One of itinerant drummer Robert Wyatt's many stops towards the end of his involvement with the Soft Machine. A free-jazz outfit, originating in 1963 and based around trumpeter Mal Dean and violinist Rab Spall (who had appeared on "Moon In June" on Soft's Third). Other members of what appears to have been a floating ensemble include Top Topham on guitar, Miriam Spall on vocals, Jim Mullen on double bass, Mick Brannan on alto sax and drummer Ken Hyder (after Wyatt's stint with the band). Immortalised by a Melody Maker article in September 1970 which also suggested that Spall and Dean had formed a band in the mid-Sixties in Oxford, which was called The Korean War and also featured Wyatt and Mike Ratledge. Amazing Band recorded an album, Roar, at London's Pathway Studios in June 1970, which remained in the vaults until it was finally released in 1997 by Future Music Records.
Dave Stewart : "What happened with Arzachel was this : we - the members of Egg, that is - knew a guy who had a demo studio in Gerrard Street, Soho. This chap, Peter Wicker, knew a foreign gentleman called Zack, who had a record label and was anxious to release some of this "psychedelic" music which was currently fashionable. We knew how to play this psychedelic stuff, having spent many happy hours at the Middle Earth Club listening to bands like Love Sculpture and Sam Gopal Dream. A deal was struck. We were to record an album in an afternoon - hey, no problem! - in exchange for a pitifully small amount of money that, at the time, seemed enormous. As we had just signed an exclusive deal with Decca, we thought it would be advisable to use a different name, so we settled on "Arzachel", the name of a crater on the moon that Mont spotted on an astrological poster on the wall of his toilets. We also called in our old mate Steve Hillage to play guitar, sing and generally make things even more psychedelic. We rehearsed for a day, then whipped out the album in about eight hours. On side 2, most of the stuff was improvised, and we ended up banging away on a final chord for about five minutes, all of us watching the hands of the studio clock. As soon as it reached quarter past, we knew we'd recorded enough material for an album, and brought the piece - entitled "Metempsychosis", yeah! - to a merciful halt...".
In the weeks following being refused re-entry to Britain in September 1967, Daevid Allen started playing gigs with various musicians and artists under the collective name Gong, at a Paris club called La Vieille Grille. Early in 1968, he met experimental film director Jérôme Laperrousaz and told him he was looking for musicians to form a band. The latter forwarded the request to a local band called Expression, whose lead guitarist had just left. The rhythm section, consisting of Patrick Fontaine (bass) and Marc Blanc (drums), was recruited and played its first gig with Allen only a few days later, still under the name of Expression. The set consisted of two Soft Machine numbers, "Why Are We Sleeping?" and "We Did It Again", mixed with spontaneous improvisations. They subsequently took the name of Bananamoon.
Then came May '68 and the student riots in Paris. Daevid Allen was forced to leave Paris with his partner Gilli Smyth. The group reunited in July at the Avignon festival, opening for the jazz group of vibraphonist Gunter Hampel. This was followed by a few gigs. Then they embarked for Mallorca, staying at Allen's house in Deya. At the end of the year they returned to France, spending the Winter at Bob Bénamou's ashram in Monteaulieu, near Nyons (Drôme). It was during this period that the trio recorded several demos for the Barclay label. This led to nothing, however, and the three members went their separate ways : Allen resurrected the Gong project, while Fontaine and Blanc went back to Paris to form Ame Son (in 1974, he opened for Gong on a French tour when playing in the band of English vibraphonist Robert Wood). Their recordings survived, however, and thanks to the efforts of longtime fan Thierry Leroy (who had financed Gong's 1992 comeback album Shapeshifter), were released on CD in 1993 under the title Je Ne Fum' Pas Des Bananes.
Caravan Of Dreams
Following well-received gig by the reformed Caravan in 1990, Richard Sinclair decided to form a band to play his own material. After the shortlived Going Going, which only played a handful of gigs, he launched Caravan Of Dreams in the Spring of 1991. The earliest incarnation was a trio of Sinclair on bass and vocals, Mark Hewins on guitar and Andy Ward on drums (all three had been in Going Going), which played two festival gigs : Jailbreak'91 (with Asward and Squeeze) and the Kingston Green festival. Too busy with his own projects, Hewins was then replaced by Rick Biddulph on bass while Sinclair moved to guitar. The trio of Sinclair, Biddulph and Ward formed the core of Caravan Of Dreams until it ground to a halt in 1993, and was sometimes augmented by David Sinclair on keyboards and Jimmy Hastings on saxophones and flute. In April 1992, Richard Sinclair released the album Caravan Of Dreams (Biddulph was only on the live tracks as Sinclair handled both guitar and bass parts on the studio tracks) and in March 1993 a double live CD, An Evening Of Magic, was recorded in Italy.
In the Autumn of 1993, Sinclair toured with a most unusual line-up (strangely billed as Richard Sinclair's Caravan) featuring him on guitar and bass, and both Andy Ward and Dave Cohen on drums (Hugh Hopper was due to join them but couldn't make it in the end, playing only on the first gig of the tour), and started recording the RSVP album, which marked the end of the Caravan Of Dreams project. The trio was however reformed briefly when both Ward and Biddulph joined Sinclair for an encore ("Plan It Earth") at London's Samuel Beckett bar on June 11th, 1994, which celebrated the release of RSVP.
