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‘Lady June’s Linguistic Leprosy’: Art rock obscurity featuring Brian Eno and Kevin Ayers

When she died of a heart attack in 1999 at the age of 68, her obituary in The Independent called “Lady” June Campbell Cramer “a great British eccentric and cosmic prankster.” That’s already a pretty good claim to fame, but the obit went on to say that her “most achieved performance was herself: she succeeded in turning her existence into living art, bristling with humour.”

“Lady” June—the honorary title given to her due to her upper-crust, aristocratic voice (she sounded like a stoned Judi Dench) and the fact that she was the de facto landlady of many a progressive musician from the Canterbury set—was a sort of free-spirited hippie bohemian poetess and multimedia performance artist who ran with the crowd that included Gong and Soft Machine, who she first met in Spain in the early 1960s.

According to Daevid Allen, who was in both groups, June’s Maida Vale flat was “London’s premier smoking salon”:

“She was ferocious in the mornings until the first joint arrived: she’d hover over you with a wet cloth demanding that you clean the stove.”

Gilli Smyth of Gong, Allen’s wife, was her best friend, and it was at a dual birthday party June threw for herself and Smyth that a drunken Robert Wyatt fell out of a window, falling four stories and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

In 1973, June took part in the chaotic BBC Radio 4 series If It’s Wednesday It Must Be… with Kenny Everett and former Bonzo Dog Band member Vivian Stanshall. Later that year she recorded Lady June’s Linguistic Leprosy, her surrealist poetry set to music by her longtime friend (and longtime tenant) Kevin Ayers and Brian Eno, who lived nearby. The recording was made in the front room of her apartment (along with Gong’s drummer Pip Pyle and David Vorhaus of White Noise) and is said to have cost just £400. A wary Caroline Records—a Virgin subsidiary set up to release things with little to no commercial potential in the first place—pressed up just 5000 copies, but the album sold out quickly when news of her famous collaborators got around. June performed on bills along with Gong, Hawkwind, The Pink Fairies and Hatfield and the North.

“Lady” June Campbell Cramer returned to Spain in 1975 and became an active and creatively fulfilled participant in the artists’ community of Deya in Majorca. It is primarily for the company she kept—and this one remarkable album—that we remember her today. Lady June’s Linguistic Leprosy was re-issued on CD in 2007 by Market Square.


“The Letter”

“Tourisy”/“Am I”

“To Whom It May Concern”

“Some Day Silly Twenty Three”

“Missing Person,” a gorgeous number from a 1984 French various artists release entitled History of Jazz.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Progrock’s greatest uneasy lovesong: Kevin Ayers’ ‘The Lady Rachel’ live in 1975
06:16 pm


prog rock
Kevin Ayers


Now she’s safe from the darkness
She’s safe from its clutch
Now nothing can harm her
At least not very much

When the great Kevin Ayers died on February 18th, I checked YouTube to see if there was a vintage live clip of him performing my favorite song of his, “The Lady Rachel” from 1969’s progrock milestone Joy of a Toy. There wasn’t, but a few weeks later, a kind soul posted this humdinger of a performance from Belgium in 1975.

Ayers, with a band including Zoot Money and Ollie Hassell, does an astonishing twelve-minute long “Lady Rachel” here. If you’re a Kevin Ayers fan, you’ll plotz. The quality is great, too.

The thing that I wondered about is the audience murmuring among themselves at the song’s start. Who the hell would have talked during Kevin Ayers in his prime? Idiots!

When Joy of a Toy was remastered with extra tracks in 2003, it included an outtake from the sessions titled “Religious Experience” [take 9] (aka “Singing a Song in the Morning”) with Syd Barrett on guitar.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Soft Machine founding member Kevin Ayers dead at 68
12:17 pm


Soft Machine
Kevin Ayers

“Kevin Ayers’ talent is so acute you could perform major eye surgery with it.”
—John Peel

Sad to hear that founding Soft Machine member, Kevin Ayers, one of the most important characters in the history of psychedelic rock, has died at the age of 68. The singer-songwriter guitarist passed away at his home in the French village of Montolieu.

During his career that spanned five decades, Ayers worked with the likes of Brian Eno, John Cale, Syd Barrett, Elton John, Nico, Robert Wyatt, Andy Summers and Gong.

Fun fact: Kevin Ayers is “The bugger in the short sleeves fucked my wife” who is referred to in John Cale’s “Guts.” Cale caught them the night before the famous June 1, 1974 recording.

“Eleanor’s Cake (Which Ate Her)”:

The gorgeous “The Lady Rachel” from 1970’s Joy of a Toy album:

In this clip taken from the POP2 TV series, Ayers (who obviously spoke French pretty fluently in that plummy public school voice of his) performs in Paris at Taverne De L’Olympia, sometime in May of 1970. Supporting the release of his second solo album, Shooting at the Moon, Ayers plays with The Whole World, a group that included a young Mike Oldfield on bass, avant-garde classical composer David Bedford on keyboards (Bedford had orchestrated Ayers’ Joy of a Toy record previously), and the great jazz saxophonist, Lol Coxhill.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Mind-blowing early Soft Machine footage, 1968

The amount of high quality video footage of the Soft Machine unearthed in recent years has been truly impressive and a godsend to fans of the ever-changing line-ups of the Canterbury prog-rock greats. For me, the earlier the better, so this 1968 performance of the group on French TV is some of the best footage of the Softs, I’ve seen, period.

Showcasing the improvisational brilliance of the classic Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers and Mike Ratledge line-up in a way that their first album did not, this 24-minute long set is a barnstormer throughout, ending on an extended, energetic romp all over their classic,“Hope for Happiness.”

If you’re a Soft Machine fan, this will absolutely blow you away.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Kevin Ayers: May I ?
01:53 pm


Kevin Ayers

Seeing as how I name-checked the man in my Rick Grossman post yesterday I thought I’d share this lovely 1972 clip by Soft Machine founder Kevin Ayers. He’s surrounded here by a rogues gallery of prog luminaries : Mike Oldfield on bass, Lol Coxhill on soprano sax, Mike Bedford on accordion, etc. This song, from his Shooting at the Moon LP, seems to sum up his breezily casual, pleasantly stoned approach rather nicely. Goes down smooth.

Posted by Brad Laner | Leave a comment