday, December 31, 1973 (p. 9)

The Symptoms are playing their last-ever gig. Tonight's farewell show is opening up for Chilli Will & The Red Hot Peppers (Phil "Snakefinger" Lithman's band) at the London, British Council. They've been playing together for about two years under various names. For a while they were The Plums, their drummer Patrick "Patch" Fisher had them appear as "Patchwork Quilt" once, their drummer Simon suggested "Four Ascetic Young Gentlemen," and their bassist Martin Stanway-Mayers came up with the Symptoms. The only problem is that at their farewell appearance their name is spelled incorrectly as the "Symptons." The guitarist/vocalist Robyn Hitchcock will later front the influential band the Soft Boys and later have a solo career of some repute in the '80s and '90s.] (RH corrects "ascetic" as "aesthetic" but I believe him to be mistaken in this-- "Ascetic" means austere, often referring to choosing a lifestyle devoid of pleasure. -bc)

{1974 Move to Cambridge and play folk clubs for two years.}

ca. 1975 Maisie is born.

{1975 See Andy and Morris.

{1976 Speak to Andy and Morris. Form the Soft Boys (initially Dennis and the Experts)}

1975-76. RH plays every weekend at the Portland Arms Folk Club, where he meets bluegrass guitarist Andy Metcalfe, and is introduced to Morris Windsor by James "The Great One" Smith. Rob Lamb temporarily (he thinks) loans Robyn his band, "Dennis and the Experts".

[Wednesday, October 13, 1976 (p. 38)

Robyn Hitchcock finds himself fronting a band called Dennis & The Experts. Robyn himself is cast in the lead role as "Dennis," while the "Experts" are Ron (sic) Lamb, Andy Metcalf (sic) and Maurice (sic) Windsor. They play a few originals of Robyn's and some covers by artists like Little Feat, Steely Dan (these 2 crossed out by RH) and select bits of David Bowie. While punk is screaming on in London, Robyn is stuck in Cambridge playing what he later described as "sedate hippy gibberish." The group would only be a brief stopping place on the way to becoming the Soft Boys, with quite a different style.] (I got yelled at by RH for the butchering of Rob, Andy and Morris' names above, spelled as they are in The Punk Diary. Sorry Robyn. -bc)

[Saturday, November 27, 1976 (p. 41)

Robyn Hitchcock announced to the crowd on-stage tonight in Cambridge "We're the Soft Boys." It's a new direction for the group that was only hours ago calling itself Dennis & The Experts. The new name comes from the title of a song that Robyn recently made up in rehearsal called "Give It To The Soft Boys." Rob Lamb left the group when he felt the band was getting to be too scrappy. The Soft Boys are Robyn Hitchcock on lead vocals and guitar, Maurice Windsor on drums, Andy Metcalf (sic) on bass and new guitarist Alan "Wangbo" Davies, who takes departing Rob's place. Why the name the Soft Boys? Robyn explains, "I'd had this concept of this thing called the Soft Boys, like a William Burroughs amalgam. Soft Machine and the Wild Boys. The implications were kind of homo-erotic and seedy, kind of crawling, bloodless, colorless things that crawled around like filleted human jellyfish around the corridors of power. Soft Boys controlled things but they had no spine. Basically insidious people and basically that's what we were." (They played that night, billed as Dennis & The Experts, at Cambridge, Polytechnic.)]

March, 1977. Demo tape recorded in Robyn's living room. Later that year, the "Give it to the Soft Boys" EP is released on Raw records. Kimberly Rew replaces Wang Bo on guitar, making the band's sound significantly louder and harder. Radar Records signs The Soft Boys and they go into the studio for the "Legendary Radar Sessions," but the only release is "I Want to be an Anglepoise Lamp." Several tracks show up later on Invisible Hits. For the next two years or so, the band continues to play to enthusiastic audiences, (..Only in Cambridge! -RH) with notable shows at the Portland Arms (acoustic) and Lady Mitchell Hall (electric).

