Pye Hastings

Julian Frederick Gordon “Pye” Hastings was born in 1947 in Tomnavoulin, Banffshire, Scotland. He moved to Lydden, Kent, England when he was ten years old.
“My sister Jane was married to John Aspinall, a professional gambler whose real passion was for the preservation of wild animals. They had begun a private collection of gorillas, chimpanzees, tigers and a selection of monkeys, and had bought a small estate called ‘Howletts’ in which to house them. The collection was begun by a chance visit to the animal department of Harrods in London, where Jane witnessed a black-capped capuchin monkey being severely beaten up by the other monkeys in the cage; and she demanded that John buy the unfortunate creature to save its life because she was convinced that it would be killed. Reluctantly, he agreed, saying that it was a ‘dead loss.’ So consequently, the first animal they owned was aptly named ‘Dead Loss.’ Th is was the start of a remarkable journey that to this day is reaping huge benefits by breeding and returning endangered species to the wild, and is now being run by Jane’s son Damian, via the Aspinall Foundation.”
“My mother, who had lived and kept wild animals in India, was recruited to look after the running of the collection while they were away. So she decamped from Scotland to Kent, bringing me and my other sister with her. Life in Scotland at the time was, upon reflection, just normal village life; and naturally, being shortly after the war, times were very hard. I remember regularly having to use rationing books to get food at our local shop. Scotland, however, is a natural food store with a plentiful supply of salmon in the rivers, grouse and deer on the moors and a plethora of rabbits seemingly everywhere. You just had to know someone who was a skilled poacher to live like a king; and believe me, every village had one (a poacher, that is). No local that I recall ever starved!”
“My mother’s father was a Police Commissioner in the ‘Indian Raj’ and came from a rather grand, landed Cornish family called ‘Coode;’ and my father was a Scotsman from Aberdeen who worked for the Bank of India. They met and married in India and lived a very privileged lifestyle, with large houses and servants. They chose to return to the old country because India was finally going through its struggle for independence from the British, and the Japanese were advancing through Burma to their target, which was India. Th is clearly made for very uncertain times. Unfortunately, they came back to find Britain in a state of near-collapse, and all the old values which they had lead their lives by, virtually gone. The country was ravaged by war and virtually bankrupt.”
“I am sure it was a hell of a shock for them to leave such privilege and to be faced with such hardship. But hardship inevitably breeds ambition. So, for some, the route ahead—through dreaming about what could be—would, from that moment on, be clearly defined. It must be said, however, that being a child, I did not fully appreciate what hardships our parents’ generation had to go through till much, much later.”

Pye’s interest in music began with his father and his brother, Jimmy Hastings.
“My dad was the musical one. Of all the things you can inherit from a parent, this is the one thing I am most grateful for. He played piano and taught music in the local schools. He had a ‘Baby Grand’ in the drawing room and never strayed very far from it, unless there was some crisis or other. Mum used to say he was the most dysfunctional person she had ever met, unless he was sitting at a piano. Everyone sings his praises about how good a player he was.”
“Mind you, I was recently at a funeral service in the village, and the organist had us all in stitches with her playing. It could have been ‘Comedy Half Hour.’ She sought me out after the service and wanted to show her appreciation for my dad, and to say how proud she was that he had taught her everything she knew. Keeping a straight face has never been an easy task for me; but with the help of some serious pinching from my wife and a severe biting of my lip, I think I got away without hurting her feelings. Clearly, there are two sides to every coin!”
“At this time, the biggest influence upon me musically was my brother Jimmy. He started off playing piano at about three years of age; but by the time I came to notice, many years later, he had developed a lifelong love of American Big Band jazz music and had begun playing tenor saxophone. Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were the ones I recall, although there were many, many more. Actually, I named the group Caravan after Duke Ellington’s tune of the same name. I always loved that melody and arrangement, and still do. In my teens, I grew away from jazz; and like all young boys developed an interest in rock music— so, Radio Luxembourg was getting my attention. I don’t remember my first record because, like most people of my age, I was totally broke and couldn’t afford to buy a record; so I used to beg, borrow or whatever to listen to music. Food was much more important!”

Pye dropped out of school in the early 60s and spent a year traveling through Europe and Morocco.
“In 1963, I was on a two-week holiday with my sister Jane in the Canary Isles when news came through that President Kennedy had been shot dead. That was it, we thought! Nuclear war was imminent. Jane’s first thought was to return to her children, who were living with their father; but the voice of reason kicked in via an invitation from a friend of Jane’s to come and stay in his villa in Marrakesh. I was given the option of returning to the UK and going back to school or staying with my sister and going on to Morocco. Well, what would you have chosen?”
“Morocco was undoubtedly a fantastic adventure, and I dived in willingly and lapped it all up like a hungry dog. Everything the country had to off er was new and exciting to me. There was, of course, danger at every turn; but provided you kept your wits about you, it would inevitably be an unforgettable education. Not something you could get from a small boarding school in the Home Counties of England. I was gobsmacked by the culture and, of course, the food. I went willingly, and spent a magical year traveling around Morocco, finally ending up in Spain before I realised that all this would soon be coming to an end, and I had to return to England. I landed back in London with just a suitcase and absolutely
no knowledge of what to do next. I had, however, learnt a few chords on guitar from Kevin Ayers, which had awakened something inside myself that I wasn’t fully aware of the desire to play music! Th is proved to be my salvation.”

