This article by Barry H. King and Phil Howitt first appeared in Facelift Magazine issue 10, April 1993
A CARAVAN IS NOT A HOME...
This is a 4 page extract from a 27 page interview with and biography of Richard Sinclair, this section dealing with part of his early career with Caravan.
At the start of 1968, having moved back to Kent from Canterbury, Caravan began practising in earnest. Six weeks of hard graft - Pye Hastings and the Sinclair cousins had taken up labouring jobs in helping to construct the Sevenoaks bypass - had seen the band earn enough money to rent a house in Whitstable for six months, during which time the band established their early repertoire and played half a dozen concerts. However, the lease on the house had run out just at the time when the band were attracting record company interest ...
FACELIFT: Let's see ... June 1968, you were living in tents at Graveny rehearsing in a church hall.
RICHARD SINCLAIR: Yeah
FACELIFT: How did the parishioners react to a rock band rehearsing in their church hall?
RICHARD SINCLAIR: Well, we weren't just a rock band. I think we had other points of view as well. We were more a pop band - well, I suppose we were an avant-jazzy-rocky band! But I considered us just a pop band myself. Anyway, we got on really well. I remember that it got so cold that we spoke to the vicar who was organising all the people who ran the perish hall, and said, 'Look, we're still working on this, can we rent the hall?' Because that's what it was for. It was for use as recreational facilities and it wasn't being used. Godawful acoustics, the worst you can imagine. First of all we camped outside it for a couple of months, I think. And it got too cold. It was autumn, November. If it had been a warm, late summer itt would have been quite pleasant. So we said, 'Could we actually pitch our tents inside the hall?'. And they said this would be fine, and we did. We got the camper heaters in there, got it warm, and only an Wednesday evening did they want to use it far the youth club! So we had to pack the tents up, move the gear... I remember Pye talked about his points of view on Christianity once to them…
FACELIFT: How did that go down?
RICHARD SINCLAIR: Very well. The rest of the band sat in the audience, guffawing and guffawing.
FACELIFT: What church was it?
RICHARD SINCLAIR: It was the Parish Church of Graveny.
FACELIFT: And that was the only church?
RICHARD SINCLAIR: Yes, it was a little village, and Graveny Village Hall is up on the hilltop. It overlooks the sky over Whitstable and that's where all the ideas for 'In The Land of Grey and Pink' came from really. We were there for quite a few months and because of it people came down, heard the band and decided to pay for the time there, at Graveny Village Hall. We started organising contracts with Robbins Music, publishing, and that's the way we got through to the album in the end. We got introduced to Ian Ralfini and the Verve label and so it took off and away it went. Caravan's first eponymous album, pressed on the MGM/Verve label in October 1968, must have been one of the few to have been released by a band of no fixed abode. 1969, with firmer boards beneath them, saw almost constant gigging, as well as a BBC2 television performance.
FACELIFT: How did you manage to appear on 'Colour Me Pop'?
RICHARD SINCLAIR: We were asked to do it. I'm sure it was something to do with the Terry King agency: we had an agent called Terry King then.
FACELIFT: I've seen one or two early Caravan concerts and David Sinclair then used to stand up and rock over his keyboards whilst playing - it was quite a visual sort of spectacle. Do you think that had something to do with the band appearing on 'Colour Me Pop'?
RICHARD SINCLAIR: I've no idea - possibly. I think it was probably the vocal sound and the sound of Caravan that they wanted. They asked us and that's what we did. We were a band that was getting popular with audiences and the underground thing. There happened to be a programme called 'Colour Me Pop' that covered all those bands and luckily we were asked to do it. So there's a record of us plaving. I've not seen it, actually, and would love a copy...
FACELIFT: During the first period of Caravan (1968-72) did you ever write any songs for other bands or artists or play any sessions?
RICHARD SINCLAIR: No, it was totally Caravan, I think you'll find. Oh, apart from 'Singing A Song In The Morning' by Kevin Ayers. Kevin came down and asked me to play on his album, which we did.
FACELIFT: Was Syd Barrett on that recording?
