Monday, January 14, 2013
Gig #32: Kevin Ayers (circa 1967 - 1981)
'Kevin Ayers has always been a marginal figure in the Canterbury scene, as early as his days as leader singer in the Wilde Flowers in 1964-65. Born in 1944 in Herne Bay (Kent), he'd spent most of his childhood (from six to twelve) in the exotic Malaysia, and never really felt at ease in England, this often rainy and cold country. As a matter of fact, in the late 70's, he moved to the island of Mallorca, where he lived well into the Nineties. He has now settled in the South of France.
'Following his two-year stint with Soft Machine, during which he contributed some of the most memorable songs of the band's debut album ("Why Are We Sleeping?", "We Did It Again" or "Lullabye Letter", not to forget the band's only single, "Love Makes Sweet Music"), Ayers left after a particularly exhausting, and even traumatic, American tour, for a more relaxed solo career.
'1969's Joy Of A Toy, named after an instrumental track on Soft Machine's first album, marked the beginning of a long musical partnership with classical composer and pianist David Bedford, with whom he formed The Whole World the following year, alongside jazz veteran Lol Coxhill (sax), and the considerably younger Mike Oldfield (bass/guitar) and a succession of drummers (one of whom was Robert Wyatt). This line-up had a lasting impact on the rock scene of a time, despite actually recording only one album as a band : Shooting At The Moon (1970). All subsequent albums were recorded with both members of his live bands and session men.
'Following the break-up of The Whole World and a European tour as honorary member of Gong in late '71 and early '72, Ayers teamed up with bass player Archie Leggett (formerly of Wonderwheel and a major contributor to Daevid Allen's solo album Banana Moon). Together, they created the 'Banana Follies' live show, with which they toured Britain throughout 1972. The pair formed the basis of live line-ups until 1974, by which time another major collaborator had joined Ayers : former Patto and Tempest guitarist Peter 'Ollie' Halsall. Until his untimely death in 1992, Halsall would be in Ayers' band at every available opportunity.
'By the late 70's, Kevin Ayers' recorded output had become less frequent. This coincided with the beginning of his semi-retirement in Mallorca. Yet the sunny and relaxed atmosphere of Deya didn't completely spoil his creativity, as he's kept releasing albums regularly in the last 15 years, albeit less frequently than in the early 70's (and admittedly his early 80's Spanish-only releases coincided with an all-time low in terms of creativity). Furthermore, his live appearances have multiplied in the 90's, both with his band and with the liverpudlian group Wizards Of Twiddly.
'In subsequent years, Kevin Ayers has toured extensively in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, performing mainly duo gigs with Carl Bowry on guitar (ex-Wizards Of Twiddly). He also played two series of Californian dates in 1998 and 2000. A live album from the 1995 tour, Turn The Lights Down, was released in early 2000. In 2007, he finally released a new studio album, The Unfairground, including guest appearances by Phil Manzanera, Hugh Hopper, Bridget St.John.' -- http://calyx.perso.neuf.fr
The Soft Machine 'Soon Soon Soon', live in 1967
'Soft Machine's music was a rainbow of sounds and songs drawn from gamelan to pop, via jazz and Terry Riley's minimalism. There was nothing quite like it. They played on the same bill as Pink Floyd at the International Times launch party in October 1966 and became regulars at the UFO club on London's Tottenham Court Road in the spring of 1967. They were, along with the likes of Pink Floyd and the Nice, one of the underground bands of the moment. And, like most head-expanding underground bands, they were met with baffled incomprehension and even hostility outside London. "I only ever walked offstage once", says Ayers. "It was when the beer bottles started flying. Not my scene." The band moved to France where they were welcomed as Dadaist heroes and played venues like the Museum of Contemporary Art in Paris.' -- The Guardian
The Soft Machine 'Hope for Happiness', live in 1967
