Follow TV Tropes


Music / Caravan

Go To
Caravan in The '60s. Left to Right: David Sinclair, Richard Coughlan, Pye Hastings, Richard Sinclair

"Standing on a golf course
Dressed in P.V.C.
I chanced upon a golf girl
Selling cups of tea"
— "Golf Girl"

Caravan is a British Progressive Rock band formed in 1968 by Pye Hastings, Richard Coughlan, and Richard and David Sinclair after all four left The Wilde Flowers, a proto-prog group that also contained future members of Soft Machine. They got signed by Verve Forecast, and released their debut, Caravan, in 1969. It was a respectful display of Psychedelic Rock in its own right, and "Where but for Caravan Would I?" already foreshadowed their later sound. However, after gaining new leadership, Verve dropped them from their record label (The Velvet Underground and The Mothers of Invention were also victims, though in Caravan's case it was due to Verve shutting down their British operations). Hastings later recalled "that situation really left us in limbo".

Undeterred, they signed on to Decca Records and released If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You in 1970. The album saw them expand their sound to feature less psychedelic elements and more prog elements, most prominently on "And I Wish I Were Stoned/Don't Worry", "With an Ear to the Ground/You Can Make It/Martinian/Only Cox/Reprise", and the lengthy jazz-rock epic "For Richard". The record also saw their pop sensibilities come into play with the Title Track and "Hello Hello", the latter of which led to an appearance on Top of the Pops.

Their next record, In The Land of Grey and Pink, was released in 1971 on Decca's Progressive Rock sublabel Deram, which would be Caravan's home for the next few years. While ignored upon release (though "Nine Feet Underground" was played on Late-Night Radio a bit), it's now not just considered their masterpiece but one of prog's best albums period, and the definitive release of the Canterbury Scene, featuring both finely crafted British pop songs ("Golf Girl", "Love to Love You", the Title Track) and lengthy prog epics ("Winter Wine" and the 22-minute "Nine Feet Underground").

The next album, Waterloo Lily, saw the departure of David Sinclair. He was replaced by Steve Miller (no relation) of the Blues Rock/Jazz Fusion band Delivery. Miller brought with him a Wurlitzer piano and an overall jazzier sound, being the closest Caravan got to straight Jazz Fusion.

Afterwards, both Sinclair and Miller left to form Hatfield And The North. The next album, For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night, saw the return of David Sinclair and the addition of John G. Perry and viola player Geoff Richardson. It wound up being their rockiest album to date, with further emphasis being placed on Hastings' guitar and Richardson's viola, the latter of which gave the album a folkier sound to it as well. With the epic "Memory Lain, Hugh/Headloss" and the delightful "The Dog, The Dog, He's at it Again", it's frequently seen as just as good as, if not better, than In the Land of Grey & Pink.

Unfortunately, the next album, Cunning Stunts, proved to be a mixed bag, and the follow-up, Blind Dog at St. Dunstans, is frequently seen as the start of Caravan's Audience-Alienating Era. From that point on, they were plagued with frequently changing line-ups which only proved to add more damage. They broke up in 1985, reformed in 1990, and continue to tour and release albums to this day, which have had mixed receptions (although The Battle of Hastings and The Unauthorised Breakfast Item were received well-enough). Richard Coughlan died in 2013, leaving Pye Hastings as the only constant member of Caravan.

Their sound is frequently described with the "Canterbury Scene" label, and they themselves tend to have a mellower sound than most other prog bands, which a lingering Jazz influence throughout most of their work. However, they are also known for their pop sensibilities.

Studio discography:

  • Caravan (1968)
  • If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You (1970)
  • In the Land of Grey and Pink (1971)
  • Waterloo Lily (1972)
  • For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night (1973)
  • Cunning Stunts (1975)
  • Blind Dog at St. Dunstans (1976)
  • Better by Far (1977)
  • The Album (1980)
  • Back to Front (1982)
  • Cool Water (1994) (Unreleased recordings from the late 70s, including tracks from an intended follow-up album to Better by Far that were invokedrejected by Arista Records)
  • The Battle of Hastings (1995)
  • The Unauthorized Breakfast Item (2003)
  • Paradise Filter (2013)

The Tropes, The Tropes, They're At It Again:

  • Big Beautiful Woman:
    • "Waterloo Lily", who has "enough to turn us all on" and "a bra to fit a car".
    • Caravan also have an album titled For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night.
  • Broken Record: "Jack and Jill", which has a segment combining the repeated "fell... fell... fell..." lyric with a similarly repeating, heavily syncopated backing, making it sound very similar to a broken record.
  • Double Entendre: They have several song titles and lyrics that qualify, with If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You being perhaps the most conspicuous.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: Several. "Nine Feet Underground" is probably the most conspicuous example, taking more than six minutes until the vocals start. They also have a few songs that invert the trope; "Can't Be Long Now / Françoise / For Richard / Warlock" only has singing in the first part ("Can't Be Long Now").
  • Epic Rocking:
    • Being prog, they have several single-track suites that are longer than ten minutes, including:
      • "Can't Be Long Now / Françoise / For Richard / Warlock" (14:21),
      • "Nine Feet Underground" (22:44, probably their longest studio cut),
      • "Nothing at All / It's Coming Soon / Nothing at All (reprise)" (10:23),
      • "The Love in Your Eye / To Catch Me a Brother / Subsultus / Debouchement / Tilbury Kecks" (12:32),
      • "L'Auberge du sanglier / A Hunting We Shall Go / Pengola / Backwards / A Hunting We Shall Go (reprise)" (10:04),
      • and "The Dabsong Conshirtoe" (18:00).
    • They have several others topping seven minutes, such as:
      • "Where but for Caravan Would I?" (9:01),
      • "And I Wish I Were Stoned / Don't Worry" (8:20),
      • "With an Ear to the Ground You Can Make It / Martinian / Only Cox / Reprise" (9:54),
      • "Winter Wine" (7:36),
      • and "Memory Lain, Hugh / Headloss" (9:15).
    • Also worth a mention is the aptly titled bonus track "Derek's Long Thing" (found on some versions of For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night), which runs for 10:58.
    • The band could stretch songs out even longer live as well; Live at the Fairfield Halls has a version of "Can't Be Long Now / Françoise / For Richard / Warlock" that lasts for 19:02, and that's not all.
  • Erudite Stoner: The band's lyrics were often quite literary and poetic, but there's no doubt what their pastimes included. The song title "And I Wish I Were Stoned" pretty much removes all doubt for those who weren't sure.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Jack and Jill" from Blind Dog at St. Dunstans, which fades out during a repetitive section, only to relaunch into the joke the album is named after.
  • Instrumentals: "Asforteri 25", "Limits", "Nothing at All", and "A Hunting We Shall Go", to name a few.
  • Intercourse with You: Surprisingly many for a progressive rock group. For one, "Pro's and Con's", from "The Dabsong Conshirtoe", where the singer considers several women for "doing pleasure with", before dismissing them for their flaws.
  • Lighter and Softer: In many ways they qualify as this compared to many of their prog contemporaries; they displayed more of a sense of humour and were more willing to write catchy pop songs.
  • Limited Lyrics Song: Most of their longer songs and some of their shorter ones qualify. In particular, "Nine Feet Underground" is almost twenty-three minutes long and only two of its eight movements (lasting for about seven minutes of its running time) have vocals.
  • Literary Allusion Title: "C'thlu Thlu" is naturally one to the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Love to Love You" has some surprisingly bloody lyrical imagery beneath its cheerful tune.
  • Miniscule Rocking: Being a progressive rock band, they don't have many examples, but "Asforteri 25" (1:22) and "Limits" (1:36) both qualify.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: They're probably about as close to this trope as progressive rock ever gets.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: They often connected several songs together into suites that could last ten minutes or longer, and they almost invariably performed them in these configurations live (even if the live versions don't list all the movements, they're usually there nonetheless; Live at the Fairfield Halls is an example of this). CD versions usually index each suite as a single track rather than giving each movement a track to itself.
  • Silly Love Song: A surprising amount of straight examples, including the aptly named "Love Song with Flute".
  • Spoonerism: Cunning Stunts.
  • Uncommon Time: Several examples are to be expected, since they are a prog group, starting with "Where but for Caravan Would I?", which is in 11/8. Interestingly, there are some odd time signatures found in songs that are otherwise pretty similar to normal pop rock (examples include "Love to Love You" and "Hello Hello"), and they may actually use more unusual time signatures than a typical progressive rock group.
  • Vocal Tag Team: On albums with Richard Sinclair, he tends to sing the deeper parts, while Pye Hastings sings the higher notes.