Making its live debut at London's Lyceum on November 15th, 1970, Centipede was a 50-piece orchestra led by pianist Keith Tippett that brought together musicians from several British progressive rock, jazz-rock and avant-garde jazz ensembles, such as Soft Machine (Robert Wyatt, Elton Dean, Nick Evans, Mark Charig), Nucleus (Karl Jenkins, Ian Carr, Brian Smith, Jeff Clyne, Roy Babbington, Bryan Spring, John Marshall) and King Crimson (Robert Fripp, Peter Sinfield, Ian McDonald, Boz Burrell), as well as classical musicians from the London School of Music, in order to perform an extended "composition" (in fact largely improvised around a predetermined concept), Septober Energy, on which he had been working for several months. Centipede subsequently toured France (two memorable performances at Bordeaux's Alhambra Theatre) in November 1970, recorded a double-album (produced by Robert Fripp) in June 1971, which was released a week prior to another live performance, this time at the Royal Albert Hall, in October, with a slimmed-down line-up. A further concert at the Rainbow Theatre in December 1971 was the last one, until Centipede reformed in October 1975 (with a line-up that included David Cross among others) for a couple of performances at French jazz festivals.
Coxhill Sinclair Band
This shortlived quintet was assembled for just one gig at the Reims Jazz Festival (France) on November 21st, 1975 [an event spreading over a week; also on the bill were Soft Machine, Terry Riley and Ornette Coleman]. Apart from Lol Coxhill (ex-Delivery, Kevin Ayers & The Whole World) on saxophone and Richard Sinclair (ex-Caravan and Hatfield & the North) on bass, members were Dave Arbus on violin (ex-East Of Eden), Dave MacRae on keyboards (ex-Matching Mole and Nucleus) and Phil Howard on drums (ex-Soft Machine). A 52-minute tape of the gig is in circulation among bootleggers. The gig was reviewed in the January 1976 issue of Rock & Folk : "In spite of the prestigious line-up assembled here, the public seemed largely unconcerned. Only a handful of people attended their performance, which consisted of largely improvised music, a sort of progressive jazz-rock played in a typically British way" [note: the reviewer mistook MacRae for David Sinclair]
Originally named Brunos Blues Band, this was the first band to feature Phil Miller on guitar and Pip Pyle on drums, along with Phil's brother Steve Miller on keyboards and vocals, Lol Coxhill on saxophone and Roy Babbington on bass (replacing founding member Jack Monck). In 1969, after two years gigging around London, they teamed up with singer Carol Grimes, and the following year recorded the album Fools Meeting for B&C (reissued in 1999 by the American label Cuneiform, with bonus tracks). In January 1971, Pip Pyle left and was replaced by Laurie Allan. Delivery broke up soon after and metamorphosed into DC & The MB's (Dyble-Coxhill & The Miller Brothers), with Judy Dyble (ex-Fairport Convention) on vocals, a largely improvisational line-up which toured Holland in May 1971. In August 1972, Steve Miller resurrected Delivery with a line-up of himself, his brother Phil, Pip Pyle and Richard Sinclair on bass, which resulted in a couple of tracks on the Coxhill-Miller album released the following year. When the latter three musicians went on to form Hatfield and the North, yet another (final) version of Delivery was assembled by Steve Miller, this time with the returning Lol Coxhill, Roy Babbington and Laurie Allan, but Babbington then joined Soft Machine and Miller and Coxhill carried on as a duo, with occasional participation from Allan. Delivery was resurrected for a one-off gig at London's Vortex jazz bar on June 29th, 1998 (with a line-up of Steve Miller, Phil Miller, Lol Coxhill, Pip Pyle, Carol Grimes and Fred Baker); this was a benefit for Steve Miller, who sadly died of cancer six months later.
The precursor to Caravan Of Dreams, this shortlived line-up united Hugh Hopper and Richard Sinclair for the first time since 1965 in the Wilde Flowers, and seven years after the pair had recorded their Somewhere In France album (which received a belated release in 1996). The group was completed by Mark Hewins (guitar-synth), Andy Ward (drums) and Vince Clarke (percussion, first two gigs only). "We almost persuaded Kevin Ayers to join in, but he was busy with recording work". The quintet made its debut (as Hugh Hopper & Friends) at the annual Canterbury festival on June 10th, 1990. This was followed by three further performances : Folkestone (Metronome) on October 13th, Brixton (Fridge) on October 14th (opening for GongMaison) and London (Sir George Robey, Finsbury Park) on November 24th. As for the choice of Going Going as a name : "We were supporting Gong, so we wondered how should we call ourselves... Going, going... GONG!". The repertoire on these one-hour gigs was as follows : "Where But For Caravan Would I", "In The Land Of Grey And Pink", "Keep On Caring", "Led It Lay" (a Mark Hewins instrumental), "We Did It Again", "Miniluv", "Going For A Song" and "Hope For Happiness". Eventually, Richard Sinclair started working on a solo project, which evolved into Caravan Of Dreams in mid-1991 - with an original trio line-up of Sinclair, Hewins and Ward, which sadly meant the end of Going Going.
