Susan Lomas has written a book about Kevin Ayers. It is not a biography, but the story of a sequence of events leading up to the Kevin Ayers memorial event that took place in Deia, Mallorca on the 16th August 2013. It also serves as a ‘Beginners Guide to Kevin Ayers’ too. The book is now available as a paperback on Amazon (see Kevin Ayers: August 16th 2013 Deià) and from time to time will be available as a free Kindle download.
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Peter Haines June 1st 1974. Portobello Road, London.
I was at the Rainbow Theatre on June 1st 1974 for that wonderful concert. I was 16, and travelled up from Bexhill-On-Sea where I lived. I remember it had been advertised in Melody Maker and I had sent off for a ticket immediately.
I had actually originally gone to see Eno (my hero from Roxy) and John Cale and Nico (my heroes from the Velvet Underground & Nico album) without knowing very much about Kevin. However, as soon as Kevin came on stage and the opening chords of “May I” started up with that amazing voice of his, I knew I was in for something very special – and that night has stayed with me forever. The beautiful solo by Ollie Halsall and the appearance of a young Mike Oldfield sealed the amazing night. The summer of 1974 was something I would never forget. I had left my Kent boarding school regime (early) and felt freedom for seemingly the first time ever. My special summer kicked off with this concert.
June 1st 1974, album cover
My parents had acquired a beautiful ruin in France to renovate, not too far from the Rhone Valley where Kevin had returned from [Ed: Montaulieu, Drôme] to do the concert , so I sort of identified with his France life and I indeed returned to the South of France shortly after the concert. I also decided that night that my future was in the music business, which it has been. Musically that whole period of the early 70’s was amazing. I did not discover until later that the concert had been released as a live album- my special time recorded for posterity. The sound on the album and the cover are superb and Kevin was elevated to a favourite artist and remains so until this day.
I loved Galen’s eulogy to him at Deia. It is very special indeed. He must have been so proud of Galen and his wonderful daughters and family. Through my life at Universal Music, then EMI records and later Warner, I came into contact with many celebrities, but never Kevin. I really do wish I would have had the good fortune to meet him.
Typically when one thinks of Kevin Ayers it’s places like Canterbury, Mallorca or the south of France which come to mind. So did you know about the Belgian connection? Kevin regularly visited Belgium and played many gigs and festivals there. The Starvin Marvin Band, who come from Belgium, toured with Kevin Ayers as his backing band on a number of occasions in the 1990s and early 2000s. Members of the band are: Marvin Siau, vocal & guitar; Alain Berthe, guitar; Patrick De Neve, bass; Ludo Huyghe, drums.
I recently asked Marvin Siau about his friendship and working relationship with Kevin. Here are Marvin’s answers, mostly just as he wrote them:
SJL: When did you first become aware of Kevin’s music?
MS: Think I was aware as a teenager of Caribbean moon on the radio when it was released. But girl friends kept showing me the album’s of this beautiful blond adonis in the mid 70’s, and I noticed all these incredible musicians who played with him, specially Steve Hillage. The first album I got to know really well was during the punk age, yes we have no mananas, think blue really stunned me, Ollie’s solo, and than the choir almost sounding like blau in German, blauw (blow) in Dutch, hit!
Kevin and Marvin, early 1980s
SJL:When and where did you first meet Kevin?
MS: I was at the annual biggest rock festival in Belgium called Torhout/Werchter in July 1980. Headlining were the Kinks, the Specials, Mink Deville, Fisher Z and of course Kevin. My sports in those days was sneakin’ in through the artist’s entrence and clearin’ as fast as possible a backstage pass from one of the artists. I presented myself as a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine, which after a while they all knew I wasn’t, but I think they liked my girl friend, Annie Partyka, who took some nice pictures. Kevin willingly handed me over his address in Déià, which was meant for Annie I guess, as well as Willy Deville invited me to come over and stay with him in Paris for a while, which I gladly did.
