At Cafè Oto in London, Thursday April 12th year 2012, Robert Wyatt appeared on stage for a discussion to talk about selected tracks from his back catalogue. The discussion was chaired by The Wire’s Tony Herrington and the audience also got the opportunity to ask Robert questions.
Being there would’ve been wonderful, but now even those who spent their evenings elsewhere that fateful day can get to enjoy this talk. An MP3 featuring the evening’s dialogue has been made available on The Wire’s website. Check it out!
Jimmy Hastings (brother of Pye) may be one of the most underrated musicians from the Canterbury scene. He was an “unofficial member” of several of our favourite bands – Caravan, Soft Machine, Hatfield and the North, National Health – often credited, but generally not an official member. Although he’s contributed saxophone and clarinet, it is the wonderful addition of his flute which I personally enjoy the most. I just love the sound of the flute and Jimmy’s phrasing is always wonderful. What beautiful melodies!
So, I thought it’s time to celebrate this wonderful musician and so I would like to ask all you Canterbury fans out there. What is your favourite Jimmy Hastings recorded solo performance?
Today we celebrate the birthday of the magnificent guitarist and adventurer Mark Hewins who is 57 today. As a musician, Mark got involved with the Canterbury scene in the mid-70s when he played in Polite Force alongside ex-flowers Graham Flight, Dave Sinclair and many other Canterburyan heroes who guested the stage with the band. Later on, he would befriend and collaborate with many other musicians from the scene like Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper and Richard Sinclair in projects like Going Going and Mashu.
Mark has also been a a great resource to many of us fans as he has happily shared with us both Canterbury-related music, pictures, videos and anecdotes, for example stories from when he was on the road with Soft Heap. He is always friendly, always approachable, and many of us owe him our personal thanks.
Some time ago, Mark sent me a video which is an interview with him while “on the road” – or perhaps “in the air” – and I’ve been waiting for the right moment to share it. Enjoy!
Also don’t forget to check out Mark’s account on Soundcloud where he shares his music, both his own solo works and collaborations with others. It is a treasure trove for any Canterbury enthusiast.
Sixnorth or “Six North” depending on where you’re reading about them is a Japanese fusion/prog rock group led by talented bassist and composer Hideyuki Shima. As far as I know, the band has released two albums. The first, I’m Here in my Heart from 2000, features a lot of lovely composed and largely instrumental music which is a joy to listen to. Their second album, Prayer from 2003, is a worthy follow up and connoisseurs of the Canterbury scene will also be happy to hear that it features a guest performance by none other than keyboardist Dave Sinclair on the album’s final track which is named after his cousin Richard. Actually, both Dave and Richard Sinclair have performed with members of the band at a Canterbury festival in Asia in 2004, although I don’t know any specifics beyond that.
The band is slightly obscure here in the west, but those adventurous enough to check them should find them a rewarding listen. Not much is available on sites like youtube, but I did manage to find the song “Richard” from their second album which is the song previously mentioned, dedicated to Richard with a guest performance by Dave Sinclair. If you listen closely, you should also hear a musical reference to the Hatfield and the North song “Fitter Stoke has a Bath”.
The music of the Canterbury Scene reaches out to people through time and space and has far reaching influences on other musicians. Some of these influences travel across to the other side of the globe from where the music originated. Over the course of a few posts, I will take a brief look at a few Japanese bands inspired by the Canterbury scene. More than simple imitations, these bands feature highly skilled musicians with a deep respect for their inspirations.
Ain Soph is one of the most obviously Canterbury inspired bands from the Japanese prog rock scene. They started out as a prog band in the 70s and the earliest available recordings from them are late 70s live demos released in the early 90s in the release Ride On A Camel. Could it be a reference to the band Camel? In 1980, they released a highly acclaimed debut album called A Story of Mysterious Forest and in 1986, their even more acclaimed (I believe) Hat and Field which is an obvious reference to Hatfield and the North, both in title, album cover and to some extent the music they play. One of the album’s songs is called “Canterbury Tale (For Pye Hastings & Richard Sinclair)”. It makes me wonder if Pye or Richard ever heard it?
If you find these references obvious to the point of being a little painful, don’t let it turn you off their music which is surprisingly beautiful and “genuine” for a Canterbury band so far away from Canterbury.
For those curious enough to check it out, here’s a small sample, the album’s opening song “The Swan Lake”.
Today is the 74th birthday of the cosmic resonator and legendary artist Daevid Allen, most famous for being the frontman of the psychedelic rock band Gong. Long time fans of the Canterbury scene will already be familiar with Daevid, but for newcomers, here’s a brief explanation of how this aussie became one of the most influential musicians of the Canterbury scene.
74 years ago today, on January 13th 1938, Christopher David Allen was born in Melbourne, Australia. Twenty-something years later, he would move to Paris and then to England in 1961 where he ended up lodging with the Wyatts. There he became a friend of Robert Wyatt and his school friends like Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge and Kevin Ayers who were teenagers at the time. The influence of the older, worldly, artistic and open minded Daevid Allen on the young Canterburyans must have been tremendous and he introduced his younger friends to things like jazz and poetry. Perhaps other things as well because he was asked by his landlord to leave after a year as they thought he was a negative influence on the boys!
The friendship continued, though, and in 1963, The Daevid Allen Trio was playing gigs in London with Robert Wyatt on drums, Hugh Hopper on bass and Mike Ratledge occasionally playing the piano. Amazingly, recordings from their gigs exist today and are available on the album Live 1963. In 1966, Daevid would form Soft Machine along with Ratledge and Kevin Ayers. In 1967, Daevid was denied re-entry into England after a trip to the European mainland and so decided to stay in France where he and Gilli Smyth would start playing with musical projects that would eventually evolve into the band Gong. Gong was a strange mix of cosmic and hippy influences; psychedelic and space rock pioneering with bottomless energy and imagination. Ever since, the band and its various incarnations has been one of the (if not the) most popular of the Canterbury bands, always inspired and always energetic.