Gowen Miller Sinclair Tomkins
Although credited collectively to its four participants, Before A Word Is Said was keyboardist Alan Gowen's project which he invited Phil Miller (guitar), and later Richard Sinclair (bass/vocals) and Trevor Tomkins (drums) to participate in and contribute to. Gowen and Miller had already played together in National Health (1975-77 and 1979-80), Sinclair had briefly been a member of Gowen's previous band Gilgamesh in the early stages of that band's existence, and Tomkins had been Gilgamesh's drummer on its second album, Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into (1978).
Phil Miller, in the liner notes for the album's CD reissue in 1995 : "Alan and I had already spoken about making an album together, and in April 1981 we recorded Before A Word is Said with the excellent rhythm section of Richard and Trevor, a neat echo of our original Gilgamesh / Hatfield collaboration [in 1973]. The actual location for the recording was Alan's flat in South London, scene of many rehearsals for all the various line-ups of Gilgamesh and National Health down the years. For this project, the band played in the back bedroom, while the engineer, Pete Ball, set up his equipment in Alan's music room, nobly battling and finally conquering the domestic acoustics... The album was recorded when Alan was extremely ill with leukaemia and the effects of chemotherapy. It is a testament to his stoicism, and to his love of music, that he could even contemplate embarking on a recording project, let alone embue it with a combination of relaxed enjoyment and steely determination. Implicit in the title is the idea that here was a man composing his own musical epitaph, a sad thought, but Alan would have been quick to discourage such sadness".
Asked for his opinion on the music, Miller adds : "I like the tracks "Before A Word Is Said", "Reflexes In The Margin" and "Above And Below" - the others are not quite there. I enjoyed the endeavour of making music even if you have misgivings and anyway, being Alan's last music, it has a special feeling. Subsequently I was very involved in the preparation of Alan's music for the memorial album D.S. Al Coda".
Hugh Hopper & Friends
A generic term used for many pickup groups assembled by Hopper, which generally gained a "real" name along the way (for instance, Going Going and Short Wave). One that performed only once included Hugh Hopper on bass and synth, Rick Biddulph on guitar, vocals and bass and Pip Pyle on drums. Their only gig, at Canterbury's Christchurch College on October 7th 1984 (opening for the reformed Caravan), had Lol Coxhill sitting in on saxophone.
The Hugh Hopper Ensemble, a quartet featuring Mark Hewins on guitar, Johnny Oslo on keyboards and Marc Coker on drums, evolved from the third incarnation of Hewins' Music Doctors, and existed briefly in 1985 to try out some of Hopper's new tunes, and play at Elton Dean's benefit gig when he got hepatitis.
Hugh Hopper - Monster Band
This was the name of a live band Hugh Hopper assembled for a French tour in March 1974. Keyboard player Jean-Pierre Carolfi and bassist Jean-Pierre Weiller were both from the band Contrepoint (whose only recorded legacy is a track on the Puissance 13+2 sampler), with whom Hopper had played live repeatedly the previous year. The line-up was completed by saxophonists Elton Dean and Lol Coxhill, and drummers Mike Travis (Gilgamesh) and Laurie Allan (Gong). The Bordeaux gig on March 20th was recorded, and excerpts of it made up the second side of Hopper's Monster Band album, released in 1979. That night's line-up included Hopper, Carolfi, Weiller, Dean and Travis. After the tour, Carolfi and Weiller kept playing with Contrepoint until it finally split up in 1977. Weiller subsequently founded the Europa label which released Hopper-Gowen's Two Rainbows Daily, National Health's D.S. Al Coda, John Greaves' Accident and Parrot Fashions, and Gowen-Miller-Sinclair-Tomkins' Before A Word Is Said.
This band was the continuation of John Greaves and Peter Blegvad's Kew.Rhone. project from 1977. Five years later, the duo started work on a follow-up dealing with the subject of the free mason lodge. The writing process proved slower than expected, and eventually took five years. In the meantime, two songs had been used by John Greaves for his albums Accident (1982) and Parrot Fashions (1984) : "Milk" and "Swelling Valley" respectively. By the time the Smell Of A Friend album was recorded in July 1987 with funding from the Antilles label (distributed by Island), Greaves (bass, keyboards and vocals) and Blegvad (guitar and backing vocals) had been joined by the latter's brother Kristoffer (vocals), Jakko Jakszyk (guitar, flute and vocals) and Anton Fier (drums).
The results were surprising, if only for the fact that Peter Blegvad remained in the background, playing rhythm guitar and singing backing vocals, in spite of being a singer in his own right. Lead vocals were handled by Kristoffer Blegvad on four songs, John Greaves on two, Jakko Jakszyk on one, and Lisa Herman also on one (as well as playing piano) although she only had guest status. The album itself is a good album of intelligent pop; as Facelift wrote at the time, "a stylish progression for Peter Blegvad, away from the singer-songwriter-with-guests format of his solo albums and on into a band context... It is a project that settles just this side of the mainstream, and none of the sophisticated instrumental interplay or Blegvad's lyrical preoccupations could disguise a commercially appealing format, blessed with some superb vocals".
