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Kevin Ayers

A new book about Kevin Ayers

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.

If you would like to be notified when the free Kindle days are, just leave your email below and we will let you know. Thank You.

Small Faces & Kevin Ayers on Vinyl

Small Faces & Kevin Ayers on Vinyl

As if all the excitement about visiting Montaulieu and Montolieu wasn’t enough, when we returned home Rob Caiger, re-issue producer of ‘Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain’, had sent us a gift of vinyl. A veritable cornucopia of Small Faces albums, including the classic ‘Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake’ and various promotional singles which gave us a chance to look at the quality of the Charly label’s reissue products. Impressively heavy vinyl, a beautiful sound and immaculate packaging with excellent sleevenotes. What a joy to be able to experience retro vinyl in a pristine condition.

A quotation from the credits on ‘Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake’ reads thus – “This Collectors’ vinyl was cut by Matt Colton on a Neumann VMS 80 mastering lathe, recently recapped by Air Studios Technical Director Tim Vine Lott, with nothing else in the signal path between the source material and the lacquer”. Sends shivers up my anorak-clad spine just thinking about it! (For our non-English first language fans…that means I was very excited).

Then there was the small, but very quirky, white label test pressing single of ‘Champagne and Valium’ taken from the ‘Diamond Jack’ album. I believe that this is a rarity (two examples exist, we now have one!) because it has the “wrong” A side, ‘Howling Man’ instead of ‘My Speeding Heart’. Cheers Rob, and all the best with the final stages of the re-issue of ‘Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain’. Keep us posted…

In Kevin’s footsteps (Part 2)


Montolieu, Aude, France

Montolieu, Aude, France

So… on a warm Saturday morning we headed towards Montolieu, in the Languedoc Roussillon region of southern France. The village is situated about 20 km north-west of Carcassonne and near to the Parc National de Haut Languedoc. Having been to Montaulieu the day before, to see one of the mountain places of Kevin’s youth, it was with much heavier hearts that we set off from our friend Eddie’s house in Fa to visit Montolieu. As we approached the village from the south east the only possible soundtrack was Kevin’s wonderful last studio album ‘The Unfairground’. I probably should explain that I never met Kevin Ayers in person or even saw him perform live, although my husband Rick did, so Kevin always seems a few steps ahead of me, elusive, just out of reach.

Montolieu, April 2014

Montolieu, April 2014

The house in Montolieu was Kevin’s home for a number of years and sadly it was his last home, as he died there on February 18th 2013. People speak of Kevin leading a reclusive existence in the later years of his life, but there is a world of difference between living alone and being lonely. We asked Eddie, who is a guitarist, whether he had ever bumped into Kevin at gigs in the area and he said that he hadn’t personally, but one of his musician friends had. I rather hoped that Kevin had found a simple routine and a peacefulness that worked for him in this beautiful region of France. I really wanted to see the village built at the meeting point of two rivers, with its second hand bookshops, stunning scenery and great wine.

We arrived in Montolieu just before midday and followed the information signs which led us to the impressive church dedicated to St André. We parked the car and set off to explore on foot. We knew that Kevin’s house was near the Mairie (mayor’s office) and that his favourite restaurant was ‘Les Anges au Plafond’ (Angels on the Ceiling) but had no idea whether the house had been sold or if anybody was living there now.

Les Anges au Plafond, Montolieu

Les Anges au Plafond

We found the restaurant with its distinctive pale blue frontage. Here we met Teri, who was sitting on the low wall opposite the doorway, enjoying the sunshine before she started lunchtime service. We explained our mission and she confirmed that the house with a vase of flowers on the doorstep was indeed Kevin’s former home. The shutters were drawn on the ground floor of the tall, narrow, four storey town house.

When planning our trip to Montolieu I had imagined that I might feel emotional at this point. It was one of the missing pieces of the rather colourful jigsaw puzzle of Kevin’s life that I had been putting together since attending the Kevin Ayers Celebration in Deià in August 2013. As I said to Teri, it felt like the end of one thing and perhaps the beginning of something else. Maybe the midday sunshine and the presence of our two slightly hungry daughters kept the darkness at bay. Looking at the house we just felt that it was very important to be respectful of Kevin’s property. No hysterics… it wouldn’t be what he would have wanted. He lived there once, but now he was gone.

