Imagine: you have just booked a holiday destination in the Land of Gray and Pink. A beautiful holiday home on the bank of a dry river. Then it turns out that you also have to watch out that your money is not stolen. There’s some Boy Scouts sneaking around there, stupid if you think of it. Secretly they try to break in through the chimney to steal your money. The weather is also not good in the Land of Gray and Pink. Suddenly it starts pouring with rain. You run inside. But, oh dear….. You have forgotten about your father. He is still outside in his wheelchair, half demented. You had taken him on vacation so that he could enjoy his last days somewhat. You want to light a cigarette. Usually a moment you quite like. That firelight from the cigarette in the dark when you inhale. But the cigarette pack is soaked with rain.
If only you had taken the boat to the Land of Warm and Green. Just for one day. There you can smoke for free, because weeds grow in abundance. You pick some ‘grass’ and put it in your cigarette and you lie in the park until the evening, stoned. Then you brush your teeth in the sea and go back home to have a cup of tea. This is, freely translated, more or less the meaning of the title track of the legendary LP “In the Land of the Gray and Pink” by the Canterbury prog rock band Caravan. It has been fifty years since bassist Richard Sinclair wrote the lyrics to the title track in 1971. Typically British humor that appears more often in Sinclair’s lyrics. “Life is too short to be sad” is the motto of Caravan’s lyrics. Do your thing, enjoy nature and pick up the occasional girl on the golf course. This attitude to life quite appeals to me.
If I remember correctly, Caravan was the first music band I saw perform live. I must have been about 15 or 16 years old. My childhood best friend’s older brother took the two of us along. Alongside two other friends of his. The five of us drove from Deventer to Arnhem, crammed into a Volkswagen Beetle. The concert was overwhelming. Caravan had a music act that filled the entire room with smoke from the stage. It wasn’t until five minutes later that you could actually see the band members again. On the way back we almost drove into the crash barrier, but that didn’t spoil the fun. Since then, the music of Caravan has been etched in my memory. The album “In the Land of Gray and Pink” is one of my favorites. Beautiful jazzy music with brilliant soloing, especially the organ with the typical Canterbury sound. Songs like ‘Nine Feet Underground’ and ‘Golf Girl’ are evergreens. Still great to listen to.
More than forty years after the release of “In the Land”, I met the band members in 2012 at a ‘Meet @ Greet’ at the Boerderij. It was during Canterbury Week. Even after forty years, these guys still had a relaxed attitude to life. As if they were still lying in the grass for a while every day and smoke a pipe. During the lecture by Hugues Chantraine, super fan and one of the organizers of the unsurpassed progarchives.com, I was slightly embarrassed because there is also another story behind the innocent attitude of the band members. For example, the title of the album “Cunning Stunts” turns out to be an English pun. Something about reversing initials (and I won’t go any further, otherwise we’ll have problems with Facebook once again). The ‘Meet @ Greet’ with Caravan was the reason for me to become a volunteer at the Boerderij. The whole entourage and atmosphere really appealed to me. Moreover, the food during the ‘Meet & Greet’ was super tasty. Prepared by the chefs of de Boerderij. What else do you want?
As seen, the cover is loosely based on the lyrics of the title song. For some more background on the drawn impression of the cover of “In the Land” I contacted Jasper Smit, driving force behind the Dutch Caravan fan club. We’ve been trying to figure out who illustrator Anne-Marie Anderson was, but she’s gone up in smoke. The band members couldn’t remember her well either; after this one LP, none of them have had any more contact with her. It shouldn’t spoil the fun, because we still have the cover art. Which is strikingly beautiful. As the Canterbury men say, life is too short to be sad. In fact, every day is a holiday. Speaking of which: will it be the Land of Gray and Pink this year, or Warm and Green? Anyway, I’ll let you know what my choice turned out to be.
By Gerrit-Jan Vrielink
Translation Alex Driessen