'Mike Ratledge and Robert Wyatt of The Soft Machine were far more musically literate than I was, and I think my simplicity bored them. They were going more in the direction of jazz and fusion, which didn't interest me. I was strictly pop. They were into what I consider to be self-indulgence. It's stuff you play for yourself, and 'fuck the audience'... so I took my simplicity elsewhere.' -- Kevin Ayers
'Eleanor's Cake', 1969
'Joy of a Toy is the debut solo album of Kevin Ayers, a founding member of Soft Machine. Its whimsical and unique vision is a clear indication of how Soft Machine might have progressed under Ayers' tenure. He is accompanied on the LP by his Soft Machine colleagues Robert Wyatt, Mike Ratledge and Hugh Hopper. After a Soft Machine tour of the USA with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Ayers had decided to retire from the music business. Hendrix however, presented Ayers with an acoustic Gibson J-200 guitar on the promise that he continue his songwriting. Ayers repaired to a small London flat where he composed and arranged a whole LP which was then presented to Malcolm Jones' fledgling Harvest label where it was recorded by Peter Jenner for the then exorbitant sum of £4000.' -- collaged
'Oleh Oleh Bandu Bandong', 1969
'After an extensive tour of the United States opening for Jimi Hendrix, a weary Ayers sold his white Fender Jazz bass to Noel Redding and retreated to the beaches of Ibiza in Spain with Daevid Allen to recuperate. While there, Ayers went on a songwriting binge that resulted in the songs that would make up his first album, Joy of a Toy. The album was one of the first released on the new Harvest label, along with Pink Floyd's releases. Joy of a Toy established Ayers as a unique talent with music that varied from the circus march of the title cut to the pastoral "Girl on a Swing," and the ominous "Oleh Oleh Bandu Bandong", based on a Malaysian folksong.' -- collaged
'Stop This Train', 1969
'On a railway train to anywhere / Something happened finally / The driver said he saw no station / And we were riding aimlessly / The train was filled with sleeping passengers / Going nowhere for the ride / Spoken whispers filled the carriages / No one cared to look outside / Conversation aimed at anyone / Bouncing questions off the wall / Except for two excited children / Burning caterpillars in the hall / All at once, I got quite frightened / Standing up, I gave a shout / I see a station just in front of me / Stop this train and let me out ... ' -- KA
Kevin Ayers & Syd Barrett 'Religious Experience', 1969
'An avid enthusiast of Syd Barrett, the wayward ex-Pink Floyd genius, Ayers felt Syd’s contribution could enhance his latest composition. On the way to Abbey Road studios, Kevin called into Barrett’s flat and requested his presence on the session. And so it was on November 9th 1969 Kevin Ayers and Syd Barrett worked on the first version of “Religious Experience”. Present earlier in the day were Richard Coughlan and Richard Sinclair from Canterbury band Caravan. After some consideration it was felt that Syd Barrett’s psychedelic guitar contribution was too uncommercial and the track overlong, and thus the track remained unreleased for over a decade.' -- collaged
'Why Are We Sleeping?' live in Paris, 1970
'For his 1972 tour, Kevin Ayers revamped 'Why Are We Sleeping', one of the signature songs he had written and sang during his days as a member of The Soft Machine, into a ghostly a cathartic avant-rock song that he intended to rerecord for his second solo album, although the plan was abandoned when he felt the studio version lacked something.' -- collaged
'In 1971, Kevin Ayers started recording what would become his most acclaimed album, Whatevershebringswesing accompanied by members of Gong and his previous backing band The Whole World. Praised by NME, Record Mirror and Rolling Stone, the album realised all the musical aspirations Ayers had harboured since the inception of Soft Machine. As with most Ayers albums, a collision of disparate styles confronts the listener but in this instance they work to extremely powerful effect. The title track with Mike Oldfield's guitar accompaniment and Robert Wyatt’s wracked harmonies would become a template for Ayers subsequent 70s output. The album includes the terse vignette 'Margaret'.' -- collaged
'Let It Get You Down', 1972
