Hugh Hopper

Hugh Colin Hopper (29 April 1945 – 7 June 2009) was a British progressive rock and jazz fusion bass guitarist. He was a prominent member of the Canterbury scene, as a member of Soft Machine and various other related bands.


Early career

Starting in 1963 as bassist with The David Allen Trio, alongside drummer Robert Wyatt, he alternated between free jazz and rhythm and blues. In 1964 with Brian Hopper (his brother), Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers and Richard Sinclair he formed The Wilde Flowers, a pop music group. Although they never released any records during their existence (a compilation was released 30 years later), The Wilde Flowers are acknowledged as the founders of the Canterbury scene[2] and spawned its two most important groups, Soft Machine and Caravan.

With Soft Machine (1968–73)

Hopper’s role with Soft Machine was initially as the group’s road manager, but he already composed for their first album The Soft Machine and played bass on one of its tracks. In 1969 he was recruited to be the group’s bassist for their second album, Volume Two and, with Mike Ratledge and Robert Wyatt, he took part in a recording session for a solo album of Syd Barrett’s (formerly of Pink Floyd, with whom the early Soft Machine had regularly gigged). Hopper continued with Soft Machine, playing bass and contributing numerous compositions until 1973. During his tenure the group evolved from a psychedelic pop group to an instrumental jazz-rock fusion band. In 1972, shortly before leaving Soft Machine, he recorded the first record under his own name, 1984 (named after George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four). This was a decidedly non-commercial record featuring lengthy solo pieces using tape loops as well as shorter pieces with a group.

1973 until 2009

After leaving Soft Machine, through the end of the 1970s, he worked with such groups as Stomu Yamashta’s East Wind, Isotope, Gilgamesh, and the Carla Bley Band. He also played in a couple of cooperative bands alongside former Soft Machine saxophonist Elton Dean: Hopper/Dean/Tippett/Gallivan (with pianist Keith Tippett and drummer Joe Gallivan) and Soft Heap (with keyboard-player Alan Gowen and drummer Pip Pyle).

In the early 1980s Hopper gave up playing music for a couple of years, but by the mid-1980s he was Hh hammamet 72 bmp clip1.jpgactively working with several bands, including Pip Pyle’s Equipe Out and Phil Miller’s In Cahoots. He also began playing with a group of Dutch musicians in a band initially called Hopper Goes Dutch. After French guitarist Patrice Meyer joined, this group became known as the Hugh Hopper Franglo-Dutch Band.

After many years working primarily in instrumental, jazz-oriented groups including Short Wave, in the mid-1990s Hopper began occasionally working again in more rock-oriented vocal contexts, including several collaborations with the band Caveman Shoestore (using the name Hughscore) and with singer Lisa S. Klossner. He also returned to his early tape loop experiments, but now using computer technology, in recordings such as Jazzloops (2002).

In the 1990s and 2000s several projects led Hopper to revisit his Soft Machine past. In 1998 he was asked to participate in a project by the French jazz collective Polysons, joining them in performances of Softs classics which featured Polysons members (Pierre-Olivier Govin and Jean-Rémy Guédon on saxes, Serge Adam on trumpet and François Merville on drums) plus organist Emmanuel Bex. The resulting Polysoft group was re-activated in 2002–03 to perform at Parisian club Le Triton, with fellow ex-Softs Elton Dean sitting in, resulting in a live CD, Tribute To Soft Machine, released on the club’s own label. Also in 2002–04, Hopper, Dean and two other former Soft Machine members (drummer John Marshall, and guitarist Allan Holdsworth) toured and recorded under the name SoftWorks. With another former Soft Machine member, guitarist John Etheridge, replacing Holdsworth, they toured and recorded as Soft Machine Legacy, playing some pieces from the original Soft Machine repertoire as well as new works. Three albums of theirs were released: Live in Zaandam (CD, rec. 2005/05/10), New Morning – The Paris Concert (DVD, rec. 2005/12/12) and the studio album Soft Machine Legacy (CD, 2006, rec. 09/2005). After Elton Dean who died in February 2006, Theo Travis [2] replaced him, and Soft Machine Legacy recorded the album Steam, released in 2007. Hopper also appeared on the 2004 debut solo album by No-Man singer Tim Bowness (My Hotel Year, on One Little Indian Records.

