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Through the three stages of his career - as guitarist, singer and writer with The Soft Boys in the late seventies, The Egyptians in the eighties and latterly as a solo performer - Robyn Hitchcock has proved to be a master of English psychedelic pop, up there with Julian Cope in terms of inspired genius and nonsense. Cope, though, rarely writes about trains or vegetables. "Bob Dylan showed me what I could do and Syd Barrett showed me how to do it," is how Hitchcock describes his own style. The Soft Boys were formed in 1976 in Cambridge. Dark but humorous psychedelia, deranged doo-wop paranoia and unfashionably long hair were hardly the stuff of punk, but the band built a cult following both here and in the US, where their third and final album, 'Underwater Moonlight', was a hit on the college circuit. "We took bits and pieces, like a collage," said Hitchcock. "Like, if you gummed a tomato to a squirrel's head. It was about arrangements rather than songs."The band also became an acknowledged influence on REM. Hitchcock made three solo albums in the early eighties: 'Black Snake, Diamond Role' (1981), which included 'The Man Who Invented Himself', a tribute to Barrett that summed up Hitchcock himself; 'Groovy Decay' (1982), produced by Steve Hillage; and 'I Often Dream of Trains' (1984), which was an unplugged set before anyone else played them. These albums all featured members of The Soft Boys and two of them - Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor - stayed on board for the next seven years in The Egyptians, who made seven albums and supported REM on tour in 1989 (the Georgia superstars' guitarist, Peter Buck, also played on the 'Queen Elvis' album). When his 1990 album, 'Eye', was released, Robyn played a 65-date US tour: "Just me, my guitar, my girlfriend and a kettle", and proved to be a superb solo performer, with his frantic banter, reckless guitar and stream-of-consciousness lyrics, highlighted by a more intimate, charming atmosphere. The psychedelic troubadour had found his perfect setting, one which he repeated at London residencies last year. Hitchcock's 1996 album, 'Moss Elixir', was mainly a solo affair but included contributions from former members of Captain Beefheart's Magic Band, The Sundays, and Billy Bragg's horn player. This appearance will be Hitchcock's WOMAD debut.