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Anthony Carew

R.I.P.: Kevin Ayers

By February 27, 2013

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Sad news arose last week that Kevin Ayers, the one-time Soft Machine member turned psychedelic pop eccentric, had died. He passed away on February 18 at his house in Montolieu, in the South of France, on February 18. He was aged 68.

Ayers was born in Kent, England, in 1944, but spent much of his childhood in Malaysia. That had a profound influence of Ayers, instilling in him a wanderlust and a fondness for foreign cultures. Those things both showed up on his debut solo LP, Joy of a Toy.

Released at the tail-end of 1969, Ayers' first ever solo record was one of the best albums of the 1960s. Recorded after he abruptly 'retired' from Soft Machine, Joy of a Toy is a wild psychedelic pop record; the first of an impressive run that included 1970's Shooting at the Moon, 1972's Whatevershebringswesing and 1973's Bananamour.

Though Ayers would grow more reticent as his career progressed —after 1992's Still Life with Guitar he retired to the South of France, and never really came back— those albums persisted even as he retreated. Bands who took huge, clear influence from Ayers included Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, Of Montreal, the Ladybug Transistor, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, King Creosote, Teenage Fanclub, and Super Furry Animals.

Ayers was, both in life and, now, in death, usually written about as the talented rocker who turned his back on fame; who refused to play the music-biz game. Who could've made millions but chose not to. Gladly, his death bought about other eulogies (like Rolling Stone's, and Domino's) that have celebrated Ayers not for what he didn't do, but what he did.

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