If you are looking to celebrate an event in the county of Kent, Graveney Village Hall in the town of Faversham is a good option. The hall can be hired for all types of functions, weddings and family events and will gladly assist with recommending a DJ and a mobile disco with tracks from the 1950’s up to current chart singles. Excellent opportunity for those looking for a good time, assuming that shaking one’s limbs to four-on-the-floor music and disco lights is one’s cup of tea. However chances are that none of the folks who frequent this establishment know that the same floor they are standing on used to host a very different type of music 50+ years ago. At the end of the 1960s a group of four young musicians made that hall their rehearsal space. They led a frugal existence, managing on 7-pound-a-week split among them, which they received from their record label. In the summer months they slept in tents outside the hall, moving back into the hall in October when it got too cold. In September of 1970 the band went into a studio to record their third album. They emerged a few months later with a masterpiece of a genre associated with that time and place, the Canterbury Scene. This is the story of the album In the Land of Grey and Pink, by Caravan.
In 1969, after releasing their debut album on Verve Records, Caravan found themselves with no recording contract in hand when the label ceased its operations in the UK. They got a lucky break when they were noticed by David Hitchcock who worked in the art department at Decca. He got them signed to the label and was hoping to produce their first album with the label. However the band decided to act as their own producers on that album, later released as “If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You”. Guitar player Pye Hastings remembers: “If you’re on your own you can be a bit self-indulgent, everyone bringing up their own volume and things. We realized that’s a big mistake that we’d made in terms we weren’t producers, we were bloody musicians.”
David Hitchcock started producing albums for Decca’s progressive music subsidiary label Deram, including albums for a diverse group of artists such as Jan Dukes De Grey, East of Eden and Aardvark. By the time Caravan were ready to start recording their third album, they understood the important role of a producer and asked Hitchcock to fill that gap. Keyboard player Dave Sinclair: “David Hitchcock would tell us to try it again if he felt something wasn’t right, or try playing something a different way or whatever. He’d give us free rein, but he made sure he was getting what he wanted, basically. He was quite a hard taskmaster, which was what we needed. The only going out, really, was to get equipment or something; there wasn’t much partying.”
Caravan members were not only lucky with their new producer, but they also got an excellent sound engineer in the bargain. Pye Hastings: “We got a very good engineer in, Dave Grinsted to work with us. And he just flung two and two together and held everybody and said ‘No, that’s crap. Stop doing that. Do this, that next thing.’ And it just worked a dream, you know. We learned a very important lesson that day.”
In the Land of Grey and Pink opens up with Golf Girl, one of Caravan’s best known songs. The first of three songs written by bass player and singer Richard Sinclair, it was the B-side on a single the band released from the album, with Love to Love You as the leading track. Golf Girl, originally titled Group Girl, is indeed inspired by a scene on a golf course. Richard Sinclair: “We lived in Canterbury at the time, very close to a golf course. I had these words and melody: ‘Standing on a golf course/ Dressed in P.V.C./ I chanced upon a Golf Girl/ Selling cups of tea’. That was the first song I wrote.”
“That’s it really, a joke about people wearing PVC and selling cups of tea, which seemed to be very appropriate at the time because we were having cups of tea with Robert Wyatt and God knows what else. People had ‘tea’ and they liked to write songs about it. Every other song was written about ‘tea’ so I got one in as well…full right to the brim.” Sinclair named the golf girl Pat, a non-fictional character who was, what else, his girlfriend.
Here is a performance of this whimsical song, performed in 1971 for the Beat Club program on German TV:
Another Richard Sinclair composition on the album is the title track In the Land of Grey and Pink, which gave the inspiration to the magnificent drawing on the album cover. The artist of that cover, Anne Marie Anderson, worked for the art department at Decca and unfortunately created very few album covers, one of them for Fuchsia in 1971. Richard Sinclair on that title: “That one came from being out in the countryside down at Graveney and having this pink and grey sky every evening because we were camping out there. I was always messing about drawing little fantasy areas and things where you’d like to be.”
