A Very Cellular Song - The Incredible String Band

Rola: A Very Cellular Song
Traducción: Una canción muy celular
Intérprete: The Incredible String Band
Compositor: Mike Heron
Disco: The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter
Productor: Joe Boyd


When people talk of this record, they are usually talking the 13-minute opus "A Very Cellular Song" which can be easily seen as the inspiration of the rock student theatre of The Who and the Kinks and Lou Reed. The way it lilts between motifs is ingenious. Harpsichords and handclaps and hornpipes and kazoos co-mingle in festive abandon, encompassing the run of human emotion from revelry to despair within its walls. Such is the schizoid way of The Incredible String band, but there is no greater example of it than in "A Very Cellular Song." The Hangman's Beautiful daughter is both an exhilarating and exhausting listen. You welcome the calliope and water sounds interplay of "The Water Song" after the encyclopedic psychedelia before it. By the time "Swift as the Wind" hits toward the end, you are as spent and howling as the singer is against the rising breeze of the guitars.


Duración: 13:09
Año: 1968
Formato: L.P.
A la venta: 01/03/1968
Disquera: Elektra


Robin Williamson - vocals, guitar, gimbri, penny whistle, percussion, pan pipe, piano, oud, mandolin, Jew's harp, chahanai, water harp, harmonica
Mike Heron - vocals, sitar, Hammond organ, guitar, hammered dulcimer, harpsichord
Dolly Collins - flute organ, piano
David Snell - harp
Licorice McKechnie - vocals, finger cymbals



A Very Cellular Song
Una canción muy celular
Winter was cold and the clothing was thin
But the gentle shepherd calls the tune
Oh dear mother what shall I do
First please your eyes and then your ears Jenny
Exchanging love tokens say goodnight

Lay down my dear sister
Won't you lay and take your rest
Won't you lay your head upon your saviours breast
And I love you but Jesus loves you the best
And I bid you goodnight, goodnight, goodnight,
And I bid you goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.
One of these mornings bright and early and fine.

Goodnight, goodnight
Not a cricket not a spirit going to shout me on
Goodnight, goodnight
I go walking in the valley of the shadow of death
Goodnight, goodnight
And his rod and his staff shall comfort me
Goodnight, goodnight
Oh John the wine he saw the sign
Goodnight, goodnight
Oh John say I seen a number of signs
Goodnight, goodnight
Tell A for the ark that wonderful boat
Goodnight, goodnight
You know they built it on the land getting water to float
Goodnight, goodnight
Tell B for the beast at the ending of the wood
Goodnight, goodnight
You know it ate all the children when they wouldn't be good
Goodnight, goodnight
I remember quite well, I remember quite well
Goodnight, goodnight
I was walking in Jerusalem just like John
Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.

Who would lose and who would bruise
Or who would live quite prettily?
And who would love what comes along
And fill the air with joyous song

Who would go and who would come
Or who would simply linger
And who would hide behind your chair
And steal your crystallised ginger

Nebulous nearnesses cry to me
At this timeless moment
Someone dear to me wants me near, makes me high
I can hear vibrations fly
Through mangoes, pomegranates and planes
All the same
When it reaches me and teaches me
To sigh

Who would mouse and who would lion
Or who would be the tamer
And who would hear directions clear
From the unnameable namer

Who would skip and who would plod
Or who would lie quite stilly
And who would ride backwards on a giraffe
Stopping every so often to laugh

Amoebas are very small

Oh ah ee oo there's absolutely no strife
living the timeless life
I don't need a wife
living the timeless life
If I need a friend I just give a wriggle
Split right down the middle
And when I look there's two of me
Both as handsome as can be
Oh here we go slithering, here we go slithering and squelching on
Oh here we go slithering, here we go slithering and squelching on
Oh ah ee oo there's absolutely no strife
living the timeless life

Black hair brown hair feather and scale
Seed and stamen and all unnamed lives that live
Turn your quivering nerves in my direction
Turn your quivering nerves in my direction
Feel the energy projection of my cells
Wishes you well.

May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide you all the way on.



