Hugh Hopper is perhaps the central figure of the whole Canterbury scene. In a career spanning over thirty years, he has played with literally everyone: Robert Wyatt, Daevid Allen, Richard Sinclair, Elton Dean, Mike Ratledge, Phil Miller, Dave Stewart, Pip Pyle...
Hopper was one the founder members of the seminal Wilde Flowers in 1964. During the 60's, he also worked in an experimental context with guitarist Daevid Allen (who later founded or co-founded Soft Machine and Gong). After leaving the Wilde Flowers, he became Soft Machine's roadie, and when Kevin Ayers departed for a solo career, he swapped roles and moved to the role of bass player, remaining in the band until 1973 and playing on most of Soft Machine's classic albums.
In the early days of Soft Machine, Hopper was a prolific songwriter (his song "Memories" became a standard, even covered by Whitney Houston!), but when the Softs opted for an instrumental format, he kept the same level of inspiration, providing compositions full of unusual yet catchy riffs, and experiments with sounds (Hopper was a pioneer in the use of 'tape loops'), for instance on the groundbreaking Third (1970), which featured his own "Facelift," one of the Canterbury "hymns" alongside "Nan True's Hole" and "Calyx." Although he provided the bulk of the material for Fourth (1971), his creative input sadly decreased over the next couple of years, contributing short and rather minimal pieces to 5 and Six.
Hopper left Soft Machine in May 1973, shortly after the release of his first solo album, 1984, which had good jazz-rock instrumentals on one side, and a long experimental and partly improvised composition/collage on the other. "1984 is obviously the title of a book by George Orwell, about a possible Stalinist regime ruling Britain. I named my LP after it because it is a book that impressed me greatly when I first read it. The titles on the album - "Miniluv," "Minitrue," etc. - are the names in the book of the four ministries which control the country." Then followed five years of intense activity, both as a leader (or co-leader) and support/session musician.
He joined East Wind, the band led by Japanese percussion prodigy Stomu Yamash'ta, staying about six months. Also in that line-up were guitarist Gary Boyle and drummer Nigel Morris, both hailing from the fusion band Isotope. It was only logical that when Isotope's bass player, Jeff Clyne, left in May 1974, Hopper should replace him.