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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

THE SOFT MACHINE - WHY ARE WE SLEEPING? (In tribute to Kevin Ayers 1944-2013)

For less than two years during '67-'68, London's Soft Machine (as headed by bassist/ vocalist/ songwriter) Kevin Ayers were occupying the same type of (inner) space as the Syd Barrett-led Pink Floyd. In fact, the two groups played together often at the legendary UFO Club. Much like Floyd after Syd Barrett, The Soft Machine carried on but in a wholly different style (jazz fusion) after the departure of Kevin Ayers at the end of an extensive tour supporting the Jimi Hendrix Experience (what a lineup!). The group was also managed by the Hendrix team of Mike Jeffreys and Chas Chandler, who also acted as their producer.

Fortunately, the group left behind an incredible debut single ("Love Makes Sweet Music" that I still do not own) and their masterpiece debut LP. On the LP, the songs meld together as one long psychedelic suite, yet their US label ABC Probe was able to extract "Why Are We Sleeping" as a single, backed with Ayers "Joy Of A Toy" for the b-side. Joy Of A Toy became the title of Ayers solo debut.

Kevin Ayers spent the '70's and '80's released several gorgeous, folk based recordings of great emotional depth. He spent most of the '90's and '00's as a recluse in the south of France, but released what is now his final album in 2007.

"Why Are We Sleeping" is my favorite 3 and a half minutes from the Soft Machine LP, as Ayers distorted bass (and baritone vocals) fights playfully for space with Mike Ratledge's organ swells, all the while drummer Robert Wyatt swings like a mofo (there's no guitar on this track), capped off by those haunting female harmonies. Forty five years later and the song is STILL relevant, perhaps even more so- so much happens all around us but so many folks walk through life filled with apathy.

from 1968...



Unknown said...

Dear Derek, you deepen my listening experience & broaden my horizon, thank you sir!

Rockin' Jeff said...

What that guy said.

Holly said...

What those 2 guys said ;-)

web_star said...

Thanks Derek for another great track. I also love the way Kevin Ayers re-worked this track as It Begins With A Blessing / Once I Awakened / But It Ends With A Curse on his solo album The Confessions Of Dr. Dream And Other Stories from 1974.