1. "Koeeoaddi There"
2. "The Minotaur's Song"
3. "Witches Hat"
4. "A Very Cellular Song"

1. "Mercy I Cry City"
2. "Waltz of the New Moon"
3. "The Water Song"
4. "Three Is a Green Crown"
5. "Swift as the Wind"
6. "Nightfall"

The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter was the third album by The Incredible String Band, released in March 1968. It is regarded by many critics[who?] as a quintessential example of hippie culture, with its promotion of ideas such as communal living, eastern mysticism and rationalistic pantheism.

The album was a major commercial success in the UK, staying in the charts for 27 weeks with a peak of #5. It has sold 800,000 copies in the UK to date.[citation needed] In the U.S., the ISB always remained underground and the album struggled to #161 on the Billboard 200. However, it was nominated for a Grammy in the folk music category.

The album featured a series of vividly dreamlike Robin Williamson songs, such as "The Minotaur's Song", a surreal music-hall parody told from the point of view of the mythical beast, and its centrepiece was Mike Heron's "A Very Cellular Song", a 13-minute reflection on life, love and amoebas; its complex structure incorporated a Bahamian spiritual ("I Bid You Goodnight", originally recorded by the Pinder Family) and an adaptation of a Sikh hymn ("May the pure light within you"). It had a layered production, using multi-track recording techniques and a very wide array of instruments from all corners of the world, including sitar, gimbri, shenai, oud, harpsichord, panpipes and kazoo.

The album's cover art - which on original LP issues was the back cover, as the front showed just Williamson and Heron - consists of a photograph taken on Christmas Day 1967. It shows both musicians, their girlfriends Licorice McKechnie and Rose Simpson, friends Roger Marshall and Nicky Walton, several children of their friend Mary Stewart, and Robin's dog Leaf.

Regarding the title, Mike Heron said at the time:- "The hangman is death and the beautiful daughter is what comes after. Or you might say that the hangman is the past twenty years of our life and the beautiful daughter is now, what we are able to do after all these years. Or you can make up your own meaning - your interpretation is probably just as good as ours."


The Incredible String Band: Glasgow

The Incredible String Band (sometimes abbreviated as ISB) were a psychedelic folk band formed in Scotland in 1966.[1] The band built a considerable following, especially within British counterculture, before splitting up in 1974. The group's members are musical pioneers in psych folk and, by integrating a wide variety of traditional music forms and instruments, in the development of world music. The group reformed in 1999 and continued to perform until 2006.

In 1963, acoustic musicians Robin Williamson and Clive Palmer began performing together as a traditional folk duo in Edinburgh, particularly at a weekly club run by Archie Fisher in the Crown Bar which also regularly featured Bert Jansch. There they were seen in August 1965 by Joe Boyd, then working as a talent scout for the influential folk-based label Elektra Records. Later in the year, the duo decided to fill out their sound by adding a third member, initially to play rhythm guitar.[2] After an audition, local rock musician Mike Heron won the slot. The trio took the name "The Incredible String Band". Early in 1966 Palmer began running an all-night folk club, Clive's Incredible Folk Club, on the fourth floor of a building in Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow, where they became the house band.[3] When Boyd returned in his new role as head of Elektra's London office, he signed them up for an album, beating off a rival bid from Transatlantic Records.

They recorded their first album, titled The Incredible String Band, at the Sound Techniques studio in London in May 1966. It was released in Britain and the United States and consisted mostly of self-penned material in solo, duo and trio formats, showcasing their playing on a variety of instruments. It won the title of "Folk Album of the Year" in Melody Maker's annual poll, and in a 1968 Sing Out! Magazine interview Bob Dylan praised the album's "October Song" as one of his favourite songs of that period.

The trio broke up after recording the album. Palmer left via the hippie trail for Afghanistan and India, and Williamson and his girlfriend Licorice McKechnie went to Morocco with no firm plans to return. Heron stayed in Edinburgh, playing with a band called Rock Bottom and the Deadbeats. However, when Williamson returned after running out of money, laden with Moroccan instruments including a gimbri which was much later eaten by rats, he and Heron reformed the band as a duo.

In November 1966 Heron and Williamson embarked on a short UK tour, supporting Tom Paxton and Judy Collins.[5] In early 1967, they performed regularly at London clubs, including Les Cousins. Joe Boyd became the group's manager as well as producer, and secured a place for them at the Newport Folk Festival, on a bill with Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen.

