We Understand the Skin Will Be Visible Soon

The Soft Machine, ‘We Know What You Mean’

This is one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands, performed on what would likely be one of my favorite television programs if I could get my hands on the DVDs released this year.

Hoepla was a highly controversial Dutch music television program in the late 1960s. The clip above is the Soft Machine performance alone, but you can see an extended clip of the program (including the performance) below, featuring one of the most celebrated acts of transgression in television history :


In the July 28th, 1967, episode, model Phil Bloom had appeared during a musical performance wearing a string of plastic flowers. The nudity was brief and rather obscure, but it still outraged dozens of viewers enough to cancel their memberships with the broadcast company, VPRO (who also have a really cool logo).

Bloom then appeared in the October 1st episode, seated and reading aloud a newspaper article about the incident which stated that the model would not appear nude again. When she’s finished the article, Bloom lowers the paper to reveal her bare breasts and stares directly into the camera. VPRO’s address is then superimposed above her chest, to facilitate unsubscribers.

‘We Know What You Mean’ doesn’t appear on any of Soft Machine’s albums, but I think the song shows them at their non-epic best. A sonically execrable cut is available on the Middle Earth Masters collection, and there’s another flaccid take on BBC Radio 1967 – 1971. The superior version is this Hoepla clip, with a cherubic, pre-wheelchair-bound Robert Wyatt on drums.

The VPRO only managed to broadcast three episodes of the program (the abandoned fourth episode is available with the DVD set) , but among its musical guests were Jimi Hendrix and the Mothers of Invention in their prime (here, NSFW!; Zappa action starts at 1:50). Not bad at all.


~ by ohkrapp on November 30, 2008.

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