[Monday, October 10, 1977 (p. 88)

The Soft Boys, a Cambridge-based band, have their debut EP released on Raw Records. The Soft Boys were formed out of the convergence of Andy Metcalfe and Robyn Hitchcock when Andy (No! That was Rob Lamb -RH) auditioned Robyn for a position as vocalist in a white soul combo that became Dennis & The Experts back in 1976. The band then reformed with Kimberly Rew brought in on guitar and Morris Windsor on drums. A song that Robyn wrote called "Give It To The Soft Boys" gave the band their name. Their EP has the tracks "Wading Through a Ventilator," "The Face of Death," and "Hear My Brane." All of the songs are Soft Boys originals. The other tracks from the sessions, "The Yodelling Hoover," "Vyra Knowl Is A Headbanger," and "Give It To The Soft Boys" are all left unissued until 1984.] (Order of guitarists: 1. Rob Lamb 2. Alan Davies "Wang Bo" 3. Kimberley Rew --RH)

{1977-1981 The Soft Boys land on the wrong planet. Record Wading Through A Ventilator. In '78 record their first LP, A Can Of Bees with a new member, Kimberley Rew, who would later join Katrina and the Waves. Refusal to cut hair, fake working class accents or devise an image, insured zilch interest outside Cambridge and New York.}

[Friday, May 26, 1978 (p. 129)

Soft Boys have their second 45 "(I Want To Be An) Anglepoise Lamp" released by Radar Records. It's backed with "Fat Man's Son," both Robyn Hitchcock compositions. The Cambridge-based group is lead singer Robyn Hitchcock, along with Andy Metcalf (sic), Morris Windsor, Jim Melton, and Kimberly Rew. Hitchcock has been in bands for many years. (The Soft Boys played in London at The Nashville with Solid Waste that night.)]

Aug-Nov, 1978. _A Can of Bees_ sessions take place in Spaceward Studios, the basement of 19 Clarendon Street, Cambridge. Additional personnel include Jim Melton on percussion, vocals and harmonica, and Gerry Hale on Violin. Engineer: Mike Kemp. Working title: Heat Me Up, and Tell Me You're Happy. For more information (and disinformation), see the CoB liner notes. Robyn later remarked that the highly polished, almost shellac-ed, sound of the CoB songs was due to over-practicing.

[Sunday, February 4, 1979 (p. 169)

The Soft Boys have left Radar Records on the eve of the release of their debut album when Radar decided that the recording for "The Day They Ate Brick" was too bad to release. Their single "Anglepoise Lamp" was out last May, but their album will have to wait until they get their own record company, Two Crabs Music, together next month.]

[Tuesday, April 24, 1979 (p. 185)

The Soft Boys celebrate the release of 2,500 copies of their debut album "A Can Of Bees." it's a collection of eight studio tracks and three live recordings. Robyn Hitchcock has written a group of unlikely titles, such as "Leppo and The Jooves," "Sandra's Having Her Brain Out," "The Rat's Prayer," "Do The Chisel," "and "The Pigworker." The live tracks include a cover of Lennon's "Cold Turkey." The album is a re-recorded version of the album rejected by Radar a few months ago. Before settling on a "Can Of Bees" The LP was briefly called "Heat Me Up, And Tell Me You're Happy." A major tour follows today's release. (They played the Moonlight Club in London with La Starza that night.)]

April, 1979. After further studio sessions (released on Invisible Hits in 1983) Andy decides to leave the band. Matthew Seligman replaces him on bass, and the band's sound changes once again, leaning more towards the pop side of the spectrum.

July 79. Soft Boys played The Nashville pub, Kensington, London supported by Bruce Woolley and his band. There were 5 or 6 Soft Boys on stage including Robyn, Andy Metcalfe, Morris and Kimberley but not Matthew Seligman even though he had officially joined by then. The Nashville is now just a pub and has since been renamed The Three Kings. (Robyn and Morris played the Three Kings sometime circa 1994. I hear it's really small. -bc)

[Friday, September 7, 1979 (p. 219)

The Soft Boys debut their new line-up. Bassist Andy Metcalfe left to join Telephone Bill & The Smooth Operators, eventually joining Squeeze. He is replaced by ex-Bruce Wooley (sic) Band member Matthew Seligman. Drummer Jim Melton left to start his own band and is having his duties heaped on drummer Morris Windsor. The Soft Boys are again a four-piece group. (They played the Rock Garden in London with Scissors Fit (sic) that night.)]

Late 79/early 1980 the Soft Boys played at London's Rock Garden in Covent Garden. They were supported by "The Scissor Fits" - a fun loving punk band. [I feel "Scissors Fit" is a misspelling] The Rock Garden is still there. Other popular London venues for The Soft Boys in the late 70's included The Roundhouse in Camden, London; and The Greyhound, Fulham, London.

Mid 1980. The classic Underwater Moonlight is recorded for less than 600 quid, released on Armageddon, and it's off to America for a series of shows in New York. (Underwater Moonlight working title: "That's My Fish You're Holding.")

