Wey Wey Hep a Hole Ding Dong: Robyn Hitchcock the song by song, album by album thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Lance LaSalle, May 15, 2020.

  1. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    On this thread, starting tomorrow, May 15th, 2020, everyday, I will post a song in chronological order written or released by Robyn Hitchcock or one of his various projects.

    My intent is to cover all officially released studio songs; including archival tracks that came out on later releases. While discussion of bootleg and live songs are definitely welcome, I will not be holding things up for a vote.

    My format will be more or less the same as the other thread I have going here: Stranger than Fiction, Larger Than Life: the Finn Brothers song-by-song discussion thread

    Ratings of songs on a 1-5 scale are appreciated (decimals are OK) , but not necessary: this is mainly meant to explore and learn more about this underrated songwriter.

    I urge any and all Robyn Hitchcock fans to help me out with extra info during the course of the thread. It's a dauntingly large catalogue, so information and corrections will be more than welcome.

    In the meantime, my first rash of songs would be something like this, starting with 1977 demos and singles that have been officially released:
    1. The Size of a Walnut
    2. Ugly Nora
    3. Wey Wey Hep a Hole
    4. The Yodelling Hoovers
    5. Give It To the Soft Boys
    6. Hear My Brane
    7. The Face of Death
    8. Wading Through a Ventilator
    Are there any other songs from 1977 that have seen official, authorized (i.e., non-bootleg) release that I've missed? Please let me know!
  2. lightbulb

    lightbulb Not the Brightest of the Bunch

    Smogville CA USA
    This will be amazing !
  3. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Today's song is "The Size of a Walnut", written by Robyn Hitchcock.

    The song was recorded by The Soft Boys in Robyn Hitchcock's living room in March 1977 by the Soft Boys. Lyrics easily google-able!

    line up:
    Robyn Hitchcock: vocals and guitar
    Alan Davies: guitar, (vocals?)
    Andy Metcalfe: bass, vocals
    Morris Windsor: drums, vocals

    The song was released in 1993 on the compilation 1976-1981.

    Note: I will probably do a song every other day for the beginning of this thread to give it time to be noticed: Hitchcock being a bit of a cult figure, his fans here may go weeks before they even see this thread!
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  4. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    In some ways, everything that I like about Robyn Hitchcock is on diplay: the melody is nice, the singing is expressive and wry; and the star is the surreal, nonsensical, yet oddly lovely and powerful lyric. Ostensibly a love song with deep roots in folk, it's turned on it's ear playfull and ironically here: it's a bit Syd Barrett and a bit Bob Dylan, but the surreal poetic word-play makes it all Robyn Hitchcock. Strip this down to a guitar and a double tracked voice and it would have fit in nicely on one of his later acoustic albums like I Often Dream of Trains.

    But for a bunch of unknowns playing in a room, the band is pretty good! Alan Davies's guitar is not flashy but his vaguely country-rock licks sweeten the sound, which is generally more rounded and less jangly than later incarnations of the band: Kimberly Rew's stellar psychedelic rock leanings would change the sound considerably. The drum holds the beat and fills in spaces subtly. While this sound was probably way out of style in 1977 UK, the song itself is utterly fresh.


    (I find rating songs tends to focus my mind critically; of course all such ratings are nonsense: who can really rate human expression? If others rate, I'll record and post overall ratings; but there is no rule that says you must rate to participate.)
  5. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Updated list of '77 songs to be discussed
    • The Size of a Walnut (today's)
    • Ugly Nora
    • Wey Wey Hep a Hole
    • The Yodelling Hoovers
    • Give It To the Soft Boys
    • Vyrna Knowl Is A Headbanger
    • Hear My Brane
    • The Face of Death
    • Wading Through a Ventilator
    TheLoveDrags and lightbulb like this.
  6. panther_dream

    panther_dream Forum Resident

    Looking forward to this one! Big fan of Robyn's and it's a good excuse to revisit his vast catalog.
    bzfgt, lightbulb and Lance LaSalle like this.
  7. chrism1971

    chrism1971 Forum Resident

    Glos, UK
    The recording was made by Chris Hamburger on his semi-pro tape deck. Alan didn't sing.
    Walnut was re-recorded in Summer 78 with Kimberley Rew for the Radar sessions. I prefer the early one.
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  8. crozcat

    crozcat Forum Resident

    Great thread idea!
    Maybe it would attract more people with Soft Boys in the title?
    I certainly prefer the Soft Boys to his solo work.

