Kevin Ayers: Kevin Can Wait

He’s tooled around for 20 years like a leisurely gentleman-hippie. Isn’t it time Kevin Ayers got back on the case?

AT LEAST the first lines of Kevin Ayers’ new album, Still Life With Guitar, appear to promise brevity. “There’s not a lot to say/When you’re feeling this way,” he intones dolefully before he proves the opposite by going on about his feelings for the next ten tracks.

In fact, the ex-Soft Machinist and archetypal denizen of the 1960s “Canterbury scene” insists that couplet is the very nub of it: “What is there after passion? That’s what it’s asking. I’ve been in between for 12 years since my marriage broke up. Can you get along with life when friendliness is as high as your feelings go? The answer seems to be, No,” he says – and laughs (he shares Leonard Cohen’s psycho-philosophical gallows humour as well as his subterranean vocal range).

He takes a swallow of Jack Daniel’s and says that’s why he’s so hopeful about the record: this stuff must be relevant to most people’s lives – especially those around his own age (48 this year).

But he hardly has a track record of weather-eyeing the main chance. He quit Soft Machine in 1968 before the debut album he’d worked on was released. Later, when he was briefly promoted as a sort of Bryan Ferry prototype, although he had the requisite suave – he’s the son of a colonial administrator and grew up in Malaya – he found that image-mongering didn’t suit him. Mostly, he withdrew to his home in the mountainous, tourist-free half of Majorca, at first domestically blissful, then alone. Occasional studio forays during the ’80s produced albums which didn’t sell.

But this time he was inspired, perhaps surprisingly, by Fairground Attraction’s album, The First Of A Million Kisses. He managed to enlist that late band (apart from Eddi Reader) for some of his sessions. “Their album was a love affair, nothing less, it gave me such a lift,” says Ayers, “It’s no wonder they split. You can’t keep up the level of intensity they had.”

To prove his intentions are honourable he’s doing a promotional UK tour; and if by any chance his album actually shifts useful units, it could dig him out of a financial hole.

“I’d love to say I’ve been living off my royalties, but the truth is I have one or two rich friends who’ve kept me going with the odd donation – including the cost of recording this album. I’ve been superlucky. Between the ages of 17 and 40 I had a great time, no grounds for complaint whatsoever.”

He gives another bass guffaw and returns to his main theme: “My problem is just that I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.”

© Phil SutcliffeQ, April 1992

Leave a Comment