Camel life and biography

Camel picture, image, poster

Camel biography

Date of birth : -
Date of death : -
Birthplace : London, England
Nationality : English
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2012-04-18
Credited as : Rock band, The Snow Goose album, Camel Productions

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Camel are an English progressive rock band formed in 1971. Whilst they didn't achieve the large-scale fame of some of their '70s contemporaries (Pink Floyd, Genesis, etc.), they were one of the few progressive bands to survive the punk rock era and maintain a loyal following.

Discussing the use of lights and films during his band's performances, Camel guitarist and vocalist Andrew Latimer told Melody Maker in 1976, "This is the first time we've used films, and I don't want us to get into it too much.... We're not a very bopping band, so it's nice for the audience to have something to watch."

The British progressive rock group Camel formed in 1972 with the blues-rock trio Brew, consisting of Latimer, bassist Doug Ferguson, and drummer Andy Ward. After backing singer Philip Goodhand-Tait on an album, the trio was joined by organist and vocalist Peter Bardens and began rehearsing original material. Camel's sound featured extensive interplay between Latimer's guitar and Bardens's keyboards, underpinned by Ward's swinging percussion. Vocals were not the band's main focus. During the recording of Camel's debut album, the producer suggested that the group find a better singer. After auditioning 30 unsuitable vocalists, the search was abandoned and the recording sessions continued.

The band became a fixture on the English college circuit. In a 1973 interview with Melody Maker, Peter Bardens related the importance of these venues to Camel, "I think the college circuit plays a very important part in any new band's future. They are one of those rare places where small bands get the chance to play, and what's more, they are always good payers." One early concert appearance that provided Camel with underground credibility was on October 8, 1973 at the Greasy Truckers' Party at Dingwall's Dance Hall in London. A live cut from that show, "God of Light Revisited Parts 1, 2, and 3" formed one side of a rare double album commemorating the event, which also featured contributions by progressive contemporaries Gong and Henry Cow.

As a result of constant touring, the band's second album Mirage sold much better than its self-titled debut. Bardens told Melody Maker, "We started the band from scratch. We had no money and no equipment. In three years we've done four tours of Britain, and we're the sort of band that creeps up on you."

Camel's first taste of success came with its 1975 album The Snow Goose, an all-instrumental work based on Paul Gallico's children's book. The album reached both British and American charts. Latimer commented to Melody Maker about the writing of the album: "When we'd written the piece we were really pleased, then again, it wasn't until we'd finished the album that we realized what we'd got." Andy Ward continued, "Snow Goose has opened up a reaction in the audience and the press that we'd been waiting for for a long time." The band was voted Melody Maker's Brightest Hope in that magazine's 1975 poll, and performed at The Royal Albert Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Moonmadness, released in 1976, featured several songs inspired by the personalities of the band members, including "Chord Change" for Bardens, "Air Born" for Latimer, "Another Night" for Ferguson, and "Lunar Sea" for Ward. Toward the end of the recording sessions for that album, bassist Doug Ferguson left to form the group Head Waiter. His replacement, Richard Sinclair, was the bassist and vocalist for veteran progressive groups Caravan and Hatfield and the North. On Rain Dances, Sinclair became the distinctive vocalist Camel had lacked. Melody Maker wrote, "{Sinclair's} vocals were a rare treat, totally unaffected by the Americanisation most rock singers turned to without question, and delivered with a tone and pitch that would delight a choir master."

In 1978 Peter Bardens left Camel, replaced by two more ex-Caravan members, Richard's cousin David Sinclair and Jan Schelhaas, causing Camel to earn the nickname "Caramel" by the music press. The band also added former King Crimson sax and flute player Mel Collins. Before recording sessions could be held, however, Richard and David Sinclair departed.

Camel found itself deserted by the British music press during the early eighties, as press attention shifted to punk rock. Despite sellout tours of Europe, the group's records no longer sold well. Andrew Latimer told Melody Maker in 1980, "Sometimes it's frustrating if you do something you think is a work of art and it gets totally ignored." Another major setback occurred when Andy Ward left the band due to the pressures of touring and a distaste for the music industry in general, leaving Latimer as the last original member of Camel.

Latimer was pressured by the record company to record more pop- oriented material on 1982's The Single Factor which featured members of The Alan Parsons Project. Peter Bardens makes a guest appearance on the track "Sasquatch" along with founding Genesis guitarist Anthony Philips. Following the release of Stationary Traveller in 1984, inspired by the social and physical division of Berlin, Camel took a seven-year hiatus. Andrew Latimer relocated to California during the early nineties, and formed Camel Productions to release new and archival Camel material.

Camel's nineties output includes Dust and Dreams, inspired by John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Harbour of Tears was inspired by Latimer's search for his family's roots following his father's death. In 1997 Camel completed a world tour, performing to sell-out crowds in nine countries. Latimer and Camel Productions also produce and distribute an annual newsletter which keeps Camel in the public eye.

In addition to a prolific solo career, Bardens enjoyed a brief stint down memory lane with Ward for a nostalgically titled group Mirage, performing a few select dates in 1994. Since leaving Camel in the early eighties, Ward has been involved with several other projects, including progressive rockers Marillion, Richard Sinclair's Caravan of Dreams, and his current band, English psychedelic rockers The Bevis Frond.

Throughout its 25-year existence, Camel has scaled the heights of fame as well as the depths of mainstream media derision, acquiring a dedicated following along the way. Through Andrew Latimer's company, Camel Productions, Camel remains alive and well.

In October 2006 Latimer completed a move back to the UK with intentions of recording and releasing future Camel albums from his home country and completing a project started in 2003 with Andy Ward and Doug Ferguson.

In May 2007, Susan Hoover announced through the Camel Productions website and newsletter that Andrew Latimer has suffered from a progressive blood disorder Polycythaemia vera since 1992 which has progressed to Myelofibrosis. This was part of the reason why Camel ceased extensive touring. Latimer underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant in November 2007. He responded well to treatment, but has suffered from fatigue and cycles of severe joint pain. In the September 2008 newsletter, she reported that Latimer was gradually regaining strength and they are adopting a positive frame of mind that Camel will eventually be able to play a mini-tour and release a new studio album.

Latimer's health has progressed and he contributed guitar solos and vocal tracks to David Minasian's album Random Acts of Beauty (released August 2010). In September 2010 Camel Productions announced that Latimer and Denis Clement have started writing material for a new Camel album.

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