'Bananamour is the fourth studio album by Kevin Ayers and it featured some of his most accessible recordings, including "Shouting in a Bucket Blues" and his whimsical tribute to Syd Barrett, "Oh! Wot A Dream". After Whatevershebringswesing, Ayers assembled a new band anchored by drummer Eddie Sparrow and bassist Archie Legget and employed a more direct lyricism. The centrepiece of the album is 'Decadence', his withering portrait of Nico: "Watch her out there on display / Dancing in her sleepy way / While all her visions start to play / On the icicles of our decay / And all along the desert shore / She wanders further evermore / The only thing that's left to try / She says to live i have to die." Perhaps the strongest and most influential song is the dark opener, "Let It Get You Down".' -- collaged
'May I?', live in 1972
'In early 1970, Ayers assembled a band he called The Whole World to tour his debut LP Joy of a Toy that included a young Mike Oldfield, David Bedford, Lol Coxhill, Mick Fincher, the folk singer Bridget St. John and Robert Wyatt. After a UK tour, Ayers took the Whole World into the studio to cut an LP, produced, like his debut, with Peter Jenner. The line-up produced a heady mixture of ideas and experimentation with two distinctive styles emerging; carefree ballads like “Clarence In Wonderland” and “May I?” abutted the avant garde experimentation of songs like “Reinhardt and Geraldine” and “Underwater”. The album has since become a best seller in Ayers' catalogue.' -- allmusic
'Caribbean Moon', 1973
'"Caribbean Moon" was a Kevin Ayers single released shortly before his third LP Bananamour. Neither song was featured on the LP but both regularly appeared in his live set at the time. A humorous promotional video infamously referred to for years as 'the gayest rock video ever' was shot for the single, stills from which are featured on the cover.' -- collaged
'Irreversible Neural Damage', 1974
'"Irreversible Neural Damage", once of the most experimental songs on Kevin Ayers' (fifth) album Confessions of Dr. Dream, was used as the soundtrack for the famously psychedelic and controversial 1970s French film Marie Poupée, which starred Kevin Ayers' estranged ex-lover Nico.' -- collaged
Kevin Ayers & Brian Eno 'The Letter', 1974
'Lady June's Linguistic Leprosy is a experimental music/spoken word album by poet Lady June (a.k.a. June Campbell Cramer). It features musical contributions by Kevin Ayers and Brian Eno including the track "The Letter". The recording was made for £400 in the living room of Kevin Ayers' Maida Vale home. The original release was originally a limited pressing of 5000 copies which quickly sold once followers of Eno and Ayers realized that they contributed to the recording. The album has been reissued subsequently by Market Square Records.' -- Wiki
'Falling In Love Again' live @ Supersonic, 1976
'"Falling in Love Again" was Kevin Ayers’ final release on Island Records. The flip side, "Everyone Knows the Song", was an Ayers original. After the release of this single, Ayers signed to Harvest Records, and both tracks became part of his 1976 album, Yes We Have No Mañanas (So Get Your Mañanas Today). The single was also re-released a few months later by Harvest in parts of Europe but featuring the Ayers original "The Owl" on the B-side.' -- collaged
'Help Me', 1976
'Yes We Have No Mañanas (So Get Your Mañanas Today) is the seventh studio album by Kevin Ayers, released in June 1976. This LP marked Kevin Ayers' return to the leftfield Harvest label. Producer Muff Winwood employed a straightforward pop production that clipped some of Ayers’ usual eccentricities from the tapes but gave the set a direct and focused impact. The songs fall into to two thematic groups; tales of love and loss (‘Love's Gonna Turn You Round’ and ‘May I?’) coupled with sly digs at a music industry with which Ayers is clearly becoming disenchanted (‘Ballad of Mr. Snake’ and ‘Mr Cool’).' -- collaged
'Ballad of a Salesman Who Sold Himself', 1978
'Rainbow Takeaway is the eighth studio album by Kevin Ayers. The core band is essentially the same as its predecessor, Yes We Have No Mañanas (So Get Your Mañanas Today). Rainbow Takeaway marks the close of the 70s Ayers progressive sound, with Billy Livsey’s synthesizer flourishes on ‘A View From The Mountain’ providing a final coda to that era. Soul and Country elements are also present on Rainbow Takeaway coupled with the reggae rhythms on the standout track ‘Ballad of a Salesman Who Sold Himself’. The eccentric Ayers mélange is in full effect on the chaotic closer ‘Hat Song’. Ayers retired to Deià, Spain shortly after the album’s release.' -- collaged
