Andrew Latimer (1971 – present)
Andy Ward (1971 – 1981)
Colin Bass (1979 – present)
Doug Ferguson (1971 – 1976)
Guy LeBlanc (2000 – 2015)
Jan Schelhaas (1978 – 1981)
Kit Watkins (1979 – 1982)
Mel Collins (1977 – 1979)
Paul Burgess (1984 – 1992)
Peter Bardens (1971 – 1978)
Richard Sinclair (1977 – 1979)
Ton Scherpenzeel (1984 – 1984)
Camel is an English progressive rock group from London, England, United Kingdom. They formed circa 1964 when brothers Andrew and Ian Latimer got together with their respective friends Alan Butcher and Richard Over to form The Phantom Four. The band played extensively around their home town of Guildford, Surrey before changing their name to Strange Brew. The group performed mainly cover tunes until mid-1968 when Ian Latimer quit to get married. Andrew Latimer and Alan Butcher placed an ad in the Surrey Advertiser for a bass player to which Doug Ferguson responded. On 13th November 1968 Ferguson arrived for an audition and promptly impressed the duo with his confidence, a ‘fat’ bass sound, excellent gear (Fender jazz bass, 2 Vox T-60 cabs with amps) and his own roadie! He was offered the gig on the spot. The new blues orientated trio was called The Brew. Shortly after joining The Brew, Ferguson told Latimer about an exciting drummer he knew. Andy Ward joined The Brew at the tender age of 14 and the heart of camel had begun to take shape.
Ferguson rapidly proved himself to be a great asset with his talent for getting the band attention and gigs. He was also very good at coaxing the promised fees out of promoters, who often protested they didn’t have the money on hand. As a result, The Brew enjoyed a steady stream of performance dates and recorded their first demo, ‘Crossroads’ in which DJM Records seemed to show interest but the trio were disappointed to learn that it was only in using them as a backing band for another of their artists, Philip Goodhand-Tait. In 1971, they recorded an album with Goodhand-Tait, called ‘I Think I’ll Write A Song’, but the success was minimal and the trio were dropped. The experience, however, was enlightening. Phil Tait was a piano player. The three musicians agreed a keyboard player would broaden the sound of the band and they promptly placed an ad in The Melody Maker. On 20th September 1971, Peter Bardens responded to the ad with an extensive resume (Shotgun Express , Them , Peter B’s Looners to name but a few) as well as two solo albums under his own name. The four hit it off instantly. Bardens, who had been planning to depart England for what he thought to be “the more promising shores of the USA”, had previously arranged a few gigs in Ireland. Thus, on 8th October 1971, the group performed their first gig in Belfast under the name of “Peter Bardens On”. Not long after they would collectively agree on a new name… Camel.
Camel played their first gig at Waltham Forest Technical College supporting Wishbone Ash on 4th Dec 1971. By August of ’72, Camel were signed to MCA Records. They quickly entered the studio to record their first self-titled album, ‘Camel’. A collection of individual songs, chiefly from Latimer and Bardens, the album was greeted with muted success and MCA did not take an option for a second album. By now, the group had acquired management, Geoff Jukes and Max Hole of Gemini Artists (later to become GAMA Records), and moved to Decca Records where they would remain for 10 years. The push & pull relationship between Latimer and Bardens brought out the best from their compositional skills. They inspired one another with their individual solo work both in the studio and on stage. Energies were high. CAMEL gigged 9 months of the year and firmly established a reputation for their excellent live sound.