The Lodge didn't survive long after the album's release in 1988. Fier was replaced by Gavin Harrison, and Lyndon Collin was added on keyboards. The new line-up rehearsed for about a week, did a private warm-up gig in London, and crossed the Channel to play a concert at Paris' Bataclan. After that, the project somehow lost momentum. They did another gig at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, with Steve Franklin and Nic France replacing Collin and Harrison, but this didn't go down well, and Peter Blegvad was dissatisfied with the whole thing to the point that The Lodge was put to rest. There were reportedly plans for it to be resurrected by Greaves alone at some point, but it didn't materialise.
Mad Axe Quartet
Another shortlived project that only ever played one gig, at London's Bull & Gate on September 3rd, 1985. The line-up was Hugh Hopper on bass, Mark Hewins on guitar, Lol Coxhill on saxophone and Dave Sheen on drums. Described in Facelift as "typical of later Hugh Hopper bands : sound rhythmic base with room for all manners of diversions up above". A tape of the gig is in circulation among collectors.
In a press release, the band described their music as encompassing "anything from jazz through boogie and submarinian seasick blues and back to jazz; and let's not forget the outer reaches of astral possibility".
Setlist: "Miniluv", "Taniter Rescue Bid", "Mad Axe Disco", "Foak Ditti", "Everybody Solos", "Hondini", "See My Horse Troll", "Lol's Ctoon", "Half The Time", "Dooby Doo", "Well You Needn't", "Lula Blooz" and "Riot In Hell"
Continuing a long tradition of Canterbury 'supergroups', Mashu evolved out of a decade-long musical collaboration between Hugh Hopper and Mark Hewins, first officially documented on their duo release Adreamor (1995, Impetus Records), taken from recordings made at an improvised gig at London's Vortex Club in April 1994. With the arrival of former Gong percussionist Shyamal Maïtra, the idea of an improvising collective making extensive use of electric instruments and Midi technology was taken a step further. Mashu made its debut at London's Vortex Jazz Bar on February 26th, 1995.
The new concept was launched on an inaugural European tour in April 1995 (with guest appearances by saxists Elton Dean, Didier Malherbe and Frank van der Kooij) during which the contents of the subsequent (and so far only) Mashu album, Elephants In Your Head?, was recorded. Obviously the addition of India-born Maïtra to the original duo has added a totally new, exotic flavour to their music, although it is still based to a large extent on the sonic possibilities of Hewins' Midi guitar, with Hopper's bass and Maïtra's vast array of percussion providing a rock-solid rhythmic foundation.
Mashu's music is one that has to be listened to without prejudice. It is a journey that takes the listener through a wide variety of musical genres and atmospheres that defies classification. One minute it's jazz, the next one it's heavy rock, ethnic music or new-age... Transposing the original Canterbury spirit into the nineties' global music environment, Mashu break all musical barriers while retaining the unique qualities and instantly recognisable sound of all three instrumentalists.
The album was mastered in June 1996, but wasn't released until February 1997. In the meantime, a second tour took the trio back to Brussels, Paris and Bresse-sur-Grosne in November 1996, and further series of gigs were performed in November 1997 and April 1998. Since then, Mark Hewins and Shyamal Maïtra have continued without Hopper, in new partnerships involving - among others - singer Carol Grimes and bassist Keith Bailey.
Mirage was formed at the instigation of former Camel members Andy Ward (drums), who had the idea after seeing the London gig of Camel's 1992 European tour, and Peter Bardens (keyboards), who had met again in 1993 after almost fifteen years of not seeing each other, at a Caravan Of Dreams gig in California, where Bardens had settled back in the early 80's to start a successful solo career. Bardens brought along his guitar player Steve Adams, while Ward enlisted the help of his Caravan Of Dreams cohort Rick Biddulph on bass, after Richard Sinclair declined an offer to join, preferring to concentrate on his solo work.
It was then decided that former members of Caravan were also to be involved, thus the participation of David Sinclair and Jimmy Hastings. And, with a 'special guest' status, of Pye Hastings, who would only perform with the band on Caravan numbers. Rehearsals started in London in November 1994, and the following month a small tour of England and Holland was undertaken. Originally planned to be much larger, several of the planned dates fell through at the last minute. This and other details led to the former Caravan members quitting. Pye Hastings' controversial view of the whole story has since been expressed in the Caravan song "Liar" from The Battle Of Hastings.
