After reaching prominence in the late 1970s with The Soft Boys, Hitchcock launched a prolific solo career. His musical and lyrical styles have been influenced by Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Syd Barrett, Captain Beefheart, Bryan Ferry and Roger McGuinn. Hitchcock's lyrics tend to include surrealism, comedic elements, characterisations of English eccentrics, and melancholy depictions of everyday life.
He has recorded for two major American labels (A&M Records, then Warner Bros.) over the course of the 1980s and 1990s, and was the subject of a live performance/documentary film (Storefront Hitchcock) by major motion picture director Jonathan Demme in 1998, but despite this, mainstream success has been limited. He has earned strong critical reviews over a steady stream of album releases and live performances, and a "cult following" for his songs.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, 6 October 2012
|Born||3 March 1953|
Paddington, London, England
|Genres||Alternative rock, jangle pop, psychedelic folk, post-punk|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica, bass|
|Labels||Yep Roc Records|
|Associated acts||The Soft Boys|
Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians
The Venus 3
I Was A King
Grant Lee Buffalo
Hitchcock was educated at Winchester College, where he was a "groovy and alternative" friend of Julia Darling. While at art school in London around 1972, Hitchcock was a member of the college band the Beetles. In 1974 he moved to Cambridge, where he did some busking, and joined a series of local bands: B.B. Blackberry and the Swelterettes, the Worst Fears, and Maureen and the Meatpackers. His next group, Dennis and the Experts, became the neo-psychedelia band The Soft Boys in Cambridge in 1976, recording their first EP, "Give It to the Soft Boys", at Spaceward studios, Cambridge, in 1977. After recording A Can of Bees (1979) and Underwater Moonlight (1980) the group broke up in 1981.
Hitchcock released his solo debut, Black Snake Diamond Röle in 1981, which included instrumental backing by several former Soft Boys. He followed it in 1982 with the generally critically maligned Groovy Decay. Following his solo acoustic album I Often Dream of Trains in 1984, he formed a new band, The Egyptians, comprising former members of the Soft Boys (Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor, supplemented at first by early keyboardist Roger Jackson), resulting in their 1985 debut Fegmania!, which featured typically surrealist Hitchcock songs such as "My Wife and My Dead Wife" and "The Man with the Lightbulb Head". (A live album, Gotta Let This Hen Out!, was released at the end of that year.) Their popularity grew with the 1986 album Element of Light and they were subsequently signed to A&M Records in the U.S. The album Globe of Frogs, released in 1988, further expanded their reach, as the single "Balloon Man" became a college radio and MTV hit, followed in 1989 by "Madonna of the Wasps" from their Queen Elvis album. In 1989 they also teamed up with Peter Buck of R.E.M. and Peter Holsapple of The dB's, playing two gigs as Nigel and the Crosses, mostly covers. The Crosses also had their cover of "Wild Mountain Thyme" included on a Byrds tribute album, though Hitchcock always alluded to the Bryan Ferry version when performing it live with the Egyptians.
At the beginning of 1990, Hitchcock took a break from the Egyptians and A&M Records to release another solo acoustic album, Eye, then resumed with the band's Perspex Island release in 1991. 1993's Respect, influenced a great deal by his father's death, marked the last Egyptians release and the end of his association with A&M Records.
Early in 1994, after disbanding the Egyptians, Hitchcock embarked on a short reunion tour with the Soft Boys. His work received a slight boost in 1995 when his back catalogue (including both solo releases and Egyptians albums) were re-packaged and re-issued in the United States by the respected Rhino Records label. For the rest of the decade he continued recording and performing as a solo artist, releasing several albums on Warner Brothers Records, such as 1996's Moss Elixir (which featured the contributions of violinist Deni Bonet and guitarist Tim Keegan), and the soundtrack from the Jonathan Demme-directed concert film Storefront Hitchcock in 1998. The 1999 release Jewels for Sophia, also on Warner, featured cameos from Southern California-based musicians Jon Brion and Grant-Lee Phillips, both of whom often shared the stage with Hitchcock when he played Los Angeles nightclub Largo. An album of outtakes from the Sophia sessions called A Star for Bram, released on Hitchcock's own label, followed, and his subsequent albums appeared on a variety of independent labels.
