September 20, 2004
Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI
The year was 1983. I was 17 years old and just beginning to submerge myself into my lifelong addiction for music. I lived in the Overbrook Park section of Philadelphia, just off of Haverford Avenue and City Line Avenue. I used to take any money I could find and I would go down to Finyl Vinyl Records on Haverford. It was a record store that was run by a guy who was into jazz who never quite knew what price to put on rock records. I was into anything between the years of 1965 and 1973. I was flipping through the rock section when I came across an album with four men standing in what looked like a short forest. On the bottom of the front cover was the name of the album:
If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You
How could I pass this record up? Upon flipping it over, not only was it made in the early '70's, but among the "instruments" played on the record were "worn leather strap", "hedge clippers" and (my personal favorite) "impersonation of a friendly gorilla and assorted ashtrays". I decided that THIS was a band I could welcome into my home.
Caravan is/was a starstruck band hailing from Canterbury, England. In the short lifespan that was progressive rock, Caravan operated under the radar both due to the fault of indifferent record labels and a lineup that to this day just can't keep its butt in the throne. Like almost every other progressive rock band, they were unfairly assassinated by punk rock and disco in the late '70's. Most bands of their ilk never recovered.
When I saw the advertisement in the newspaper a few weeks ago showing a double-bill at Shank Hall consisting of Caravan and their prog-rock brethren in Nektar, I felt that this would be one of my few chances prior to the afterlife to see a unit that has become one of my favorite all-time bands.
Tonight the boys in Caravan satisfied my dreams. With original members Pye Hastings and drummer Richard Coughlin, along with erstwhile members Jim Leverton, multi-instrumentalist Geoff Richardson, lead guitarist Doug Boyle and a keyboardist with a very European name that I didn't catch that was once in the band Camel (research it yourself; this guy was amazing!), Caravan played the set I always dreamed of, and then some. All the perennial favorites were here: "Golf Girl", "And I Wish I Was Stoned (Don't Worry)", "9 Feet Underground" and the closer "For Richard", along with other songs old and new that left my ears ringing, my inner child doing an interpretive dance, and my bladder in dire need of emptying from the Guinness draft and the bottle of Newcastle thank I drank before and during the show.
I was hoping to meet some of the members of the band after their set, but they never came out from behind the magic black curtain at Shank Hall. No problem. For one night, without even knowing it, they made an aging man's dream come true.
I only have one fear now. I truly though I would never see Caravan play a concert while I was alive. They are one of the bands I figured I'd see in the afterlife. Could it be that all of my dreams on this planet have finally come true? Is it safe for me to die now? What's left? Should I be questioning my entire existence now that Caravan has played "The Dog The Dog He's At It Again" while I was still drawing breath (albeit smoke -saturated breath)? As I go to sleep, I go with the knowledge that this may be the night that I don't wake up as I'm falling in my dreams. If you don't hear from me again, it's been a great ride. Love always.