Their second album, ‘MIRAGE’, heightened their profile and the album sleeve attracted the unwanted attention of the USA branch of Camel cigarettes who demanded the band change the cover or face legal action. The USA record company quickly fashioned a new sleeve to avoid legal hassles. The original sleeve remained unchanged throughout the rest of the world as Geoff Jukes had already struck a deal with the European branch of the cigarette company to release tiny packets of cigarettes (5 cigarettes to a packet) using the CAMEL artwork, including track-listing. So enamoured were the executives in Europe, they visited the band in the studio trying to talk CAMEL into renaming the songs on ‘MIRAGE’ (e.g., “Twenty To The Pack”). They also wanted CAMEL to cover their amps with camel skins, allow advertisements and give away cigarettes at all the performances. The latter was successful as Jukes had struck a deal the band were never privy to. The band were getting ‘belligerent’ and a sarcastically amusing Peter Bardens suggested an album song-title of “Twenty Sticks Of Cancer”. Thus ended the association twixt the beast and the leaf. They toured as ‘Pete Bardens’ Camel’ for a while in 1973/4 – possibly because of the cigarette contretemps, but at the time reputedly to distinguish themselves from Peter Frampton’s Camel.
In 1975, the CAMEL ‘concept’ album came about. For ‘MIRAGE’ Latimer had written ‘White Rider’ (inspired by Tolkien’s ‘Lord Of The Rings’) and Ferguson suggested doing a an entire album based on a book. All band members were fond of reading at the time so each set out in search of a good story. Bardens suggested ‘Siddhartha’ and ‘Steppenwolf’ but when Ferguson suggested Paul Gallico’s ‘THE SNOW GOOSE’ the emotional appeal was strong. ‘THE SNOW GOOSE’ took fans by surprise. Entirely instrumental, ‘THE SNOW GOOSE’ earned them Melody Maker’s “Brightest Hope” award and firmly established the band with a strong and loyal fan base. It also took author Paul Gallico by surprise. Gallico, a fierce opponent of cigarette smoking, hated the name of the band believing it to be connected to the cigarette company and threatened to sue if the title was not changed. Legalities observed, the album title had the additional words “inspired by” and the threat was subdued. This behind-the-scene drama had no effect on the appeal of the album. On 17th October 1975, accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra, CAMEL performed ‘THE SNOW GOOSE’ at The Royal Albert Hall to a sold-out crowd.
In early ’76, ‘MOONMADNESS’ brought greater critical acclaim in the USA. Producer Rhett Davies created an open, intimate sound for’MOONMADNESS’, and the ‘concept’ was more ethereal with inspiration derived from the individual musician’s characters. Yet ‘MOONMADNESS’ would become the swansong for some. A jazzy influence had impressed itself upon CAMEL and, during the European tour, the dynamic sound of saxophonist Mel Collins marked the first change in the sound of Camel after Ferguson had encouraged Collins’ inclusion in the band. Not long after Andy Ward was pushing for a more complicated rhythm section, a style that matched neither Feguson’s ability nor interest. This would be the first major change CAMEL would see. In the early days of 1977, bassist Doug Ferguson left CAMEL never to appear with them again. The loss of Ferguson’s quiet strength would prove, in years beyond, to have the greatest impact on the band…
The first major shift in CAMEL’s lineup created ‘RAIN DANCES’. Although not an “official member” of CAMEL, Mel Collins would spend much of his time in the studio and on the road with the band. Preferring to maintain his independent status as a session player, Mel would continue to appear with CAMEL on and off until 1985. Richard Sinclair, formerly from Canterbury’s Caravan and Hatfield and the North, possessed the jazzier style Andy Ward had hoped for but the mix of personalities did not posses the balance of earlier days. Inevitable change began to gather momentum. Pressure for a hit single was brought to bear from the management and Decca Records. Latimer and Bardens struggled with their opposing styles of writing, complicating instead of complimenting their relationship. Camel’s sound was further affected by a new producer, Mick Glossop.