Marvin, Kevin and Ollie, Deia, circa 1981. Photo by Zanna Gregmar
SJL:Can you tell me about the time you spent in Deia at Kevin’s house? I already have the photo of the “Happening Combo” of course!
MS:You can write a book about that, I kept the turist pictures from the airport. The best one I remember, in the beginning I once arrived and Kevin handed me the keys of the house and his car and took of to the Caribbean, I sat there for 3 weeks alone in his house, and had the opportunity to sit upstairs in his studio and listen to any tape I liked, play, record, whatever! I sensed a very magical magnetism from the huge mountains behind the village at certain moments.
SJL: How about the writing and recording of ‘Another Rolling Stone’ (so beautiful I have to say!)
MS: First baptised “another time before” was part of the demo’s I send to Kevin in anticipation of what was going to be my first solo-album. The writing process is based on a strong déjà vù feel that I tried to describe one night. Trying to sense the heartache in some of us, which apparently was the breaking up of my band than I guess. Kevin always liked the song and 6 years later he rewrote my soft words and added one more verse to it, Ollie invented the intro & solo. I must admit that since that day I gained the greatest respect from Ollie, it broke the ice, I could retire.
SJL: Can you say some words about Ollie Halsall and also about the talented and vibrant Zanna Gregmar?
MS: 1 hour spent with Ollie would give me 3 months of playing pleasure, what he showed me would always open new sounds. When I first arrived in Deià Kevin was always glad to have someone around to play with, think I took advantage of Ollie’s absence being involved in other projects at the time. In ’82 I invited Ollie to play on my first single “Birdseeds”, which he did, on grand piano. Zanna was his musical partner in those days, always friendly, and I was very eager to hear what they all did in Madrid.
Kevin Ayers and the Starvin Marvin Band, Stonehenge, England. Early 2000s
SJL: How much can you remember about the UK tours (I think that’s 2000-3)?
MS: It started actually out in ’93, where I joined in on many acoustic evenings with Kevin, in Spain, France, Germany, Holland and the UK. Finally in ’99, I proposed him to let my band join in, and so it went. Many fab gigs, twice to Japan and 4 UK tours. The roadmovie shows a lot of that. It stopped just in time to save my liver!
SJL:How has Kevin’s music influenced you? Do you have any favourite songs or moments when you played live with him?
MS: He stopped me just in time to get hooked on the punk scene, for which I’m very glad he did. We had something in common, he liked my songs, and produced my first album. Later he would record one of my songs on Fallin Up, another rolling stone. He liked my remote place, and many time visited me to record some demo’s. I never expected to play with him, but after Ollie and Archie (Leggett) died he turned to me, probably because it never occures to me to take over on him and I knew how to play and direct most of his songs, I love them all!
A huge “Thank You Very Much” from KevinAyers.org to Marvin for sharing these memories with all of us. With thanks also to Ian Carpenter for access to his wonderful photo collection of Kevin Ayers memorabilia.
With thanks to Steve and the Canterbury Ayersians…
It begins with a toast and it ends with a …. hangover, well some jaded Canterbury pilgrims suffering from a lack of sleep. Six of us celebrated what would have been Kevin Ayers’ seventieth (‘Keventieth’ as coined by John) birthday last weekend in Canterbury, drinking some wine and having a good time.
We collected John and Anne-Marie on Friday off the Eurostar at St Pancreas (hic) Station and started toasting pretty much there and then. Dinner had a Canterbury flavour. First up, Curtis’ gazpacho recipe (thumbs up all round, Curtis). Kippers and salmon fish cakes followed (Alain Berthe of the Starvin Marvin Band tells a nice anecdote of when the band were touring in the north east of England and Kevin took them to Whitby early one morning to see the famous Dracula abbey and for traditionally smoked kippers. Smoked fish, breakfast, Frenchman, anathema). John is one of those po-faced (we liked that word over the weekend, it often preceded any mention of post-Wyatt Soft Machine) fusion freaks so we finished off with rhubarb and banana crumble.