The duo were always credited as separate writers, maintaining their individual creative identities, rather than working as a writing partnership. Boyd wrote: "Mike and Robin were Clive's friends rather than each other's. Without him as a buffer, they developed a robust dislike for one another. Fortunately, the quality and quantity of their songwriting was roughly equal. Neither would agree to the inclusion of a new song by the other unless he could impose himself on it by arranging the instruments and working out all the harmonies."

In July, they released their second album, The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion, accompanied by Pentangle's Danny Thompson on double bass and Licorice on vocals and percussion. The album demonstrated considerable musical development and a more unified ISB sound. It displayed their abilities as multi-instrumentalists and singer-songwriters, and gained them much wider acclaim. The album included Heron's "The Hedgehog's Song", Williamson's "First Girl I Loved" (later recorded by Judy Collins, Jackson Browne, Don Partridge and Wizz Jones) and his "The Mad Hatter's Song", which, with its mixture of musical styles, paved the way for the band's more extended forays into psychedelia. Enthusiastic reviews in the music press were accompanied by appearances at venues such as London's UFO Club (co-owned by Boyd), the Speakeasy Club, and Queen Elizabeth Hall. Their exposure on John Peel's Perfumed Garden radio show on the pirate ship Radio London, and later on BBC's Top Gear, made them favourites with the emerging UK underground audience. The album went to Number One in the UK folk chart, and was named by Paul McCartney as one of his favourite records of that year.

1968 was the band's annus mirabilis with the release of their two most-celebrated albums, The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter and the double LP Wee Tam and the Big Huge (issued as two separate albums in the US). Hangman's reached the top 5 in the UK album charts soon after its release in March 1968 and was nominated for a Grammy in the US. Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin said his group found their way by playing Hangman's and following the instructions. A departure from the band's previous albums, the set relied heavily on a more layered production, with imaginative use of the then new multi-track recording techniques.[4] The album featured a series of vividly dreamlike Williamson songs, such as "The Minotaur's Song", a surreal music-hall parody told from the point of view of the mythical beast, and its centrepiece was Heron's "A Very Cellular Song", a 13-minute reflection on life, love and amoebas; its complex structure incorporated a Bahamian spiritual ("I Bid You Goodnight") and an adaptation of a Sikh hymn (by "may the pure light within you"). Williamson and Heron in this album had added their girlfriends, Licorice McKechnie and Rose Simpson to the band to contribute additional vocals and a variety of instruments, including organ, guitar and percussion. Despite their initially rudimentary skills, Simpson swiftly became a proficient bass guitarist, and some of McKechnie's songs were recorded by the band.

By early 1968 the group were capable of filling major venues in the UK. They left behind their folk club origins and embarked on a nationwide tour incorporating a critically acclaimed appearance at the London Royal Festival Hall. Later in the year they performed at the Royal Albert Hall, at open-air festivals, and at prestigious rock venues such as the Fillmore auditoriums in San Francisco and New York. After their appearance at the Fillmore East in New York they were introduced to the practice of Scientology by David Simons (aka "Rex Rakish", once of Jim Kweskin's Jug Band). Joe Boyd, in his book White Bicycles – Making Music in the 1960s and elsewhere,[7] describes how he was inadvertently responsible for their "conversion" when he introduced the band to Simons who, having become a Scientologist, persuaded them to enrol in his absence. The band's support for Scientology over the next few years was controversial among some fans, and seemed to coincide with what many saw as the beginning of a decline in the quality of their work.[citation needed] In an interview with Oz magazine in 1969 the band spoke enthusiastically of their involvement with it, although the question of its effect on their later albums has provoked much discussion ever since.

Their November 1968 album Wee Tam and The Big Huge recorded before the US trip, was musically less experimental and lush than Hangman's but conceptually even more avant-garde, a full-on engagement with the themes of mythology, religion, awareness and identity. Williamson's otherworldly songs and vision dominate the album, though Heron's more grounded tracks are also among his very best, and the contrast between the two perspectives gives the record its uniquely dynamic interplay between a sensual experience of life and a quest for metaphysical meaning. The record was released as a double album and also simultaneously as two separate LPs, a strategy which lessened its impact on the charts.

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