If you dig deep underground you should take care or you may plunge into the hellish land of the fallen angels. If you dig deep into the past you may find yourself in an altogether more pleasant place. If you go back before the the Devil spawned hip hop and grime, before the urban pop of the nineties, further back before the new wave and punk of the eighties, you will find the underground music that germinated in the late sixties was flowering and bearing exotic fruit in the seventies. This was the idyllic Land of the Grey and Pink.
There’s no band more qualified to give us a lesson on the history of underground music than Caravan. They were formed from the seeds of the primordial Canterbury scene band, Wilde Flowers, in 1968 and they carried the flag for that style of music for the next ten years. During that flourishing period they released 8 studio albums, including the critically acclaimed In The Land of the Grey and Pink and For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night. After that the band dissolved and reformed more than once, adding another 5 studio albums to their repertoire over the next three decades or so.
Nine Feet Underground is a 22 minute 43 second track that forms the whole of the second side of the original vinyl edition of In The Land of the Grey and Pink. It has eight sections:
- I. Nigel Blows a Tune
- II. Love’s a Friend
- III. Make It 76
- IV. Dance of the Seven Paper Hankies
- V. Hold Grandad by the Nose
- VI. Honest I Did!
- VII. Disassociation
- VIII. 100% Proof
As you can see, there is no theme tying those passages together. Except, perhaps, a light-hearted, slightly bonkers approach to life. And yet, musically, each fragment fits seamlessly into the whole. Ignore the titles, forget the analytical dissection, this is a single work of art not merely a medley of songs no matter what the LP sleeve might say. And immensely enjoyable it is, too.
The 1996 Caravan incarnation is still, officially, in the land of the living although the most recent mention I’ve found is looking forward to 2018. The band may have fallen from its lofty peak a long time ago but it is not yet nine feet underground.