More bad & sad news today with the passing of Kevin Ayers a founder member of Soft Machine & a pivot of the Canterbury music scene which had such an influence on British psychedelia. His teenage group the Wilde Flowers split to form Soft Machine & Caravan. The Softs, Ayers, Robert Wyatt, Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge & Daevid Allen played a wild mix of jazz & rock with the contrasting vocals of Ayers & Wyatt adding to a potent brew. The B-side of their debut 45, produced by Kim Fowley in 1967, “Feeling, Reeling Squealing” set the bar for British progressive music. Here’s another early single.
He left the band for a solo career & in 1969 released “Joy of a Toy” the first of a series of LPs which fused folky whimsy, exotic rhythms, a languid nonchalance & inventive lyrics. His backing band, The Whole World included Mike Oldfield & David Bedford, the avant garde composer who’s elegant contributions to rock spanned Roy Harper & Frankie Goes To Hollywood. The records did not sell too well but their gentle British eccentricity remains a charm. The romantic “May I ?” is the opening track of 1970’s “Shooting at the Moon”. Lovely.
Kevin worked with Syd Barrett then with Eno. They were joined by Nico & John Cale for a one-off series of concerts & a live LP. I had the opportunity to see Kevin on just the one occasion. He played a solo, acoustic set which was languid, assured & absolutely of the spirit of the early 1970s. (Syd Barrett was billed to appear that night. Someone we assumed was Syd walked on-stage & promptly split !). Kevin Ayers finished with the song that always ended his set & here is a rather grand, televised version of that song with a great joke ending.
As our music enters its dotage we often only hear of musicians when there is bad news about their health. I shall play my copy of “Whatevershebringswesing”, possibly the best of his records & remember the tall, handsome stylish young man who made some lasting records. Cheers !