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The Incredible String Band (album)

The Incredible String Band is the debut album by the band of the same name, released in Britain in 1966 by record label Elektra. It is the only one of the band's albums to feature the original trio line-up with Clive Palmer, Robin Williamson and Mike Heron.

The Incredible String Band
The Incredible String Band (The Incredible String Band album - cover art).jpg
The original UK cover of the album, showing Clive Palmer, Robin Williamson, and Mike Heron
Studio album by
ReleasedJune 1966 (UK)
April 1967 (US)
RecordedMay 22, 1966
StudioSound Techniques, Chelsea, London
ProducerJoe Boyd
The Incredible String Band chronology
The Incredible String Band
The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion



The trio had been signed to Elektra Records by Joe Boyd, who had seen them play in Glasgow.[citation needed] They recorded the album at the Sound Techniques studio in Chelsea, London in one afternoon in May 1966, with Boyd as producer.[citation needed] Boyd insisted on focusing on the group's own self-written material, rather than the traditional songs and tunes which they had also been performing, and with each performer singing his own material. This had the effect of marginalising Palmer, who had only one of his own songs featured on the record and only played on five songs in total. Less than half of the album featured collective performance. Nine of the album's sixteen songs were solo performances (five by Williamson, three by Heron and one by Palmer). Of the remaining seven songs, four were duets and only three featured all three musicians together.[citation needed]

The album showcased the trio's abilities on a variety of instruments, although the instrumentation is relatively orthodox compared to the band's later work. All three members played guitar and sang, with Palmer also playing banjo and kazoo and Williamson playing mandolin, banjo, tin whistle and fiddle/violin. The psychedelic imagery for which the band would become known is less prevalent on this album than on their later albums, although the liner notes, by Heron, include a surreal tale of the band's encounter with a magic blackbird. However, the album does contain unconventional tunes and singing styles.


The album was released in Britain in June 1966, and in the USA on Elektra in 1967 (as attested in Billboard magazine's new album releases in the April 9-15, 1967 issue). The original LP sleeve used in the UK featured a photograph of the band holding up obscure musical instruments in Boyd's office in London. For the US issue, a different photo was used, showing the three musicians posed on what appears to be a rusting bus.

The Incredible String Band did not chart when released, but in the UK following the Top 5 success of The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter it went to number 34 during a three-week run in the summer of 1968.[1]

The trio broke up immediately after recording the album, but Heron and Williamson reunited after a few months to continue the band's name as a duo, later augmented by other musicians.[citation needed]

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [2]

The Incredible String Band 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 Williamson's "October Song" as one of his favorite songs of that period. Heron would later describe this album as his own favourite of the band's releases.[4]

In their retrospective review, Lindsay Planer of AllMusic praised the album, calling it "their most simple [album]. It is this minimalism that allowed the natural radiance of the band's (mostly) original material to be evident in the purist sense, and likewise without many of the somewhat intricate distractions and musical tangents that their future work would incorporate".[2]

Track listingEdit

Side A
1."Maybe Someday"Mike Heron2:20
2."October Song"Robin Williamson4:09
3."When the Music Starts to Play"Heron2:43
4."Schaeffer's Jig"Traditional0:58
6."The Tree"Heron2:55
7."Whistle Tune"Traditional, arr. Williamson1:02
8."Dandelion Blues"Williamson3:02
Side B
1."How Happy I Am"Heron2:20
2."Empty Pocket Blues"Clive Palmer4:47
3."Smoke Shovelling Song"Williamson3:47
4."Can't Keep Me Here"Heron2:14
5."Good as Gone"Williamson3:30
6."Footsteps of the Heron"Heron3:14
7."Niggertown"Traditional, arr. Palmer2:09
8."Everything's Fine Right Now"Heron2:12


  • Mike Heronlead vocals on "Maybe Someday", "When The Music Starts to Play", "The Tree", "How Happy I Am", "Can"t Keep Me Here", "Footsteps of the Heron" & "Everything"s Fine Right Now"; guitar on "Maybe Someday", "When The Music Starts to Play", "The Tree", "Dandelion Blues", "How Happy I Am", "Empty Pocket Blues", "Can"t Keep Me Here", "Footsteps of the Heron" & "Everything"s Fine Right Now"; backing vocals on "Dandelion Blues" & "Empty Pocket Blues"
  • Clive Palmerlead vocals on "Empty Pocket Blues"; banjo on "Schaeffer"s Jig" & "Niggertown"; guitar on "How Happy I Am", "Empty Pocket Blues" & "Everything"s Fine Right Now"; kazoo on "Everything"s Fine Right Now'; backing vocals on "How Happy I Am"
  • Robin Williamsonlead vocals on "October Song", "Womankind", "Dandelion Blues", "Smoke Shovelling Song" & "Good As Gone"; violin on "Maybe Someday"; guitar on "October Song", "Womankind", "Dandelion Blues", "Smoke Shovelling Song" & "Good As Gone"; tin whistle on "When The Music Starts to Play", "Whistle Tune" & "Empty Pocket Blues"; fiddle on "Schaeffer"s Jig"; mandolin on "How Happy I Am" & "Everything"s Fine Right Now"; backing vocals on "Maybe Someday", "When The Music Starts to Play", "How Happy I Am", "Empty Pocket Blues" & "Everything"s Fine Right Now"


Chart Entry
Weeks charted
UK Albums Chart[1] July 20, 1968 34 3


  1. ^ a b "INCREDIBLE STRING BAND (full Official Chart History)". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  2. ^ a b Planer, Lindsay. "The Incredible String Band – The Incredible String Band | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  3. ^ Gaerig, Andrew (21 April 2010). "Incredible String Band: The Incredible String Band / The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion / The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter / Wee Tam and the Big Huge | Album Reviews | Pitchfork". Pitchfork. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  4. ^ Whittaker, Adrian, ed. (2003). Be Glad: The Incredible String Band Compendium. ISBN 1-900924-64-1.