Caravan life and biography

Caravan picture, image, poster

Caravan biography

Date of birth : -
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Canterbury, England
Nationality : English
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2012-04-19
Credited as : Music group, Soft Machine band, The World Is Yours

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Caravan are an English band from the Canterbury area, founded by former Wilde Flowers members David Sinclair, Richard Sinclair, Pye Hastings and Richard Coughlan. Caravan rose to success over a period of several years from 1968 onwards into the 1970s as part of the Canterbury scene, blending psychedelic rock and jazz to create a distinctive sound like their contemporaries Soft Machine. Caravan still remains active as a live band in the 21st century.

Caravan is one of the flagship bands of "Canterbury" progressive rock, a quirky, intelligent branch of English pop music history which has built a devoted following over the past three decades. The music by Canterbury artists is influenced as much by church hymns as jazz, R&B, and British Invasion pop, lending it a very recognizable, distinctive sound.
Caravan formed in Canterbury, England during the late 1960s. Its origins lie with the local band The Wilde Flowers, formed in 1964 and featuring Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, and Hugh Hopper, future founders of The Soft Machine, and guitarist Richard Sinclair. When drummer and vocalist Wyatt wanted to concentrate on singing, Richard Coughlan joined as percussionist in 1965. Soon after, Ayers' friend Pye Hastings became second guitarist.

After surviving periodic turnovers in membership of The Wilde Flowers, the band suffered a major setback when Wyatt, Hopper, and Ayers quit to form the Soft Machine in late 1966. Pye Hastings became vocalist while Sinclair's cousin David joined as organist. Early in 1968, after several months of inactivity, the quartet renamed itself Caravan and began rehearsing and writing songs. Occasional live performances built a word-of-mouth following.

Caravan soon got new management and a recording deal with the better-established Decca Records. The title track to its second album If I Could Do It All Over Again I'd Do It All Over You was a minor British hit single, featuring a brief but brilliant organ solo, and Richard Sinclair was honing his songwriting chops as well as becoming a second lead vocalist. Richard explained the band's collaborative songwriting process to Melody Maker, "You could say Pye does most of the writing, but when he does something, we all put our ideas into it. Being good friends, we understand what he means."

The band followed with In The Land of Grey and Pink, balancing its ability to write extended, progressive suites as well as concise, witty pop songs. Unfortunately, at the band's creative and commercial peak, David Sinclair left to join Robert Wyatt's new band Matching Mole. He explained to Melody Maker, "I left Caravan ... because of musical stagnation. After three years of playing with the same band I felt the need to expand into other directions." Pianist Steve Miller and several horn players replaced David to give the band a jazzier sound. While the resulting album Waterloo Lily has its fine moments, it reflects the turmoil within the band and alienated a segment of Caravan's fans. Hastings recalled, "Caravan was beginning to lose the `Caravan feel.' With Steve we were getting more involved with the solos than the songs."

Unsatisfied with the band's new direction, Richard Sinclair left Caravan in 1973 to form Hatfield and The North with former Gong drummer Pip Pyle and Matching Mole guitarist Phil Miller. Matching Mole having disbanded, David Sinclair was persuaded to rejoin Caravan when Steve Miller left. Multi-instrumentalist Geoff Richardson was added to the fold for For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night, a return to form for the band. Because the album featured an orchestra to good effect on some songs, the band and producer David Hitchcock staged a concert in London with The New Symphonia Orchestra.

That performance, released as Caravan & The New Symphonia, was well received, although the band was disappointed with the results. In the liner notes to Canterbury Tales, Richardson reminisced, "The gig seemed a bit tense and over-organized. I felt really constrained since it was a performance and didn't have any spontaneity.
Cunning Stunts, from 1975, followed Caravan's first American tour. That album and its follow-up Blind Dog at St. Dunstan's featured a more pop-oriented approach. In late 1977, when the band's record label, Arista requested new material and several band members were unavailable due to other commitments, Hastings persuaded Richard Sinclair to rejoin the band. Over an album's worth of songs were recorded but remained unreleased for over a decade as Caravan was among several acts Arista culled that year, considered unprofitable.

The band was inactive for most of the eighties. The four original members of Caravan briefly reformed for an album, Back To Front, and several concerts. The quartet played live sporadically throughout the eighties and was featured in 1990 on a British television "Bedrock" special.

Throughout the nineties, Pye Hastings, when not working full time as a plant hire manager, has been leading Caravan for new studio recordings and live performances. Recently Caravan has released two albums, All Over You, a disappointing collection of re-recordings of classic material, and The Battle of Hastings, new songs that prove that the band is still a vital musical force. Richard Sinclair briefly led Caravan of Dreams, who recorded a fine album in 1991, before becoming a carpenter. He occasionally releases albums and plays concerts.

Richard Sinclair takes much pride in the town of Canterbury and the music that he had an active role in shaping. He was quoted in Facelift,: "I think it has got a particular sound.... We've sung it in our schools here... I was part of the C of E (Church of England) choir: up to the age of sixteen I was singing tonalities that are very English. Over the last three hundred years, four hundred years, maybe, and even earlier than that, some of the tonalities go back.... People say `what is the Canterbury scene?' I think you have to come to Canterbury and see and hear it."

The band were largely dormant in the eighties until a 1990 reunion, planned as a one-off for television, reinvigorated their career. Latterly they have also achieved steady sales and a fan following with the support of the more eclectic corners of radio, like BBC Six Music's "Freak Zone" and the growing re-emergence of progressive rock. After performing at NEARFest in 2002, they released The Unauthorized Breakfast Item album in 2003.

In 2010, Pye Hastings announced that the band had resumed activity in anticipation of a one-off concert recording at Metropolis Studios for ITV, which took place in December 2010. New material was written for a debut performance and the band was joined by Mark Walker on drums and percussion. The DVD of this gig was released in May 2011 and the recording will also be shown on ITV as part of the Legends series.

Boxsets and compilations:
Songs and Signs (1991)
Cool Water (1994)
The Best of Caravan – Canterbury Tales (1994)
All Over You (1997)
Songs for Oblivion Fishermen (1998)
Travelling Man (1998)
Headloss (1999)
All Over You...Too (2000)
Traveling Ways: The HTD Anthology (2000)
Where But For Caravan Would I? (2000)
The World Is Yours (2010)

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