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Kevin Ayers possessed a voice like no other, intrinsically British and full of whimsy and mischief. This latter quality animated much of his life as well as his music.
Born in Herne Bay, Kent, in 1944, Ayers was raised in Malaysia before returning to England at the age of 12 where he attended Simon Langton Grammar School For Boys, later described as "a hotbed for teenage avant-garderie". His first band, The Wilde Flowers, formed in the summer of '63 and also featured Robert Wyatt andHugh Hopper, both of whom (along with Ayers) would have a huge effect on what became known as The Canterbury Scene.
By mid-1966 The Wilde Flowers had morphed into The Soft Machine and featured Ayers on bass and vocals, Robert Wyatt on drums and vocals, Mike Ratledge on organ and Daevid Allen on guitar - the latter, both older and wiser, and a key influence on Ayers. The band's sound evolved dramatically, as they began blending jazz influences and beat-inspired incantations to their psychedelic sound.
Appearances at London's UFO Club led to a French tour which proved hugely successful but which marked the departure of Allen who, being Australian and lacking the requisite visa, was denied entry back into the UK. He would, of course, remain in France where he formed Gong, while Ayers, Wyatt and Ratledge continued for the most part as a three-piece.