Biddulph : "The original plan for Mirage was for one big 30-date tour as the Camel/Caravan collaboration, but due to booking difficulties this became five dates : Uden - De Nieuwe Pul (in Holland), Bristol - Colston Hall, Manchester - Apollo, London - Clapham Grand and Groningen - Martin Hal (Holland), supporting Fleetwood Mac, between December 11th and 17th, 1994. There was a plan to continue as a four-piece of Peter Bardens, Andy Ward, Steve Adams and myself but due to geographical difficulties - two in London, two in California - and other factors, it was not to be". As initially announced, a double CD recorded at the Manchester concert was eventually released, but plans for an album of new studio recordings indeed failed to materialize. In addition to the geographical difficulties, the hard financial losses resulting from the tour made it temporarily impossible for the band to work together.
A few months later, Bardens and Adams decided to form a new, entirely American-based, line-up of Mirage. In July 1995, a cover of "Many Too Many" was recorded for the Genesis tribute album Supper's Ready (on Magna Carta Records) by Bardens, Adams, new bassist Desha Dunnahoe (who also plays keyboards and flute, and sings) and drummer/vocalist Nick D'Virgilio from the progressive rock band Spock's Beard (also session and/or live drummer with Tears For Fears and Genesis). But for the new line-up's live debut the following September (at which point the live double CD was released), the drummer was Dave Cohen, who had played on Richard Sinclair's R.S.V.P. album and toured with him, as well as designing Mirage's official logo!
Yet another tour of Britain, Germany and Holland was undertaken the following Spring, to a much better critical reaction in comparison with the under-rehearsed debut "all-star" tour of 1994. This resulted in the original double live CD being deleted, and another one, recorded live at the Star Club in Oberhausen, Germany, in March 1996, being released on MirageMusic in February 1997. It contained a mix of Peter Bardens solo numbers and Camel classics such as "Lunar Sea", "Rhayader", "Skylines" or "Never Let Go". By then, firm plans were finally being made for a studio album of new material, as well as an Autumn 1997 tour of Europe, but following the cancellation of the latter, Mirage broke up, with Bardens resuming his solo career and Adams completing a long-promised solo album.
The Music Doctors
This was the name of Mark Hewins' bands throughout the 1980's. At that point, Hewins had left Canterbury to return to London, but the first line-ups of the Music Doctors still gigged there. The first line-up had Andy Ward on drums, Graham Flight (ex-Wilde Flowers, The Polite Force) on bass and Johnny Oslo on keyboards. Shortly after, Vince Clarke was added on percussion. After a three-year interval, a new line-up (which only lasted long enough to record "Half The Time" by Hopper/Hewins/Wyatt in London) was assembled in 1986, with Hewins and Oslo joined by Elton Dean and Hugh Hopper, the latter being 'replaced' by Lol Coxhill on soprano sax the following year, when the group recorded a radio session for BBC's Jazz Today programme (the four tracks of which - "Hugh's News", "Make It Soon", "Led It Lay" and "Not Yet" - are included on the first volume of Hewins' Canteresque Compilations). The final line-up of the Music Doctors was an entirely different affair, a trio of Hewins, Richard Sinclair on bass/vocals and Louis Moholo on drums, that played a season at London's Jazz Café in 1988.
North & South
According to Hugh Hopper, "This never existed as a group. That was the name I gave later to a demo [recorded at Oakwood Studio, Canterbury, on April 21st-22nd, 1984] of two songs of mine ("Iron Lady" and "Dr.Dance") which were played by Mike Travis, Rick Biddulph and me, with backing vocals on "Dr.Dance" by Amanda Parsons. "Iron Lady", was part of a satirical political musical play I was working on for the Scottish theatre group Wildcat. The play was never produced, but my friend Mike Travis who was one of Wildcat's actors/musicians, sang the lead vocals on the two songs". "Iron Lady" later appeared on the compilation CD Hugh Hopper And Odd Friends (1993, Voiceprint). In August 1995, North & South was revived for two gigs in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, with a line-up that again included Hugh Hopper and Mike Travis, with newcomers P.Flush and S.Kettley.
A combination gathered around Geoff Leigh (saxophone & flute, ex-Mouse Proof, Henry Cow, Radar Favourites, Rag Doll, Red Balune, Kontakt Mikrofoon Orkest, The Black Sheep) and the other members of his band Random Bob, namely Tony Elridge and Assad Oberoi (percussion), Colin McClure (bass) and keyboardist Henk Weltevreden. The latter is well-known for organising many Dutch tours by Caravan, Gong, Hatfield and the North or National Health. Odd Job were augmented at times by Phil Miller and Hugh Hopper and toured Holland, Germany and Great Britain in the Spring of 1985. Odd Job, in the guise of Leigh, Oberoi, McClure and Miller, can be heard on two tracks of the album From Here To Drums by Geoff Leigh & Frank Wuyts.
