A Short Bio:
It was over thirty-five years ago that Pye Hastings formed Caravan, at the beginning of 1968, and apart from a few minor guest contributions and solo endeavours, his only musical activity has been Caravan. The only survivor, with drummer Richard Coughlan, of an impressive series of line-up changes, Hastings can be said to have been the true creative force of the band. Undoubtedly, without his single-mindedness and determination to keep Caravan on the road, it would certainly have folded in the early 70's; when it did fold, ten years later, it was really down to the changes on the rock scene which left no room for a band like Caravan to exist.
Pye Hastings was born in 1947 in Taminavoulin, Banffshire, in Scotland. Hastings is of course a nickname (legend has it being a reference to him "liking his food hot"!), his real surname being Julian Frederick Gordon Hastings. The Hastings family moved from Scotland to Lydden in Kent when Hastings was ten years old. He subsequently attended Pilgrims Public School; in 1963, he left school after what was initially planned to be a short holiday extended to a full year travelling around Spain and Morocco! Back in Canterbury, he then went through a series of temporary jobs including being an insurance salesman.
At that point, Hastings started playing the guitar, having befriended Kevin Ayers who was at that time going out with his sister Jane. Armed with Kevin's guitar, he ended up sitting at rehearsals of the Wilde Flowers playing rhythm guitar, shortly after Richard Sinclair had left the position vacant. Eventually, he was offered to join and made his first appearance on stage with the band (or any band, actually) on June 24th, 1966, at a Radio London rock music contest held at the Dreamland Ballroom in Margate. This turned out to be Robert Wyatt's last gig with the Wilde Flowers before he left to form Soft Machine.
At that point, Hastings hadn't told anybody he could sing in addition to playing guitar. The opportunity to reveal his distinctive vocal talents came with Wyatt's departure. He became the Wilde Flowers' singer overnight, being given only a few days to learn all the words of the songs in the band's repertoire before the next gig. The Wilde Flowers carried on until the following Summer. Unfortunately, no recordings were made during this period as the band had dropped most of its original material in favour of covers.
After Brian Hopper called it a day, the remaining members of the Wilde Flowers - Hastings, Richard Coughlan, David Sinclair and bassist Dave Lawrence - stayed together in what was to become Caravan. Lawrence was of course replaced shortly by Richard Sinclair, now on bass and vocals. Hastings had the idea for the name Caravan (viewing the band as "a caravan of musical ideas"...) and wrote most of the band's material, with the exception of In The Land Of Grey And Pink (1971) and Cunning Stunts (1975) in which he only wrote one and two songs respectively.
Indeed, Hastings has always seen himself as a songwriter rather than a guitarist. "I'm more into a band playing together than performing as a soloist", he says. As a lyricist, he tends to be quite lazy and generally writes the words to his songs at the very last minute, sometimes even in the studio. Surprisingly, this has led to some very memorable songs (and a few less memorable ones) with enigmatic and sometimes "risqué" lyrics. Notable examples are "The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again", "Memory Lain, Hugh" and "Behind You".
During a pause in Caravan's activities in 1979, Hastings embarked on an aborted solo project which was eventually shelved when the band reformed later that year. Several tracks were recorded with members of the Gordon Giltrap Band and Jimmy Hastings, four of which later appeared on the Cool Water CD (1994). After Caravan's breakup in 1982, Hastings continued writing songs, but in spite of the band reforming in 1990-92, he didn't really think of recording them until 1994 when he was offered a solo deal by HTD Records. In the meantime, he'd founded his own plant hire company, immortalized in Richard Sinclair's song "Only The Brave".
While planning this project (with a working title of How Large Is Your Barge?), which was to be recorded both with ex-Caravan members and other musicians, Hastings took part in the disastrous Mirage tour of December 1994, alongside David Sinclair and Jimmy Hastings as well as former Camel members Peter Bardens and Andy Ward. He actually had a 'special guest' status, only playing on the Caravan numbers ("Nine Feet Underground", "For Richard" and a medley of various songs). A particularly bitter song, "Liar" (on Caravan's subsequent Battle Of Hastings album), is Hastings' testament to this infamous event.
By the Spring of 1995, Hastings' solo project had metamorphosed into a new Caravan album, The Battle Of Hastings, soon followed by another, All Over You, and the band's first British concerts in four years in the Autumn of 1996. Looking back on his career, Hastings regrets the fact that Caravan didn't become enormously successful, but agrees that the band's policy was not to chase commercial success but to balance the 'art' with the entertainment. He has always held to his musical beliefs and philosophy.
In 1999, Caravan released another album of re-recorded oldies, All Over You Too, although Hastings had mentioned plans for new material to be recorded, either by Caravan or in the guise of a solo album. Actually The Battle Of Hastings was originally planned as a solo album until someone suggested the idea of doing it with Caravan. The same has finally happened with the new project, and in 2003 a new Caravan album, The Unauthorised Breakfast Item, appeared.