1981. The Soft Boys record their final tracks, "Only the Stones Remain" and "The Bells of Rhymney" and these are combined with tracks from the 1977 Hope & Anchor show to make Two Halves for the Price of One, also on Armageddon. Robyn cites Andy's absence as a key reason for the breakup; "After he left, it was more just a band playing my songs." With Matthew's assistance, Robyn begins work on his solo LPs, Black Snake Diamond Role released in 1981, and Groovy Decay, released the next year.

Easter 1980 or 81. Soft Boys play at The Moonlight Club, West Hendon, London. One stoned/drunk adoring female fan strips topless, leaves the audience, gets up on stage and writhes kneeling in front of Robyn's feet for several songs. Robyn and SB's ignore her and carry on playing. Eventually she is pulled off by bouncers. The club still exists but is now just a pub and has been renamed many times since then.

April 81. A month after the SB's split Robyn appeared at the Hope & Anchor, Islington, London with a full band including someone on trumpet, someone (Seligman? -bc) on keyboards and Morris on drums. I remember hearing "Brenda's Iron Sledge" and "Acid Bird".

July 9th 1981. Robyn plays at "The Venue", Victoria, London. This was a solo performance with lots of dancing girls hired to dance on stage in fish costumes. The girls were part of the act, all had the same costume and danced very well in time to the music! There was an elaborate stage set as well - fish were very much in evidence! "The Venue" has since been converted into a Garfunkel's.

{1981-82 Two Solo LP's (Black Snake Diamond Role, Groovy Decay) gain no new ground. Rock world in the grip of synthetic, technological image conscious music. I can't get my quiff together. Drop out, I write, including lyrics for Captain Sensible, who keeps me going spiritually and financially. Fab new album out from the captain soon. Peter Buck finds Soft Boys LP in record shop in Athens.}

1983. Invisible Hits is released, with a mail-in offer for Live at the Portland Arms.

1984 Meet Peter Buck in cat protection agency in North London.

{1984 Return to recording and release I Often Dream Of Trains in September. Form Egyptians with Andy and Morris and Otis Horns Fletcher (old school friend) and Roger Jackson. First gig in two and a half years.}

1984. Robyn enters the studio alone and records I Often Dream of Trains, widely regarded as one of his greatest achievements, on a Fostex 4-track recorder in two days' time. (No! That was the demo. The album was on 16 x 24 track. Took about a week. -RH) The Soft Boys' first EP is re-released in England as Wading Through a Ventilator. Robyn: "I heard that and it just suddenly seemed to me that we had been extremely good, but somehow we'd got lost along the way... it made me think that getting back together with Andy and Morris might be a good idea...one day's rehearsal and, bang! it was really fresh all over again." Thus was born Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians.

{1985 Release Fegmania! (first U.S. album). Discover the sparkling joys of America. Collapse in San Francisco after operation. Limp on to Texas and give up. Everybody wept. Failed to support R.E.M. as a consequence.}

1985. Fegmania! is released. The Egyptians tour Europe and the U.S. with keyboardist Roger Jackson. A concert from this tour (April 29, 1985 at the Marquee) is offered as Gotta Let This Hen Out!. Groovy Decay is remixed, re-arranged and re-issued with a different cover as Groovy Decoy.

{1986-87 Continue to tour U.S. with increasing success and sign to A&M. Element of Light tops college charts etc....Fail to support R.E.M. due to bad money from promoters.}

1986. Element of Light, another common favorite, is released, as is the Invisible Hitchcock compilation. Most of the back catalog is pressed on CD and cassette, though available in the US only on imports.

1987. Robyn stops eating chicken.

{1988 Release Globe of Frogs. See second dead chicken--sell quite a lot. Work incognito in record shop in San Francisco for three weeks in the summer. Fired for incompetence. Record Queen Elvis in London. Gear up for U.S. tour with R.E.M.}

1989. Queen Elvis is released on A&M. "Madonna of the Wasps" gets some radio exposure. At the time, Robyn dislikes the tightness of having to record by committee, but later seems quite fond of the album.

May 1989. Robyn puts in a strange, mentally disturbed solo performance at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, Soho, London. He spends most of the gig running around on stage trying to get away from his own shadow.