What we decided was that Kevin would very much have liked us to enjoy a good meal and a carafe of red wine at his favourite restaurant, having come all this way. Of course the food was lovely and the service was impeccable. We pointed out the white-painted, carved angels on the ceiling to our daughters. Rick and I found ourselves wondering whether visiting Kevin Ayers’s favourite places was a strange hobby and did our own children think we were slightly crazy?

As there were four of us we didn’t sit at Kevin’s usual small table, where a portrait photograph of him in the Languedoc landscape now hangs on the pale blue wall, a gift from his friend and manager, Timothy Shepherd. However a couple did come in and ask to sit there for their meal. Teri told us that Kevin used to eat at the restaurant five days out of seven, always arriving early, just before midday. She also added that for the last three years of his life he was “solitaire”. It was reassuring to think of the staff and customers at ‘Les Anges au Plafond’ being nearby to keep an eye on Kevin’s former home.

Between dessert and coffee I popped outside to take a few photos of Kevin’s house, the restaurant and the street. Our four year old daughter Rosalie followed me and began to dance and twirl around in the sunshine, moving as small children do, to music that only she could hear.

The bookshops were beckoning but our youngsters were restless so we decided to drive out of the village and find a leafy spot, hopefully near a gently flowing stretch of river where we could relax and they could run around. We had watched some interviews with Kevin filmed in such a setting. As we drove out of Montolieu in a north-westerly direction towards Saissac we crossed the bridge over the river. I looked behind me and saw the breathtaking view of Montolieu’s church and houses perched above the trees on the steep riverbank. This was a great place to take a few photographs.

Hearts and a Star

Hearts and a Star

We couldn’t quite find our leafy idyll along the Saissac road so we headed back to Montolieu and along the D64 towards the abbey at Villelongue instead. Here, on the other side of the road from the abbey, was a lovely little field where a shallow river flowed under a small bridge, where the trees had ivy growing up their sturdy trunks and the wild flowers were in bloom. Perfect. The children had predictably fallen asleep in the back of the car so I wandered down to the river and listened to nature’s music, the slow rushing of the river and the afternoon birdsong. Ever the romantic, I was pretty sure that Kevin would have appreciated a moment like this.

All too soon it was time to return to what most people call reality and we decided that our first visit to Montolieu was complete. I really hope to go back later this year when the fields are full of sunflowers so I can leave some on Kevin’s doorstep. I would like to explore the church and the bookshops too. Like so many of Kevin’s admirers I am inspired by his creativity, by the pictures he paints with words and music, charmed each time, just like the first time, by his unique voice. Meanwhile, back in Fa, we rounded off the day with a lovely meal cooked by our friend Eddie. The grown-ups spent the rest of the evening drinking wine (of course) and setting the world of rock’n’roll and books to rights.

Rosie outside Les Anges au Plafond

Afternoon sunshine, Montolieu

Two days later we were relaxing on the beautiful sandy beach at Estartit on the Costa Brava. The sun was shining, the sea was sparkling and a warm, gentle breeze blew across my skin. I suddenly thought of how much Kevin would have liked it and then the tears came. However, in the rock star manner of our wayward hero, I was wearing sunglasses so nobody noticed. But I think I caught up with him there, for a little while.

In Kevin’s footsteps (Part 1)

Montaulieu, not to be confused with Montolieu!

Montaulieu, not to be confused with Montolieu!


Last week we finally got the chance to visit two French villages which had been home to Kevin Ayers. The first is Montaulieu in the Drôme département, just off the D94 road near Nyons and the second is Montolieu, near Carcassonne, in the Aude departement, much further south in the Languedoc Roussillon region.