Before we listen to the song, here are some tips from Sinclair on the song lyrics:
“In the land of grey and pink where only Boy Scouts stop to think”: Boy Scouts tend to stop and think a bit, they’re trained to aren’t they? It’s a joke on words really. I was a Boy Scout, bob-a-job.
“They’ll be coming back again those nasty grumbly grimblies”: They’re those funny thoughts that seem to take over. You do it to yourself really, just make them into little men who climb about.
“They’ve come to take your money”: Like everything you’re trying to earn a bit of money and all of these other thoughts come along and take it away and you have to start again.
The third and final composition by Richard Sinclair is also his finest on this album. Originally titled “It’s Likely To Have A Name By Next Week”, it settled on Winter Wine. The interesting melody fits perfectly the fairy tale lyrics:
Be conjured up in a midnight dream, ancient castles dark
As wandering minstrels play tunes of yesterday
When dragons roamed the land, knights in armour cold
Charged on horseback bold
The maids were saved, the dragons slain
Band members Pye Hastings and Dave Sinclair agree that this song represents the gifted bass player and singer’s best contribution to the band: “Probably the best song Richard has ever written.”
Caravan was a great band to watch playing live, as can be seen in another clip from the same Beat Club program. This is a live performance of the song:
And we come to the crown achievement of the album and one of Canterbury Scene’s and all progressive rock best epic musical pieces. There is no shortage of epic titles created by progressive music bands in the early 1970s, those complex compositions made of smaller sections linked together artfully to form a cohesive long piece of music. Nine Feet Underground, taking the whole of side two on the LP, must rate with the best of them. With Richard Sinclair writing most of the tunes on side one, his cousin Dave Sinclair saved the best for last and wrote a suite featuring eight sections that move beautifully from one to the next. Sinclair on creating the suite: “With Nine Feet Underground they were individual pieces, but with continually playing them through, and because each piece was only about five minutes long or something, I found it quite interesting to join bits up. I think it evolved, really. And this idea of doing one long number, I’d completely sorted it out well before we went into the studio. I was living in a basement flat at the time that was nine feet under ground level.”
Recording a long piece of music was not an easy task with the recording technology available in 1970. Sinclair recalls: “In those days if you made a mistake, if there was a big goof somewhere along the line, it needed major surgery to put it right. The fact of trying to play a 22-minute number in one go was… well, a lot of pressure. So we recorded it in sections and then David Hitchcock spliced it all together. It’s the only way we could do it, really. And for the whole album the recordings were done pretty much as live, apart from the odd overdub and solos that were put on afterwards.”
Here is this magnificent epic track, with a guest appearance by Pye Hastings’ brother Jimmy Hastings on reeds.
For the curious, here are Dave Sinclair’s notes about each of the eight sections of this epic, as he described in an article dedicated to the album in the June 2020 issue of Prog Magazine, written by Paul Henderson:
NIGEL BLOWS A TUNE “Depends how you say this one. I got the idea for this first section of the piece from my cousin, Nigel Blow, who was always messing around with nice chord sequences on the piano. By the way, both Nigel and myself are related to the famous John Blow (1649-1708) who, apart from being a composer, was the choirmaster and organist at St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.”
LOVE’S A FRIEND “Probably my take at the time on: why shouldn’t lovers be friends, and why shouldn’t friends be lovers?”
MAKE IT 76 “Again, there are a few connotations. Seventy-six appeared many times in my life. I counted the number of beats in this section, and I ‘made it 76’ altogether.”
DANCE OF THE SEVEN PAPER HANKIES “One of the engineers at Decca used to rig up various ingenious devices to pass the time while waiting for recording to begin. One of these was a kind of ski run made of string, with these little hankies on it. A fan, which could have been in one of the apparatus being used at the time, was causing the paper hankies to jump down along the string. This echoed the wind sound from the actual recording.”