Ottawa Music Company
This large rock orchestra led in 1971-72 by Dave Stewart and Chris Cutler has unfortunately left no recorded legacy of its two-year existence. Cutler : "Before I joined Henry Cow, I was looking for interesting people to work with. I met a lot of them, many who were musicians second and wanted to do something else for a living. I knew Egg very well in those days, and lived in a house with Steve Hillage and so on. I had the idea to make a kind of rock composers orchestra to play music by these people - because there were a lot of great composers with no performers to make their music live. There were about five composers I guess - Bill Phillips, Bob Chudley, Bob Bery, Anthony Marshall and Michael Hooper -, and these were mostly composers who weren't in groups and whose music wasn't being heard at all, and who have subsequently just vanished. It's a great shame. With Dave Stewart, I formed the group. The other members of Egg were involved, Steve Hillage too in Ottawa #1 [as well as flautist/guitarist Jeremy Baines] - but the point was the other, 'unknown' people - we were 26 people altogether - a pool of composers and players. I joined Henry Cow during this period, and the #2 Ottawa included Henry Cow. We played Robert Wyatt's "Moon In June" - as a tribute - and "Peaches En Regalia" and "Dali's Car" - for fun - but again the point was that we played the music of the members of the Ottawa Company. Not repeat, not so-called Canterbury stuff. There were few concerts, about seven gigs in all - they were big undertakings, a lot of rehearsal and a lot of musicians on stage. The idea of it was that a pool of musicians existed to play music that was composed ideally for them". The Ottawa Music Company was the first outlet to showcase Stewart's talents as composer and to assemble future Northettes Amanda Parsons, Barbara Gaskin and Ann Rosenthal (in the final line-up).
Although shortlived, this band made a dramatic impact during its existence (February-April 1973). In a nutshell, this was basically Gong without its leaders, Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth. Following major line-up changes in the band during the previous months, the couple wanted to take some time off and leave the instrumentalists rehearse together and get familiar with each others' styles. The idea proved particularly successful. Apart from Gong founder member Didier Malherbe on sax and flute, all the musicians were quite new to the band : Steve Hillage, on guitar and vocals, and Tim Blake, on vocals, harmonica and synths, had joined just in time for the Flying Teapot sessions in late 1972 (although Blake had been involved in earlier stages of Gong's career); Pierre Moerlen, a classically-trained percussionist, had arrived a few weeks later thanks to a chance meeting with Patrice Lemoine, a friend of the band's who later joined; and Mike Howlett, the last in a succession of temporary bassists, had just crossed the Channel to join the others in Voisines, the small village near Sens where Gong had set up its headquarters.
Until recently, nearly nobody had heard the music played by Paragong, except the lucky few who attended the group's low-key tour of French youth centres. This had led to much speculation as to whether these five musicians had actually invented the 'classic' Gong sound of Angels Egg and You without Allen's participation. With the release (by the Gong Appreciation Society) of, Paragong Live '73 (1995), a long-lost live tape recorded on that tour, this hypothesis has finally proven both true and exaggerated. Every musician involved in Gong's history, and this particular incarnation for sure, had a great influence of its musical development. Yet without Daevid Allen's impetus, original concepts and humour, it would never have had the impact it had on several generations of listeners.
People's Liberation Music
One of many bands that seem to periodically form on the fringe, attract one music press review and disappear without trace. By all accounts, People's Liberation Music (which existed between 1972 and 1978) was heavily political (socialist), their musical approach fused classical musicians with the likes of the late Cornelius Cardew, Laurie Baker, David Bedford, Vicky Silva, and the principal Canterbury link, one Pip Pyle.
The Polite Force
The Polite Force were a vital link in the 'lost' Canterbury scene of the late 70's. Ex-Gaye Perez Band members, guitarist Mark Hewins (who had moved from London to Canterbury specifically to play with the Canterbury scene musicians) and drummer Vince Clarke (who had also played in Back Door when living in the North of England)), joined forces with Graham Flight (originally a member of the Wilde Flowers in the 60's alongside Robert Wyatt and others!) on bass to play on Dave Sinclair's solo album Moon Over Man (only released 15 years later on the Voiceprint label) around 1976. While keeping busy playing with Richard Sinclair in various pickup bands, they joined sax player (and maths student) Max Metto to form Polite Force (the name of which was of course inspired by Egg's second album from 1970).
Between 1976 and 1978, the band gigged a lot locally (with guest appearances by the likes of Richard Sinclair, Geoffrey Richardson, Richard Coughlan and Jan Schelhaas of Caravan, Andy Latimer and Andy Ward of Camel, and Tony Coe), making its debut at the Kent University, and subsequently recorded a large body of material with various line-ups, all of which remained unreleased (apart from appearing on Hewins' Canteresque Compilation series) - until Voiceprint, who specialize in unearthing buried gems, selected the best of these recordings for a full-length CD release. The music is very much in the mould of late-period Soft Machine, with Dave Sinclair playing cool and complex jazz piano, while Mark Hewins' guitar work shows why he later went on to play alongside Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean in various projects and bands (including Soft Heap and Mashu) as well as being a founding member of Richard Sinclair's Caravan Of Dreams.
