Gone Like Snow On The Water

Lost Songs Of The Incredible String Band

Although radio stations and audience members with their cassette or reel-to-reel tape recorders managed to preserve many songs that never made it on to the String Band's LPs, some inevitably fell by the way side and are presumed missing in action. Thanks to the less-addled memories of some long time fans we remember these here.

[ Lost Songs ][ Lost Versions ][ Rumours And Myths ]

Lost Songs

Sunday Papers (Unknown, 1965?)

Back in the pre-first album days, when Robin, Clive and Mike were playing at the Incredible Folk Club in Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow, it is reported that they performed lots of songs that never made it onto the first or subsequent albums, one of which was called 'Sunday Papers'.

Frisco Love (Heron, 1970)

PB: Said to be a loud rock tune featuring both Robin and Mike on electric guitars, sounds unlikely in 1970 but I myself remember something along those lines, but I couldn't swear to the title.

RG: This one drifts elusively through the mists of conjecture, but I believe it to be a song the ISB featured in their Feb '70 concert at Newcastle's Exhibition Hall. Robin took the lead vocal on it, so it's likely to be a composition of his; the line-up was Robin - semi-acoustic guitar, Mike - electric guitar, Rose - bass, Licorice - drums. Robin broke a string halfway through the song, jettisoned his guitar and appropriated Mike's, leaving Mike to restring the abandoned instrument and re-enter the arrangement towards the end. Rather a dull song as I remember.

PB: I remember one 1970 electric thrash, completely out of character of the rest of the concert, with Mike & Robin both playing electric guitars but this may have been 'Lady Wonder' not 'Frisco Love'. Whatever it was, it was bad.

Faraway Look (Music: Williamson, Lyrics: Edinburgh's Lord Provost's wife, 1970)

RG: The title is my own guess. This may well be one of the unlikeliest pieces the ISB ever essayed. According to Robin, he was waylaid on the streets of Edinburgh by the wife of the Lord Provost of that city, who praised his work and thrust a piece of verse of her own into his hand, suggesting that he might like to set it to music. Though initially dubious, he was charmed by the sentiments of the verse and complied. I remember only the opening line - "I can see that faraway look in your eye". Hence the suggested title. Part of the Newcastle Exhibition Hall Feb '70 concert, it featured Mike on sitar and concluded with a comic dialogue between Robin and Mike that seemed to bear no relation whatever to the song. Odd, or what?

Overture (Heron/Williamson, 1970)

Listed in the programme for 'U', this was the taped introduction music to the performance. A partial version of this exists on an audience tape from the Fillmore East performance from 26.4.70, this section appearing to be part of 'Glad To See You'.

Beautiful Girl Speaks (Heron, 1970)

Listed in the programme for 'U'. Could this be one of the unknown instrumental sections labelled as 'The Demons' or 'Instrumental Duel' on the Fillmore East 26.4.70 audience tape?

Be Close To Me (Williamson, 1970)

Listed in the programme for 'U'. When asked about this Robin theorised that it was the name given to a piece of incidental music. Perhaps it is one of the unknown instrumental sections labelled as 'The Demons' or 'Instrumental Duel' on the Fillmore East 26.4.70 audience tape?

Lost Lover Blues (Blind Boy Fuller, 1970)

RG: I've no recollection of the title. Performed by Robin on guitar/voice and Mike on harmonica/voice on the Autumn '70 tour. It was certainly introduced as a Blind Boy Fuller song rather than being confused with Blind Willie Johnson's 'Let It Shine On' (Part of the 'Join The Band' medley).

Colin: The Blind Boy Fuller song performed by the ISB in 1970 was, if memory serves, 'Lost Lover Blues'. I seem to recall hearing them perform it on two occasions, but it was a long time ago...

Stealin' Stealin' (The Memphis Jug Band, 1970)

Performed at Manchester Free Trade Hall 24.10.70, this is an old Memphis Jug Band song covered by many people at the time.

The Month Of January (Traditional, 1971)

A traditional song from the West of Ireland, sung unaccompanied by Robin and Licorice on the Spring '71 tour, as reportedly they used to do it at some point in the past when they were employed together as housepainters. Robin performs this solo on the Balmore Tapes and also released another version on his 1996 'Songs For The Calendarium' live CD.

Hercules (Williamson, 1971)

PB: The third of the great trilogy which includes 'El Ratto' and 'Giles Crocodile'.

Cajun Song (Tune: Trad, Lyrics: Williamson, 1971)

PB: Robin said he always wanted to write a song in French but only had the very worst kind of schoolboy French so the natural solution was to write a Cajun song. They played it with fiddle, triangle, and I think Mike on accordian. Robin borrowed his tune from 'Le Vieux Soulard et sa Femme' by Clemo Breux which is on the Harry Smith Anthology.