HOLD GRANDAD BY THE NOSE “Maybe this one has to be left to the imagination, but I know you can get away with a lot when you are a tiny tot. Sometimes snoring is not very tuneful.”
HONEST I DID! “Well, I’m sure this title refers to the fact that my solo, on this occasion, was left completely untouched – probably the first and only one played. There had probably been at least one edit on all the other solos.”
DISASSOCIATION “This track really sums up my mood at that time. One of not really being in tune with, and feeling apart from, what was going on in other people’s so-called conventional lifestyles.”
100% PROOF “Yes… the empty bottles on the high shelf, all the way around my little room in the basement (nine feet underground) of Tony Coe’s house, Lexington House, in the Old Dover Road, Canterbury. I remember consuming some pretty explosive stuff there!”
In the Land of Grey and Pink became Caravan’s best-selling album. We are not talking millions of units sold here, this is a Canterbury Scene album after all. Still, the album is a major achievement in the scene’s history. Members of the band have stated over the years their thoughts about the significance of the album in their catalog. Pye Hastings: “I think the reason ‘Grey and Pink’ stands out is mainly due to the timing of everything. We began to peak in many ways at that time. Our production had peaked thanks to David Hitchcock, and Dave Sinclair’s writing had begun to peak and we were playing very well as a band.”
Perhaps Dave Sinclair summarized this album best:
“Certain things just gel, just come together, don’t they? You could say it’s in the planets, it’s in astrology. The music that we got together at that time, the way we progressed, was good. We’d reached a zenith, in a way. All bands try to get to a situation like that. We’d reached it.”
The following resources were used during the writing of this article:
June 2020 issue of Prog Magazine, written by Paul Henderson.
The excellent and comprehensive interview with Richard Sinclair on Marmalade Skies.
If you enjoyed reading this article, you may also like this about another key Canterbury Scene musician:
Thanks so much for the article! Here’s a post I did on Facebook last year, in the midst of the first of a few serious lockdowns in Canada… My own tribute to Caravan’s finest hour… happy, happy travels!
Day 8 for our Top Twenty Prog Albums challenge as suggested by Jason Bermiller, continues with the 1971 third album “In The Land Of Grey And Pink” from British prog popsters Caravan. One of the progenitors of the so-called Canterbury School (which also included the likes of Soft Machine, Gong, Ukziel, Egg, Mike Oldfield, Kevin Ayers, National Health, Matching Mole, Hatfield + The North, ETC), which combined melodic, soul-inflected pop with a penchant for often complex jazzy excursions with odd time signatures. I discovered them through yet another friend of David Allan in Ottawa, whose name I cannot recall, but at a house party one night, this delightful record came on. I loved the whimsy of the songs– with a rural “getting it together in the country” vibe, similar but more light-hearted than Traffic. At the time, Caravan was blessed with two singer songwriters– guitarist Pye Hastings and bassist Richard Sinclair (who later went on to join Camel– in a lineup I affectionately revered to as ‘Caramel’ during my CKCU-Radio Carleton days circa 1975 to 79). Is there a more catchy, prog sing-a-long than “Golf Girl” or the title track? “Winter Wine” caught the folk-rock Fairport vibe beautifully. And in the side-long “Nine Feet Underground”, Caravan had their own classic prog epic, complete with varying moods, tempos and dynamics, held together by the over-driven Hammond organ chords of David Sinclair. Produced by early Genesis producer David Hitchcock, augmented by Pye’s brother Jimmy on flute and David Grinsted providing sound effects of bells, cannon, wind and ambient atmospherics, ” In The Land Of Grey And Pink” is a bonafide bonanza of aural delights from start to finish! Highly recommended if you’ve never jumped on board Caravan before.
Great summary, Peter. I can’t think of a better way to spend a time while in lockdown than write up something like this. Caramel was indeed a great lineup of Camel.