Kevin Ayers Biography

16 August 1944, Herne Bay, Kent, England. Ayers spent much of his childhood in Malaysia where his stepfather was a District Officer, before returning to England and becoming a central figure in the ‘Canterbury scene’. A founder member of the Wilde Flowers and the Soft Machine, this talented singer and songwriter abandoned the latter outfit in 1968 following an arduous US tour. Ayers’ 1969 debut, Joy Of A Toy, nonetheless bore a debt to his former colleagues, all of whom contributed to this innovative collection. Its charm and eccentricity set a pattern for much of the artist’s later work, while the haunting, languid ballads, including ‘The Lady Rachel’ and ‘Girl On A Swing’, stand among his finest compositions.

In 1970 Ayers formed the Whole World, a unit that featured saxophonist Lol Coxhill, guitarist Mike Oldfield and pianist/arranger David Bedford. This impressive band was featured on the same year’s Shooting At The Moon, a radical, experimental release that offered moments of rare beauty (‘May I?’) and others of enchanting outlandishness (‘Pisser Dans Un Violin’, ‘Colores Para Dolores’). The results were outstanding and this ambitious collection remains a landmark of UK progressive rock. Coxhill left the Whole World soon after the album’s completion and his departure precipitated their ultimate demise. Oldfield and Bedford did, however, contribute to 1971’s Whatevershebringswesing, wherein Ayers withdrew from explicit experimentation, although the lugubrious ‘Song From The Bottom Of A Well’ maintained his ability to challenge.

Ayers never quite fulfilled his undoubted potential and while a fourth collection, 1972’s Bananamour, offered moments of inspiration, an ambivalent attitude towards commercial practices undermined Ayer’s career. A high-profile appearance at London’s Rainbow Theatre resulted in June 1, 1974, on which Ayers was joined by John Cale, Nico and Brian Eno (as ACNE). Unfortunately, later inconsistent albums, such as 1975’s Sweet Deceiver, 1976’s Yes We Have No Mañanas, So Get Your Mañanas Today and 1978’s Rainbow Takeaway, were interspersed by prolonged holidays in the singer’s beloved Spain.

Despite this reduced public profile and a prolonged creative lull during the mid-80s, Ayers retains a committed cult following and has continued to follow his highly personal path throughout subsequent decades. His occasional studio forays include the well-received Falling Up, Still Life With Guitar and The Unfairground. He has appeared with long-standing admirers Ultramarine and the Liverpool-based outfit the Wizards Of Twiddly, in addition to being joined in the studio during the recording of The Unfairground by Teenage Fanclub. He now lives in seclusion most of the year in south-west France, and records infrequently; anything new should be investigated as he remains a true original. Ayers has produced some remarkably inventive music over many years.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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