Soft Bounds

Other occasional projects were Soft Bounds (with French musicians Sophia Domancich and Simon Goubert, first with Elton Dean and then Simon Picard), which like PolySoft released a live CD recorded at the Triton club, and Clear Frame, an improvising group with Charles Hayward, Lol Coxhill and Orphy Robinson (augmented for their first release by Robert Wyatt on cornet).

Hopper recorded two solo albums for, and established an online shop via, the highly regarded UK-based internet label, Burning Shed . He worked with Japanese musician and composer Yumi Hara Cawkwell as a duo called HUMI. They had a tour of Japan planned for early 2008, which did not happen due to Hopper’s health.

Hopper was diagnosed with leukaemia in June 2008 and underwent chemotherapy. As a result of his illness and the treatment, he cancelled all his concert appearances. A Hugh Hopper benefit concert took place in December 2008 at the 100 Club in London and featured in Cahoots, members of Soft Machine Legacy, Delta Sax Quartet, Sophia Domancich and Simon Goubert, Yumi Hara Cawkwell, and the Alex Maguire Sextet.[5] Another benefit was planned for late June 2009. He married his partner Christine on 5 June 2009 and died of leukaemia on 7 June. His funeral, a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony to respect Hugh’s wishes, was held on 25 June 2009.

A series of ten CDs of unreleased live and studio recordings began release in 2014 by Gonzo MultiMedia to benefit Hugh’s family.


Under his name

  • 1973: 1984 (featuring Pye Hastings, Gary Windo, Lol Coxhill, Nick Evans, John Marshall, Malcolm Griffiths)
  • 1976: Cruel But Fair (with Elton Dean, Keith Tippett, Joe Gallivan)
  • 1977: Hopper Tunity Box (featuring Elton Dean, Marc Charig, Frank Roberts, Dave Stewart (the keyboardist), Mike Travis, Richard Brunton, Gary Windo, Nigel Morris)
  • 1978: Soft Head – Rogue Element (with Elton Dean, Alan Gowen, Dave Sheen) (HEAD = Hugh, Elton, Alan & Dave)
  • 1979: Soft Heap (with Elton Dean, Alan Gowen, Pip Pyle) (HEAP = Hugh, Elton, Alan & Pip)
  • 1980: Two Rainbows Daily (with Alan Gowen)
  • 1985: Mercy Dash (with Elton Dean, Keith Tippett, Joe Gallivan)
  • 1985: Monster Band (featuring Elton Dean, Mike Travis, Jean-Pierre Carolfi, Jean-Pierre Weiller)
  • 1989: Alive (featuring Frank van der Kooy, Kees van Veldhuizen, Dionys Breukers, Hans van der Zee, Pieter Bast, Andre Maes)
  • 1991: Meccano Pelorus (featuring Patrice Meyer, Dionys Breuker, Pieter Bast, Frank van der Kooij)
  • 1993: Hugh Hopper and Odd Friends (featuring John Atkinson, Dionys Breukers, Mike Travis, Rick Biddulph)
  • 1993: Short Wave Live (with Short Wave – Didier Malherbe, Phil Miller, Pip Pyle)
  • 1994: A Remark Hugh Made (with Kramer)
  • 1994: Hooligan Romantics (featuring John Atkinson, Pieter Bast, Dionys Breukers, Patrice Meyer, Frank van der Kooy)
  • 1995: Carousel (featuring Patrice Meyer, Frank van der Kooy, Dionys Breuker, Kim Weemhoff, Robert Jarvis)
  • 1995: Caveman Hughscore (with Caveman Shoestore thereafter known as Hughscore)
  • 1995: Adreamor (with Mark Hewins)
  • 1996: Somewhere in France (with Richard Sinclair)
  • 1996: Bracknell-Bresse Improvisations (with Alan Gowen, Nigel Morris)
  • 1996: MASHU – Elephants in your head? (with Shyamal Maitra, Mark Hewins) (MASHU = MArk, SHyamal, HUgh)
  • 1996: Best Soft (compilation)
  • 1997: Huge (with Kramer)
  • 1997: Highspot Paradox (with Hughscore)
  • 1998: Different (with Lisa S. Klossner)
  • 1999: Delta Flora (with Hughscore)
  • 2000: Cryptids (with Lisa S. Klossner)
  • 2000: Parabolic Versions (compilation from Somewhere in France, Hooligan Romantics and Hugh Hopper and Odd Friends)
  • 2002: Jazzloops (featuring Elton Dean, Steve Franklin, Pierre-Olivier Govin, Christine Janet, Frank van der Kooij, Didier Malherbe, John Marshall, Patrice Meyer, Nigel Morris, Simon Picard, Kim Weemhoff, Robert Wyatt)
  • 2003: In a Dubious Manner (with Julian Whitfield)
  • 2003: The Mind in the Trees (with Elton Dean, Frances Knight, Vince Clarke)
  • 2004: The Stolen Hour (comics by Matt Howarth)
  • 2005: The Swimmer (with Jan Ponsford, Frances Knight, Vince Clarke)
  • 2007: Soft Mountain (with Elton Dean, Hoppy Kamiyama, Yoshida Tatsuya)[8]
  • 2007: Numero D’Vol (with Simon Picard, Steve Franklin, Charles Hayward)
  • 2008: Dune (with Yumi Hara Cawkwell, as Humi)
  • 2010: The Gift of Purpose (Bone live 2008)
  • 2013: Goat Hopper (with Honey Ride Me A Goat)
  • 2014: Volume 1: Memories (collection)
  • 2014: Volume 2: Frangloband (Triton Club, Paris, 2004)
  • 2014: Volume 3: North & South (with Mike Travis, Aberdeen, 1995)
  • 2014: Volume 4: Four by Hugh by Four (Bimhuis, Amsterdam, 2000)
  • 2014: Volume 5: Heart to Heart (with Phil Miller, Amsterdam, 2007)
  • 2014: Volume 6: Special Friends (Short Wave concerts 1992 through 1995)
  • 2014: Volume 7: Soft Boundaries (Triton Club, Paris, 2005)
  • 2014: Volume 8: Bass On Top (studio, Israel, 2007)
  • 2015: Volume 9: Anatomy of Facelift (five performances of “Facelift” by Soft Machine, 1969 through 1971)
  • 2015: Volume 10: Was A Friend (various one-off collaborations)


