Larry Nowlin (5) after Soft Machine

On the circumstances of Larry’s departure from the band, Jane Alexander remembers…

There were ego clashes between Daevid and Larry, each wanted to play the ‘loudest’ !

Daevid Allen performing with Soft Machine in Chelmsford, February 1967

Larry himself elaborates further…

Daevid and I, or he more than I, had a personality conflict. I’m not sure what the foundation was, and I don’t know what other satisfactions or dissatisfactions there were, all the internal politics… We certainly didn’t know what we were doing very much, where we were going or why. But Daevid and I didn’t seem to see eye to eye. It may be that we both had strong opinions. I remember he was animated on stage, but I didn’t know he had lead guitar ambitions – I don’t remember him as an especially good guitarist. He was eccentric – Australian pop culture was not mainstream in my perception… Always a bit wacky – still is, I think !

Thankfully, there were no bad feelings in the long term…

Later, we kissed and made up. I saw him again a couple of times in Majorca, probably about two years later. He’d left the band by then, and it was fine – any hard feelings were long past. I then had no contact with him, or knowledge of him, for twenty years, and then one time, I can’t remember the exact year, I was visiting Jane and my son in Spain, she had some tape of this Gong group, so I kind of got reconnected with what he had been doing. I still don’t know much about it, but it was interesting to know he’d carried on.

dallen68What is Larry’s memory of Daevid as a character ?

He was already the beatnik guy – that was his tradition. Of course we also had a beatnik tradition in the States, but it didn’t really have a musical component, it was mostly poetry, I suppose. I don’t really know what was going on in England, but there certainly was a specific tradition over there that produced the many bands that have appeared since then.

What about his other ex-bandmates ?

VARIOUS - 1992I never saw any of them again. I used to work for a fledgling, floundering guitar pick-up company called LightWave Systems, who make infra-red transducer systems for basses and guitars, so I have some industry contacts as a result, and I sometimes heard that Kevin was in LA, but I never saw him. Some years ago, I bought “The Rolling Stone Encyclopaedia of Rock & Roll”, and it had a short blurb on the Soft Machine…

As for Jane, her own description of the individual Softs was interesting…

Daevid was a friend… Kevin was 100% into Kevin… Robert thought that he was the best drummer in the world !

Larry stayed on in London for a while… Remembers Jane :

I was still working for Mike. Larry got his draft papers and did an interview in London. He was chucked out of the interview !  Later the military sent him more draft papers that he never received because he had already been deported. When we were living in Ibiza, the Americans followed this up via the Guardia Civil, and Larry was interviewed by them. I went with him, as a witness. Years later, Larry went back to the US and was taken to court. I had to sign a testimony that helped get him off the hook – he was victim of a bureaucratic bungle, obviously.

Frank Zappa

What memories did Larry keep of his time in London after Soft Machine ?

I spent some time with Hendrix, both in Majorca and in London. We used to hang around with some guy over on Queensway, who had a house over there, a kind of hang-out pad, and all the American bands would come through – the Byrds, Mamas & Papas, Frank Zappa… I liked the Mothers of Invention, that was a band I thought were pretty good, though Zappa was a difficult guy. It wasn’t too far from where most of us were… We’d go over and see the Moody Blues and things, who were playing nearby, started a whole light-show thing… And then when Jimi Hendrix came over he was staying in a hotel just up the street there, and they had auditions for a bass player downstairs, I think. We were staying there too. I went down there, I didn’t audition, but… I probably could play the bass better than Noel Redding ! Anyway, that was an Anim connection. I knew him a little bit there, and I knew him over in Majorca when he was playing at some of those gigs over there… He was starting to get pretty messed up, he had a lot of bad company. Too bad – he was a great guitarist.

Mama Cass

A few related memories of that period from Jane…

I remember David Crosby took us out to dinner one night. It was when our trial was on at the Old Bailey for the hash that the drug squad had planted on us – Larry and myself. I fainted in the restaurant, and when I came round David asked me if I wasn’t going to “eat my venison”. Of course I didn’t !

Mama Cass was also in London. I borrowed a book from her, “The History of Magic.” I found an anagram in the book… to be used to gain the affection of a judge. It said that the anagram should be written on parchment, but I wrote it on an envelope on the way to court, on the final day. I was fined one pound, and bound over for three years… I had already had trouble caused by my father, and had been fined £30 by a magistrates’ court. Larry was deported and returned to the Balearics – he says that he was “watched” at Heathrow airport when he left !

Nina en Frederik van Pallandt
Nina and Frederik van Pallandt (Nina & Frederik) in 1967

We were friends of Frederik and Nina van Pallandt, there was often music in their house… There was also music in Formentera where we spent a summer, coinciding with Dr. Sam Hutt, who was trying to help Syd Barrett come down to earth again – he was in a terrible mess, psychologically speaking.

Mike McClellan reconnected with Larry after his return from Europe in the mid-Seventies…

Larry looked me up when he came back from Europe, too. By that time I had a jazz trio – the Trio Nuages, after Django’s tune – where I played violin or clarinet, with a piano and a guitarist almost as crazy as Django himself ! Larry had us play at his second wedding, up near Santa Barbara, CA. It was in the late 1970’s or early 80’s. He married a PhD in, I believe, English. He was working as a gardener at the time – but an educated one, with class ! I haven’t seen him since then. I got involved with my own life, got a regular job and started having my own children after I became 50.

Larry Nowlin in 2014

Larry had by this time moved on from any ambition to be a professional musician. Remembered Jane :

He kept playing, but not professionally. He went to Ibiza where there were many musicians… He had a guitar made for him when he was in London by a guitar maker called Zemaitis – a lot of musicians got guitars made for them by him. Larry still has his guitar, and I encouraged him to play again… It’s a fine instrument.

Jane Alexander in Ibiza, 2010s

Sadly, Jane Alexander passed away on August 11th, 2013 – by a sad coincidence the birthday of her and Larry’s son Silas. Larry Nowlin, as far as I know, is still with us, but to my knowledge hasn’t picked up his guitar again – at least not in public !


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