There's a photo in circulation of the band playing 'Cajun Song' on stage during the Autumn '71 tour. The Merry Band also used to play the song live.

Panto: The Stork's Mistake (Williamson?, 1971?)

Performed during the Autumn '71 tour, this concerned two ordinary blokes (Robin and Malcolm) who were "born with the souls of Keats and Shelley" according to Noz. However, reports suggest this might date back further before Malcolm's time and featured Rose and Likky cavorting about in floaty dresses.

Poetry Play #1 (Heron, 1971)

Performed during the Autumn '71 tour, the Poetry Play was a mime sequence with prerecorded music by Mike and featuring Robin, Malcolm and Licorice all clad in blue pyjamas!

The majority of this piece has now been released on the 2008 Hux Records CD 'Tricks Of The Senses' (HUX100), though sections entitled 'Card Game', 'Flee' and 'Aggravation' were left out as they were apparently 'all very sketchy'.

The Fourth Of August (Heron, 1971)

There's a version of this on an audience tape from a solo gig Mike did at the Renold Theatre, UMIST, Manchester, 8.12.71, but as this tape wasn't known about back in the early days of 'Be Glad' when this title was mentioned, then presumably there was an ISB version too at some point.

Untitled Instrumental In Three Movements (Heron, 1972)

From the set list from Southampton Guildhall, 25.02.72, Mike's introduction: 'If I was going to be pretentious I'd call this Untitled Instrumental In Three Movements. So here's Untitled Instrumental In Three Movements.'

St Giles And The Dragon (Williamson, 1974)

RG: The 'El Ratto/Hercules/Giles Crooked-Deal' trilogy became a tetralogy in January '74; 'Sounds' reviewer Steve Peacock drew a delicate veil over the proceedings.

A partial version of this exists on an audience tape from the Champness Hall, Rochdale, 16.2.74.

Do It Yourself (Desert Song) (Heron, 1974)

RG: A review of a Melanie concert in June '74 contains the following information: "Special guests who joined Melanie for a few numbers were the Incredible String Band, who... performed a number written by Mike Heron especially for the evening." Alas, no further details of this mystery composition were forthcoming. Melanie, however, was clearly impressed, and cooed as they filed off, "That's my very favourite group in the world anywhere" - which, for the flint-faced NME reviewer, "summed up my least favourite mentality in the world anywhere." Plus ca change, eh?

The audio of this unnamed song has now surfaced on YouTube which reveals it to be none other than 'Do It Yourself (Desert Song)', which eventually appeared on the Heron LP 'Diamond Of Dreams'. The concert was at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London on 23.06.74, and was recorded at the time by Capital Radio. Mike and Robin also appeared on 'Chart Song', which was included on Melanie's 1974 LP 'As I See It Now'. Melanie is also reported to have recorded a studio version of 'Desert Song' at around this time, featuring Mike on backing vocals, but this remains unreleased. Did the ISB ever record or perform it though?

Precious Blues And Greys (Williamson, 1974?)

This song exists on a set of Robin demo recordings, believed to date to just after the band's 1974 split (other songs are 'To Give My Heart To You', 'Be My Friend', 'Bleeding Again' and 'I'm Tired Of Hearing'). It is reported to have been played at the band's show at the Hemel Hempstead Pavilion on the 6th July 1974, a show that also included Mike's 'Strong Thing' and 'Draw Back The Veil' which would later surface in Mike Heron's Reputation.

Draw Back The Veil (Heron, 1974?)

Reported to have been played at the band's show at the Hemel Hempstead Pavilion on the 6th July 1974, this went on to be a regular in the Mike Heron's Reputation live set and later appeared on the Heron 'Diamond Of Dreams' LP. Confirmed by Graham Forbes in an interview on page 380 of the 'Be Glad' book.

Sold On Your Love (Heron, 1974?)

According to the booklet of the Quadrant Records reissue of Mike's 'Glen Row Tapes', this song, released as a single in 1978 on Bruce Findlay's Zoom record label, dates back to the days of the ISB and was performed on their final 1974 tour.

Stranded In Iowa (Heron, 1974?)

According to Graham Forbes in an interview on page 380 of the 'Be Glad' book, 'Stranded In Iowa', from the Heron LP 'Diamond Of Dreams', was performed on the final ISB tour.

Lost Versions

Painted Chariot (Heron, 1971)

RG: 'Painted Chariot' in its full-blown Spring '71 concert format bears only the faintest resemblance to the indecently brief version included on 'Liquid Acrobat', being well over ten minutes in length originally and containing, to my certain recollection, a different opening verse, also some notable trash-metal cello from Robin.