After a shortish night we headed off down to Canterbury, where several Kentish ales were sampled as we waited, waited, wwwwaited for Paul and Claire, stuck on the Queen Elizabeth II bridge on their way down from Yorkshire. The sun was shining and the ales were good, no problem.
Proceedings were finally kicked off with an Ayers themed picnic in the grounds of the University of Kent, Steve Hillage’s alma mater, and not 200m from Tanglewood, the Hopper family home. There was champagne though no valium, smoked oysters without the flying fish, pa amb oli, smoked duck (Oh Wot A Dream), but best of all were some ‘fine de Claire’ specials: Caribbean Moon scotch eggs, Star-shaped pizzas and a wonderfully tasty ‘I’d Rather Go Fishing’ quiche. What imagination.
We somehow managed to stir ourselves and headed into town to see the sites. To Anne-Marie’s squeals of delight we got front seats on the top deck of the bus into Canterbury. First up The Lady Luck, formerly The Three Compasses, a pub Kevin, Robert Wyatt and Hugh Hopper had been ejected from for having long hair. We didn’t stay long either – a hen party had settled in around the bar. A quick look at the cathedral. Then the search was on for Stewy’ s stencil of Robert Wyatt, and The Beehive. A jet propelled search with no map and four improvising guides – we managed quite well without even one of those compasses. The stencil is in immaculate condition. Concerns that it might have been graffiti-ed over in the two years since it was sprayed onto the wall were allayed. Some things, it would appear, are sacrosanct to just about everyone. It stands right next to The Kudos Chinese restaurant, formerly The Beehive Club where the Wilde Flowers and early line-ups of Caravan and Soft Machine (Mr Head) had performed.
All thirsty work. Finding a pub in Canterbury is quite easy but Paul and Claire uncannily found us one with a beer garden, a free table and some very palatable Whitstable ale in less time than you could say ‘Turn The Lights Down’. Three rounds later, and via the off-license, it was back to the Halls of Residence at the University of Kent to listen to some music and drink some more wine. Had we been allowed to smoke, it would have been just like the old days for the former students amongst us – Another Saturday Night, as Paul quipped. Paul now opened up his Pandora’ s crate of Canterbury CDs, which he had astutely asked roadie Steve to lug across the car park and up three flights of stairs, and DJ’ed through most of the night. I can’t say I recall the running order or even the playlist, but certainly The Wilde Flowers got us under way with their version of You Really Got Me, recorded not 200m away at Tanglewood. As Paul pointed out; exactly 50 years previously (summer of 1964)*. This is quite likely to be the earliest recording that Kevin features on and which was, of course, to morph into the celebrated We Did It Again. Some Caravan (In The Land Of Grey And Pink) followed (the golf course was within range), some Gong (from You), Daevid Allen (Wiseman In Your Heart), Robert Wyatt (all of Rock Bottom, as I recall), some Pierre Moerlen playing with Mike Oldfield, plenty of Kevin (though I can now only recall That’s What We Did), and so on until almost dawn. There may have been What’s Rattlin’ or maybe we just talked about it **. Why were we so short of sunrise and singing a song in the morning? The bottles ran out.
Not everyone made it down to breakfast. A bleary-eyed Paul had us all in stitches: ‘It was a great weekend – until I woke up this morning.’ Simultaneously we all pictured a hand being pushed through a mop of unruly blond hair and a plum basso profondo replacing the northern accent.
Our man in Languedoc Roussillon, Eddie Castellan, sent us this message the other day. I mentioned a musician friend of Eddie’s who had met KA near Montolieu in my book ‘Kevin Ayers: August 16th 2013, Deià’. Eddie says…
Stf Delattre, bluesman
I met up with Stf (Steff) Delattre recently, the guy who played with KA. Stf, a French bluesman, was playing the 620 Club, a regular live music venue and restaurant at Fonties Cabardes about 9km from Montolieu. He said (in French): “I was setting up and this guy came over and asked to try one of my guitars. So he played a little and then he had to go and eat but maybe see you later. During the gig he came and joined me for four or five songs. I had no idea that it was Kevin Ayers. He was about 65 at the time and I didn’t recognise him. Afterwards Ivan, the restaurant owner, came over and said ‘did you realise who that was?’ I said no. Ivan said: ‘He comes in quite often to eat but he never ever plays.’
