Kevin Ayres, erstwhile member of Soft Machine, doyen of the fabled 'Canterbury Scene' and top-notch English music eccentric has died in France at the age of 68. You might wonder what place this news has on a blog that supposed to be about natural history, but the two are closely linked in my world.
When I was a wide-eyed teenage birder in the mid-to-late 1970s I was fortunate to be admitted into the 'inner-circle' of the Dungeness birding Gods. They were all a good 10 years older than me but treated me as an equal, even though I didn't mesure up to any of them in any way. There was Peter Grant, Ray Turley, Tim Inskipp, Tony Greenland, Mark Hollingworth, Dick Burness and Keith Redshaw. Keith lived in the house next door to the observatory and it was to his back room that we used to regularly decamp after an evening in the pub. We would then descend upon his ample record collection and play music into the wee small hours. It wasn't unknown to do so until it became light outside and then we would just pick up our binoculars and go birding. If I tried that now I would be a wreck for several days.
One of the regular artists whose music we would play was Kevin Ayres. To listen to him is to be at Dungeness in those carefree days in the presence of the people who I admired the most. One track in particular brings it all back - "Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes" from the album whateverwebringshesings. This would in fact be regularly put on the turntable much earlier in the day - as we readied ourselves to go off down to the pub - a song to put shoes, hats and coats on to. It never fails to put a smile on my face.
If you don't know much about Kevin Ayres, please click here.