Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 16 August 1945, Herne Bay, England; d 21 February 2013, Montolieu, France) UK singer/songwriter, born in Kent but raised in Malaya. He formed Wilde Flowers in Canterbury '63: its combination of soul, R&B and jazz, qualified it as one of the first progressive outfits. Soft Machine followed '66 but he quit after a tiring six-month USA tour supporting Jimi Hendrix, to write songs in Majorca. He returned to sign with new EMI progressive label Harvest: album Joy Of A Toy featured Soft Machine plus keyboardist/arranger David Bedford; he then formed Whole World with Bedford, Lol Coxhill on sax and Mike Oldfield, guitar and bass. He carried on with quirky, philosophical lyrics, too far left of the rock mainstream to attract a large following, and had no apparent wish to chase success.
Following Shooting At The Moon, Whatevershebringswesing '72 and Bananamour '73 he switched to Island for The Confessions Of Dr Dream '74 with guitarist Ollie Halsall, linked with new labelmates Nico, John Cale, Brian Eno for June 1, 1974 (aka Soporifics) same year, and retired '75 to recharge his batteries. The success of reissues inclcluding a compilation of singles and out-takes in Odd Ditties '76 led to new Harvest album Yes We Have No Mañanas '76, recording again with Halsall, Zoot Money and future Police man Andy Summers, but his unwillingness to work regularly meant changing lineups. A spell under Elton John manager John Reid late '70s threatened a commercial breakthrough (Rainbow Takeaway '78, That's What You Get Babe '80) but he retired again to spend the '80s in sunny Majorca. He recorded there with Spanish musicians, and Halsall; tracks were released in the UK on Roadrunner as Diamond Jack And The Queen Of Pain '83.
His parents had been divorced when he was very young, and he said in an interview that his early bandmates Robert Wyatt and Mike Ratledge were the first family he ever had. His deep baritone voice and quintessentially English lyrical content were an acquired taste; a compilation The Kevin Ayers Collection '83 on Charly (CD on See For Miles) was an opportunity for those who missed him the first time around; new albums were As Close As You Think '86 on Illuminated, Falling Up '88 on Virgin. Singing The Bruise '96 on Strange Fruit was the first of two CDs of early '70s BBC sessions; Kevin Ayers on Windsong USA was also BBC stuff. In 2007 Lo-Max asked him to make an album of material from private recordings that a friend had surreptitiously slipped to the label; his last album The Unfairground was the result, but typically, his main concern was that the songs were good enough.