Kevin Ayers Stranger in blue swede shoes

Kevin Ayers Stranger in blue swede shoes

Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes

Kevin Ayers (1944-2013) was a singer-songwriter who featured regularly in Peel's programmes during the first half of the 1970s. He spent his childhood in Malaysia but returned to Britain for his education and was involved with the Canterbury music scene of the 1960s, becoming a founder member of the band Soft Machine. He performed with them between 1966 and 1968, including appearances at London's UFO Club and a tour of the US as support band to Jimi Hendrix, before leaving to record a solo album, Joy of a Toy, for EMI's "underground" label, Harvest. It was released in late 1969 to critical acclaim, displaying Ayers' distinctive baritone voice and his talent for witty and whimsical songs which combined simple melodies with avant-garde touches. This formula was developed by the band he formed, the Whole World, whose members included jazz saxophonist Lol Coxhill, classical composer David Bedford and future best-selling rock composer/guitarist Mike Oldfield. The band was sometimes chaotic in live gigs and only lasted for a couple of years, but a series of albums by Ayers for Harvest and Island established him as an underground favourite.

He never really made the breakthrough to large-scale commercial success, however, despite Island Records' attempt to boost his profile when he signed for them in 1974. After the break-up of the Whole World, his backing groups tended to be more conventionally rock-based (guitarist Ollie Halsall was a long-term collaborator) and he seemed to run out of fresh ideas (as illustrated by the release of a weak cover of "Falling In Love Again" as a single in 1976). With the arrival of punk he was bracketed with the older generation whose time had passed and eventually he moved to Majorca, performing and recording infrequently during the 1980s. He later lived reclusively in the south of France. As with other artists of his era, there was a revival of interest in his work in the 1990s and 2000s, which led to reissues of his previous work and to the release of a new album in 2007. But he was unwilling to resume regular touring and performing, and died in his sleep at his home in France on 18 February 2013.

Links to Peel

At a time when he was critical of the increasing predictabilty and dullness of much "progressive rock", Peel expressed on air his approval of the humour and unpredictability of the 1970 Kevin Ayers sessions for Top Gear. In fact, Ayers was contracted to appear in the Carol Concert but didn't turn up (In Session Tonight, p.225). Two members of Ayers' backing band, The Whole World, Lol Coxhill and David Bedford, went on to record albums for Dandelion Records, and Ayers himself arranged (and played guitar on) Bridget St. John's 1970 single, "If You've Got Money", which was recorded for Dandelion but issued on Warner Brothers, reportedly because Warners were due to take over the distribution of Peel's label from CBS.

In the 1995 documentary Rare, Precious Or Beautiful, Peel mentions Kevin Ayers' Joy Of A Toy album as one of his favourite cover sleeves between 1966 and 1976.

Festive Fifty Entries

  • None


Kevin Ayers did five sessions for Peel's programmes, between 1970 and 1976. All except #4 (and ‘Lunatic's Lament’ from #3) were released on The BBC Sessions 1970-1976 (Hux, 2xCD, 2005)

1. Recorded: 1970-02-10. First Broadcast: 28 February 1970. Repeated: 25 April 1970

  • Why Are We Sleeping / Stop This Train / You Say You Like My Hat / Clarence In Wonderland

2. Recorded: 1970-06-09. First Broadcast: 11 July 1970. Repeated: 26 September 1970

  • Derby Day / The Interview / We Did It Again / Lunatic's Lament

3. Recorded: 1972-03-21. First Broadcast: 14 April 1972. Repeated:

  • Take Me To Tahiti / Whatevershebringswesing / Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes / The Interview

4. Recorded: 1974-07-09. First Broadcast: 30 July 1974. Repeated:

  • Another Whimsical Song / Lady Rachel / Stop This Train / Didn't Feel Lonely Till I Thought Of You

5. Recorded: 1976-07-13. First Broadcast: 22 July 1976. Repeated:

  • Mr Cool / Love's Gonna Turn You Round / Star / Ballad Of Mr Snake

(Please correct mistakes and add any missing info)


  1. Love Is
  2. We Did It Again

(with Bridget St John)

  1. Jolie Madame
  2. The Spider And The Fly
  3. The Oyster And The Flying Fish

Other Shows Played

  • 06 June 1974: Didn't Feel Lonely Till I Thought Of You (LP - The Confessions Of Dr. Dream And Other Stories) Island
  • 18 July 1974: After The Show (7") Island

See Also

External Links

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