The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter

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The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter
Studio album by The Incredible String Band
Released March 1968
Recorded December 1967 at Sound Techniques, London
Genre Psychedelic folk
Length 49:51
Label Elektra / WEA
Producer Joe Boyd
The Incredible String Band chronology
The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion
The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter
Wee Tam and the Big Huge
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars link
Pitchfork Media 9.0/10 link
Rolling Stone (negative) [1]
Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars ISBN 0-86369-643-0

'The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter' is the third album by the Scottish psychedelic folk group, The Incredible String Band (ISB), and was released in March 1968 on Elektra Records (see 1968 in music). It saw the band continuing its development of the elements of psychedelic folk and enlarging on past themes, a process they had begun on their previous album, The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion. Instrumentally, it was the ISB's most complex and experimental album to date, featuring a wide array of exotic instruments. In addition, the album captured the band utilizing multi-tracks and overdubbing.[2]

Upon release, the album peaked at number five on the UK Albums Charts, and reached number 161 on the U.S. Billboard 200, becoming the group's highest charting album in both countries.[3][4] The album brought critical and financial success for the band, including their first solo tour and a Grammy nomination. It was considered their most ambitious album to date, having an impactful influence on the psychedelic folk genre.[5]


In December 1967, the band completed their Hangman's Beautiful Daughter album at Sound Techniques in Chelsea, London. For the ISB's developments, they attempted to recreate as vividly as possible a live performance of their compositions. That said, the band was one of the earliest to produce material with a 24-track, allowing them to extensively overdub, and separate the sounds of their wide variety of instruments. Lyrically, the compositions reflected upon past themes of life, mythology, and religious properties in a freelanced musical structure, eccetricism becoming a consistent anchor in their recordings.[6]

The album features a series of vividly dreamlike Robin Williamson songs, such as "The Minotaur's Song", a surreal music-hall parody sung from the point of view of the mythical beast. Its centrepiece is Mike Heron's "A Very Cellular Song", a 13-minute reflection on life, love, and amoebas, whose complex structure incorporates a Bahamian spiritual ("I Bid You Goodnight", originally recorded by the Pinder Family[7][8]). The last part of "A Very Cellular Song", "May the Long Time Sun Shine", is sometimes wrongly referred to as a Sikh hymn or an Irish blessing, but is in fact an original song written by Mike Heron. The album's layered production style employs multitrack recording techniques[9] and a very wide array of instruments from across the world, including sitar, gimbri, shenai, oud, harpsichord, panpipes, and kazoo.

Cover art[edit]

The album's cover art - which on original LP issues was the back cover, as the front showed just Williamson and Heron - consists of a photograph taken on Christmas Day 1967. It shows both musicians, their girlfriends Licorice McKechnie and Rose Simpson, friends Roger Marshall and Nicky Walton, several children of their friend Mary Stewart, and Robin's dog Leaf [6]


Regarding the title, Mike Heron said at the time:- "The hangman is death and the beautiful daughter is what comes after. Or you might say that the hangman is the past twenty years of our life and the beautiful daughter is now, what we are able to do after all these years. Or you can make up your own meaning - your interpretation is probably just as good as ours."[6]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Robin Williamson, except tracks 4, 5, and 9 by Mike Heron

No. Title Length
1. "Koeeoaddi There"   4:49
2. "The Minotaur's Song"   3:22
3. "Witches Hat"   2:33
4. "A Very Cellular Song"   13:09
5. "Mercy I Cry City"   2:46
6. "Waltz of the New Moon"   5:10
7. "The Water Song"   2:50
8. "Three Is a Green Crown"   7:46
9. "Swift As the Wind"   4:53
10. "Nightfall"   2:33



The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter has been widely acclaimed by many critics. For instance, it was #88 in Joe S. Harrington's Top 100 Albums[12] and was listed by Keenan in The Best Albums Ever...Honest.[13]

The artwork has been referenced on the cover to David Keenan's book England's Hidden Reverse, Current 93's album cover to their LP Earth Covers Earth, Devendra Banhart's Cripple Crow LP,[14] and Feathers' eponymous debut.

Robert Plant credited The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter with influencing the direction of Led Zeppelin's first album.[15]

The amoeba section of "A Very Cellular Song" was covered by actor Nigel Planer, in character as 'Neil the Hippy' from Television show The Young Ones on the LP Neil's Heavy Concept Album, released in 1984.[16]

Commercial success[edit]

Owing largely to the band gaining much airplay from famous DJ John Peel,[17] The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter was a major commercial success in the UK, staying in the charts for 21 weeks[3] with a peak of #5. It has sold 800,000 copies in the UK to date.[18] In the U.S., the ISB always remained underground and the album struggled to #161 on the Billboard 200 during a two-month chart run. However, it was nominated for a Grammy in the folk music category.

Chart Entry
Weeks charted
UK Albums Chart[3] June 4, 1968 5 21
The Billboard 200[4] July 20, 1968 161 9


  1. ^ Pomeroy, James (14 September 1968). "Records". Rolling Stone (San Francisco: Rolling Stone). 
  2. ^ Thom Jurek. "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter - Review". Retrieved April 5, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c Chart Archive - Incredible String Band(Link redirected to OCC website)
  4. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel; Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Albums, 1955-1996; p. 366. ISBN 0898201179
  5. ^ "The Incredible String Band - The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter". Retrieved April 5, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c Adrian Whittaker (ed.), Be Glad: The Incredible String Band Compendium, 2003, ISBN 1-900924-64-1
  7. ^ The Bahamas: The Real Bahamas in Music and Song Nonesuch Records site
  8. ^ Waterson : Carthy | Keeping it in the Family - Sleep on Beloved
  9. ^ Joe Boyd, White Bicycles, 2005, ISBN 1-85242-910-0
  10. ^ Wolfgang Rostek: The Incredible String Band
  11. ^ Judy Dyble discography
  12. ^ Blastitude 14: Joe S. Harrington's Top 25 Albums of All Time
  13. ^ The Best Albums Ever... honest
  14. ^ Jurek, Thom. "Devendra Banhart - Cripple Crow". Retrieved 2015-02-24. 
  15. ^ Jurek, Thom. "The Increduble String Band - The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter". Retrieved 2015-02-24. 
  16. ^ "The Incredible String Band- The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter". Making Time. December 1999. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  17. ^ Robin Williamson interview; Perfect Sound Forever
  18. ^