    ...and spelling his name correct would make the thread searchable...
    zobalob and Lance LaSalle like this.
  9. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Unfortunately, I can’t edit it; but I'll see if I can get the spelling right. I intend the thread to be an overview over all of Robyn Hitchcock's career, which encompasses the Soft Boys.
    crozcat likes this.
  10. bvb1123

    bvb1123 Rock and Roll Martian

    Cincinnati Ohio
    Huge fan of Robyn's. Don't know any of this really early stuff but I will chime in whenever I can. I saw him in a tiny bar/cafe in Cincinnati in 2000 and even got to meet him for a minute and tell him what his music meant to me. Of course, I fan-boyed out and forgot to get an autograph but I did at least shake the great man's hand.
    mr. k, notesofachord, bzfgt and 2 others like this.
  11. rlj1010

    rlj1010 Forum Resident

    Coral Springs, FL
    I can't really chime in until we reach A Can Of Bees, and even then, I haven't much to say. My fandom begins with Underwater Moonlight. But mostly the solo/Egyptians catalog.
    Lance LaSalle and bvb1123 like this.
  12. boyo

    boyo Forum Resident

    Chicago, IL
    I think Invisible Hits is the best thing the Soft Boys ever did and it stands up as standard LP rather than a completion. I mention it here because Wey Wey Hep a Hole was included on IH.
    Marc Perman likes this.
  13. chrism1971

    chrism1971 Forum Resident

    Glos, UK
    Me again.

    The other officially released track from the July 1977 session that produced nos 4-8 above was the aforementioned Vyrna Knowll… same backing track as Ventilator, completely different lyrics. Released on a 6-track 12" 45 rpm EP by Lee Wood in the mid-80s - he owned the punk label and the tapes (until, presumably, RH got them back for the 1976-81 CDs).
    Unofficially but also recorded at that session was the ill-fated Where Are The Prawns. They had several goes at this, this one flopped due to dodgy harmonies and became a bit of a comedy number by the end of recording, so was canned.
    Lance LaSalle likes this.
  14. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Thanks I have already updated the list.
  15. chrism1971

    chrism1971 Forum Resident

    Glos, UK
    One more I forgot. 'Ralph give me a spanner' was a Soft Boys song from 1976-77 but wasn't released until the RH solo version (recorded 1980) on Invisible Hitchcock (1986).
    Lance LaSalle likes this.
  16. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    Right; I will save that until 1980, I guess. But it does bear mentioning. Thank you for the input.
  17. Guy E

    Guy E Senior Member

    Antalya, Turkey
    Personally, I would find a record-by-record (albums and singles) thread a lot easier to digest and contribute to. I am a huge fan. I didn't buy Give It To The Soft Boys upon release, but I bought that RAW Label EP after becoming a fan with (I Want To Be An) Anglepoise Lamp on Radar, so... I was almost there from the start. I've followed Robyn's work ever since.

    And I was at The Soft Boys American debut performance, a Thursday night show at Maxwell's in Hoboken before a weekend gig at Danceteria (or was it Hurrah's?). Mr. [Hurrah>Danceteria] Jim Fouratt was a friend of Maxwell's owner Steve Fallon. The group's he booked weren't allowed to play any other shows in NYC within a given timeframe, but he'd arrange for them to get their "first gig jitters" out of the way with a weeknight gig in Hoboken. Maxwell's got a lot of great bands before they played in New York City; New Order, Medium Medium, The Delta 5, A Certain Ratio...
  18. Guy E

    Guy E Senior Member

    Antalya, Turkey
    I have that Rykodisc set, bit I haven't listened to it in ages. It is a pretty nice song, but the reggae sections are one ingredient too many. Editing is a hard-learned lesson for young songwriters.
    Lance LaSalle likes this.
  19. bzfgt

    bzfgt The Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler

    New Jersey
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  20. dthomas850

    dthomas850 Forum Resident

    Cleveland, Ohio
    I've never heard "It's Not Just the Size of a Walnut" before, but it sounds very interesting. I just downloaded the 76-81 compilation, will be giving it a proper listen soon. Not sure of a rating after only one listen, but...….3/5
    Lance LaSalle likes this.
  21. AlienRendel

    AlienRendel Forum Resident

    Chicago, il
    I salute you on your massive undertaking.
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  22. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    I know what you mean: and I think this remains a feature of Soft Boys songs for some time: almost too much going on. It works for me here, actually, but they really were not a “less is more” kind of band.
    lightbulb and bzfgt like this.
  23. crozcat

    crozcat Forum Resident

    A Can Of Bees hit me hard when I first heard/got it in 1979 -
    I absolutely loved the "Syd Barrett meets Captain Beefheart at the punk station" feel of it!
    Still do, and I followed the Soft Boys and Robyn solo throughout the 1980´s, but got gradually less interested.
    Last edited: May 16, 2020
  24. drad dog

    drad dog A Listener

    Great idea!
    Lance LaSalle likes this.
  25. Shriner

    Shriner Forum Resident

    Ann Arbor, MI, USA
    I was thinking of doing a Hitchcock full discography relisten as "shelter in place" continues on. Then I thought that would be way too much Hitchcock with no breaks and starting off a bit rough. I like this idea better. :)

    WALNUT: I'd only give it a 1/5 knowing what's to come (considering most of Underwater Moonlight is straight 5/5, I put everything before that into that context when giving a rating). It's a bit too long.
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