Born in the folk clubs of Edinburgh, the unique duo of Robin Williamson and Mike Heron appeared to inhabit a parallel universe in which Tennyson’s The Lady Of Shalott was a Top 20 single in 1967.
Williamson and Heron sang enchanting poetry in peculiar voices and played any instrument that didn’t require a plug – including recorder, sitar, dulcimer, whistles, hand drums, pan pipes and Jews harps.
The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (1968) – a UK #5 – was regarded by many critics as a quintessential example of hippie culture, with its promotion of ideas such as communal living, eastern mysticism and pantheism.
Recorded at Sound Techniques using a (then revolutionary) eight-track machine, the band overdubbed the unique sonic vision of their colourful dreams, a tapestry woven solely from acoustic instruments and sounds.
That same year, The Observer claimed The Incredible String Band were “better than The Beatles“.
During outtakes from The Beatles’ Get Back sessions, John Lennon and Paul McCartney can be heard mocking the band and derogatorily calling them ‘The Incredible String Vest’.
The group projected a fantasy world of spirits, witches, primitive rites and mythology that found a ready-made market in the gentle years of ‘flower power’.
Cosmic folk? Acoustic psychedelia? Whatever it was, it began to run dry on Changing Horses. With their girlfriends Christina “Licorice” McKechnie and Rose Simpson now full-time members, this 1969 set had little of the magic of 1968’s The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter or Wee Tam & The Big Huge.
By 1971, manager Joe Boyd had moved the group to Island Records, and their glory days were over. The band finally called it a day in summer 1974.
Christina “Licorice” McKechnie moved to California and married. She was last seen hitch-hiking in the Arizona desert in 1987, though her sister Frances reported receiving a letter “sent from Sacramento” in 1990.
Still officially missing, Robin Williamson once reflected that McKechnie might now be “a perfectly happy mother-of-three living with a cult”.
Clive Palmer passed away in 2014.
Vocals, guitar, sitar
Christina “Licorice” McKechnie
Vocals, organ, guitar
Vocals, bass, organ
Guitar, banjo, vocals