Mike Ratledge

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Mike Ratledge
Ratledge with Soft Machine in 1971.
Ratledge with Soft Machine in 1971.
Background information
Birth nameMichael Roland Ratledge
Born (1943-05-06) 6 May 1943 (age 80)
Maidstone, Kent, England
GenresPsychedelic rock, progressive rock, Canterbury scene, jazz rock, New-age
Instrument(s)Keyboards, flute
Years active1960s–1990s
LabelsABC Probe, Columbia, Harvest

Michael Roland Ratledge (born 6 May 1943) is a British musician. A part of the Canterbury scene, he was a founding member of Soft Machine. He was the last founding member to leave the group, doing so in 1976.[1]

Biography and career[edit]

Ratledge was born in Maidstone, Kent, the son of a Canterbury secondary modern school headmaster.[2][3] As a child, he was educated in classical music, the only kind of music played in his parents' home. He learned to play the piano, and with his friend Brian Hopper, whom he had met at Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys in Canterbury, played classical piano and clarinet pieces.[4]

Ratledge also met Brian's younger brother Hugh, and Robert Wyatt. In 1961, he met Daevid Allen, who interested them in playing jazz. Through Cecil Taylor's piano pieces Ratledge became familiar with the music of Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. In 1963, he played in the Daevid Allen Trio. Unlike his friends, Ratledge wanted to further his education, and studied at University College, Oxford, where he earned a degree in psychology and philosophy.[4] [5]

At the same time, he attended music lessons, and was educated by avant-garde musicians Mal Dean and Rab Spall. After his graduation, Ratledge intended to go to a university in the United States, but his application for a scholarship was filed too late.[5]

In 1966, his friends were forming a new band and asked Ratledge to join. Soft Machine included Robert Wyatt, Daevid Allen, and Kevin Ayers.[1] There were many personnel changes over the years. Wyatt's departure in 1971 left Ratledge as the only remaining founding member, while the 1973 departure of Hugh Hopper (who joined in 1968) left Ratledge as the only member from the 1960s to still be in the band.[5]

In November 1973, Ratledge participated in a live performance of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells for the BBC.[6] In 1976, Ratledge decided to leave Soft Machine to build a solo career, leaving the band under Karl Jenkins' leadership. Ratledge built himself a studio and composed a score for the film Riddles of the Sphinx,[1] which utilised a prototype synthesizer which he constructed with his friend Denys Irving.

As Soft Machine's longest-lasting member, he was a part of the band's changes in musical direction from psychedelic music to jazz-rock. In the 1980s, Ratledge was active as a composer and musical producer for commercials and the theatre.[1] In 1995, Adiemus (Ratledge, Karl Jenkins and Miriam Stockley) released Songs of Sanctuary, which Ratledge co-produced with Karl Jenkins and for which he programmed the electronic percussion.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Ratledge married Marsha Hunt on 15 April 1967.[5]


Year Album Artist
1963 Live 1963 Daevid Allen Trio
1964–68 Canterburied Sounds Vols. 1-3 Various artists
1967-68 The Wilde Flowers Wilde Flowers
1969 Joy of a Toy Kevin Ayers
1970 The Madcap Laughs Syd Barrett
1971 Just Us Elton Dean & Just Us
1972 Bananamour Kevin Ayers
1974 The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories Kevin Ayers
1977 Instructions For Angels David Bedford
1978 Planet Earth Planet Earth
1978 Star Clusters Nebulae & Places in Devon / The Song of the White Horse David Bedford
1979 Push Button Rubba
1980 Wonderin' Rollercoaster
1981 Cuts for Commercials Vol. 3 Karl Jenkins & Mike Ratledge
1981 For Christmas, for Children Karl Jenkins & Mike Ratledge
1982 Crystal Gazing (unreleased soundtrack) Mike Ratledge
1983 The Bad Sister (unreleased soundtrack) Mike Ratledge
1995 Adiemus: Songs of Sanctuary Karl Jenkins
2010 Movement Karl Jenkins & Mike Ratledge
2010 Some Shufflin' Karl Jenkins & Mike Ratledge
2013 Riddles of the Sphinx (soundtrack recorded in 1977) Mike Ratledge


  1. ^ a b c d Sutcliffe, Phil (5 March 1991). "Where are they Now? Soft Machine". Q. 55: 33.
  2. ^ Different Every Time: The Authorised Biography of Robert Wyatt, Marcus O'Dair, Serpent's Tail, 2014
  3. ^ Soft Machine: Out-bloody-rageous, Graham Bennett, SAF Publishing Ltd, 2005, p. 30
  4. ^ a b c Biography Archived 23 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine, hulloder.nl; accessed 25 June 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d Biography, calyx.club.fr; accessed 25 June 2014.
  6. ^ "Mike Oldfield (with Mick Taylor, Steve Hillage and members of Henry Cow, Gong and Soft Machine) – Tubular Bells (Live BBC Video 1973)". MOG. Archived from the original on 23 August 2009. Retrieved 23 May 2009.