Kevin Ayers & John Cale 'Howling Man', live in 1981
'Kevin Ayers' early 1980s album Diamond Jack and the Queen Of Pain is very close in essence to mainstream rock, with Ayers' endearing eccentricity buried too deeply beneath synthetic polish. Recorded in Spain, largely with Spanish musicians and producer Juan Ruiz, the record was endlessly delayed and released originally in the Netherlands on Roadrunner in 1983 and picked up in the UK by Charly Records who also put out the perennial 'Howling Man' featuring the viola stylings of John Cale as a single.' -- collaged
p.s. Hey. So, today I go out of town, first to this town Tarbes to work on 'The Pyre' for three days, and then to this town Poitiers for a day to give a talk. I should be able to do the p.s. tomorrow and Wednesday pre-work, although maybe more speedily than I normally do. Whether I'll be able to do the p.s. on Thursday and Friday is a question mark at this point because those are days when I travel in the morning, and I'll let you know the deal on that in the next couple. Starting on Saturday, I'll be back in Paris, and everything will run normally again. ** Starlon H, Hey. Thanks, man. College break, nice, nice intake there. The novel you want to write has a lot to work with, I mean a lot of potentially very compelling material. I say that as someone who had to spend two-plus years recently in an inter-sibling battle over my mom's estate, and it was intense. So, your mom is saying that you'll have a fight ahead because your dad doesn't want to make everything perfectly clear in his will? My mom's will was only semi-clear, but it would have been clear enough if one of my siblings didn't get resentful of what another sibling received and started a war. Anyway, yeah, that could be very rich, the novel. Vollman's method sounds like a really good one. You sound like you're doing good and being very productive/ forward thinking. That's real great to hear. ** David Ehrenstein, Ghosty's on Facebook, but he's not there very much, but he's more there than he is here. Nice about your great time at the awards ceremony. Wow, I did not know that about PTA's next film being Pynchon's 'Inherent Vice'. How very interesting. That book could be quite a movie, actually, now that you mention it. ** Rewritedept, Hey. Wow, you've been reading this blog for a long time, I didn't realize that. Really hard to pick a fave Simpsons episode for sure. The one where Lisa took 'acid' was pretty sweet. Your collages look great, man. Kind of tough/sharp but graceful too. I like 'em. Very cool. I did see that pic where, amidst the grouping of pics, one can see that pic of me and Malkmus. Obviously, major for me when I get to be in his presence. Thanks. ** Cobaltfram, Fun friend, yes. Is he still there? Paris is chilly and a bit wet, but I'm out of here, so no big. Yeah, I read the BoingBoing tribute to Aaron Swartz. The persecution of him is horrifying enough, but his depressions and, obviously, his suicide, is very painful. Happy new week. ** Misanthrope, Live sporting events can be a blast. Of course, for me, baseball, except that, when you see the Dodgers live, you don't get to hear genius Vin Scully's play by play, so there's a slight drawback. You know I kind of hate American football anyway, but the two times I went to a football game, I thought it was endless and even more boring than on TV, but its pace is just not mine. But basketball, yeah. I didn't know that about Benatar, and, even though I have no feeling for Benatar to begin with, that feeling is considerably less now. What you don't know won't hurt you? ** JoeM, Hi, Joe! Yes, that was our Antonio. Had a sad, startled moment when I was recovering the post and saw that. Nice Crisp quotes, of course. One of the quote masters, that guy. I don't, however, know why you think I would relate to that one quote because I don't, or, for that matter, why you think I wouldn't admit it if I did, but it is interesting that you thought so. T'would be cool if you got to London for/with the Miz, and then there's Paris, which would spread the coolness to me, but, yeah, whatever works. I love the Bowie song/vid too. Good to see you, J. ** Ken Baumann, Ken! Thanks