1989-1990. Robyn takes a break from his bandmates, A&M, and production values, and Eye is released on Twin/Tone Records, supported with a 62-gig solo tour during which he traveled the country with just Cynthia and his guitar. (he also played piano at some shows. I believe this tour began and ended at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. -bc) The simplicity and elegance of Eye earn it a devoted following. Early on in this period, Robyn is in a bad state mentally, but comes out of it quite nicely after getting Eye out of his system and meeting Cynthia, to whom the next record is dedicated. Around this time he lives in San Francisco, writing songs later to be released on Perspex Island; his roommate later opens "Neurotic Records" and Robyn makes a secret in-store appearance there in September 1994. (I'm also told he worked there for a time-- see entry for 1988.) Robyn seems to have an af

1991-92. Robyn travels to Los Angeles, where he reunites with the Egyptians and records Perspex Island, his most commercially successful album to date. The US/European tour is also quite successful, with an acoustic set concluding the shows. The media notes the high sales volume and predicts even greater success. Two or three songs get significant radio play. Robyn moves to Georgetown (Washington, DC) to be closer to Cynthia, whom he plans to marry. He plays frequent gigs at Max's on Broadway and the 9:30 Club, and works on paintings. The fegmaniax internet list finds a new home. Robyn's father dies of cancer, and Respect is dedicated to (and influenced by) him.

1993. The band takes a quieter, more acoustic turn, in keeping with the Perspex tour's closing sets. The Respect album and tour are met with somewhat limited success. Robyn and the Egyptians are released from their A&M contract. Mrs. Wafflehead takes over the Fegmaniax fan club duties from Sandra and Trudi, offering a special souvenir live Give it to the Thoth Boys tape compiled by Andy from various U.S. shows. Also offered for sale are some of the scarce independent-label cd's. Robyn and Cynthia break up. RH returns to the Isle of Wight to record Respect in his kitchen and living room, then sells the house and moves to London. (Last Egyptians tour: November '93) -RH

1994. Robyn tours with the reunited Soft Boys and others (sometimes as many as seven of them), and solo, in support of the tentatively titled Surfer Ghost. Fans everywhere wait eagerly for news of this ephemeral release (Which, unfortunately, never comes out.) The band's lineup varies from show to show, but is always met with ecstatic support. (How about coming to America next time? -bc) In the latter half of the year, Robyn tours the West coast for a number of solo acoustic/electric shows. (Egyptians dissolve Spring '94 -RH) Robyn joins Scott McCaughney and other chaps from the Young Fresh Fellows for a concert in Seattle which is christened "Viva Sea-Tac!" Mrs. Wafflehead offers a second live souvenir Soft Boys tape from England, Where are the Prawns? All of the non-A&M albums are slated by Rhino for re-release at last, as well as a collection of rare tracks and odds and ends tentatively entitled "You & Oblivion" and perhaps a spoken-word album including the stories from the Queen Elvis, Eye, and Respect CD booklets. The internet feglist dies again in October.

1995. Robyn tours the east coast of America in the first half of 1995. The feglist comes back to life. Glass Flesh, the tribute compilation of RH covers performed by internet fegmaniax, is completed (at least the first two installments of it). Robyn and Michele now living together with a cat named Figaro (Figgy).

1996. Robyn, now signed with Warner Brothers, continues to play live fairly frequently. One notable gig at the Borderline with Tim Keegan's band re-creates Dylan's famous 1966 gig at the Royal Albert Hall. The new album Moss Elixir is released, along with its vinyl counterpart Mossy Liquor. Robyn tours Canada and the US with Billy Bragg and Deni Bonet. The Positive Vibrations fanzine ceases publication. (Thank God! -RH) Just before Christmas, Jonathan Demme films Robyn (along with Tim Keegan and Deni) performing in a Manhattan storefront.

1997. Antwoman takes over merchandising and fan club duties from Mrs. Wafflehead. Glass Flesh is released on CD. The Dylan Tribute gig with Homer is released on both bootleg and radio promo, but many people had a better sounding tape of it already. The feglist gets hit by lightning and goes down for a third time. Robyn tours the eastern US solo, then then the west coast with Tim. "Viva Sea-Tac II", a monumental event featuring the Popcycle Shoppe Incident, happens in Seattle. Robyn says he will return to Seattle for Viva Seatac 2.5 and the Bumbershoot Festival. He plays a one-hour set at the latter, featuring three songs with the Sea-Tac boys, but no proper Sea-Tac 2.5. However, four fortunate fegs are lucky enough to witness a brief secret gig at the Two Bells.

1998. The Demme film, entitled "Storefront Hitchcock," is scheduled to be released March 27, (rated PG-13 for one 'bad word') with the soundtrack appearing at the end of February. Work has reportedly already commenced on the next studio album, Jewels for Sophia.

More to follow, as history continues...


woj <woj@smoe.org>