To our delight we managed to find some photographs of the club and the players! Many thanks to Eddie, Stf, Ivan, Christine, Club 620 and Les Chroniques de Carcassonne. And, of course, cheers to Kevin. It’s nice to know that he spent time amongst like-minded people in his later years in a beautiful place.
For me, this was the most poignant souvenir of Kevin’s visits to America in the 1990s and 2000. I could hardly breathe when I held this piece of paper in my hands for the first time. It’s Kevin’s flight details from May 1998. “Passenger’s name : AYERS, KEVIN MR”. It seemed to sum up the excitement and anticipation of any trip abroad, with the added frisson of live performances to come. Richard Derrick and his friends had invited Kevin to play a series of gigs in California; they organised venues, backing bands, transport and invited Kevin to stay in their own homes. This allowed Kevin, the wandering troubadour, to be himself. Seven songs from the concert on May 29th 1998 at The Gig, Los Angeles, appear on the ‘Alive in California‘ album, including a haunting version of ‘Ghost Train’ and a very jaunty ‘Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes’.
Having done a fair bit of research about Kevin’s attempts to break through to the American audience in the early 1980s, whilst I was gathering info for the re-release of ‘Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain‘, I can imagine how much Kevin relished the opportunity to finally perform his songs to appreciative audiences in California during the 1990s and September 2000. Thanks again to Richard Derrick for sending us such wonderful souvenirs.
I have been in communication with Richard Derrick for quite a while now, since April 1st 2014 to be exact. He even sent us one of the remaining CD copies of Kevin Ayers Alive in California too. Richard produced this album and also played bass on Kevin’s Californian tours. If you are lucky enough to have a copy of this album you will have heard the excellent bass playing by Richard and indeed the whole band.
Richard wrote me an email on June 28th saying,
“I finally went through all my memorabilia. Sorry it took so long, but it’s done now. I sent you all the newspaper clippings I had about Kevin’s California shows, including flyers, reviews and a cool photo from 2000. Rather than send copies, I sent the originals – this stuff has been sitting in a drawer for years, just taking up space, and I’d rather get to someone like you who will do something with it. It’ll probably arrive sometime late next week.”
Richard followed up with a quick email saying, “Before I sent you those clippings, I took one last look at them. I never noticed before, but when Kevin played at Thai Bistro in December 1993, jazz musician Roy Ayers was playing the same night across town. What’re the odds…?”.
Excited? Well I sure was! I replied, “…If you are happy to send us the stuff we are very happy to receive it! We will make sure that the stuff is well looked after and enjoyed by as many people as possible.”
Today the package arrived. How strange it felt to handle a CityBird letter with Kevins updated flight details from Brussels to Oakland/Los Angeles to Brussels. Other than start building a Kevin Ayers Museum the best thing we can do at the moment is slowly work through all the material, scan it and post it here. I’m sure there will be some interesting comments and memories from you all.
Thank you Richard, this really is an amazing collection of stuff.
If your countries Amazon is not listed here, you can search by the ASIN, just go to your Amazon and search for 1495220745.
August 16th, 2013: fans of Kevin Ayers gathered in Deià to celebrate Kevin’s life and music with his family and friends. In this book Susan Lomas captures the atmosphere of the celebration in words and pictures. The weekend in Deià also sparked a quest to find out more about Kevin by talking to to his friends and visiting other places where he lived.
“My aim in writing this short book is to capture a moment in time and to keep the creative spirit of Kevin Ayers in the hearts and minds of music lovers for years to come. It’s not a biography, but rather a starting point for anybody who wants to know a little more about Kevin Ayers, his music and Deià. I have included descriptions of my visits to Montaulieu and Montolieu too.