With Soft Machine (see Soft Machine discography for live albums)

  • 1968: The Soft Machine (one track only as player, others as well as composer)
  • 1969: Volume Two
  • 1970: Third
  • 1971: Fourth
  • 1972: Fifth
  • 1973: Six

With others

  • 1962-5 Canterburied Sounds, Vol.s 1-4 (1998 compilations by Brian Hopper)
  • 1965: The Wilde Flowers (released 1994)
  • 1969: Syd Barrett: The Madcap Laughs (two tracks)
  • 1969: Kevin Ayers: Joy of a Toy
  • 1973: Stomu Yamashta’s East Wind: Freedom Is Frightening
  • 1974: Robert Wyatt: Rock Bottom
  • 1974: Stomu Yamashta: One by One
  • 1975: Isotope: Illusion
  • 1976: Isotope: Deep End
  • 1978: Carla Bley Band: European Tour 1977
  • 1978: Gilgamesh: Another Fine Tune You’ve Got Me Into
  • 1985: In Cahoots: Cutting Both Ways
  • 1985: Pip Pyle: L’Equipe Out
  • 1986: Patrice Meyer: Dromedaire viennois
  • 1987: Anaid: Belladonna
  • 1989: In Cahoots: Live 86–89
  • 1991: Lindsay Cooper: Oh Moscow
  • 1998: Pip Pyle: 7 Year Itch
  • 1999: Brainville: The Children’s Crusade (with Daevid Allen, Pip Pyle)
  • 2001: Glass Cage: Glass Cage Paratactile
  • 2003: Soft Works: Abracadabra
  • 2003: Bone: Uses Wrist Grab (with Nick Didkovsky and John Roulat)[9]
  • 2003: Polysoft: Tribute to Soft Machine[10]
  • 2004: Brian Hopper: If Ever I Am
  • 2005: NDIO Airback
  • 2005: Brainville: Live in the UK (with Daevid Allen, Pip Pyle)
  • 2005: Soft Machine Legacy: Live in Zaandam
  • 2006: Soft Machine Legacy: Soft Machine Legacy
  • 2007: Soft Machine Legacy: Steam
  • 2007: Delta Saxophone Quartet: Dedicated To You… But You Weren’t Listening: The Music of Soft Machine
  • 2008: Brainville3: Trial by Headline(with Daevid Allen, Chris Cutler)
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