RIP Kevin Ayers: Shooting At The Moon

Kevin Ayers
Kevin Ayers.

Kevin Ayers died this week, 68 years old, leaving the enigmatic message 'You can't shine if you don't burn' on a piece of paper next to his bed.

The press is describing him as a whimsical psychedelic pioneer, which undoubtedly he was, but they easily forget that he made a few landmark albums en route to the third millenium. Well we did all forget about Kevin Ayers, didn't we, including that silly Reverend who has never bothered to buy his last album The Unfairground. Not enough time, too much things to do, you know the story...

I have warm feelings for his albums Falling Up (1988) and Still Life With Guitars (1992) that were largely ignored by the public but that contain some hidden gems. The punchline 'Am I really Marcel' was for years a constant pun in my household, bringing back memories of hot and steamy nights in a bohemian shack that had no electricity and no heating but my LA-girl and me did have a cassette player under the bed with an Ayers tape glued inside.

Let's get experienced

Kevin Ayers was the only musician who could convince Syd Barrett to play on one of his records, but he didn't make it to the final mix when the record came out in 1970. On the remastered Joy Of A Toy CD there are two alternative takes of the Singing A Song In The Morning / Religious Experience song and on the liner notes it is claimed that Syd Barrett is on take 9 of the song (the 4 minutes 46 seconds version of the song, track 11 on the CD).

As with all things Barrett this has lead to even more confusion as several people noticed that this might be wrong and that the real version with Syd Barrett is take 103 (duration: 2'50” and track 14 on the CD).

On Wednesday 17th December 1969 Syd Barrett entered the Abbey Road studios and recorded some guitar work for Kevin Ayers' song Religious Experience. According to the tape box two different lead guitar tracks were added to take 10 of the song. Random Precision author David Parker notes that the third track of the tape 'is the guitar playing one hears on the single [issued under the title Singing A Song In The Morning, note from FA]... but on track 8 of the multi-track another completely different sounding lead guitar is playing away'. That one is Syd's guitar... (the same track has a mellotron as well, played by Ayers)

The next day the Religious Experience tapes were further worked on by Peter Jenner for stereo mixing. For an unknown reason the takes were renumbered from take 10 to take 100, and four stereo mixes do exist at the EMI library that include Barrett's guitar in one way or another:
take 100 – 3:07 (unreleased)
take 101 – 3:07 (unreleased)
take 102 – 3:05 (unreleased) and
take 103 – 2:47 (released on the remastered Joy Of A Toy CD).

Although take 9 has a sentence (from Kevin Ayers?) that (apparently) goes 'Syd do your thing', it is highly improbably that Syd Barrett is on there.

But who cares, a great musician has just died...

Vive la banane!

Sources: (other than internet links mentioned above)
Parker, David: Random Precision, Cherry Red Books, London, 2001, p. 157-160.
Singing a song in the morning on Late Night forum, 7 December 2007.

In 2009 a 10" acetate was sold with an (unknown?) mix of Kevin Ayers / Syd Barrett Religious Experience.
Update 2016: replaced dead YouTube links with working ones.