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Dates : 1945
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Kevin Ayers is one of rock's oddest and more likable enigmas, even if often he's seemed not to operate at his highest potential. Perhaps that's because he's never seemed to have taken his music too seriously — one of his essential charms and most aggravating limitations. Since the late '60s, he's released many albums with a distinctly British sensibility, making ordinary lyrical subjects seem extraordinary with his rich low vocals, inventive wordplay, and bemused, relaxed attitude. Apt to flavor his songs with female backup choruses and exotic island rhythms, the singer/songwriter inspires the image of a sort of progressive rock beach bum, writing about life's absurdities with a celebratory, relaxed detachment. Yet he is also one of progressive rock's more important (and more humane) innovators, helping to launch the Soft Machine as their original bassist, and working with noted European progressive musicians like Mike Oldfield, Lol Coxhill, and Steve Hillage.
Ayers cultivated a taste for the bohemian lifestyle early, spending much of his childhood in Majorca before he moved with his mother to Canterbury in the early '60s. There he fell in with the town's fermenting underground scene, which included future members of the Soft Machine and Caravan. For a while he sang with the Wilde Flowers, a group that also included future Softs Robert Wyatt and Hugh Hopper. He left in 1965, met fellow freak Daevid Allen in Majorca, and returned to the U.K. in 1966 to found the first lineup of the Soft Machine with Allen, Wyatt, and Mike Ratledge.
Wyatt is usually regarded as the prime mover behind the Soft Machine, but Ayers' contributions carried equal weight in the early days. Besides playing bass, he wrote and sang much of their material. He can be heard on their 1967 demos and their 1968 debut album, but by the end of 1968 he felt burned out and quit. Selling his bass to Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, he began to write songs on guitar, leading ...
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