1971, part 3: The Canterbury scene

One of the articles I wrote about albums released in 1970 was dedicated to the Canterbury Scene. All the bands reviewed in that article continued to release excellent albums in 1971, in addition to artists we have not reviewed yet. Let us look at the scene’s output that year.

Caravan – In the Land of Grey and Pink

We start the review with a bang and one of the albums most associated with the Canterbury Scene, for which I dedicated a full article:

Caravan’s third album In The Land of Grey and Pink marked an important transition for the band. Realizing the critical role of a producer, they hired David Hitchcock, who by that point produced albums for Jan Dukes De Grey, East of Eden and Aardvark for the Decca progressive subsidiary label Deram. 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 – In the Land of Grey and Pink

The album is full of wonderful tracks that remained with the band‘s live repertoire throughout its career. Bassist Richard Sinclair contributed the whimsical Golf Girl and one of my favorite songs by the band, Winter Wine. Originally titled “It’s Likely To Have A Name By Next Week”, 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.”


But undoubtedly, the crown achievement of the album and one of Canterbury Scene’s and all progressive rock best epic musical pieces is Nine Feet Underground. 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.”

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 milestone 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.” Dave Sinclair: “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.”


Richard Sinclair – bass guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals

Pye Hastings – electric guitars, acoustic guitar, vocals

Dave Sinclair – Hammond organ, piano, Mellotron, harmony vocals

Richard Coughlan – drums and percussion

Soft Machine – Fourth

As we said, epics were in vogue in 1971, and Soft Machine had a few of their own in that department. Their Fourth album, fittingly called… Fourth, was the deepest Soft Machine went into experimental jazz up to that point. It was also the last album to feature Robert Wyatt, who left the band later that year. While the music on this album does not show it, tensions between Robert Wyatt and the rest of the band were at a peak during the recording of this album.

Wyatt remembers: “They’d sort of moved on musically, and I had regressed. Someone showed me an old film of our rehearsal for Soft Machine Fourth. They’re working away at this thing and Mike’s saying: “It’s got to be so many microseconds per beat, and it’s varying slightly, slightly faster here and there. They’re all working on it. And I wander in from the drum kit with a suggestion for Elton, and they all look away, embarrassed, until I’ve stopped, and then they carry on their conversation.”

Soft Machine – Fourth

Album credits:

Elton Dean – alto saxophone, saxello

Mike Ratledge – acoustic piano, Hohner Pianet electric piano, Lowrey organ

Hugh Hopper – bass guitar, fuzz bass

Robert Wyatt – drums

Additional personnel:

Roy Babbington – double bass

Mark Charig – cornet

Nick Evans – trombone

Jimmy Hastings – alto flute, bass clarinet

Alan Skidmore – tenor saxophone

The side-long ambitious 4-part composition Virtually that takes up side 2 of the album was written by Hugh Hopper.

Kevin Ayers – Whatevershebringswesing

And from the Softs to an original member of the band, who in 1971 released his third album, Whatevershebringswesing. We find an excellent cast of musicians here, including Mike Oldfield, William Murray, Didier Malherbe and a guest appearance by Robert Wyatt. But lets focus on David Bedford, to whom I dedicated a series of articles.

Kevin Ayers – Whatevershebringswesing

David Bedford gets composer and arranger credits on the opening track, the fantastic multi-part song There is Loving/Among Us/There is Loving. Bedford scored the backing track for a large orchestra and composed the middle part Among Us. It was recorded at Abbey Road early in the recording phase of the album. There Is Loving is in part based on a single Kevin Ayers released in 1970 with The Whole World, named Butterfly Dance.

Read the full article about David Bedford here:

Album credits:

Kevin Ayers – vocals, guitar, bass

David Bedford – keyboards, orchestral arrangements

Mike Oldfield – bass, guitar

Dave Dufort – drums

William Murray – percussion

Tony Carr – drums

Robert Wyatt – harmony vocals

Didier Malherbe – saxophone, flute

Gerry Fields – violin

Johnny Van Derrick– violin

Bruce Malamut – flugelhorns, incidental brass, assistant engineer

Gong – Camembert Electrique

Didier Malherbe, who plays on Kevin Ayers’ Whatevershebringswesing, is our connection to the next album, by the communal entity known as Gong. Their second album Camembert Electrique was released in 1971 on the French free-jazz friendly label BYG Actuel. The album was re-released by Virgin Records in 1974 for the meager price of 59p, the price of a single. Virgin started that marketing experiment the year before with Faust’s The Faust Tapes (priced at 49p) to encourage young folks to part of their change money and listen to unknown artists, hoping they acquire the taste for that sort of sonic aesthetic.

Gong – Camembert Electrique

Mark Paytress wrote it well in the 2015 CD release of the album:

In many respects, Camembert Electrique – released four years after the Summer of Love – bridges the gap between Soft Machine’s jumpy jazz dadaism and Pink Floyd’s cosmic explorations. It was a potpourri of UFO-evoking Goon’s like zaniness and meditative drones, tribal rhythms and nursery rhyme melodies, tape loop experiments and the occasional pop song structure.

Gong – Camembert Electrique gatefold

Daevid Allen (“Bert Camembert”) – guitar, vocals

Gilli Smyth (“Shakti Yoni”) – space whisper

Didier Malherbe (“Bloomdido Bad De Grasse”) – saxophones, flute

Christian Tritsch (“Submarine Captain”) – bass

Pip Pyle – drums

Egg – The Polite Force

After their first album was released on the short-lived Nova label, Egg signed with Deram, the more established progressive music subsidiary of Decca. The excellent group, which had its roots in Uriel back in 1968 with Steve Hillage, sadly did not last. After this album they were no more, spare a stint in 1974 to record material that was left unrecorded from their earlier period. Drummer Clive Brooks went on to play with the Groundhogs. Bassist Mont Campbell and keyboardist Dave Stewart linked again for a brief time later in the 1970s in the wonderful outfit National Health.

Egg – The Polite Force

A Visit to Newport Hospital is Mont Campbell’s way of recalling their earlier experiences as Uriel when playing the Ryde Castle Hotel on the Isle of Wight:

There used to be a time when we lived in the van

We used to loon about with Janice, Liz and Ann

Now looking back it seemed to be a happy time

And so we kid ourselves we didn’t really mind

The hang-ups and the lack of bread

There were four of us then, the group was Uriel

We played five nights a week at Ryde Castle Hotel

We spent our time avoiding skinheads and the law

It was a freedom that we’d never felt before

And now we’re doing this instead

It was a way of life that was completely new

And so we found that we had quite a lot to do

The time passed slowly and each day was much the same

We ate and loved and slept and no one was to blame

For saying things better left unsaid

Dave Stewart – keyboards

Mont Campbell – bass, vocals

Clive Brooks – drums

The Keith Tippett Group – Dedicated To You, But You Weren’t Listening

We move to the jazzier side of the Canterbury Scene, a movement that contributed some of Britain’s jazz scene finest musicians during that period. One of its key artists was Keith Tippett, whose band released the album Dedicated To You, But You Weren’t Listening. Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote about Keith Tippett. Read the full article here:

1971 was an extremely productive year for Keith Tippett, with two excellent albums of his own. The first is his band’s second album Dedicated to You, But You Weren’t Listening, named after a tune written by Hugh Hopper for Soft Machine’s second album, released in 1969. It is a wonderful British jazz rock album, and it is evident upon hearing the music that the musicians had a great time working together in the recording studio, as Tippett fondly remembers in the album liner notes: “It was fantastic – everybody was leaping around, very happy. Not drunken… just merry. You can tell what it was like from the fade-outs. The tracks weren’t faded from musical reasons, but because we never wanted to stop playing.”

The Keith Tippett Group – Dedicated to You, But You Weren’t Listening

In addition to his band with Nick Evans, Marc Charig and Elton Dean, Tippett called upon a variety of rhythm section players, including Neville Whitehead on bass, Roy Babbington on bass guitar, Tony Uta on congas and cowbell, Bryan Spring, Phil Howard and Robert Wyatt on drums.

A mutual respect existed between Tippett and Robert Wyatt since 1969 when Tippett’s sextet and Wyatt’s group Soft Machine shared performance bills. Tippett: “Robert loved the sextet and I loved Soft Machine. Unusually for that time, they were playing in time signatures like 11, 7, 5, 13. But it wasn’t academic in any sense. It was music with warmth.”

The album cover features one of Roger Dean’s early album covers. This is the year he drew the cover for Yes’ album Fragile, thus starting that celebrated band/illustrator relationship for years to come.

Alto Saxophone, Saxello – Elton Dean

Bass – Neville Whitehead

Bass, Bass Guitar – Roy Babbington

Congas, Cowbell – Tony Uta

Cornet – Marc Charig

Drums – Bryan Spring, Phil Howard, Robert Wyatt

Guitar – Gary Boyle

Piano, Electric Piano – Keith Tippett

Trombone – Nick Evans

Centipede – Septover Energy

We stay with Keith Tippett and reach one of Canterbury Scene’s most ambitious albums. Rarely has such a large group of fantastic musicians been assembled to record an album. Centipede is a project of mammoth scope and range that Keith Tippett conceived to realize his musical aspiration. A little more from that article:

Centipede was one of the highlights in Keith Tippett’s rich career. Those were the days, when a single musician could mobilize 50 other musicians to help with a project that had very little prospect of return on investment. The joy of making music together was a sufficient incentive for everyone as Tippett remembers: “We were all under 25, certainly under 30 years old, and everybody in that band were friends of ours, and we knew their work. And Julie even thought I was crazy, but I started ringing people up, and asking ‘would you play this piece’, and they were saying, ‘wow’, and nobody really thought it would come to fruition, but it did. It’s a little capsule of what was happening in London.”

Centipede – Septover Energy

The double album consists of four side-lengths continuous pieces of music, simply named part 1,2,3 and 4. Tippett may have been influenced by the same format of Soft Machine’s Third album.

Centipede live

Album credits (take a deep breath, here we go):

Violins: Wendy Treacher, John Trussler, Roddy Skeaping, Wilf Gibson (lead), Carol Slater, Louise Jopling, Garth Morton, Channa Salononson, Steve Rowlandson, Mica Gomberti, Colin Kitching, Philip Saudek, Esther Burgi

Cellos: Michael Hurwitz, Timothy Kramer, Suki Towb, John Rees-Jones, Katherine Thulborn, Catherine Finnis

Trumpets: Peter Parkes, Mick Collins, Ian Carr (doubling flugelhorn), Mongezi Feza (pocket cornet), Mark Charig (cornet)

Alto saxes: Elton Dean (doubling saxello), Jan Steele (doubling flute), Ian McDonald, Dudu Pukwana

Tenor saxes: Larry Stabbins, Gary Windo, Brian Smith, Alan Skidmore

Baritone saxes: Dave White (doubling clarinet), Karl Jenkins (doubling oboe), John Williams (bass saxophone, doubling soprano)

Trombones: Nick Evans, Dave Amis, Dave Perrottet, Paul Rutherford

Drums: John Marshall (and all percussion), Tony Fennell, Robert Wyatt

Vocalists: Maggie Nicols, Julie Tippetts, Mike Patto, Zoot Money, Boz Burrell

Basses: Roy Babbington (doubling bass guitar), Gill Lyons, Harry Miller, Jeff Clyne, Dave Markee, Brian Belshaw

Guitars: Brian Godding

Piano and musical director: Keith Tippett

Producer: Robert Fripp

Julie Driscoll – 1969

We remain in the family and move to Julie Driscoll’s debut solo album 1969. Driscoll was part of Brian Auger & The Trinity, an excellent band that became quite popular with unique covers of Bob Dylan’s This Wheel’s on Fire and Donovan’s Season of the Witch. Driscoll found the fame that came with pop stardom a bit much and decided to leave the band and start a solo career with music of the more esoteric kind. Producer Giorgio Gomelsky introduced her to Keith Tippett’s album You Are Here… I Am There and she was instantly hooked: “I just thought I’d been waiting to hear stuff like this for years, it really touched me. Giorgio suggested we should meet up and ask Keith to do some arrangements for the record.” Tippett, who professed that he sees himself as a writer first, pianist second, jumped on the idea. The result was her debut solo album ‘1969’.

Julie Driscoll – 1969

This is an excellent album start to finish, graced by Driscoll’s voice and a great group of musicians, including Tippett’s band members. Tippett arranged three of the tracks on the album and also plays piano on it. On the track Leaving It All Behind Driscoll captured the career transition she was going through:

Gonna go far away

I don’t want to stay no more

There are places I must go to

Lately I’ve been feeling too low to smile

I’m gonna go and be on my own for a while

Listen to the great horn arrangement Tippett created for this song, and the contributions of oboist Karl Jenkins, a future member of Soft Machine and later in his career a Doctor of Music and world-renown composer of classical music.

Julie Driscoll

Driscoll’s album was delayed due to financial issues at the Marmalade label and was only released in 1971. By then Julie Driscoll became Jullie Tippetts, the two exchanging wedding vows in 1970. She retained his original surname. About the surname change Keith Tippett said: “I changed my name because I got tired of seeing ‘Keith Tippett’s group’ on posters, when they couldn’t get the apostrophe in the right place. Seemed simpler just to change.”

Album credits:

Julie Driscoll – vocals, acoustic guitars

Chris Spedding – guitars, bass

Keith Tippett – piano, celeste, arrangements

Elton Dean – alto saxophone

Nick Evans – trombone

Brian Godding – electric guitar, voices

Trevor Tomkins – drums

Derek Wadsworth – trombone

Jeff Clyne – bass, arco bass

Mark Charig – cornet

Karl Jenkins – oboe

Bud Parkes – trumpet

Stan Salzman – alto saxophone

Brian Belshaw – bass guitar, voices

Jim Cregan – guitar

Barry Reeves – drums

Bob Downes – flute

Nucleus – We’ll Talk About It Later

One of British Jazz finest groups in the early 1970s was Nucleus. Founded by trumpet player and composer Ian Carr, who would go on to write excellent books about Keith Jarrett and Miles Davis, in 1971 the band released their second album We’ll Talk About It Later. Over the years the band’s roster included the who’s who of jazz from the British Isles, and that album featured a great incarnation of their lineup.

Nucleus – We’ll Talk About It Later

The album was recorded after the band won the European Broadcasting Union prize at the Montreux festival and later performed at the Newport jazz festival and the Village Gate club in NYC.  The track Oasis was written by Karl Jenkins, who was the primary composer for the band on this album.

The album features another early work by famed album cover artist Roger Dean.

Album credits:

Baritone Saxophone, Oboe, Piano, Electric Piano – Karl Jenkins

Bass, Bass Guitar – Jeff Clyne

Drums, Percussion – John Marshall

Guitar, Bouzouki – Chris Spedding

Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Brian Smith

Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Ian Carr

Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath

One more album of the jazz ilk, this one boasting a different group of musicians, no less impressive. Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath was a fantastic band, a mix of South African and British jazz artists. Chris McGregor was one of a number of jazz musicians who formed the band Blue Notes in Capetown in the early 1960s. The band also included Dudu Pukwana, Mongezi Feza and Louis Moholo. During a European tour in 1964 they decided to stay in the continent where, unlike in their home country, a mixed race band was welcome. They moved to London and in 1970 McGregor formed Brotherhood of Breath, adding some of Britain’s finest jazz musicians. They were described as a “mixture of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Sun Ra but retained a unique feel due to the South African influences and the intelligent arrangements.”

Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath

The album was released on RCA’s Neon label, which producer Joe Boyd labeled “their new label for weird shit”.

Melody Maker wrote in 1971: “Probably the most exciting band of any kind in London at the present”.

The credits list on this album will make any fan of that period’s British jazz scene drool:

Chris McGregor – leader, piano, African xylophone

Malcolm Griffiths – trombone

Nick Evans – trombone

Mongezi Feza – pocket trumpet, Indian flute

Mark Charig – cornet

Harry Beckett – trumpet

Dudu Pukwana – alto saxophone

Ronnie Beer – tenor saxophone, Indian flute

Alan Skidmore – tenor and soprano saxophone

Harry Miller – bass

Louis Moholo – drums, percussion

Mike Osborne – alto saxophone, clarinet

John Surman – baritone and soprano

Producer – Joe Boyd

Moving Gelatine Plates

We finish this review with a Canterbury Scene band in all aspects other than the “scene”, this one hailing from France. The band took its name after a sentence from John Steinbeck’s book Travels with Charley, recollecting the author’s trip through the US accompanied by his poodle. In the book Steinbeck talks about his travels: “I had to be peripatetic eyes and ears, a kind of moving gelatin plate.”

Moving Gelatine Plates

Bass player Didier Thibault about the album:

“The recording took place during a week in March 1971. The band having run the pieces well on stage, things went easily. The sound has remained very faithful, it is true that at the time we did not abuse ‘noise gates’, filters and equalizers which have a clear tendency to sanitize the sound of current music … The sound recording was almost live. The improvised passages not being counted in bars, the choruses were recorded most of the time with the rhythm. It was practically only the vocals that were re-recorded. Raw and direct sound, close to what MGP had on stage, and faithful in design.“

Moving Gelatine Plates, 1970

Thibault continues: “Sound engineer François Dentan was enthusiastic about innovating, finding new things. Very surprised for example to record for the first time in his life a bass with distortion, he was happy to tamper with the sound of drums in the solo of ‘Last Song’. It may seem easy today with any ‘flanger’, but he had to run around to find a sound generator, which Claude Delcloo had to hold firmly in order not to lose the phasing point.”

Bass, Vocals, Twelve-String Guitar – Didier Thibault

Guitar, Vocals, Acoustic Guitar – Gérard Bertram

Organ, Trumpet, Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Maurice Helmlinger

Drums – Gérard Pons

More articles about the Canterbury Scene:

Categories: A Year in Music

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5 replies »

  1. These 3 blogs on 1971 (Prog and The Canterbury Scene) are fascinating. Thank you so much for taking the trouble to research and write about them.

  2. An odd and IMO an inappropriate inclusion of Julie Driscoll who has absolutely no musical connection with what is generally regarded as CS. Just because a particular musician played in a ‘ genuine’ CS outfit such as National Health, Caravan , Soft Machine, Hatfield & The North etc does not mean they can be regarded as a CS band. As much as I admire Julie Driscoll ‘s music she is not CS.
    Now instead of her you could of included Hatfield & The North that fir many encapsulated the very essence and spirit of the Canterbury Scene. May I add that the unique folk sike band , Spyragyra , based in Canterbury for many years , were not and never were producing CS type of music . This example proves me point

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