Rock Flashback: The Incredible String Band
Who can forget the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Incredible String Band[/lastfm] and their famous performance at Woodstock? Everyone, apparently. Their performance does not appear on any of the Woodstock albums and they’re not in the movie, either. But for a brief moment in the late 1960s, the Incredible String Band was a fairly big deal.
Multi-instrumentalist [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Robin Williamson[/lastfm] was in a bluegrass duo when he met [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Mike Heron[/lastfm], a rhythm guitarist in various rock bands, and they formed the Incredible String Band in 1965. Their self-titled debut album featured original songs done in the style of American and Celtic folk.
After a trip to Morocco, Williamson began incorporating Middle Eastern and Eastern instruments into his music, which can be heard on the group’s second album, The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion. (A third member, Clive Palmer, had dropped out of the group by this time; the group was now Williamson and Heron, augmented with additional musicians.) [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Paul McCartney[/lastfm] said that The 5000 Spirits was one of his favorite albums of 1967.
In 1968, the Incredible String Band released its best-known and most successful album, The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, which was followed swiftly by Wee Tam and the Big Huge.
That year, the group played its first dates in the United States. They would be back in 1969 for dates including Woodstock, where they were scheduled for Friday night with other acoustic acts. And where they would have fit in nicely. But they didn’t want to go on in the rain, so their set was postponed to Saturday, between [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Santana[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type=""]Canned Heat[/lastfm], where their three-song set didn’t go down so well.
After Woodstock, the Incredible String Band got caught in changing times. Their full-on-hippie look and sound — eclectic instruments, odd costumes, breaks in the music to recite poetry — started to seem dated. They hung on until 1974 before splitting up.
Both Williamson and Heron remained active in the music biz, and they reformed the group between 1999 and 2006.
Here’s a bit of the Incredible String Band’s performance at Woodstock.
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