RICHARD SINCLAIR: I've no idea. Syd Barrett is alleged to have contributed guitar to Kevin Ayers' single, apparently mixed out by Ayers at a later date. Richard Sinclair was joined on this single, recorded in January 1970, by his cousin Dave and Richard Coughlan.
FACELIFT: I understand that when you were with Caravan in the early 70s, you jammed with Steve Hillage a couple of tines.
RICHARD SINCLAIR: I can't actually remember it. I've always been friendly with Steve because I've known him as the family from Gong and also he was in Canterbury some time before then.
FACELIFT: Did you know Barbara Gaskin at that time?
RICHARD SINCLAIR: Yes, she used to live in Canterbury for some time in St Radigunds Street. I knew her from some friends there. I think Barbara would have been a girlfiend of Dave Sinclair's at one time. There was also a band called The Red Roll Ons or the Purple Hipsters - I can't remember what it was. They played music locally. I've lived here 43 years and you meet all these people, don't you? I've organised gigs at the University too. Steve Hillage, I suppose, was involved down here at the University, so his Canterbury connection is that. He's another traveller, thrower, disappearer, upper, outer and he's in Glastonbury or Bristol or whatever now. I'm not in touch with Steve, but I'd like to be, very much. He'd be a very useful person to be in touch with at the moment.
Richard Sinclair recorded a further two Caravan albums with the original line-up ('If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You' - also the title of their one hit single - and 'In The Land Of Grey And Pink'). Most of Caravan's finest compositions were penned within this period,andit was an era which included the top 20 single and an appearance on Top of the Pops. Richard Sinclair appeared on a further Caravan album in 1972 ('Waterloo Lily'), by which time Steve Miller had replaced Dave Sinclair on keyboards.
THE END OF THE ROAD AND A NEW DELIVERY
Steve Miller left Caravan in July 1972. Richard Sinclair was soon to follow ...
FACELIFT: Racing forward, what finally made you quit Caravan?
RICHARD SINCLAIR: We weren't doing so much work then, and it was quite stressful because we'd started families. I had a young son. So did Pye. And it meant we weren't living in the same house together, so we weren't playing so much music together. Dave Sinclair was living in one place, Richard Coughlan was living somewhere else - Maurice (Haylett) the road guy was there at the time. We hadn't earned a lot of money. Dave had left the band already and I made a friendship with Steve Miller through his brother Phil, and Pip (Pyle) who I knew quite well. Phil's brother Steve plays piano, and they're all friends from the Hatfield Heath area, Bishops Stortford. They liked my bass playing. Phil did too. He'd been down to where I was living and I started playing with then - in fact I was playing more music with them than I was with Caravan because it was quite hard to get the band together after three years of a pretty hard venture. Dave had left Caravan, so Steve was the obvious choice, because he was the only keyboard player that we knew, and that I knew, that could possibly join the band after Dave had left. He made a lovely job. We had a nice album with him (Waterloo Lily). A very good writer, lovely keyboard player - a completely different style to Dave. The band's personality changed quite heavily, because Dave was a very strong influence in Caravan - he excels in everything he does. I decided I wasn't playing enough music in Caravan and I wanted to leave. I'd do something else if the band weren't playing enough music - it was quite hard for us all to survive. I thought, 'I'll move to London and see if can carry on with music and really go for it up there and develop my musical thing rather than whatever it was in Canterbury I was doing. So I moved up and formed a band with Pip and Phil, called it Hatfield and the North, in the end. First off it was called Steve Miller's Delivery. It was really Steve's Idea. In fact his brother Phil and he decided that they didn't want to work together, and Steve decided to do something else and left. Phil, Pip and I invited Dave Sinclair up and we played at Pip's house quite a few times. I think we went to Paris with Robert, played a live show that was recorded which I've got tapes of. We played Dave Sinclair's tunes and mine. Dave Sinclair decided that he'd got other things to do. It was too stressful to keep coming up and down to London to play with Phil, Pip and I, and he wanted to do other stuff anyway. So we had to look for a keyboard player and Pip phoned up Dave Stewart. Dave Stewart came round and rehearsed immediately, got the job, because he was that fantastic.