Pye gives his account on how Caravan grew from The Wilde Flowers.
“I went as a punter to the fi rst-ever Wilde Flowers gig, on a cold winter night in a back room of a pub in Whitstable. Th ere were very few people there. Th e band was Brian and Hugh Hopper (lead guitar and bass), Robert Wyatt (drums and lead vocals), Kevin Ayers (guitar and vocals), Richard Sinclair (rhythm guitar and b-vocals) and a one-off guest appearance by Mike Ratledge on piano.”
“They were essentially an R&B band, more in the vein of The Stones and The Yardbirds—playing mostly covers, with a small selection of songs written by Kevin and the Hopper brothers. Gigs were few and far between; and Richard, who was mid-way through a design course at Canterbury Art College, decided to return to his studies, and Kevin and Mike had gone to London, so a vacancy was created. Brian was aware that I could play, as he had listened to Richard and me practising and singing together, so he asked me to join, and my first gig with the Wilde Flowers was a Battle of the Bands competition in Dreamland Ballroom, Margate. The lineup was Brian and Hugh, Robert and me. We came joint first,
and the prize was a supposed recording session for a day in a local studio. There was, of course, no such thing; it comprised of one guy with a tape recorder in back room. Welcome to the music business!”
“The Wilde Flowers had developed from an R&B group into a soul band—which was the dominant style of music at the time and which I absolutely loved and still do. Robert had left to join Kevin in Ibiza to
form Soft Machine and was replaced by Richard Coughlan. Hugh decided to leave as well, and Brian was fully occupied with his research work for Shell Laboratories. Th e soul music boom was rapidly coming to an end and being replaced with a whole new musical direction by emerging bands like Th e Pink Floyd and, of course, Soft Machine.”
“We felt somewhat abandoned and at a loss; but there was absolutely no question about it: I was determined to carry on, and had just begun writing some of my own material. I declared openly that I wanted to join this new wave of music and form a band. Richard Coughlan was the first to come on board to this new project, followed by Richard Sinclair, who had just completed his art school course.”
“So we now had a drummer and two guitarists. We needed a bass player to complete the lineup and Richard Sinclair suggested his cousin, Dave, who wanted to join but said he would prefer to play keyboards. This would prove to be an inspired decision by Dave. Richard Sinclair and I took turns at playing bass guitar, but Richard was so much better than me that he got the job. Dave, Richard and I all wrote songs at the time, but mine were probably simpler and more ready to go. I must apologise
now for my lyrics. We were all very young then, and I have always struggled with writing words to my songs. I write the melody first and then try to fit the words later; so, very often, they would be the last thing fitted during the process of recording. There was definitely an atmosphere of ‘That will do,’ which I now regret.”

Pye describes the Canterbury and why a so-called “scene” developed there.
“Canterbury was a city with many, many pubs; and to compete, quite a few of them would have music nights, which became a very healthy breeding ground musically for local bands to show what they could do. For budding musicians like us, this was a very healthy environment that gave us the perfect platform to practice our craft. Of course, the publicans overall generally saw it as a way of generating more revenue, and often complained about the long-haired freaks making a bloody din. (That would have been us then). Being young, we felt that it was absolutely our duty to rebel, and duly turned up the volume. Th e audience loved it, and the pubs made more money, which must have really pissed off some of the landlords, having to tolerate the likes of us. Job done!”
“Most of the towns between Canterbury and London would have had a similar situation, so a gig circuit was born. The aim was always to get to London, where you could get noticed and reviewed by the music press. The Canterbury Sound was a phrase generated by a journalist who thought that the Soft Machine and Caravan were more jazzy than most bands of the time and so ‘different.’ Th is was hardly surprising, since pre- Wilde Flowers days, we all individually had a strong admiration for the American Jazz players; and naturally, at some point, you would expect this to translate into our own music, sooner or later.”

Pye describes the audiences in France during the 1970s.
“During this time, we were touring regularly in France (twice a year at least), where the student movement was particularly vocal in its desire to change the recognised order of things. Th ere were many, many student riots, and it didn’t really aff ect us, apart from the common misbelief that all music should be free for the people; and consequently, they felt it was their right not to pay for any concert. Th ere was absolutely no concern whatsoever—for the cost of mobilising a band, the cost of hotels, food, fuel and wages, etc. I don’t know who they thought was going to pay for it all; but as you can imagine, this caused a lot of suspicion and concern back in the UK when the management demanded the fees that we were supposed to collect. Generally, half the money would be paid up-front to the management, so it wasn’t a complete disaster.”
“We were never quite sure if the students had genuinely paid to get in and the promoters had just kept the money, or whether the promoters were to be believed when they said that the students crashed the barriers and got in for free, and they didn’t have the money to pay us. But either way we played quite a few times and came away empty-handed. This did us no harm in the long run, because we became known amongst the students as the band who always played, no matter what, and it must be said that they were really good audiences.”

Pye reflects on the legacy of progressive music.
“I genuinely think the reason for this music coming to light was because the public were incredibly open-minded and were prepared to listen to anything new. You could go on stage dressed as an out-of-work gamekeeper playing a banjo in one hand, a tambourine in the other and a nose flute up your arse, and they would give you a listen. Th e more experimental it was, the better; or so it seemed. Of course, many bands from that era have vanished without a trace. Not a bad thing, some would say! An exciting time nonetheless.”

When asked if there was anything special about his generation, Pye had a simple reply: