I play before the audience
I make them laugh and shout
And when they've laughed for quite a while
The door man lets them out
It's been many years since I saw him live but Kevin Ayers played at the first proper gig I ever went to. It was at Hyde Park and Pink Floyd were performing Atom Heart Mother at a free concert. Others on the bill included Formerly Fat Harry, Edgar Broughton, Roy Harper and the Third Ear Band. The latter mostly being famous for the soundtrack of Polanski's Macbeth. And for being quite awful.
Ayers was joined on stage by Robert Wyatt and they were pretty good. I suppose at my young age (14) it all seemed pretty amazing. Ayers also played Hyde Park free in 1974 so I must have seen him twice that year as I was also at the Rainbow for the recording of June 1,1974 which was a fantastic evening featuring Eno, Nico, John Cale and Mike Oldfield. Oldfield was also the bassist for Kevin Ayers Whole World - the band that had played at the previous Hyde Park gig. I think I saw Ayers at the Roundhouse and somewhere else but it's all getting lost in a failing memory. I do remember Oldfield playing an excellent solo on Everybody's Sometime and Some People's All the Time Blues that night. A lot of people forget what a great guitarist he is. Ollie Halsall was the main guitarist and worked with Ayers for many years after leaving the ill-fated Patto. Halsall died of a heroin overdose which made Ayers think about his own mortality. Although, it would seem that he remained a drinker to the end. The interview in the Guardian yesterday prompted this brief post. He also appeared on the children's tv pop show Supersonic singing Marlene Dietrich's Falling in Love Again which was quite bizarre.
I used the title of one of his rare singles After the Show for a blog post recently. I remember songs like Shouting in a Bucket Blues, May I? and Lady Rachel being popular with audiences. Steve Hillage played the lovely guitar part on Bucket on the Bananamour album. Just little bits of pleasure from a rare talent. Even my mum liked him. I'm surprised that his passing was commented on on Radio 4 yesterday, they even got Robert Wyatt in to reminisce. I don't think that Ayers was as influential as some people are making out but when someone dies everyone tends to be very respectful. The truth is, he wrote some great songs had a remarkably deep voice and was mostly respected for being a louche womaniser. In fact, his affair with Richard Branson's wife produced a daughter. He was a true sybarite.
He had a great sense of humour that filtered through to his music. His appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test performing Oh! Wot a Dream was unforgettable. He performed this silly little tribute to Syd Barrett with an acoustic guitar alongside two band members playing a duck call and a triangle. It also doesn't seem to be on You Tube which is a surprise - the song's there but not this particular performance. Ah well, it doesn't matter. A suitable place to end with the mention of Whistle Test because it was his father Rowan that launched the programme.
So, farewell Kevin and thank you very much.