How can I sum up Kevin Ayers? A career spanning forty-five years, the first Soft Machine album, fifteen solo studio albums, sessions for the BBC, several official live albums and of course many more bootleg recordings. Dozens of singles releases and compilation albums with previously unreleased tracks as extras. If one counts ten songs on each solo album, even allowing for Kevin’s habit of re-working tunes, that’s way more than one hundred original songs in his repertoire. A charismatic live performer with a distinctive voice, which matured beautifully, like a fine red wine. Recording contracts with Harvest, Island and Virgin, to name a few companies.
If you simply took the lyrics of Kevin’s songs and published them as a book of poetry it would be an outstanding achievement, full of emotion, wit and wisdom. The fact that these ideas became songs and arrangements which inspired outstanding performances from his musical collaborators needs to be celebrated.
Why isn’t Kevin Ayers as well known as his friend and management company stable-mate from the 1970s, Sir Elton John? No disrespect to Elton, but Kevin wrote the lyrics AND dreamed up the music. I urge you to listen to Kevin’s songs, read his interviews and do what Kevin would want you to do… figure it out for yourself! If you have any time left over to read my little book then I would be delighted.”
Susan’s book is now available as a paperback with beautiful colour photographs and will be available in Kindle format later this week.
I was just about to write something for today, June 1st 2014, but John Wagland sent me an email that I am putting here, thanks John:
The fortieth anniversary of Ayers, Cale, Nico, Eno live album.
Today is the day that I raise a glass or two to Kevin Ayers, the greatest rock star ever in my opinion!
I was lucky enough to go to the Birmingham ACNE concert as I believe there were only four or five of these gigs around Britain in June 1974. As a Velvet Underground fan I had gone along to see Nico and John Cale (and when Cale was performing at his most extreme a woman behind me said “this doesn’t sound like the JJ Cale albums I have got ha ha) – I digress – Eno was also known to me from Roxy Music but I had never heard of Kevin Ayers.
It is fair to say that from the moment Kevin strolled onstage mid concert I was (what?)…entranced, smitten, amazed, overwhelmed, in awe, gobsmacked!…. Yes all those things. He took over the concert and commanded the stage as the best rock star ever; which is exactly what he is in my opinion. Great songs, superb lyrics, top voice, unbelievably handsome, cool…….what’s not to like? He could always assemble and direct the best musicians, especially bass and lead guitarists, to present his songs on record or live. Look at some of his lead guitarists – Ollie Halsall, Mike Oldfield, Steve Hillage, Cal Batchelor, Andy Summers – all superb!
Since then I have been to as many of Kevin’s concerts as I have been able to find which have been quite few and far between over the years (and no internet to advertise them – just relied on NME and local newspapers) and I have also been lucky enough to have met Kevin post gig a few times and he was always the most modest, genuine, affable guy you could ever wish to meet – despite me being a star struck and tongue tied fan – but I guess he was used to that!
And so, forty years later, Kevin is sadly no longer with us but his music and our memories are, and for that I am eternally grateful to him. Kevin has enhanced my life immeasurably, as he has touched many others, and he will continue to do so as his musical legacy is discovered by younger generations. This is helped, in no small way, by websites such as this so thank you Rick and Susan for making such a wonderful effort and writing some beautiful accounts of your travels – you have inspired me to make a similar pilgrimage.
I have rambled on far too much so I am off to play Kevin’s side of June 1st 1974, plus many other albums no doubt throughout the day – and I am lucky enough to have them all to choose from – a veritable cornucopia xx
From time to time we can let you know about any further discoveries we make about Kevin Ayers and his music. Just leave your email here and we will let you know. So far we have the 1976 John Peel Soft Machine special and the 2012 Mr Kyps, Poole, Dorset Bootleg for download. Wonderful stuff – just leave your email here and we will send it over right now.
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