Upon release, ‘BREATHLESS’ proved a bit of a shock to fans with its unusual combination of pop, jazz and progressive. It was loved by some, hated by others. ‘BREATHLESS’ entered the charts and quickly exited shortly thereafter. But chart success was not the last change CAMEL would encounter in ’78. On 30th July, just before Camel’s tour and amidst a storm of disagreements, keyboardist Peter Bardens left the band… The split with Peter Bardens had been acrimonious but unavoidable. Bardens went straight into rehearsals with former bandmate Van Morrison for an album, “Wavelength”, and tour. Bardens also promptly signed a lucrative solo deal with Arista Records and soon released ‘Heart To Heart’. But Andy Ward and Andrew Latimer decided to embrace the opportunity to expand the band. Two keyboard players would create an interplay CAMEL had not been able to experiment with previously. They contacted Richard Sinclair’s cousin Dave Sinclair, and his former bandmate Jan Schelhaas for the ’78 tour to promote ‘BREATHLESS’. Although this lineup had no recorded output, Dave Sinclair had made a quiet appearance on ‘BREATHLESS’, performing keyboards on “You Make Me Smile” and “Rainbows End”, a song Latimer had written for Bardens. The ‘BREATHLESS’ tour lasted 3 months. The pressures of live performing took toll. By tours end, Dave Sinclair would return to Canterbury and Richard Sinclair would be asked to leave CAMEL…
Upon hearing an album by a group called “Happy The Man” in 1979, Andrew Latimer and Andy Ward immediately agreed Kit Watkins was a keyboardist they wanted in CAMEL. Bassist Colin Bass had been highly recommended and became Camel’s lasting bassist. Jan Schelhaas had remained with CAMEL after the ‘BREATHLESS’ tour both for his playing skills and his easygoing temperament. Watkins and Bass arrived during rehearsals at Wood Farm, Suffolk, in early ’79. A remarkable technician, Kit impressed all who heard him; Colin’s solid, earthy sound melded with Ward in a seemingly perfect harmony. For awhile, it appeared CAMEL would settle but, again, unavoidable circumstance would prevail. CAMEL worked nearly 12 months of ’79, enjoying only short breaks in-between recording and touring. Originally titled ‘Endangered Species’, this title would be changed at the last minute to ‘I CAN SEE YOUR HOUSE FROM HERE’ a poor attempt at humor that would give the band problems, not only from their advertisers. The intensive schedule would create conflict and misunderstandings between the musicians.
Watkins left the band shortly before CAMEL entered the studio to record ‘NUDE’ in 1981, but he would return for the tour and leave again immediately after. The recording of ‘NUDE’ and the subsequent promotional tour would be the most devastating for CAMEL. In mid-1981, as he would tell ‘Q’ Magazine some 10 years later, Andy Ward succumbed to alcohol and drug abuse and attempted suicide, unsuccessfully to the relief of all. But it rendered Ward unable to play drums in the foreseeable future. In shock, the band dissolved, the remainder of the tour was canceled and recording for the next album was postponed in the hope that Ward would recover…
Internal problems of the band were not the concern of Decca Records to which CAMEL were contractually bound for a specific recorded output. Decca refused to be put off any longer and upped the pressure for a hit single. With delays no longer possible, Latimer had to accept that his friend and drummer would not recover and thus, with Andrew Latimer the sole surviving member of CAMEL, ‘THE SINGLE FACTOR’ was recorded and duly released in April 1982. Writing on demand had produced an odd mix of songs but entering the studio provided an unexpected bright spot. During the recording of NUDE in studio 3 at Abbey Road Studios, the Alan Parsons Project were recording just down the hall in studio 2. Curious by nature, singer Chris Rainbow and bassist/singer David Paton popped in on the CAMEL sessions and new friendships were forged. Unbeknownst to all at the time, this laid the groundwork for a new lineup. Eventually, ‘THE SINGLE FACTOR’ would see a whole new line of artists including Rainbow and Paton as well as Anthony Phillips (former Genesis), Francis Monkmon (Sky), and guest drummers Simon Phillips (The Who, Jeff Beck, Toto), Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention) and Graham Jarvis (Cliff Richard). Time had healed the rift between Latimer and Bardens and although their opposing musical styles would not see eye-to-eye again, Bardens made a guest appearance on the album, forging new friendships himself that would later become ‘Keats’. But Ward was unable to appear on the album and hoping to keep the matter private, CAMEL naively included a simple footnote in the liner notes that Andy Ward did not appear due to an injury to his hand.
