So what to say about Robyn Hitchcock? I first saw him play a frenetic set with The Soft Boys in the blackened cellar of the Hope and Anchor (sometimes referred to as the 'Grope and Wanker' by the punks for its over-crowded foetidness where sweat condensed on the ceiling and dripped down onto the audience) around 1980-81. It was an eventful night for all sorts of reasons, not least having to run the guantlet of some vicious looking skinheads lurking at the Angel. The gig was billed as The Soft Boys' last ever - the break-up being due to the fact that at that time, there didn't seem to be much of an appetite amongst the wider public for a psychedelic pop band with such ovious 60s influences such as The Byrds and Captain Beefheart, even though the songs were often played at a furious pace and with an agressive snarl.
Thirty five years or so later and probably having recorded something like that number of albums, Robyn has received many critical plaudits for his songwriting and performances but has yet to break out into the mainstream, destined to be a cult artist for ever. Despited being frequently cited as a major influence of artists such as REM and the fact that Robyn includes the members of that band as well as many other famous musicians as friends and collaborators, it seems that not everybody gets the surreal imagery that pervades his brilliant songs.
Robyn has played two Wild Hare Club shows, one solo acoustic at The Black Lion and an electric show at The Green Dragon Hotel with The Psychedelic Trams, a line-up that played a handful of gigs at most and was comprised of 3 original Soft Boys and supplemented by a two man horn section. Both performances were special, Robyn seldom gives a perfunctionary performance and recordings of these shows made by some of his more obsessive fans can be downloaded from the bootleg archives that exist on the web. The acoustic show, billed as 'Songs about sex, death, tomatoes and squid' in reference to recurring imagery in his songs and some of our mutual interests, featured many of my favourites, but the best moments came with the encores when Rob Strawson, local fiddle player, stepped up to join Robyn on inpromptu versions of Dylan's 'Open the Door Homer' and the Soft Boys 'Only the Stones Remain'. The reason this was quite so special is because Robyn and Rob had been school-day friends at Winchester and talked often of forming a band but ever actually played together. They finally got to fulfil that dream decades later after they had reconnected through the Wild Hare Club. The essence of the Wild Hare Club is all about making connections and collaborations.