In my late teens, I went deep down the rabbit hole of "Canterbury bands" (and Canterbury-adjacent). Bands like Soft Machine, Wilde Flowers, Caravan, Hatfield and the North, National Health, Matching Mole, Egg, Henry Cow, and Gong. There was something so different and audacious about this music; its British pastoralism, its psychedelia and pop surrealism, its virtuosic playing and pretensions toward freeform jazz and modern classical, its uncompromising noodlism!
In this BBC segment, edited out of a longer documentary on prog rock, they look at the roots of the Canterbury scene, what made it special, and how it fits into progressive music and rock in general. Those interviewed include Robert Wyatt (Wilde Flowers, Soft Machine), Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman (Yes), Richard Coughlan (Caravan), Phil Collins, Bill Bruford (Gong, King Crimson, Yes), and Bob Harris (Old Grey Whistle Test). The opening bit, where each of the interviewees scat their way through Canterbury riffs was worth the price of admission for me.
"Court jesters, crimson kings, lost souls, and magic men — it was a broad church, a very English music, infused with childhood fantasy and the quirkiness of a small island race," explains the narrator (Nigel Planer, aka Neil from The Young Ones!). Canterbury music "grew out of rock n' roll and was written about in the rock press because of it but that's kind of a shame…I think the ethos was completely different. And if you judge it by the standards of rock n' roll, it totally fails," says author and lifelong Canterbury fan, Jonathan Coe.
Image: Screengrab (of Soft Machine)