The name R.S.V.P. has been used by Richard Sinclair several times in his career for pickup live bands. Originally, the letters more or less stood for the name of the members. As a matter of fact, the original R.S.V.P. line-up (in 1977) consisted of Richard Sinclair on vocals and bass, Richard Folds on guitar, Perry White on keyboards and Vince Clarke on drums. It was with this band that Sinclair first performed songs like "Emily" or "Keep On Caring". In June 1994, Richard Sinclair released a solo album entitled R.S.V.P. and the group assembled that month to promote it was also called that. Again it included Sinclair on vocals and bass, Patrice Meyer on guitar, Didier Malherbe on saxophone and flute and Pip Pyle on drums. An alternate line-up for a gig at Paris' New Morning had Sinclair and Pyle teaming up with David Rees-Williams on piano and Tony Coe on clarinet (with Meyer and Malherbe sitting in for the encores). Sinclair's subsequent gigs in 1994-96 were solo affairs (or occasionally trio gigs with Coe and Rees-Williams), with one exception : at the Harlingen Canterbury Event in the Netherlands (September 1996), R.S.V.P. was resurrected with a line-up of Sinclair, Patrice Meyer, Tony Coe, David Rees-Williams and Dutch drummer Hans Waterman (ex-Solution).
Rapid Eye Movement
This band was formed by Dave Stewart in the summer of 1980 on returning from a US tour with Bill Bruford's group. Stewart was looking for an outlet to perform his own compositions, and assembled a quartet consisting of his former Hatfield and National Health colleague, drummer Pip Pyle, bassist Rick Biddulph (who had roadied for both bands) and newcomer Jakko Jakszyk (ex-The Long Hello & 64 Spoons) on guitar and vocals. Jakko : "We all met up in London... Amazing, really, because it was only a few years earlier that I'd been at school, dreaming about something like that and singing along to Hatfield and the North songs, and next thing I know we're touring Europe and I'm actually singing and playing guitar on those very songs. At the first few gigs, we did a couple of Hatfield songs... I don't know how long it lasted to be honest, it felt like it lasted forever... It probably didn't, it probably lasted less than a year, but because it was such a significant thing for me, my memory is much more clouded... It always had a temporary feel to it somehow - it was a good idea to come together at that time, but it was also obvious that Pip was somewhere else from Dave : musically they weren't the kindred spirits they once were...".
Rick Biddulph : "Rapid Eye Movement was a very exciting band to be in. Against the backdrop of the New Romantic bands that were in the heigh of fashion, the composing blend of Jakko's pop, Pip's hatfieldesque tunes and Dave's explorations in both areas that are so distinctive, matched the technological developments - Dave's Prophet V synth and Pip's Simmons drums (many in the audience couldn't work out where these explosive sounds were coming from)... A shame that we never reached a final product for release, but I know some gig tapes and unfinished demos are in circulation (though I have discovered that tapes some people think are REM are in fact demos of songs of mine that Dave, Pip and Barabara Gaskin helped out on that pre-dated the band, and were never part of the repertoire). We played some good gigs here and in Europe, but it only lasted for a year or so, and I know that many people are curious to know what it sounded like. The one that got away...".
Of REM, only a few bad quality live tapes are known. Will we ever hear more? Jakko gives reason to hope so (in an e-mail of December 1998). "We did record some stuff in the studio. There are also a number of reasonably good live tapes and I have recently talked to Dave about releasing something...".
Sinclair & The South
In August 1975, following the split of Hatfield and the North, Richard Sinclair left for Deya, Majorca (in the Balearics), at Daevid Allen's suggestion, to recuperate from the desintegration of both the band and his marriage. He ended up staying there for the rest of the Summer, writing songs for a planned solo album for Virgin called Untitled As Yet, and then returned to England. After staying with Rick Biddulph (who had been one of Hatfield's roadies and was later in Sinclair's band Caravan Of Dreams), he went back to Canterbury to work as carpenter and interior designer as well as playing occasional gigs. After forming a jazz group with Lol Coxhill for the Reims Jazz Festival (see above), he put together his own band, Sinclair And The South (a humorous reference to Hatfield and the North), with his cousin David, guitarist John Murphy (David's songwriting partner), ex-East Of Eden violinist Dave Arbus and none other than Bill Bruford on drums. This line-up played its only gig at the University of Kent's Rutherford College on January 17th 1976 (a tape recording of which recently resurfaced). Sinclair kept the name for various ad-hoc bands he gigged with locally throughout 1976, then changed it to R.S.V.P.
Formed in January 1978, this all-star band originally had Elton Dean (sax), Alan Gowen (keyboards), Hugh Hopper (bass) and Pip Pyle (drums). Due to his commitments with National Health, Pyle couldn't be on the first tour, thus Dave Sheen replacing him and the band's name changing to Soft HeaD. Rogue Element (1978) was recorded on that tour, in the famed Jacky Barbier's club in Bresse-sur-Grosne. It was followed by an eponymous studio album. The band's direction was very jazzy and improvisational. Hopper was later replaced by John Greaves, and after Gowen's death in 1981, Mark Hewins joined on guitar. Mark : "John Greaves and I were given the opportunity to change the name of the group when we joined, but we all decided that in respect of Alan Gowen's memory we would keep the HEAP moniker. (Hugh, Elton, Alan, Pip)... It could have been... Soft JEMP!". Fred Frith and Phil Minton guested at a memorable gig at Nancy University.
