Friday, March 6, 2009

Invisible Hits

In order to squeeze 30 years of Robyn Hitchcock into 31 days of March, I'm blogging in calendar time, so every day brings a new year. Today is 1983, which should be an "off day", because besides writing a few songs for Captain Sensible's Women And Captains First, Robyn Hitchcock didn't release anything in 1983.

1983 was the year that the Soft Boys Invisible Hits compilation came out. This was the first Soft Boys record I ever bought, mistakenly thinking it was a greatest hits collection, but it's actually a odds and sods collection of non-album tracks.

One of the biggest mistakes I've ever made was not picking it up on CD, since it's now out of print, and I can't seem to locate my LO. I thought I had a complete Soft Boys collection on vinyl, and I've located A Can Of Bees, and Underwater Moonlight and even Live From the Portland Arms, but no Invisible Hits. It's probably just been mis-filed. Luckily, someone has posted the entire album to youtube.

The songs on Invisible Hits range from the prehistoric days of the Soft Boys ("Wey Wey Hep Uh Hole" is one of their first songs) through the Underwater Moonlight era and the lost single "He's A Reptile". All the songs were previously unreleased, but one song ("When I Was A Kid") was recorded later on Groovy Decay.

This collection (and its companion Live From The Portland Arms cassette) showcase the Soft Boys at their loopiest, with lots of genre exercises the owe more to the Bonzo Dog Band than the Beatles. "Wey Wey Hep Uh Hole" sounds like a cross between Captain Beefheart and Spike Jones, "Have A Heart, Betty" is psychedelic barbershop, "He's a Reptile" is either a girl group homage or a nod to Motorhead, and "Rock & Roll Toilet" is the Soft Boys' punk song -- they even swap instruments to make it sound "punkier".

Live At The Portland Arms, a live tape that was reissued on vinyl in the late 80s but still hasn't come out on CD, documents a 1978 Soft Boys' acoustic/acapella show at the Portland Arms in Cambridge. They play a few of their own songs plus an assortment of wacky covers (everything from "In The Mood" to "All Shook Up", nothing that less than two decades old at the time) that would have made for a great evening's entertainment for everyone who decided to drop "down the pub" that night.

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