In 1999 he authorised a book about him written by Italian underground writer Luca Ferrari, edited in December 2000 in Italian-English with the title A Middle-Class Hero (Stampa Alternativa, Rome 2000): a long 'in the raw' interview about life, death, religion, music and passions that portraits the musician as very human and real. Included also some of his paintings and for the first time his father Raymond's old ones.
In 2001 Hitchcock reunited and toured with Kimberley Rew, bassist Matthew Seligman, and Morris Windsor for the Soft Boys' re-release of their best-known album, 1980's Underwater Moonlight. The following year they recorded and released a new album, Nextdoorland, which was accompanied by a short album of outtakes, Side Three. The reunion was short-lived.
The 2002 double album Robyn Sings comprised cover versions of Bob Dylan songs, including a live re-creation (performed in 1996) of Dylan's so-called Live at the Royal Albert Hall 1966 concert. Hitchcock celebrated his 50th birthday in 2003 with a concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London at which his then-new solo acoustic album Luxor was given away as a gift to all those attending, and an original poem of his was read by actor Alan Rickman. He continued collaborating with a series of different musicians, as on the album Spooked, which was recorded with country/folk duo (and longtime Hitchcock fans) Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. The Soft Boys re-formed again in 2006 to perform a live concert of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd covers in London, benefiting Médecins Sans Frontières.
In 2006 Olé! Tarantula was released with the Venus 3, a band which consisted of longtime friends and collaborators R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and Young Fresh Fellows' frontman Scott McCaughey, as well as Ministry's Bill Rieflin (by then also R.E.M.'s full-time drummer). The song "'Cause It's Love (Saint Parallelogram)" was written with Andy Partridge of XTC.
In 2007, he was the subject of a documentary Robyn Hitchcock: Sex, Food, Death... and Insects directed by John Edginton, shown on the U.S. Sundance Channel and in the UK on BBC Four (and later released on DVD). "Food, sex and death are all corridors to life if you like. You need sex to get you here, you need food to keep you here and you need death to get you out and they’re the entry and exit signs."
The filmmaker eavesdrops on Hitchcock at work on his latest collection of songs with contributors including Nick Lowe, former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, Peter Buck and Gillian Welch. The film culminates with Hitchcock and the band taking the songs on the road in America. A live EP with The Venus 3, Sex, Food, Death... and Tarantulas, was released in conjunction with the documentary. The film also includes candid interviews with Hitchcock, who reveals much about the source of his work: "At heart I'm a frightened angry person. That's probably why my stuff isn't totally insubstantial. I'm constantly, deep down inside, in a kind of rage."
Late in 2007, Hitchcock's music was again re-packaged and re-released in the U.S., as Yep Roc Records began an extensive reissue campaign with three early solo releases and a double-CD compilation of rarities, which would be available separately or as part of a new boxed set release, I Wanna Go Backwards.
In 2008, that boxed set was followed up with Luminous Groove, a boxed set of three early Egyptians releases and two further discs of rarities. In 2009, the electro-pop artist and remixer Pocket released an EP featuring Hitchcock called "Surround Him With Love", while Hitchcock released an entirely separate new album, Goodnight Oslo, with the Venus 3. At the end of the year, a live album called I Often Dream of Trains in New York documented the late-2008 onstage re-creation of his acclaimed 1984 acoustic album (a limited-edition deluxe version also included the materials to construct a kind of moving-image generator called a phenakistoscope).
In 2009, Hitchcock contributed to The Decemberists' concept album The Hazards of Love, performing the short instrumental solo "An Interlude." Also in 2009, Hitchcock provided the score for the film Women in Trouble, a feminist/exploitation "chick flick".
Concurrent with the redesign of his official website in early 2010, Hitchcock began to offer a series of "Phantom 45s" as downloads, each "45" being two newly recorded songs that would initially be offered as a free download. He also released the Propellor Time album, containing new material partially based on the "Sex, Food, Death" sessions shown in the 2007 documentary, but mainly featuring the Venus 3. In 2011, he released Tromsø, Kaptein, an album of songs written in Norway, and released physically only in that country. Hitchcock was chosen by Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel to perform "I Often Dream of Trains" at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival, to be curated by Mangum in March 2012 in Minehead, England. The album Love From London (working title: File Under Pop) was released on Yep Roc Records on 5 March 2013. The label also released his subsequent record, The Man Upstairs, on 26 August 2014.