The promotional tour for ‘THE SINGLE FACTOR’ turned out to be just the breath of fresh air Latimer needed. The mix of personalities was magical with a ceaseless, positive energy from Chris Rainbow who, with Paton and Tosh (Scotsmen, all three) maintained a flow of laughter from start to finish of the tour. Kit Watkins had returned for his third CAMEL tour and the level of musicianship delighted audiences. Latimer would call it “the funniest tour I’ve ever been on”. It would be a temporary respite, however, for soon after in late October, manager Max Hole, unexpectedly announced his departure for a position with a major record company, leaving CAMEL effectively without management. Then, as 1983 dawned, the inevitable came to be. Unable to stop abusing alcohol, Ward could not continue with CAMEL. On a sad January day at the offices of Fleet Street lawyers, Ward’s association with CAMEL ended. Nearly 13 years to the day he had joined Ferguson and Latimer, Andy Ward formally left CAMEL never to perform with them again. The loss of Ward left Latimer in limbo and musical pursuits, for the most part, were overshadowed by the need to concentrate on sorting out legal problems that had plagued the band for years. Former manager Geoff Jukes had filed a lawsuit against CAMEL claiming past commissions from CAMEL’s earlier days. Having literally abandoned the band in 1978 at the point of Bardens’ departure and upon the eve of a world tour, Jukes’ lawsuit would ultimately prove futile. The legal battle began to heat up by 1983. Latimer battled the suit alone despite all members being named and it would take 5 stressful years at great expense, both spiritually and financially, before settlement in Camel’s favour.
In this year of change, Latimer fought hard. CAMEL was worth the battle. There were musical bright spots in 1983 including a new contract with Decca Records which had just been taken over by PolyGram. In preparation for the new recording committment, Latimer had gotten in touch with Dutch keyboardist, Ton Scherpenzeel (KAYAK) whose playing he had always admired. Ton visited London and the two musicians quickly made plans to record Camel’s new studio album ‘STATIONARY TRAVELLER’. ‘STATIONARY TRAVELLER’ was released in April of 1984. Flush with critical acclaim of the album, CAMEL were once again on the road. Former CAMEL bassist Colin Bass returned to the UK, after having moved abroad in 1981. Bass got in touch with Latimer and the former bandmates patched up past differences. Chris Rainbow joined the tour and Paul Burgess (Jethro Tull, 10cc) who had approached Latimer prior to recording ‘STATIONARY TRAVELLER’ did so again for the tour. Although not fond of touring, Ton Scherpenzeel never let it show. Ton made a superb addition to CAMEL that thrilled KAYAK and CAMEL fans, though his fear of flying would severely limit his time with CAMEL to the disappointment of fans and musicians alike.
The live performance video and CD of the ‘STATIONARY TRAVELLER’ tour was appropriately called ‘PRESSURE POINTS’ . CAMEL wanted to include the entire concert but due to lighting problems on the night of recording, the first half was too dark for Mansfield’s approval so only the second half of the performance made it to broadcast and a video cassette. Astonishingly, the earlier portion of the concert would actually be erased by PolyGram and lost forever! Decca Records (now owned by PolyGram) flexed their muscles and insisted on dividing the concert material so that both recordings had different track listings, under the auspicious assertion that it created more diversity for the buying public. There was an added pleasure for many fans when Richie Close joined the tour at the 11th hour on backup keyboards. Sadly, Richie died just a few years later from Legionnaire’s disease. He will be forever young on Camel’s video. The lawsuit with Jukes reached fever pitch by 1985.
