Rose Simpson

May 22, 2023

Muse, Odalisque, Handmaiden

A Girl's Life in the Incredible String Band

MIT Press 2021

Damon Kruskowski, author of Ways of Hearing and The New Analog, previously member of Galaxie 500 and currently a member of Damon & Naomi interviews Rose Simpson about her book Muse, Odalisque, Handmaiden.

Rose is an English former musician. Between 1968 and 1971, she was a member of the Incredible String Band, with whom she sang and played bass guitar, violin, and percussion.

Between 1967 and 1971 Rose Simpson lived with the Incredible String Band (Mike Heron, Robin Williamson and Licorice McKechnie), morphing from English student to West Coast hippie and, finally, bassist in leathers. The band's image adorned psychedelic posters and its music was the theme song for an alternative lifestyle.

Rose and partner Mike Heron believed in, and lived, a naive vision of utopia in Scotland. But they were also a band on tour, enjoying the thrills of that life. They were at the center of “Swinging London” and at the Chelsea Hotel with Andy Warhol's superstars. They shared stages with rock idols and played at Woodstock in 1969. Rose and fellow ISB member Licorice were hippie pin-ups, while Heron and Robin Williamson the seers and prophets of a new world.

Through a haze of incense and marijuana, they played out their Arcadian dreams on stages brilliant with the colors of clothes, light-shows, rugs, cushions, and exotic instruments. Like most utopias, the ISB's imploded. Never seeing herself as a professional musician, Rose retained an outsider's detachment even while living the life of a hippie chick. Her memoir gives a voice to those flower-wreathed girls whose photographs have become symbols of the psychedelic sixties.

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