by Chris Price
Pioneering musician Kevin Ayers, a bastion of the 1960s Canterbury scene, has died aged 68.
Born in Herne Bay in 1944, he founded influential psychedelic band Soft Machine.
Their self-titled debut album is considered a classic of the genre.
They arrived in London in 1967 as the psychedelic movement took off, often sharing stages with Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd and going on to tour with Jimi Hendrix.
Ayers quit the four-piece in 1968 and went on to release 17 solo albums.
He worked with artists including Mike Oldfield and Brian Eno. His last record was the Unfairground, released in 2007.
He was widely-admired for his hard-lived, rock-star life, with little appetite for stardom.
His Soft Machine bandmate Kevin Wyatt said in an interview: “He was terrific, but he had no sense of career. He was the opposite of an X Factor contender.”
Ayers grew up in Malaysia and returned to Kent to study at Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys in Canterbury.
His initial involvement with the Canterbury scene, which included contemporaries like Caravan, Egg, Gong and Hatfield and the North, actually came by accident.
Framed on a drugs charge in London, he spent two weeks on remand before a judge eventually dismissed the charges.
As a condition of his discharge, Ayers was ordered to leave London and so ended up living with his mother back in Canterbury, where he eventually reunited with fellow Simon Langton alumni and equally long-haired musician Robert Wyatt and his circle.
He told the Gazette in 2003: “We used to sit around and drink a lot of wine and bang on saucepans and things.
“Soft Machine developed out of a sense of family. We were just a unit and we all lived together and shared stuff.”
Ayers body was found by a neighbour at his home in the South of France on Tuesday, February 19.
He is survived by three daughters – Rachel Ayers, Galen Ayers and Annaliese Ellidge – and his sister Kate.
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