We first found out about Kevin’s association with Montaulieu ( the place/settlement on the mountain) from an obituary written by a friend of Kevin’s called Rhéa. Ben Benamou, the Soft Machine’s manager in France in the late 1960s, owned some land and properties in the village. Kevin’s friend Daevid Allen (The Soft Machine, Gong) bought a house from Ben Benamou and then later sold it to Kevin, probably around the mid 1970s. The house was referred to by many people as the “Gong House”.

As we live in Briançon (near the French/Italian border) we thought we’d take the cross country route via Nyons on our way down to the Pyrenees and eventually on to Spain.

The road to Montaulieu

The road to Montaulieu

The landscape around Montaulieu is stunning; many shades of green, hilly and mountainous. The D94 road weaves lazily through rocky gorges. It is wine producing country at its very best. ‘Vinsobres’ and various ‘Bouches du Rhône’ vintages hail from near here. We were listening to Kevin’s ‘Bananamour’ album as we drove along and then moved on to ‘Whatevershebringswesing’ as we took the steep winding road through the village of Curnier and continued up the mountainside to Montaulieu. The music seemed to suit the journey very well. I had a warm, excited feeling in the pit of my stomach, like a home-coming feeling.

The centre of the village of Montaulieu consists of a few stone houses built near the church and the mayor’s office. The rest of the dwellings are scattered around the mountainside. It was early afternoon when we arrived. The village square was pretty deserted except for a gentleman of a certain age who was putting some ‘chaux’ or whitewash on one of the buildings. By a splendid coincidence, and after a preliminary conversation in French, this turned out to be a very close friend of Kevin’s, called Nigel. It was an absolute pleasure to meet Nigel who had known Kevin and the other members of The Soft Machine since they were teenagers in Herne Bay and Canterbury. We offered Nigel our condolences for the loss of his friend.

It’s fair to say that Kevin and Nigel had a lot of fun and got into a few scrapes together over the years. As youngsters they used to hitch-hike through France, down to Barcelona and then take the ferry to Mallorca. Montaulieu became one of their stopping off points en route. Later on Kevin lived in the former “Gong House” with his companion, Kristen Tomassi. Their daughter, Galen, was born in a hospital nearby and Nigel told us that Montaulieu was her first home. He acquired the nickname “Uncle Beer” during babysitting sessions! Nigel also told us that the mayor of Montaulieu bought the “Gong House” from Kevin when he decided to sell it in the mid 1980s. I would have loved to take a look at the house itself but apparently it is quite dilapidated and of course it is private property. Simply visiting Montaulieu and having the good fortune to meet a close friend of Kevin’s was more than an ample reward for our efforts. I had suspected something a bit magical might happen that day in Montaulieu!

Next stop: Montolieu; the village of books, sadness, reflection and angels on the ceiling…

Ghost Train

Ghost Train appears on the excellent 1992 album ‘Still Life With Guitar’ and also on the rare 2004 live album ‘Kevin Ayers Alive in California‘. Whilst I was listening to the live album, I was emailing Richard Derrick to tell him how much I loved the track ‘Ghost Train’. He quickly replied,

“You do know that Ghost Train is about heroin, right?  Kevin asked me if I knew, and I didn’t, so he told me.  He said he was glad that it was so vague, because he liked the idea of the song meaning whatever the listener wanted.  I never would have guessed, but in retrospect, the line about “horses of smoke” is fairly obvious.  “Scratching myself,” “gathering the passengers and putting them down”… yeah, that’s heroin for you!”

I must admit I had no idea what the song was really about, so that came as a bit of a surprise. I just really liked the really neat guitar work and those eerie chords in the ‘shaking and a shuddering’ part.  I was pleased that Richard also mentioned what Kevin’s manager Jo Gielan thought about ‘Ghost Train’,

“After that gig in 1998, Jo Gielen told me that he rarely had the luxury of enjoying Kevin’s gigs, in the sense that he was so busy focusing on logistics, making sure the venues and bookers didn’t rip them off, etc.  But when we played Ghost Train, it was one of the few times he just closed his eyes for a few moments and relaxed and soaked in the music like the rest of the audience.  I thought that was a nice compliment!”