on behalf the Ghost with the upset tummy. I heard about that 40 degrees thing. Wowzer. It sounds so pretty, though. Los Angelenos wearing coats! And ... scarves maybe? Stay inside, though, yeah. VICE thing? Exciting, that, and novel work ... the big cheese of excitement there. ** Steevee, Glad the flu seems to have a been a phantom, and I hope you get that dosage thing sorted, of course. I could have sworn JF came out, like, five or eight years ago? Hunh. ** Kyler, Hi, K. I did find some snippets, yes, and I'm going to check them out while I'm sitting around waiting for the dancers to warm up, the lighting guy to fiddle with the spots, etc., which is always most of what takes up the time in these situations. Cool about the card and power interventions and the related boon. Lovely Monday. ** Patrick deWitt, Ha ha, yes, truer words hath ne'er been spoke. ** Oriol Rovira Grañen, Interesting. It translates pretty well, I think. Thanks, man. ** Postitbreakup, Hi, Josh. No, the first person 'father' character has no say/control re: the third person stuff. They're all just my linguistic cast. Using different tenses has an interesting effect, I think, that hopefully works even when readers don't notice it, although it is interesting to me that a lot of people don't. I mean, the tense shifting in 'Guide' is intensive and paramount to how that novel works, but I can't remember that structure having been mentioned or written about hardly at all. Thanks for the kind words, my friend. ** 5STRINGS, Second read of the Emo thing only upped its ante. Sweet. 5 minutes? How the heck? Magic, that. I should write an Emo horror novel. It's probably too late though, I don't know. Nice Irish quote. I'd never heard that one. Words to live by. ** Wolf, I did do the dog thing in your absence, but I knew you'd find it, oh trepidatious one. And I'm glad I got a taste of your goo. You must be de-lagged by now, no? Ever been to Tarbes? It's next door to Lourdes. Hometown of Mr. Capedevielle. Not much of a place, from what I've seen. How about Poitiers? I hear it's not too bad. ** Scunnard, Hey. You're getting your UK? And it's no sweat, other than the dough extracting? I would imagine that, given France's almost religious belief in bureaucratical snafus, there's a lot to not look forward to on the Yury thing, but we will see. ** Allesfliesst, Glad you're feeling better, Kai. Learning how to sleep is a most noble cause. Hypnosis, why not? As I may have said before, I was and may still be a famously easy lay as far as hypnosis goes, and it did some pretty inexplicable shit with my memory, for instance, so I'm kind of pro that. Very sad news about Aaron Swartz, yeah. ** Chris Dankland, Hi, Chris. My weekend was okay, and yours? Interesting about Saunders' sales figures. Actually, my surprise is that a book of his sold that many copies. I'm not a huge expert on the sales figures thing, but my former agent Ira used to talk about the sales figures of literary fiction a lot, I guess because he handled a lot of literary writers. That most books sell less than 1000 and that 3000 to 6000 is the average or better than average for bigger lit. books makes sense and sounds about right to me, as does Tao's numbers, if we're talking about either the hardcover run of a book or the sales during the first year or three of the book's life. It's kind of quite shocking, no? And there's a lot of obfuscation on the part of publishers and sometimes the writers themselves to keep that lower number secret. The thing is that, with those sales figures, they don't count books that sell used or second hand or as remainders, and I think that's where a healthy number of a book's sales are, so the official numbers aren't really that telling ultimately. I mostly don't want to know and try not to know what the sales figures are on my books because it freaks me out, and I'm apparently an unusual case because my books keep selling pretty consistently over the years and stay in print, which is not very common, I guess, but I'm told that my books sell better, albeit over time, than the average literary book tends to, which pretty is weird because my books are very far from best sellers, let me tell you. I saw that guy's video review of 'TMS'. That made me so very happy, as you can imagine. Thank you for putting it on 'TH'. I hope you write that thing. It's