A non-accusatory essay from a male lesbian.
Click on images for real size
1. Canterbury. Cantorbéry en Français.
The first major city the revolutionary and republican Napoleonian forces would've invaded, had they not made the fatal error of not overtaking the British Isles before attacking "sillily" Russia in the middle of the winter. And it would've been one of the two pagan strongholds in the Isles (the other being York) taken almost immediately. We Belgians and French shudder to think what the Napo The Lion troupes would've done to that "oh-so ugly" cathedral of theirs.
Rest assured, if we Republicans don't like much these obscure forces that like to impose their "wisdom" on others, some of us really love that Episcopal city, but for fairly different humoristic/spiritual reasons. Indeed, to the more aware Francophones, the music evaporating from that walled-in city has us mesmerized as much as those famous ancient and mythical "brass and flute" incidents in Jericho.
2. Opting for inventive and odd/fun songs.
The "Canterbury scene" music (although we know that there wasn't actually a real scene) is often considered/equated as a quaint English form of jazz-rock/fusion. Of all the groups hailing from that city, only Spirogyra and maybe to a lesser extent, the Radio Gnome Invisible Gong can be considered further away from jazz-rock/fusion than Caravan is.
Yes, despite the subtle but persistent bossa nova rhythms present on the major tunes of the first four albums, there is not much that can likened to these other jazz-rock bands. Indeed, like their former Wilde Flowers mate Kevin Ayers, Caravan opted for inventive and odd/fun songs, sometime openly pop - much like Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd did. But like Floyd, they never gave up the sheer power of lengthier epics, where the instruments took on a prominent role.
3. Heterosexuals on the turntable.
Coming back to that spiritual fascination I spoke of earlier, Caravan is definitely one of the more heterosexual bands that ever graced a turntable. Their love of the fair sex is all too evident on their 70's albums; starting that astounding Cecil Rons track, where Pye reads a letter from his future love, only to find out it was signed (scribbled) Cecil Rons instead of Cathy Ross. This incident, past the creation of the afore-mentioned song, had lasting effects and sequels not only on Pye, but with the rest of the group as well. To be fair, if Caravan is not a jazz-rock band, they could almost qualify as jizz-rock, based on the lyrical and visual contents of their future works to come.
We'll give the group the benefit of the doubt about their second album's name If I Could Do It Over, I'd Do It All Over You, since "Over You" was maybe meant as "because of you". That very same benefit of the doubt is rather dubious, because one of the album's promo add of the album featured a busty naked girl (maybe the mysterious Françoise??).
Despite a fairly abstinent Land Of The Grey And Pink album, where Richard Sinclair makes a clear allusion to his then-love Patricia in the goofy but fun Golf Girl song (the working-title even mentioned their son Jason), it seems their minds wandered in different directions, such as the quest for the punk weed, not forgetting their dad in the rain, etc….
4. Hell broke loose.
All hell broke loose on their fourth album, named after the famous prostitute Waterloo Lilly, who is most-likely pictured on the album's outer-gatefold sleeve, but also imagined more privately in the inner-gatefold.
Their next album's cover went even a step further, For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night, which celebrating the fair sex's fertility. Originally wanting to homage it with a young girl in her full nakedness splendour, the prude Canterburian authorities declared the parish citizens not ready for such beauty and over-ruled the artwork, by having the poor girl dressed in what looks like a nightgown for jail use.
Of course, Pye retaliated and took his revenge in a few tracks on the album, using faintly scatological scents in Memory Lain its working title was "He Who Smelt It, Dealt It"). This "rebellion" is much more evident in that extremely funny (or shocking if you were under the episcopal umbrella) The Dog, The Dog, which is an ode (or a plea) to female oral gratification to their partners, despite a certain Aqualung/Cross-Eyed Mary resemblance in the theme.
We'll pass quickly over the famous spoonerism of Cunning Stunts (Stunning Cunts), though it would be nice to find out what brought out that "naked butt" cheeks picture that helped promote the album. And just when you thought the band had more or less outgrown the teen-humour, out comes the Blind Dog At St Dunstan album, referring to that famous "two dogs helping each other" anecdote. Is one of those two dogs the same one that was "at it again" earlier on? If so, was his name Geoffrey, or Richard? Returning to a slightly more backside humour, the A Very Smelly Grubby Little Oik was more than likely hinting at the usual stenches that came during the digestion of a Cassoulet ingested at l'Auberge Du Sanglier in region of Albi.
In further albums, it seems that Behind You (about adultery) and Give Me More (tariffied love) were still preoccupations by the recording of the Better By Far album. I'll carefully stop here; before I start causing any marital troubles, but let me say for the defendant's case, that this over-exuberant sexuality is countered by absolutely wonderful odes to ladies, like (for example) the stunning The Love In Your Eyes.
6. Life on the road.
As you probably all know, the road can be filled with dangers, but these and spread all the way to the concert stage, where our hero Pye almost died in an electrocution on the Marquee stage in 1969.
Elsewhere, I'd like to warn Geoffrey to use a tree or wall next time he takes care of urgent business, instead of a Belgian canal. Every Belgian knows that it is much easier to avoid a drunken fall if you can hold on to wood or bricks, rather waters below the feet level.
I can only imagine the bizarre stories, that haven't filtered to me yet, about passing the punk weed through the borders, past the humourless agents' vigilance.
And of course, one of the main dangers is the irascible breakfast restaurant cashiers that want you to empty your pockets to make sure you did eat that sunny-side-up egg, instead of saving it for later and shoving it quickly in the coat pocket.
I dare not think of the state of Geoffrey's pocket, once the "unauthorized breakfast item" was retrieved from his jacket in front of an evil-looking US Marshall. Next time, think of "borrowing" a croissant, it's not quite as messy.
It is all summarized in 'Wendy Wants Another 6" Mole'.
8. My favorites.
As for my fave Caravan tracks, I'll have to mention:
Place Of My Own
Where For A Caravan Would I Be
As I Feel I Die
With An Ear To The Ground
For Richard (who was that Françoise girl?)
A Day In The Life of Maurice Haylett
In The Land Of Grey & Pink
Nine Feet Underground
Nothing At All
The Love In Your Eye
Memory Lain Hugh/Headloss
The Dog The Dog He's At It Again
A Hunting We Shall Go
All The Way
Clear Blue Sky (The Album)
Wild West Street/Nowhere To Hide/Linders Field