Ghost Train Lyrics

I’m sitting here picking the holes in my sneakers
Watching the moves of those Midnight Creepers.
There’s a smell of a song rustling through my head
Something about being somewhere else instead.

And the ghost train comes blowing on in — through this town;
Picking up the passengers — Then putting them down.
And the wind steals a leaf, Like the ghost of a thief,
And the autumnal wind blows around and around.

Oh those horses of smoke! — Sneaking in through the trees.
There’s a shaking and a shuddering that goes to my knees.
And I wonder what’s happening? Did I miss the joke?
Another year sleeping;
I never awoke.

There was plenty of war; And plenty of death.
Plenty of hunger and Wasting of breath.
And all I did was scratch myself and Dream a few dreams.
And I wrote a few notes on what I think it all means.

But reading them all now — They don’t amount to much.
There’s no meat to eat; No flesh to touch.
A few dreams of you — And a few fish to fry;
I just sat there watching
Another year go by.

Oh those horses of smoke! — Sneaking in through the trees.
There’s a shaking and a shuddering that goes to my knees.
And I wonder what’s happening? Did I miss the joke?
Another year sleeping;
I never awoke.

Richard Derrick and Kevin Ayers

Richard Derrick and Kevin Ayers a few hours before Kevin’s flight home after the 1998 US shows, in Richard’s back yard, San Pedro, California.

We had an email on the 1st April 2014 from Richard Derrick from Los Angeles, that was no April Fool’s joke. In his email Richard said,

“You had posted on the music forum I frequent, on an Ayers thread last year. I organized and financed Kevin’s California mini-tours in 1998 and 2000, and also played bass at at Los Angeles shows. Kevin stayed with us, and as you well know, he was a very nice person. I will cherish those memories forever.”

It’s always great when someone who has met Kevin gets in touch but the email gets more interesting,

“The reason I’m writing is because I produced and released a live CD in 2004 entitled “Alive In California” from the highlights of these shows (plus two songs from one of his 1993 solo shows in L.A. – I produced those concerts as well).”

Richard, Kevin, my mom Ofelia, Jo Gielen's wife Josie, Jo

Richard, Kevin, Richard’s mom Ofelia, Jo Gielen’s wife Josie, Jo

Richard’s CD is now out of print although there may still be a few stray copies of the Ayers album on Amazon and other distributors, but once those are gone, there will be no more copies to replace them. Richard’s label, Box-O-Plenty was shut down in 2011 and he can’t legally sell it anymore, which is why we need help to keep this valuable recording alive!

Richard has tried contacting various people who he thought might be interested in re-issuing this album, but has so far drawn a blank. This is a real shame as it such a precious set of recordings.

If you know of anyone interested in licensing or buying this release, feel free to put them in contact with Richard and myself at KevinAyers.ORG. The album is 66 minutes long, which makes it the perfect length for a two-record LP issue.

Richard very kindly sent one of his remaining copies to us to listen to and it really is quite incredible – you can read more about it the albums section: Kevin Ayers Alive in California.

Richard’s email was very touching in many ways, and he concluded it in a beautiful way,

“Thanks for keeping Kevin’s music out there. I am sad that he is no longer here, and I’m sure his family is even sadder … his spirit remains through his great art.”

Take care,
Richard Derrick
Los Angeles, California.

Diamond Jack, White Label Test Pressing

Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain - White Label

Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain – a white label having its first spin today!

Today is my birthday and in my letterbox there was something rather special. I didn’t realise that you can actually get a 12″ record into a standard size French post box, but you can. This was the test pressing of the Diamond Jack and The Queen of Pain re-issue by Kevin Ayers. There are only four of these in existence so I felt very honoured to have been sent one by Rob Caiger who is the re-issue producer of the record.

Last week Rob sent me the ‘flat’ .wav files that came straight from the masters, I burnt them to a CDR and had a listen. I wasn’t massively impressed to be honest, it was like no other Kevin Ayers album I had ever heard…a bit, errm, well 1983! Anyway it was enough for me to hear, so I could write a few paragraphs and send them to Rob. Hopefully my thoughts will end up on the sleeve notes in the final artwork.