April 2015 saw Robyn Hitchcock team up with Emma Swift to release a limited Record Store Day 7" single "Follow Your Money," backed with a stripped back cover of Neil Young's "Moving Pictures." The pair subsequently toured, releasing another 7" single double A side with the songs "Love Is A Drag" and "Life Is Change," produced by Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake.
In 2017, Hitchcock released his eponymous album Robyn Hitchcock. Working with Brendan Benson as co-producer, the album saw a return to a full band sound after his previous release, with guest appearances from Gillian Welch and Emma Swift.
Hitchcock was born in Paddington, London, England, son of novelist Raymond Hitchcock (writer of Percy). He was educated at Winchester College. and Trinity College, Cambridge from where he was sent down, failing to graduate.
Hitchcock writes short stories, paints (often in a whimsical, surrealist style), and draws in a cartoon-strip style. His album covers often make use of his paintings or drawings, and the liner notes sometimes include a short story. His live concerts include story-telling, in the form of imaginative and surreal ad-libbed monologues in his lyrical style.
Hitchcock collaborated with director Jonathan Demme in 1998 for a live concert and film Storefront Hitchcock, and later appeared in Demme's 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate, in which he played double agent Laurent Tokar. He also appeared in Demme's Rachel Getting Married in 2008, singing and playing guitar in the wedding-party band.
In September 2008 Hitchcock joined the Disko Bay Cape Farewell expedition to the West Coast of Greenland. Cape Farewell is a UK-based arts organisation that brings artists, scientists and communicators together to instigate a cultural response to climate change. Other voyagers on the trip included musicians Feist, Laurie Anderson, Jarvis Cocker, KT Tunstall and Martha Wainwright.
Hitchcock developed a sizable cult following on the heels of the critical acclaim he received in the mid-1980s for his highly poetic, if somewhat obscure, songs.
Andy Metcalfe (born 3 March 1956, Bristol, England) is an English bassist, keyboardist and producer, who played mainly with The Soft Boys (with Robyn Hitchcock, 1976–1979), Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians (1984–1994), and with Squeeze off and on during the period 1985-1994.
He co-produced several of the Egyptians albums (Gotta Let This Hen Out!, Element of Light, Globe Of Frogs and Queen Elvis), contributing guitars, keyboards and string arrangements along with his melodic bass lines. Since the break-up of the Egyptians, his production credits include Glenn Tilbrook, The Autumns, Sugarplastic, Kimberley Rew, Plainsong, Julian Dawson, Clear, Jazz Passengers with Debbie Harry, Helen Roche; often playing bass and keyboards on the sessions. His guest appearances on albums include David Gray, Nick Harper, Tim Keegan and he was MD and keyboard player for Channel 4's Vic Reeves Big Night Out.
He currently plays in Three Minute Tease – a trio with songwriter Anton Barbeau and fellow Soft Boy/Egyptian drummer Morris Windsor – and co-produced the band's debut album Three Minute Tease, released in April 2012.Element of Light
Element of Light is the fifth studio album by singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock and his second with his backing band, the Egyptians. It was released in 1986.
Most of the album was recorded at Alaska Studios and Berry Street, but two tracks, "The President" and "Lady Waters & The Hooded One", were live recordings made for the BBC, with overdubs recorded on BBC Mobile and at Alaska.
The overriding flavour of the album is dominated by the song "Airscape", which provides in its lyric the album title. "Airscape" has been cited several times by Hitchcock as a favourite amongst his own compositions, and a live rendition was tagged on to later CD editions. "Airscape" concerns his 'favourite beach' located on the Isle of Wight, and provided a backdrop for the cover shots.
The other songs encompass a variety of lyrical themes: the piscine "Bass" turning inventively through a litany of fish and sea birds, "Ted, Woody & Junior" mocking the homoeroticism of body building magazines, and "Winchester" paying a surreal tribute to the English town that lies on the main train line between London and the Lymington terminus, which connects to the Isle of Wight.
The song "The President" makes reference to Ronald Reagan's visit to Bitburg, where members of the Waffen-SS were buried.Originally running to ten songs, the first CD edition included extra bonus tracks, all taken from singles, whilst later pressings have added a further six, including the comedic spoken number "The Can Opener".