No records were released during the 80's, although the band kept gigging (four tours during the decade with a total of 25 European concerts, culminating with "a fantastic gig in a circus tent, built especially for us, at the Coutance Festival in 1989 - this was recorded and broadcast live by FR1 Radio" - Mark Hewins), as documented on the recent A Veritable Centaur CD (recorded, like Rogue Element, at Jacky Barbier's club in Bresse-sur-Grosne in 1982, with an additional track, "Toot DeSuite", taken from a BBC Radio 3 broadcast from 1983).
A band led by guitarist Jon Catler, a graduate of Berklee College of Music and a leading innovator in microtonal music for the guitar, and ex-Gong/PMG bassist Hansford Rowe, between approximately 1988 and 1993, playing music based on the use of an alternative tuning system christened 'Just Intonation'. Catler : "I first met Hanny when he visited New York and attended a performance of mine. Shortly after, I flew to Québec City to play fretless guitar on a record, and stayed at Hanny's appartment. While there, I retuned his Warwick 5-string bass to an open-tuned Just Intonation chord. Hanny immediately heard the difference between JI and 12-tone equal temperment, and I soon came up with a fretting system for 5-string bass. Warwick has made three different versions so far, each with more frets than the previous one".
This led to the Steel Blue project : "We both shared a love of heavy progressive music. Hansford had known Benoît Moerlen and François Causse from Gong, and we went to Strasbourg to play with them. We were able to re-tune Benoît's Kat Midi percussion controller to my Just Intonation system, and he was able to play chords, melodies, and improvise in Just Intonation. François was able to provide just the right combination of heaviness and jazz sensibility. By this time, Hanny was starting to be able to improvise on the JI bass, and we were able to stretch out the songs. We really enjoyed our time in Strasbourg and felt we were onto something new. Our gig at the Mulhouse Jazz Festival in 1989 was very well received, and a video was made".
When Catler and Rowe returned to America, the project changed direction : "We hooked up with engineer Chris Muth and recorded the Steel Blue album with Lionel Cordew on drums, and José Garcia on vocals. We were signed by Koch International in Europe, and played gigs in New York at the China Club, CBGB's and others. Hanny and I have since played together under the name Jon Catler Group, appearing at the Montréal Jazz Festival, Québec Festival d'Eté, etc., and released a self-titled CD on Direct Disc".
A splinter group from the Afro-rock outfit Assegai that existed only briefly in 1971-72, Sunship featured an extroardinary line-up of influential musicians mostly at the start of their careers. Alan Gowen, who would not make his recorded debut until three years later, led the group with bassist Laurie Baker. However, it also featured the following luminaries : drummer/percussionist Jamie Muir (who had been involved with various avant-garde outfits on the fringe of the jazz and classical scenes, and upon leaving Sunship joined the Larks' Tongues line-up of King Crimson) and guitarist Allan Holdsworth, whose stay in the band appears to have been limited to a few weeks of rehearsal and four gigs, towards the end of Sunship's existence. Gowen subsequently launched his new band venture, Gilgamesh. [note: Lyn Dobson has frequently been cited as a member of Sunship, but was actually involved in a parallel project of Gowen and Muir]
A "free blowing ensemble", in the words of its founder and leader, expatriate American saxophonist Gary Windo, who formed Symbiosis in November 1970 with guitarist Steve Florence and was soon joined by like-minded musicians among whom Robert Wyatt on drums (replaced by Louis Moholo when busy touring with Soft Machine), Mongezi Feza on trumpet, Nick Evans on trombone and Roy Babbington on double bass, augmented by Keith Tippett on electric piano on the first few gigs. On one occasion, Symbiosis gigged under the monicker Soft Robert. On January 11th, 1971, the band recorded a BBC Top Gear session, of which one track, the 12-minute "Standfast", later appeared on the Robert Wyatt rarities collection Flotsam & Jetsam. For a tour of Holland in June 1971, Windo, Feza, Evans and Wyatt were joined by guitarist Brian Godding and bassist Brian Belshaw of The Blossom Toes. The last known performance of Symbiosis was at London's Bedford College in November 1971.
The first in the long series of shortlived bands that gigged in and around Canterbury in the late seventies and early eighties and organised by Mark Hewins and Richard Sinclair, both alternating on guitar and bass (the music being largely instrumental). The first line-up, in 1978, was a trio with Pip Pyle on drums, and the second, in 1982, added Vince Clarke on percussion. Four tracks recorded by the latter line-up are included on the first volume of Mark Hewins' New Canteresque Compilations : "More Curry Please", "Shed Boys", "Blowage" and "Flowage".
An occasional jazz quartet which existed for about a year (late 1975 to late 1976), and marked the beginning of a long-term musical collaboration between Elton Dean (saxophone) and Pip Pyle (drums), although the group's leader was pianist Keith Tippett. Jim Richardson and Paul Rogers alternated on double bass. The quartet did a European tour ("a totally unreasonable and delirious tour", in Pyle's own words) in the autumn of 1976.
Some of the information on this page is taken from Facelift Magazine's A Layman's Guide To Obscure Canterbury Bands. Congratulations to them for this pioneering work!