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Caravan are an English band from the Canterbury area, founded by former Wilde Flowers members David Sinclair, Richard Sinclair, Pye Hastings and Richard Coughlan in 1968.
The band have not achieved much commercial success, but are considered a key part of the Canterbury scene, blending psychedelic rock and jazz to create a distinctive sound like their contemporaries Soft Machine.The band were originally based in Whitstable, Kent, near Canterbury, but moved to London when they were briefly signed to Verve Records.
After being dropped by Verve, the band signed to Decca Records, where they released their most critically acclaimed album, In the Land of Grey and Pink in 1971.
David Sinclair left after the album's release and the band disintegrated the following year.
Hastings and Coughlan added new members, notably viola player Geoffrey Richardson and continued as Caravan before splitting in 1978.The band reformed several times in the following decades, and Caravan still remains active as a live band in the 21st century, despite Coughlan's death in December 2013.Early careerThe group's original members, David Sinclair, Richard Sinclair, Pye Hastings and Richard Coughlan had all been in the Canterbury based Wilde Flowers, albeit not at the same time.
Richard Sinclair had been an early member, but left in September 1965 to study at college.
Hastings had replaced Robert Wyatt as the group's singer and Coughlan as drummer in the band when Wyatt, who performed both roles, formed the Soft Machine.
David Sinclair joined the group in late 1966, but after future Soft Machine member Hugh Hopper left the group in June the following year, they began to run out of momentum and broke up in October 1967.Coughlan, Hastings and the two Sinclairs subsequently formed Caravan in 1968.
"We all had the same goal" recalled Richard Sinclair, "to make our music, write it ourselves, and make a living from it." The band rented a house in Whitstable, Kent for sixth months, where they began to write and rehearse new material.
They also borrowed the Soft Machine's PA for rehearsals while that band was on tour with Jimi Hendrix in the US, as Caravan did not have enough funds for their own equipment.
They were forced to leave in June and ended up living in tents and rehearsing in a local church hall.
By October, they had attracted the interest of music publicist Ian Ralfini, who signed them the American record label, Verve Records, and became the first British act they signed.
Verve subsequently released the band's debut LP, Caravan, later the same year, but a few months later moved out of the UK record business and dropped the band.After a series of gigs in London, including the Speakeasy Club, the band were introduced to Terry King, who became the group's first manager.
David Hitchcock, who had been working in the art department of Decca Records, asked the company's president, Hugh Mendl to sign the band.
They began recording their second album, If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You in September 1969, while continuing to gig on the university circuit, and appearing at festivals alongside Pink Floyd, Yes, The Nice and Soft Machine.
Recording If I could...
continued in February 1970.
A particular highlight was the 14-minute track "For Richard", which showed the band's contrast in styles and jazz-rock influence.
The album was released in August, alongside an appearance at the Plumpton Festival with Van Der Graaf Generator, Yes and Colosseum.
The accompanying single "Hello Hello" helped them land an appearance on the TV show Top of the Pops, performing the album's title track.In autumn 1970, Caravan began working on one of their most critically acclaimed albums, In the Land of Grey and Pink.
The balance of songwriting changed from the previous two albums, with Richard Sinclair taking a more prominent role.
His song, "Golf Girl" was originally written about his then girlfriend (and future wife), but the lyrics were rewritten in the final version..
The group decided to follow up "For Richard" with a suite of short sections of songs written by David Sinclair, that the rest of the band worked on and linked together to form a side-long track, "Nine Feet Underground".
Although, the track was recorded in five separate stages and spliced together, the band performed the suite live as it was finally presented on the album, and it remained a popular track in their live set.
The album was released in April 1971, and though it did not chart, it has remained in print ever since, and has been remastered for CD several times, notably a digital remaster in 2011 by Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson.
"Nine Feet Underground" in particular was a regular fixture on late-night FM radio during the early 1970s.Despite the critical success of In the Land of Grey and Pink, the group were disappointed by its lack of commercial success, believing that Decca were not promoting the band properly or investing enough money.
In August 1971, David Sinclair accepted a job with former Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt's new band, Matching Mole.
Reflecting on the decision to leave, Sinclair later said "I felt the whole thing was going a bit stagnant ...
I wanted to play with other people, but had to accept that with Caravan it was either all or nothing." Hastings remembers that "Dave's departure was a serious blow."