Roy Babbington

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Roy Babbington
Roy Babbington performing in 2018
Roy Babbington performing in 2018
Background information
Born (1940-06-08) June 8, 1940 (age 82)
Kempston, Bedfordshire, England
Years active1958–2021
Formerly of

Roy Babbington (born 8 July 1940 in Kempston, Bedfordshire, England)[1] is an English rock and jazz bassist. He became well known for being a member of the Canterbury scene progressive rock band Soft Machine.


Babbington started his musical career in 1958, playing double bass in local jazz bands. At the age of 17 he took up the post of double bass, doubling on electric guitar (on such numbers as Cliff Richard's "Move It" on Monday's Rock 'n' Roll evening) with The Leslie Thorp Orchestra at the Aberdeen Beach Ballroom, where he honed his sight reading skills. After moving to London in 1969, he joined the band Delivery,[2] one of the side roots of the Canterbury scene with Phil Miller, Pip Pyle and Lol Coxhill. Also, he began to work as a session musician with jazz/fusion musicians like Michael Gibbs and The Keith Tippett Group (including Elton Dean),[2] appearing on their album Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening (1970) as well as in Tippett's big band project Centipede (1971) and on Dean's album Just Us. When Delivery disbanded in 1971 after an album with Carol Grimes titled Fools Meeting, Babbington joined Nucleus.[2]

He contributed to albums by Alexis Korner, Mike d'Abo, Chris Spedding, folk singers Harvey Andrews and Schunge, and was a part-time member of the bands Solid Gold Cadillac (jazz pianist's Mike Westbrook rock band) and Keith Tippett's Ovary Lodge.[2]

With Soft Machine[edit]

Having already contributed additional double bass parts to electric bassist Hugh Hopper's work on the Soft Machine albums Fourth (1971) and Fifth (1972), he finally replaced Hopper fully in the band with the release of their album Seven.[1] He used a six-string Fender VI throughout his tenure with the band. In addition to Seven, he can be heard on BBC Radio 1971-1974, Bundles, Softs and the library music project Rubber Riff (not actually a Soft Machine recording but featuring its members). Babbington's funk- and rock-oriented electric bass playing went along well with Karl Jenkins' and John Marshall's fusion concept of Soft Machine at the time.

After 1976[edit]

After leaving Soft Machine, Babbington remained active on the UK jazz scene, playing with Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia, Joe Gallivan's Intercontinental Express and various bands led by pianist Stan Tracey.[1] In 1979, he appeared on the album Welcome to the Cruise by Judie Tzuke. In the 1980s and 1990s, he returned to his roots, double bass and pure jazz, and became affectionately know "the jazz handbrake". He also worked with Elvis Costello, Carol Grimes, Mose Allison and the BBC Big Band.[1]

In 2008, he played with Soft Machine Legacy[3][4] and again replaced Hugh Hopper as their electric bassist in 2009.[5] Soft Machine Legacy changed their name back to just Soft Machine in 2015.

On 7 December 2021 Soft Machine issued a press release announcing that Babbington was retiring from the band, and was replaced by Fred Thelonious Baker on bass.[6]


As sideman[edit]

With Harvey Andrews

  • In the Darkness & Soldier (Cube, 1972)
  • Writer of Songs (Cube, 1972)
  • Friends of Mine (Cube, 1973)

With Ian Carr

  • Belladonna (Vertigo, 1972)
  • Labyrinth (Vertigo, 1973)
  • Exit 1971 (678 Records, 2020)

With Elvis Costello

  • All This Useless Beauty (Warner Bros., 1996)
  • Live (Rhino, 1996)
  • Elvis Costello's Kojak Variety (Rhino, 2004)
  • The Juliet Letters (Rhino, 2006)

With Soft Machine

  • Fourth (CBS, 1971)
  • Fifth (CBS, 1972)
  • Seven (CBS, 1973)
  • Bundles (Harvest, 1975)
  • Softs (Harvest, 1976)
  • Floating World Live (Moonjune, 2006)
  • Live Adventures (Moonjune, 2010)
  • Switzerland 1974 (Cuneiform, 2015)
  • Hidden Details (Moonjune, 2018)
  • Burden of Proof (Moonjune, 2013)
  • Live at the Baked Potato (Dyad, 2020)

With Stan Tracey

  • South East Assignment (Steam, 1980)
  • The Crompton Suite (Steam, 1981)
  • Stan Tracey Now (Steam, 1983)
  • The Poets' Suite (Steam, 1984)
  • Live at Ronnie Scotts (Steam, 1986)
  • Stan Tracey Plays Duke Ellington (Mole Jazz, 1986)
  • Genesis (Steam, 1987)
  • We Still Love You Madly (Mole Jazz, 1989)

With others



  1. ^ a b c d "Roy Babbington | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 141. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  3. ^ "Roy Babbington". Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  4. ^ "Roy Babbington - Bass". Archived from the original on 24 April 2009. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  5. ^ "John Etheridge - Soft Machine Legacy". Archived from the original on 15 April 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  6. ^ "Roy Babbington retires from Soft Machine". London Jazz News. 7 December 2021. Retrieved 8 December 2021.

External links[edit]