It probably didn’t help that I didn’t put the tracks on the CD in the correct order. I really believe that you should always listen to the tracks of an album in the order they are meant to be in. I can’t be doing with all that randomizing and shuffling, it’s just an insult to the artist when they have probably agonized over the running order of an album. This was always one problem I always had with CDs – my favourite track on most of my favourite albums always tended to be the first track on side two, so where is that on a CD? The usual pattern with vinyl is that side one blows your mind and leaves you wanting more, so you wander over to the turntable and put on side two which is always a surprise and sets the scene for your journey across side two.

As the record was a white label we didn’t know which was side one or two, so we accidently put on side two first. At the moment this is my favourite track – odd that isn’t it?  ‘Stepping Out’ you will probably know from the 1986 album ‘As Close As You Think’ and maybe even the single taken from that album. It was weird, both Susan and I know the album ‘As Close As You Think’ very well and we had heard the Diamond Jack version last week, but really we didn’t recognise it straightaway. Rob has done a great job with the remastering of this album. I think he’s fiddled with the EQ a bit maybe done some stuff with aural exciters and stuff like that – it’s subtle but it has made a difference.  It is also worth noting that the original .wavs didn’t really have proper ends to them, but now they do. The best thing about this album though is Kevin’s voice. Playing a brand new bit of vinyl in our living room and terrace was lovely, I know us old farts bang on about vinyl, but it really does sound ace and Kevin’s voice sounds spot on.

I know this album won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s here – it’s certainly an unusual album, but I’m looking forward to hearing it again. If it wasn’t so late and my daughters weren’t in bed I’d put it on right now.

Something In Between?

Kevin Ayers with Mike Oldfield at Sa Fonda, Deia, Mallorca

Kevin Ayers with Mike Oldfield at Sa Fonda, Deia, Mallorca (MallorcaObserved.com)

Since his official releases from 83-88 (“Diamond Jack”, “As Close as You Think”, “Falling Up”), were based on computerized/synthesised sounds, the production often seemed to be at odds with the warmth of Mr Ayers’ vocals and songwriting. In a 2007 radio interview he spoke of wishing to revisit those records – perhaps with a view to replacing the computerised clanking with real instruments?

However during his Spanish period of the early 1980s he actually did make a certain amount of music that featured real musicians (most crucially, real drums). One wonders if any record company has considered doing a Kevin Ayers CD covering this era?  If the material can be located, perhaps a label – or even an ad hoc group of his fans – might consider coming together to facilitate its release.

The “Deia Vu” album gives us some of this music; there must have been other material recorded around that period:

  • The “Animals”/ “Don’t Fall In Love With Me” single has never been reissued.
  • On the DVD of his Spanish Television appearance from 1981 you can hear him performing a vocal for “Howling man” over backing tracks featuring real drums. Perhaps this is the same version which appeared on a TV show soundtrack, per IMDB: “Memòries de la tele” (TV Series), episode #1.10 (2007) … (performer: “Howling Man”?
  • From time to time, live performances of unreleased songs or songs that were only released with midi instruments turn up online.  Which makes one wonder what audio recordings might still be extant…

Years after Tiny Tim died, a fan-compiled “Lost and Found” record of unissued material was issued.  Surely if a survey of the studio owners, engineers and musicians who worked with Kevin Ayers were undertaken, some of them must have held on to recordings of various sessions and gigs?  How cool it would be if a new/old Kevin Ayers release were to result!

Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain is to be reissued

Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain is to be reissued

Yesterday I spoke to Rob Caiger about the reissue of ‘Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain’. He is on a short deadline and needs our help. Please read the message that he asked me to circulate.

Hi Rick, I am the reissue producer for the remaster of Kevin Ayers’ 1983 album ‘Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain’. What we are doing is reissuing this at the best possible quality and if I can, create something where the fans worldwide can obtain the album direct together with a limited edition facsimile copy of the 7-inch single which will be exclusive to them. The best way I feel we can do that is via your excellent website and Facebook page.