a very interesting idea, topic. I agree with you very much about the way books effect people personally, and I think the power a book can share and create in that personal way very much compensates for its smaller reach in terms of numbers. I know I wouldn't trade that gift for a huger fan base or whatever. Yeah, I could go on, and I have elsewhere, about the intimate and cooperative and transformational relationship between a book and a reader. I hope you write that piece. I would be very excited to read your thoughts on that, and I think it would be a very useful and helpful p.o.v. to put out there in Alt Lit culture and beyond. Thank you, Chris. You're hugely inspiring, as always. ** Alan, Hey. Nice proverb. Yeah, I get the Emerson one, but, unless someone spouts quotations all the time, which can be really annoying, I do think it's interesting when people choose to quote rather than give something their own stamp 'cos you get the secondary mind's gift, and then you get the interesting decision by the quoter, i.e. why they might have chosen that one quote, why they chose to make their own thoughts subservient to it, etc. I don't know. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. I have this feeling that VG snuck in here and looked around over the weekend. Just a feeling. Travel advice: I prefer the Eurostar because it takes you right into the heart of Paris, but I don't know what happens to that preference if you have to add traveling from Scotland to the Eurostar's starting point. I do think the Eurostar, in itself, is much easier and cozier. Hotels: no problem, but tell me if there's an area of Paris where you would particularly like to stay, and if you want to give me some sense of your price range, that would help. Great about the Soundclouding of your DJ set! I'll listen once I get settled and netted-up again. Everyone, should you want a little something extra to add to or divert you from the Kevin Ayers concert, _B_A is your man with the plan. As he says, 'I put my DJ set from Friday's zine launch on SoundCloud, where it's now available for free download: Ben 'Jack Your Body' Robinson - The Outsider Mix. Outsider Music, Incredibly Strange Music or indeed anything outside the music industry. Anyway, it's my idea of fun.' Looking forward to it! ** Dungan, Hi, Sean! I did, I do, it's a total beauty. Risograph ... huh, I know what is. Cool. Oh, man, you got the famous, rampaging West Cast flu? Shit. Glad you're reassembling. Your comment was wholly cogent, if you weren't sure. I didn't know of that LK podcast, no, or about the NYT thing for that matter. Thanks a lot for those tips. I'll pursue them post-short-plane flight. Feel better and stay great, man. ** Sypha, Hands across the water, fellow quotee. Dude, yikes, about the Urgent Care thing, etc. I hope the input of the big A and the big S leave you fully enhanced. ** Jebus, Hi. The school angle thing might work, I don't know. Logically and theoretically, it has some sense about it. Knowing when the stew is ready, exactly. Some weird combination of boredom and good instincts necessary there or something. Thanks about my novel. I'm doing my darndest to make it work and finish it, and, well, to make it positively readable, of course. Stay warm. ** Bill P. in Chicago, Hi. Cool about the friends reconnection. Oh, that's okay about the sending work thing. Whenever you're ready and whenever you feel it could be helpful. But if your end of the week self-imposed deadline helps and works, yeah, happy to bear its fruits. I like the denseness of the sentences in that quote you shared. The way it slowed my eyes down and made them/me doing a complicated backtracking dance was cool. ** Bill, Hi, Bill. I haven't seen 'In the House' yet, no, but I hear good things, better than the usual recent Ozon-type good things. I saw your email with Butoh on the subject line in my box this morning, thank you! I'll get to that when I get my first downtime down south. Thanks! ** Thomas Moronic, Hi, T. Great Korine quote, yes. Very him and very sharp. A real boon. Thanks a lot for that, and I hope your day really counts. ** Okay. I'll go get ready for my trip now, and I will see you tomorrow, and, in the meantime, enjoy some of the strange and awesome fruits from the career in progress of the one and only Kevin Ayers.
Posted by Dennis Cooper at 12:01 AM