In addition to Gong and related projects, Daevid also has a solo career. Here’s one of his more popular songs, Why Do We Treat Ourselves Like We Do? from Now Is The Happiest Time Of Your Life from 1977.
Today is the birthday of Dirk Campbell and Dave Stewart who were both born on Dec. 30th, 1950, which means they are both 61 today.
Not only do they share birthdays. Anyone with rudimentary knowledge of the Canterbury scene will likely be aware that the two played together back in the days (when Dirk was known as Mont), creating the rock band Uriel together with Steve Hillage sometime after the three met in the City of London School, 1966. Uriel later turned into the formidable Egg which released 3 albums. Dirk and Dave also collaborated in early National Health. Since those days, they seem to have had continuing friendship and respect for eachother. I’ve read more than once Dave call Dirk a genius at composition and I’m sure I’ve also read an interview with Dirk where he claimed that Dave’s playing was the best thing about Egg.
Those days are more distant past now than ever (literally speaking), but the two are still musically active, if not collaborating at the moment. Dirk’s latest is an ambitious album called Music from a Walled Garden, released in 2009, a follow up to his Music from a Round Tower from 1996. Dave Stewart is still making sweet music with Barbara Gaskin with their latest release being the album Green and Blue, also from 2009. Both have also made music for television.
Today is the day to celebrate them both, so please share your favorite music/stories/whatever you like!
Although I have a feeling Mont has distanced himself more and more from his days in Egg, I hope he wouldn’t mind so much me celebrating his and Dave’s birthday with Egg’s “A Visit to Newport Hospital”, the opener track to the album The Polite Force. I thought it fitting as it’s quite brilliant and composition is credited to them both.
Yesterday (Dec. 19th) would have been the 68th birthday of keyboardist/pianist Steve Miller (1943 – 1998). In 1966 he formed the band Delivery in which his younger brother Phil played guitar along with Pip Pyle on drums and Jack Monk on bass. Lol Coxhill would later join the line-up and the group became the backing band for Carol Grimes. Since then, he had a brief stint in Caravan as well as musical collaborations with musicians like Lol Coxhill and Mark Hewins. His last album was Miller’s Tale by the Steve Miller trio and Lol Coxhill.
Sadly, in early 1998, Steve was diagnosed with cancer. A benefit gig was held later in summer at the London Vortex Jazz bar which featured reformations of Delivery and Miller’s jazz quartet as well as improvisations by Mark Hewins and Elton Dean.
Mark has been so kind as to share with us a video recording from that evening. The video shows a moment on stage, I assume between songs, when Steve improvises a little tune on the piano. The quality of the picture is not good, but the music is beautiful.
It was back in 1968 that David Sinclair first gave us the gift that keeps on giving as keyboardist on Caravan’s debut album. Since then, he’s become one the most loved musicians from the scene and has been involved with projects like Matching Mole, Sinclair & The South, The Polite Force, Camel and also his own solo material. He’s still most famous for his work with Caravan, for the timeless beauty of his playing and for composing classics like For Richard, Nine Feet Underground and Proper Job / Back to Front. Those were all recorded a while ago now, but Dave is still very much an active musician with his last release being Stream from earlier this year (which by the way features other known Canterburyans like Robert Wyatt and Jimmy Hastings!).
Today, it’s 64 years ago since David Sinclair was born in Herne Bay and so we’d like to say
The Northettes were a vocal trio made up of Amanda Parsons, Barbara Gaskin and Ann Rosenthal. Although they are most famous for contributing to Hatfield and the North’s two studio albums, the first released in January 1974, the girls had sung together in 1971/72 in Dave Stewart & Chris Cutler led Ottawa Music Company which, sadly, left no recorded legacy. Between the Hatfields two albums, they also sang on Egg’s 1974 album The Civil Surface. Amanda also sang with the band Gilgamesh and, after the Hatfields broke up, went on to sing with the earlier line-ups of National Health and also appeared in Bruford while Barbara Gaskin (after coming back to England after a long trip to Asia) also sang in various musical projects like Red Roll On, Bruford and National Health.
The sound of The Northettes has been described as heavenly and angelic; voices that can lift the spirit and soothe the soul. Their harmonies certainly added new dimension to the music of the Hatfields. Their singing on top of the jazz-tinged progressive rock that the band played was unlike anything ever recorded before and still sounds fresh and unique today. For those who have not yet had the pleasure of hearing them, here’s Lobster in Cleavage Probe from Hatfield and the North’s debut, courtesty of Grooveshark.
Fans of the Northettes may wonder; what happened to them? Where are they now? Many will be familiar with Barbara Gaskin’s musical and romantic partnership with Dave Stewart which has lasted to this day, but the fates of Amanda Parsons and Ann Rosenthal are a bit more mysterious. In an interview with Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin on Progressive Ears, Dave was able to shed some light on the mystery.
PE:Whatever became of the other Northettes?
DS: After leaving National Health Amanda got a job in television and is now married with two grown-up children – she isn’t actively involved in music as far as I know. Ann Rosenthal sent us a nice message recently containing this update: “I live in rural Shropshire, work as a Business Analyst, keep chickens, am both a qualified gardener and management consultant (confused?) and am passionate about hill walking and climbing mountains. Love Annie.”
It seems neither Amanda or Ann continued their musical careers which makes me wonder if they’re aware of the way their musical contributions continue to touch the hearts and minds of people today, old fans and new. So, on the chance they might read this, I would like to say on behalf of myself, the site and the rest of the fans of Hatfield and the North whom I’m sure would agree with me when I write :