A Very Cellular Song

Album: The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (1968)


  • The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter was the third album by the Scottish psychedelic folk group, The Incredible String Band. The record was written at Temple College in Balmore outside Glasgow, which was owned by a vet with five children named Mary Stuart. Living with the working mother were a motley mix of mountaineers, folk musicians and Tibetan monks in exile. ISB's Mike Heron recalled to Mojo:

    "It suited Mary as it meant there were people to look after the kids – they're all on the cover photo of The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, which was taken outside the cottage – when she went to work."
  • Released in March 1968 on Elektra Records, The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter was both a critical and financial success peaking at #5 on the UK Albums Chart and #161 on the Billboard Top LP's listings in America, becoming the group's highest charting album in both countries.
  • Regarding the title, ISB's Robin Williamson told Mojo in 2017: "There was a book by 19th century American writer Ambrose Bierce called The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter, but I didn't know it at the time. I came up with the title to mark the emergence from death and flowering of a new era, with the hangman as the war generation and ours as the daughter."
  • This multi-sectioned reflection on life and love is the album's centerpiece. Heron said: "A Very Cellular Song was about an acid trip I had, with all the sections representing various levels of humanity and all life coming together at the end. None of it follows a recognizable style. That proved to be our great strength."


Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

The Untold Story Of Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine

The Untold Story Of Fiona Apple's Extraordinary MachineSong Writing

Fiona's highly-anticipated third album almost didn't make it. Here's how it finally came together after two years and a leak.

80s Music Quiz 1

80s Music Quiz 1Music Quiz

MTV, a popular TV theme song and Madonna all show up in this '80s music quiz.

The Fratellis

The FratellisSongwriter Interviews

Jon Fratelli talks about the band's third album, and the five-year break leading up to it.

Dave Mason

Dave MasonSongwriter Interviews

Dave reveals the inspiration for "Feelin' Alright" and explains how the first song he ever wrote became the biggest hit for his band Traffic.

Joan Armatrading

Joan ArmatradingSongwriter Interviews

The revered singer-songwriter talks inspiration and explains why she put a mahout in "Drop the Pilot."

Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes

Chris Robinson of The Black CrowesSongwriter Interviews

"Great songwriters don't necessarily have hit songs," says Chris. He's written a bunch, but his fans are more interested in the intricate jams.