Eyes Like Leaves (Williamson, 1971)

RG: One might be forgiven for thinking that the few seconds of 'Eyes Like Leaves' on 'Liquid Acrobat' is all there is to it: not so, for at Leeds City Hall in March '71 (the day after the BBC 'In Concert' broadcast was recorded) Robin performed the full piece as a fiddle solo.

Living In The Shadows (Williamson, 1971)

RG: It's my belief that 'Living In The Shadows' shed some of it's lyrics between its live performance at Newcastle City Hall, 1st October 1971 and the 'Sounds Of The Seventies' broadcast the following month; the later, to my ears, has a suspiciously truncated feel, though I wouldn't swear to it.

Sunday Song (Music: Heron, Lyrics: McKechnie, 1972)

PB: Like 'Painted Chariot' I seem to remember that this was longer once, even though the recorded version can itself be, I would say, not unfairly described as long. From a transcription of a now-lost audience tape I myself made (Birmingham Town Hall, 8.10.71) come two extra lyrical snippets, one of which contains a surprise:

We were having an earthspan of silence
To contemplate supreme being

[And after the stanza beginning "Now my friends are scattered wide..."]

And I want to tell you now
And letters take too long
So now I give you this, a spirit song
Friends who fold their wings away
In the day

[ Full Lyrics ]

Rumours And Myths

Indian Instrumental (Unknown, 1968)

From a rough list of songs performed at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall 26.10.68, written on the back of the programme by Phil.

C+W Instrumental (Unknown, 1968)

From a rough list of songs performed at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall 26.10.68, written on the back of the programme by Phil.

Unknown Song (Unknown, 1968)

From a rough list of songs performed at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall 26.10.68, written on the back of the programme by Phil. A song sung by Licorice and Rose.

Come Hither (Williamson, 1969)

Mentioned by Raymond in the early 'Be Glad' articles but now believed to be a misremembered 'Come With Me'. It still comes up every now and again though!

Joe's Waltz (Williamson, 1970)

RG: A piece of amiable fluff from Robin, featured on the autumn '70 tour, a sort of jug-band waltz with Robin leading on fiddle and crooning a faintly amusing lyric honouring the unsung heroes of society, like taxi-drivers and plumbers. Admirable sentiments, otherwise unmemorable.

An audience recording of this song exists from the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, 28.10.70, but the lyrics don't seem to match Raymond's memory.

Prunella Baxdale (Unknown, 1971)

In Phil's set lists for the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall 30.09.71 and the Manchester Free Trade Hall 29.10.71, noted as 'a sketch'. This isn't 'Poetry Play #1', but may be the panto 'The Stork's Mistake' under a different name.

Play Poem Music (Unknown, 1971)

In a set from the Birmingham Town Hall, 08.10.71. Is this just 'Poetry Play #1' under a different name?

Pure Fun (Unknown, 1971)

RG: Referred to in a review of an Autumn '71 concert. Apparently a ragtime piece with Malcolm hiting various pieces of junk in an enthusiastic if unpolished fashion. Sounds suspiciously like 'Evolution Rag' to me (or 'Skiffle Song').

Well Kept Blues (Unknown, 1972)

In Phil's set list for Rochdale Champness Hall 11.11.72, noted as 'an old jazz instrumental'. Google doesn't throw up any leads on this, so is it one of Gerard's standard ragtime pieces under a different name?

Where Would We Be Without Jack? (Unknown, 1974)

Reputably a song about Jack Ingram, roadie and full band member in their later days. No further information.

Florence (Heron, Unknown)

From an interview with Mike Heron in 1987: "There were a lot of lost songs from the String Band period. One called 'Florence'." A version of this was issued on Mike's 'Glen Row Tapes Vol. 3' cassette, but was there ever an ISB version?

Moorish Tune (Heron, Unknown)

Like 'Florence', a version of this was issued on Mike's 'Glen Row Tapes Vol. 3' cassette, but it too is rumoured to date to the days of the String Band.

Handful Of Dust (Heron, Unknown)

A song that Mike has recently (2006) been playing in his solo live shows, originally thought to date to the times of the 'Glen Row Tapes', but he has since said in his introductions that it too dates to the later days of the String Band. Was it ever recorded or performed by the band though?

Ma Vieux Amante (Unknown, Unknown)

PB: This may be 'Cajun Song' under another title from someone else's memory.

The title 'Ma Vieux Amante' ('My Old Lover') is similar to the Jacques Brel song 'La Chanson Des Vieux Amants' ('The Song Of The Old Lovers'). It seems unlikely that the String Band would perform a Jacques Brel song, but they were nothing if not eclectic...