Local copy (with added links) of the original article
P o s i t i v e V i b r a t i o n s

RH Chronology 2.0

by Bayard Catron <bayard@rasputin.umd.edu>

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

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

Early 70's. Robyn attends, then drops out of, art school. He takes up the guitar and begins writing songs. "Wey Wey Hep a Hole," "Give Me a Spanner, Ralph," and "It's Not Just the Size of a Walnut" are from this time.

Late 1974. Robyn arrives in Cambridge with the intention of putting together a band.

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".

Late 1976. Punk rock is born. Lamb leaves the scene, "Wang Bo" Trotter (Alan Davies) joins as the lead guitarist, and Robyn christens the band "The Soft Boys" onstage in an impromptu fashion, after just writing "Give it to the Soft Boys" that same day. The Soft Boys soon become one of the most popular bands in Cambridge.

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, with notable shows at the Portland Arms (acoustic) and Lady Mitchell Hall (electric).

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. For more interesting information, 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 - a lesson well learned, he rarely ever again squeezes the freshness out of a song by overplaying it.

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 slightly towards the pop side of the spectrum.

Mid 1980. The classic Underwater Moonlight is recorded for < 600 quid, released on Armageddon, and it's off to America for a series of shows in New York.

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.

1982-83. Neither of Robyn's records are met with the recognition they deserve, and he takes a two-year sabbatical, retreating into his visual art and occasionally emerging to write lyrics for longtime friend Captain Sensible. During this time he lives mostly in, around and about Sussex, visiting friends and recording songs later to be released on Invisible Hitchcock. Friends Simon Kunath, Justin Grimaldi and The Great One lend their skills to these endeavours.

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

1984. Robyn enters the cocoon/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. 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. Fegmania! is released. The Egyptians tour Europe and the U.S. with keyboardist Roger Jackson. A concert from this tour (Apr.29.85 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. 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. The band signs with megalithic record label A&M and produces Globe of Frogs. "Balloon Man" proves to be a very popular radio song. The media notes the emergence and predicts success.

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.

1989-1990. Robyn takes a break from his bandmates, A&M, and production values, and Eye is released on Twin Tone, with a solo tour. 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 plays a secret gig there in September 1994. Robyn seems to have an affinity for San Francisco and an aversion to Los Angeles, his next stop. In fall of 1990, the fegmaniax listserver is first set up, but soon 'blows its brains out in a freak disk drive accident' -woj.

1991-92. Robyn travels to A&M studios in 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. 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 from a reunion gig in England. Also offered for sale are some of the scarce independent-label cd's.

1994. Robyn tours Canada and Europe with the reunited Soft Boys, the Egyptians, and solo, in support of the tentatively titled Surfer Ghost. Fans everywhere wait eagerly for news of this ephemeral release. The Soft Boys lineup varies from show to show, but is always met with ecstatic support. In the latter half of the year, Robyn tours the West coast for a number of solo acoustic/electric shows. Ms. 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.

1995. Robyn plans to tour the east coast of America in the first half of 1995 as well. Other events to anticipate in early '95: the resurrection of the fegmaniax listserv, which died again in October 1994; and the release of Glass Flesh, the tribute compilation of RH covers performed by internet fegmaniax. Surfer Ghost may be along late in the year, but it's anybody's guess when a label will come to its senses and offer Robyn a contract.

Chronologer's note: Though I take delight in compiling songlists and chronologies, I'm really not much of an insider; all this information was culled from liner notes and interviews. If you have any information to share, or corrections to make, please do.

fegMANIAX! || Positive Vibrations

woj <woj@remus.rutgers.edu>

Friday Night is Folk Club Night * The Soft Boys' Cambridge Today