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Kevin Ayers

From Academic Kids

Kevin Ayers (born August 16, 1944) is a British rock singer from Canterbury, England.

He was in the pioneering psychedelic progressive rock band Soft Machine in the late 1960s, and was closely associated with the Canterbury scene.

He has recorded a series of albums as a solo artist. Long resident in Spain, he returned to the United Kingdom in the mid-1990s. Now living in the South of France and still regularly touring across Europe, US and Japan with a Belgian backing band. In the past he worked together with Mike Oldfield, Andy Summers, Ollie Halsall and many other famous artists. More information can be found at his website (http://home.scarlet.be/~ping8683/contents.htm).

Ayers was the son of a British civil servant and spent much of his childhood in Malaysia. The tropical atmosphere and unpressured lifestyle had an impact on Ayers, and one of the frustrating and endearing aspects of Ayers' career is that every time he seemed on the point of success, he would take off for some sunny spot where good wine and good food were easily found.

Ayers returned to England at age 12, and in his early college years took up with the burgeoning musicians' scene in the Cambridge area. He was quickly drafted into the Wilde Flowers, a band that featured Robert Wyatt and Hugh Hopper as well as future members of Caravan. Ayers has stated in interviews that the primary reason he was asked to join was that he probably had the longest hair. However, this prompted him to start writing songs and singing.

The Wilde Flowers morphed into Soft Machine with the addition of keyboardist Mike Ratledge and guitarist Daevid Allen. Ayers switched to bass, and shared vocals with drummer Robert Wyatt. The contrast between Ayers' baritone and Wyatt's reedy tenor, plus the freewheeling mix of rock and jazz influences, made for a memorable new sound that caught on quickly in the psychedelic 60s. The band often shared stages (particularly at the UFO Club) with Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd.

After an exhausting and far too 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 ultimately resulted in the songs that would make up his first album, Joy of a Toy. The album was one of the first ones released on the fledgling Harvest label, along with Pink Floyd's releases. Joy of a Toy established Ayers as a force to watch, 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. Many of the songs on this album remain in Ayers' live sets. Ayers' old mates from Soft Machine backed him, with the addition of Rob Tait, sometime Gong drummer on some cuts.

A second album, Shooting at the Moon, followed not long after. For this album Ayers assembled a band that he called The Whole World, which featured a young man named Mike Oldfield on bass and occasional lead guitar duties. Again Ayers came up with a batch of engaging songs interspersed with avant-garde instrumentals and a heavy dose of whimsy.

One interesting product of the Shooting at the Moon sessions was the single, Singing a Song in the Morning, early recordings of which featured participation from Syd Barrett. It is unclear whether or not Barrett's contribution made it to the final mix; sources have it both ways. The song was not on Shooting at the Moon's original release but was finally added on the CD reissue.

The Whole World was reportedly an erratic band live, and Ayers was not cut out for life on the road touring. The band broke up after a short tour, with no hard feelings, as most of the musicians guested on Ayers' next album, Whatevershebringswesing, which is regarded as one of his classic albums.

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