The album has been out of print for over 30 years and has never been reissued on CD. As a fan of Kevin’s work, I know this period was a difficult time and information on the recording and songwriting is almost non-existant. But as a fan, I want to make this release the best it can possibly be because quite frankly, Kevin deserves it! He touched and influenced people on many different levels and I feel as a record company, we also have to do something different and more than just reissue the album.

Therefore, what I would like to do is invite fans and friends to contribute to the album, be it in appreciation of Kevin’s talents, his inspiration, or whether they have any memories of Kevin during the period of recording and promotion, any photographs or memorabilia, press reviews – anything! Any memories of Kevin’s long-term collaborator Olli Halsall would also be welcome.

So far we have just completed remastering the CD with Nick Robbins at Soundmastering Ltd. while the 180gm vinyl audiophile album has been cut directly from the original Audiofilm Studios analogue master tape by Matt Colton at Alchemy Studios.

The CD will be issued as a hardback mediabook edition and contributions from the fans will be included with full credit while the LP will have a newly designed inner sleeve featuring the contributions. And I have two weeks to pull it all together so if you could spread the word, I’d appreciate it!

Best regards – Rob Caiger

Please comment below or use the contact form to pass any information you can onto Rob.

Getting a bit dreamy

Getting a bit dreamy, in Poole, Dorset 2002

About a month ago we received a comment from Terry Collins from Jakarta, Indonesia. He said “I have a recording of Kevin playing at Mr. Kyps in Poole, Dorset on 25th October 2002″ – excited? Oh yes! This must be one of the most recent full recordings of a Kevin Ayers gig there is. There is a zip file you can download which contains 16 audio tracks, a Word document which explains how it came about and a front and back cover, if you choose to make your own CD. Here is a portion from the Word document:

” I live in Jakarta but noted this gig was taking place in the town to which a former colleague, co-author and still (2014) very good friend had moved back to. At my suggestion, he went, knowing little about Kevin. With his pocket super-duper Sony Walkman – I really don’t know the technicalities – my friend recorded the evening, and the quality is better than many other ‘bootlegs’ I’ve heard.


  1. Feeling This Way
  2. Too Old To Die Young
  3. Mr. Cool
  4. When Your Parents Go To Sleep
  5. There Goes Johnny
  6. Lady Rachel
  7. I’m A Super Salesman
  8. See You Later – Didn’t Feel Lonely
  9. Some People’s Everytime…Blues
  10. Star
  11. Whatevershebringswesing
  12. Shouting In A Bucket Blues
  13. I Don’t Depend On You
  14. May I
  15. Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes
  16. Thank You Very Much

On the carefully worded CD cover there is some great stuff, check this:

…I went to see The Kevin Ayers Band at Mr Kyps in Poole the other night and I was totally impressed by the combination of an audience completely at ease to be delighted and a group of sensitive and professional performers who evoked between them an unusually intoxicating atmosphere. Or hundreds of them. It seemed that we were all congratulating one another for having arrived this far. So many memorable moments, but ‘Star’ was perhaps the song that moved me the most. I’d never heard it before….I do know that I have hardly met anyone who, once introduced to Kevin’s music, does not like it. My experience at Mr Kyps the other night was certainly one of the beneficient highs of my life.
Tishulananda Paul Mc Mullen – And thank you for reading this !

I’ve listened to this quite a few times and it is really great. This is from the 2002 tour that Kevin did with his Belgian band which included Marvin Siau. If you leave your email in any of the ‘get updates’ boxes on this site we will send the download over to you straightaway. Please comment below, it all helps.

Kevin Ayers in Belgium

The wife Susan found this on YouTube today, I’d not seen it before. It is from a Belgian TV show, the YouTube description just says, “In 1975, the belgian pop-music tv program “Tienerklanken” (Teen Voices) deidicates an entire episode to Kevin Ayers. He explains to a radio reporter that music from the north is “squared”, while that from the south is more “rounded”. There is another link in the description saying ‘click here to see the entire show’ but at the moment it is just returning a page not found, or rather, “Pagina niet gevonden”, it’s a real shame it is not gevonden, I would have loved to have seen the whole thing.