The album was self-produced with input from long-time colleague Pat Collier.Eye (Robyn Hitchcock album)
Eye is the eighth studio album and fourth solo album by Robyn Hitchcock. It was released in 1990 on Glass Fish (UK) and Twin/Tone Records (US) and is his fourth solo album, and eighth studio album including his work with The Egyptians. This was Hitchcock's only solo album released between 1985 and 1995, a period in which he recorded most of his music with his backing band, the Egyptians.
Eye was recorded acoustically in the style of I Often Dream Of Trains (1984) with which it shares a similar green/gold sleeve design, and could therefore be seen as a sequel piece. Eye is entirely self-composed and ran to fourteen songs (vinyl) and eighteen (CD). Hitchcock plays all instruments (mostly guitars), and sings all the vocals.
Eye was reissued in 1995 by Rhino and added the tracks "Raining Twilight Coast (demo)", "Agony of Pleasure (demo)", and "Queen Elvis (demo)". A third CD edition saw the previous demo bonus tracks dropped, along with "College of Ice", while adding yet more.Fegmania!
Fegmania! is the fourth studio album by Robyn Hitchcock and his first with his backing band The Egyptians.
The Egyptians included the former Soft Boys Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor.
"The Man with the Lightbulb Head" was conceived on Archway Road in London and provided a springboard for Hitchcock's first attempt at film making for a promotional video. Stills from the video were reproduced as cover art for the front and back of the LP sleeve.
The album was quickly followed by the live album, Gotta Let This Hen Out!, much of which was recorded on the Egyptians' tour in support of Fegmania!
Eight bonus tracks were added to the subsequent Rhino CD reissue of the album, including an acoustic demo of "Insect Mother" which had been recorded for possible inclusion in the earlier I Often Dream of Trains, and "The Pit of Souls", a lengthy psychedelic instrumental in four 'movements'. Two alternative versions of "Egyptian Cream" appear as bonus tracks.
The 2008 YepRoc reissue added seven bonus track to the original album. The outro which previously appeared as a hidden track after "Heaven" is now included as a separate, twelfth untitled song. This reissue was also included in the retrospective Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians boxset Luminous Groove.Greatest Hits (Robyn Hitchcock and The Egyptians album)
Greatest Hits is a collection of material by Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians from the A&M period 1988-1992, spanning the albums Globe of Frogs, Queen Elvis, Perspex Island, and Respect.
The collection also includes various hard-to-find B-Sides, which acted as a strong selling point for Hitchcock's fans, including Legalized Murder, Ruling Class, Dark Green Energy and Bright Fresh Flower. In addition, two cover songs are included – Bryan Ferry's More Than This and a live recording of The Byrds' Eight Miles High.
It was released as part of A&M's Backlot Digital Remasters Series on September 9, 1996.Love from London
Love From London is the nineteenth studio album by Robyn Hitchcock, released on March 5, 2013, on the label Yep Roc Records.Olé! Tarantula
Olé! Tarantula is the fifteenth studio album by Robyn Hitchcock, recorded with Peter Buck of R.E.M., Scott McCaughey of Young Fresh Fellows, and Bill Rieflin of Ministry. Together, they are known as Robyn Hitchcock and The Venus 3. It was recorded in Seattle, Washington, in 2006, the same year of its release.
The album contains ten original compositions, continuing largely in the vein of Hichcock's Spooked, which was also made in close collaboration with other musicians. Of the tracks, "Adventure Rocket Ship" was pulled for a single and released with an animated promotional video. Several other tracks including "Olé Tarantula" and "(A Man's Gotta Know His Limitations) Briggs" had been in Hitchcock's live act for some time prior to this release. ("Briggs" had already seen the light of day on Obliteration Pie.) The track "N.Y. Doll" is a eulogy of sorts to Arthur Kane, the New York Dolls bassist who had recently died.
Other guest musicians include former Soft Boys Morris Windsor and Kimberley Rew.
The cover image and internal cartoons are drawn by Hitchcock.Queen Elvis
Queen Elvis is the seventh studio album by English musician Robyn Hitchcock, released on A&M Records in 1989. It is his fourth studio album to be released with his band The Egyptians.
