Music today reflects where we went today. Kevin Ayers‘ last album, The Unfairground, was released in 2007 and was his 15th album of which I have 14, plus collections. There’s one called Kevin Ayers’ Deià…Vu, only released in Spain, that I’ve never seen before. I saw a CD on eBay for 30 quid, yikes, too much but I guess it’s rare. The Unfairground was his first album in 15 years which was a big gap for someone who had been so prolific between the sixties and 1992. I think what happens is the music world moves on and leaves you behind, your audience gets older, isn’t as active as it was in terms of purchasing music and going to shows, and for some people, music madness is something they did when they were younger. Of course, some older artists are still treasured, Robert Wyatt for example who was in the original Soft Machine with Kevin Ayers. But then it’s about the perceived quality of the records, Wyatt seemed to have something about the future in him or more, something timeless, whereas Ayers sounded like a man who made more sense in the past. But it’s also true, his best records were made in the seventies. I think of records like this as reminders, something to make you remember him and his qualities, not that this is a bad record, it’s pleasant, has that special voice and his unique approach to songwriting, it can only be him. It’s like playful intellectual cocktail music where everybody is wearing dress suits and bow ties but they’re all tripping. If you’re a fan, especially a long-standing fan you’ll be glad to let him sing to you in any guise, in any era.
I’ve told this story before but I stood next to him once in the backstage toilets at the Shepherd’s Bush Theatre at a Go Betweens gig, had a nice long chat with him, mad, cool, eccentric, lovely man, he died in 2013 at the age of 68 and the world misses him. If you wonder about his effect on other musicians, go to the Wikipedia page and see who played on this record.
In 1975 Michael Moorcock, the science-fantasy writer, released an album under the name Michael Moorcock & The Deep Fix called New Worlds Fair. It featured Moorcock, Steve Gilmore and Graham Charnock on guitars, vocals and lyrics, as well as members of Hawkwind, and Snowy White on guitar. I assume it’s supposed to be a dystopian future predating Banksy’s Dismaland Theme Park by three decades, except, well, this is just a record and Banksy actually did it. Still, here it is, it has a narrator in between songs, more spooky interjections. Sadly with Moorcock’s skills and his perfect band of musicians he fails to create any atmosphere at all. One of the most disappointing great ideas I’ve ever heard. The songs are average, the lyrics needed better music, more appropriate to the concept but I guess being a writer doesn’t make you a songwriter as being a guitarist, singer-songwriter doesn’t make you a writer! Haha.
In 1988 Scotland’s Fairground Attraction couldn’t do anything wrong. Their single Perfect was No. 1 in the UK, their album The First Of A Million Kisses No. 2, they won best album and best single at the Brit Awards and then the arguments started and they broke up. Classic R’n’R story, although they weren’t very R’n’R, they were more of a folky soft Pop group. The band was Eddi Reader on vocals, Mark E. Nevin on guitars and songwriting, Roy Dodds on drums and Simon Edwards on guitarrón which is a Mexican 6 string acoustic bass. Their second album Ay Fond Kiss was released by the label after Reader had left and was mostly B-sides and not really a follow up although the label didn’t tell anyone that as they saw a cash cow disappearing before their eyes. Mark E. Nevin co-wrote and played guitar on Kill Uncle by Morrissey and Eddi Reader has made a ton of solo albums.
Staying on Fairground Attraction simply because it’s topical and revealing about the corporate labels. In 1996 the loving label released a best-of CD, thinking how can we sell more records of this successful band when they’re not together anymore? I know, let’s put a CD together of all but three tracks from the original album, add some of those B-sides from the album that wasn’t an album and let’s call it The Very Best Of Fairground Attraction Featuring Eddi Reader. And while we’re at it let’s leave off the one song that Eddi Reader wrote (Whispers) from the first album whilst talking her up in the ‘positive’ sleeve notes that mention her solo career but dubiously suggest that Reader becoming pregnant made them ‘lose momentum’ and that’s why they split up. So keep it positive in those liner notes but put the demise of the band at the door of the pregnant woman. Hm, nice. By the way, let’s make sure that the CD cover art is the cheapest possible piece of cost-cutting we can think of. One positive thing that I didn’t know and connects the music today, remember I said that Kevin Ayers hadn’t made a record since 1992 before he made The Unfairground? Well, that album was called Still Life With Guitar and Mark E. Nevin played on 4 tracks and co-wrote one track, Something In Between – who knew?
Song Of The Daze
Kevin Ayers’ May I? with Mike Oldfield on bass and Lol Coxhill on soprano sax:
The musical musings in this post are an excerpt from my daily blog, TO WHERE I AM NOW, featured on my main website. See more pictures and read the full post here.