Canterbury scene pioneer Kevin Ayers dies, aged 68
Kevin Ayers founded psychedelic
band Soft Machine
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
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
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.
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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