Having signed to A&M in 1988, this second set for the label was unreleased in Hitchcock's home country the UK. The album's cover depicts Hitchcock in a red telephone box, illuminated from the inside. Tracks 11 and 12 below are remixes of 2 album tracks ("Veins of the Queen" and "Freeze"), and were included on the original A&M US CD release.
The track "Queen Elvis" appears on his next album, Eye, with a second version "Queen Elvis II" available as a bonus track.Respect (Robyn Hitchcock album)
Respect is the tenth studio album by Robyn Hitchcock and his sixth with backing band, the Egyptians, released on A&M in 1993.Robyn Hitchcock (1995 album)
Robyn Hitchcock was the first official collection of pre-released Robyn Hitchcock material, issued in 1995 by Sequel Records.
This little-noted compilation was worthy of particular attention, being the only Hitchcock album to include the studio recording "Statue With a Walkman", a humorous depiction of a haemoglobin-counting figure found resting at the bottom of a garden. (Hitchcock would re-write the song with new sections, for the Storefront Hitchcock project a few years later.). This recording ended up on Shadow Cat in slightly edited form in 2008 (shortened by 63 seconds), making this compilation much less desirable.
The rest of the CD includes titles from his 1980s albums, nine of which had recently undergone repackaging and re-release. There is one title pulled from each, and the insert to this CD advertises and illustrates them all.Robyn Hitchcock (2017 album)
Robyn Hitchcock is the twenty-first studio album by British musician Robyn Hitchcock. It was released in 2017 through Yep Roc. The album, largely rooted in psychedelic rock, represents a stylistic change from his previous LP, The Man Upstairs, which was entirely acoustic.Robyn Sings
Robyn Sings is a double album by Robyn Hitchcock, released in 2002. The set is made up entirely of Bob Dylan covers, performed live at various dates.
The CD was the second release on Hitchcock's own Editions PAF! label.Shadow Cat (album)
Shadow Cat is an album by Robyn Hitchcock, released in England in 2008.
This was released in the UK by Sartorial Records, distributed by Cargo, and is available in America through Red Eye distribution. The set contains otherwise unavailable titles, as well as an edited version of 'Statue With A Walkman' (63 seconds shorter, and omitting the spoken-word interludes featured in the original).The Kershaw Sessions (Robyn Hitchcock album)
The Kershaw Sessions is an album by Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, comprising nineteen titles recorded live between 1985 and 1991. The album was released in 1994.
The 'Kershaw' of the title refers to UK radio DJ Andy Kershaw, although not all of the sessions were recorded for his show. Two, "Brenda's Iron Sledge" and the ever-popular "Heaven", were in fact pulled from the group's much earlier live album Gotta Let This Hen Out.
The tracks are all Hitchcock originals which had been recorded and released previously, bar "Open the Door, Homer", covered from Bob Dylan's The Basement Tapes and a jokey reading of "The Banana Boat Song". This is the only Hitchcock album on which either may be heard.
Sleeve notes are by group members Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor.The Man Upstairs (album)
The Man Upstairs is the twentieth studio album by Robyn Hitchcock released on 26 August 2014 on the Yep Roc Records label. The album comprises ten acoustic songs, all produced by Joe Boyd, noted for his work with various folk acts in the 1970s.It contains five original songs by Hitchcock and five covers of songs by the Psychedelic Furs, Roxy Music, Grant-Lee Phillips, Norwegian indie-rock band I Was a King, and The Doors. I Was a King's Anne Lise Frøkedal also plays guitar and sings vocal harmonies on the album. The album's cover was created by musician and artist Gillian Welch.Tromsø, Kaptein
Tromsø, Kaptein is the eighteenth studio album by Robyn Hitchcock, released and recorded on the Norwegian label Hype City Records in 2011. The album's title refers to the city of Tromsø in northern Norway.
The lyrics are in English, except 'Godnatt Oslo' ("Goodnight Oslo") where Hitchcock sings in Norwegian.You
The personal pronoun you is the second-person personal pronoun, both singular and plural, and both nominative and oblique case in Modern English. The oblique (objective) form, you, functioned previously in the roles of both accusative and dative, as well as all instances following a preposition. The possessive forms of you are your (used before a noun) and yours (used in place of a noun). The reflexive forms are yourself (singular) and yourselves (plural).
|with The Egyptians|
|with The Venus 3|