Soft Machine was formed in 1966 by Robert Wyatt, Mike Ratledge, Kevin Ayers and Daevid Allen. Wyatt had already worked with Allen in the Daevid Allen Trio (which Ratledge occasionally jammed with) in 1963, and with Ayers in the Wilde Flowers in 1964. Although the band had its roots in Canterbury, it soon became a London- based band.
In January 1967, the band's one and only single ever was recorded : it had two songs on it, "Loves Make Sweet Music" and "Feelin', Reelin', Squeelin'". Three months later, a collections of demos was recorded at DeLane Lea Studios with producer Giorgio Gomelsky, but not officially released until 1971 (on two compilations on the French Byg label). At that time, Soft Machine had already become something of a 'cult' band on the London psychedelic scene, gigging at places like the Roundhouse or the UFO. On April 29th, 1967, they took part in an event set up by the underground paper 'International Times', which also featured the Pink Floyd, and was given the name, '14 Hour Technicolor Dream'.
During the summer, the band was involved in an avant-garde theatre project in St.Tropez, on the French Riviera, and it was on the way back that Daevid Allen was refused re-entry to England. So he stayed in France, moving on to various projects before forming Gong two years later, while Wyatt, Ratledge and Ayers decided to carry on as a trio.
In February 1968, Soft Machine embarked on a 3-month US tour (opening for the Jimi Hendrix Experience), recording their first album in New York in four days in April, with production handled by Tom Wilson and Chas Chandler, former Animals bassist and Hendrix's producer. Although quickly made (most tracks are first takes) and not particularly well-recorded, "The Soft Machine" is now considered a classic of the extraordinarily creative post-psychedelic, pre-progressive, period of the late 60's... and quite rightly so!
In May, a guitarist by the name of Andy Summers (also on the earlier Hendrix US tour, backing Eric Burdon... later in The Police, of course!) joined, for the second leg of the American tour (July-September), but left mid-tour. Disagreements on the musical direction began to arise between Ayers and Wyatt-Ratledge, leading to their parting company after the tour was completed. Wyatt stayed in Hollywood to work with Jimi Hendrix, while Ratledge and Ayers flew back to Europe. In December 1968, Wyatt was contacted by Probe, who had just released the first album, to discuss possible live dates by the band to promote it. With Ayers unavailable, Hugh Hopper was asked to join (he was about to sell his bass!), and after a month of rehearsal, the new line-up made its live debut at the Royal Albert Hall in February, a few days before entering Olympic Studios to record the second album.