Kevin Ayers, Lady June, Ollie Halsall: A Canterbury convention in ‘The Happening Combo’ …

Artist:             Kevin Ayers/Lady June/Ollie Halsall

Title:               The Happening Combo

File:                Rock/Spoken Word

Label:             Market Square

Cat:                MSMCD193

UPC:               5 065001 032592

Rel:                22/9/17

Something of a curio, ‘The Happening Combo’ bags up previously unreleased demos, out-takes and re-workings of songs recorded between 1980 and 1997 by cult ‘Canterbury Scenists’ KEVIN AYERS and LADY JUNE along with sparring partner, guitarist OLLIE HALSALL.

The rich, eccentric and often wayward outcome measures to the full the mutualism, originality and independence of spirit of three individualists, sadly no longer with us.

The collective’s name was given originally to a 1980 photo (above) of Ollie, Kevin and keyboardist Marvin Siau (the curator of this release) taken outside Kevin’s house in Deia, in the hills of Majorca, one hot summer’s day.

Ayers, who to date had enjoyed a successful solo career post his brief tenure with Soft Machine, and the itinerant Halsall (a high regarded guitarist fielding form with Patto, Tempest amongst others)  were by now performing and writing partners, based in Spain.

Long-standing Majorcan resident June lived nearby; a poet, painter and writer of quirky spoken word albums. Kevin was one of many ‘talent tenants’ at her Maida Vale apartment in London in the early 1970s and had produced and played on 1974’s quirky ‘Lady June’s Linguistic Leprosy’ (subsequently reissued by Market Square).

This album fields tracks from each artist and are taken from an archive curated by Marvin Siau to whom the recordings had been gifted. The last track on the album is Siau’s song “Another Time Before” – it appeared re-titled as ‘Another Rolling Stone” on Ayers acclaimed return-to-form release,’ ‘Falling Up’.

Halsall’s are pop songs, sourced from disparate sources including Mike Oldfield’s mobile studio which in 1988 was parked up on the drive of Ayer’s house. Often alone with his guitar they are distinct from his image as hard rock ‘axe-man’ and complement nicely the songs released by Market Square on solo albums ‘Caves’ and ‘Abbots Langley’.

June’s are taken from sessions for her later 1996 album ‘Hit & Myth’ (reissued by Market Square last year in DL format) ;  some are unused outtakes, others re-orchestrations of tracks used on the album. They resonate perfectly with her released work and sound undated in their sheer outré originality.

Far from the Balearics, Kevin Ayers’ are taken from a demo session in NYC in 1980. He was joined by Ollie Halsall and keyboardist Zanna Gregmar and the quality of the three tracks reflect both the optimism of the day and the quality of the studio facilities.

Gregmar recalled:

“Everybody had a say in the process and the atmosphere was warm and creative, we shared lots of laughs. The musicians were some of the top session guys in New York and they were all very friendly and interested in especially Kevin and Ollie and when the time came for Ollie to record his solos all the other musicians stayed behind to listen and spontaneously broke out in applause after some of Ollie’s takes and musical jokes.

“That whole time in New York was wonderful, the recordings, and much good food which was always very important in Kevin’s world, and it was with considerable disappointment we had to return to Spain when nobody wanted to pick up an album project.”

The songs were later recorded for and included on Ayers’ album ‘Diamond Jack And The Queen of Pain’.

This quality digipak release comes with an 8-page booklet containing notes by Marvin Siau and Kevin Ayers’ biographer Martin Wakeling together with previously-unpublished period images.

Said Wakeling:

“Kevin was blessed to be supported deeply, spiritually and artistically throughout stages of his career by the strength of crucial friendships and relationships that he forged. The survival of these demos and outtakes is due to the dedicated custodianship of Marvin Siau who wandered into Kevin’s concentric circles in 1980ish and never really left.”

Added Marvin:

“I didn’t expect Ollie would leave us so soon. He was so far ahead of his time and full of ideas. Neither did I believe June when she said she had it coming too; yes I miss you.  Because I was very thin when I was young, Kevin nicknamed me Starvin Marvin.  I’ve gained weight, but I’m still glad to have had the privilege of his presence and his recognition of life’s simplicities being its best, born under a wandering star.”

 

THE TRACKS

  1. OLLIE HALSALL – Issue Is Or Issue Ain’t
  2. KEVIN AYERS – Speeding Heart
  3. LADY JUNE – Gemini
  4. OLLIE HALSALL – Somebody Mean
  5. KEVIN AYERS – Lay Lady Lay
  6. LADY JUNE – Sea Cake
  7. OLLIE HALSALL – Leaving It All Behind
  8. LADY JUNE – Out Of Season
  9. KEVIN AYERS – Gimme A Little Bit
  10. OLLIE HALSALL – Ghost Train
  11. LADY JUNE – Fleas Dream Too
  12. MARVIN SIAU – Another Time Before

 

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