English songwriter and bastion of the Canterbury scene Kevin Ayers has passed away at the age of 68.
In many ways, Kevin Ayers bore all the hallmarks of the psychedelic era. Hopelessly middle class and utterly radical, the songwriter has complete disregard for the trappings of what Western, capitalist civilisation could offer him.
Born in Herne Bay, Kent, in 1944, Ayers was brought up in Malaysia before returning to England. Educated at Simon Langton Grammar School For Boys, it was here that the aspiring musician formed his first group with two school friends.
As the psychedelic era dawned, The Wilde Flowers would shift into The Soft Machine as Kevin Ayers – together with band mates Robert Wyatt, Mike Ratledge and Daevid Allen – gently melted away the barriers placed on pop music.
Songs became longer, structures became distorted and free expression was encouraged via their myriad of modern jazz influences. A staggering live experience, The Soft Machine would often spar with The Pink Floyd – indeed, the two groups often shared a stage at vital London hotspot the UFO Club.
Retreating from the group following an exhausting North American tour, Kevin Ayers moved to France where he he lived for a time before again becoming restless and moved to Ibiza. The White Island proved to be conducive to his creative faculties, and the artist began sketching out whimsical, Barrett-inspired acoustic sketches on the beach.
Released as 'Joy Of A Toy' these recordings are most closely associated with his name. In reality, though, Kevin Ayers career is much too broad to be defined by one album: a psychedelic visionary, a prog pioneer and an acoustic troubadour, the songwriter seemed to wear each mask the counter culture offered.
Making a return in 2007 with 'Unfairground' Ayers was once again afforded critical acclaim but – in parallel to his earlier career – widespread acknowledgement proved to be lacking. Making his home in France, MOJO reports that Kevin Ayers passed away in his sleep on February 18th.
Rest in peace.
Here's 'All This Crazy Gift Of Time'.
Edit – This article originally stated that Kevin Ayers had been a member of Gong which is not the case