Latimer divided his time between lawyer’s offices and record companies as he sought an outlet for Camel’s new material titled ”DUST AND DREAMS”. Each pursuit was filled with roadblocks but the lawsuit would finally take a sudden turn for the better. As Latimer scrutinized old contracts it came to light that CAMEL were owed royalties that had never been paid by Camel’s management/production company, GAMA Records. Highly charged by this discovery, Latimer gathered support from Bardens, Ward and Ferguson to file a suit against GAMA. This lawsuit, by comparison, would be brief and glorious. On 25th March 1985, long overdue, they finally reaped the benefits of their past work together. Reunited in the same attorney’s office that had accepted Ward’s resignation from CAMEL just two years earlier, happier times now prevailed. The former bandmates settled their lawsuit with GAMA and received their first of many royalty payment to come. Formalities completed, they celebrated at a local pub until closing time. Old wounds healed, memories flourished and, though they no longer had interest in playing together, all parted as friends. Since the PolyGram takeover, the changes at Decca had reached the extreme and Latimer could see that CAMEL needed to get out of their contract. After a 10 year association, Decca and CAMEL would mutually and amicably agree to go their separate ways on 10th April 1985.
CAMEL was free to search for a more like-minded record company, yet this newly found freedom also brought a shock to Latimer when he would later remark he “couldn’t get arrested with new CAMEL material”. That material would evolve to become ”DUST AND DREAMS”. When not a lawyer’s office, Latimer had hawked CAMEL for a deal. In late 1987, he began negotiating with EG Records, on a seemingly successful course. A small label, EG hosted such names as Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Brian Ferry to name a few, and a CAMEL/EG marriage seemed a promising step. But negotiations dragged on for 6 months only to come to an abrupt end when Latimer was asked why Peter Frampton wasn’t in the band any longer… Disillusioned, Latimer made a drastic change. In mid-1988, he sold his London home and moved to America. He would take a 1-year sabbatical and during this time, he realised the “slap in the face” EG Records had given him was the sign of the future for CAMEL. He decided the second half of ‘DUST AND DREAMS’ “wasn’t quite right”, and rewrote it in 1990. He used the proceeds from the sale of his London home to finance construction of a small studio where he recorded and produced ‘DUST AND DREAMS’. He then set out, once again, to find a deal but this time around, ‘DUST AND DREAMS’ was a finished product and things would be different. Or so he thought… Latimer would look back on his experiences and eventually laugh. With ‘DUST AND DREAMS’ completed and ready for release, finding a record company seemed a mere matter of formality. But the same attitudes greeted him and time dragged on without success. After a lengthy and unproductive meeting with a Virgin Records A&R rep, Latimer, along with partner Susan Hoover, decided to use the remaining finances from the sale of the London home to set up their own production company, Camel Productions (CP). They would release ‘DUST AND DREAMS’ themselves, which they did in 1991.
‘DUST AND DREAMS’ would give Latimer yet another shock only this time it was the shock of unprecedented success. Dealing directly with distributors who knew of CAMEL, sales took off. The high energy output was intoxicating. CP soon began organising a world tour and set about licensing Camel’s first album for release on compact disc. Thus began the resurgence of CAMEL with the two recordings most poignant… the first, ‘CAMEL’ and the newest, ‘DUST AND DREAMS’. During the move to set up the studio, Latimer stumbled upon some old reel-to-reel tapes. These rare gems would launch the hugely successful ‘Offical Bootleg’ series. Latimer was disgusted by the poor sound quality and extortionate prices bootleggers charged for such recordings. Soon, ‘WARNING: CAMEL ON THE ROAD 1972’ would become the flagship for this series, the artwork inspired by a bumper sticker a fan had sent to Latimer years before which proved amusingly appropriate. It was lovingly mastered and fairly priced. By August, CAMEL were ready to hit the road after a 7 year absence. Paul Burgess resumed his drum stool and keyboardist Mickey Simmonds (FISH, Mike Oldfield) was drafted in. Colin Bass and Andrew Latimer were now the mainstays of CAMEL and fans greeted CAMEL with open arms. So emotional would this tour become, it would find some bandmembers fighting to hold back tears on-stage. The tour ended at London’s Town & Country Theatre (now defunct). At the hotel afterwards, there would be a celebration that lasted long into the night.
In early ’93 as Latimer was preparing to produce ‘NEVER LET GO’, a live recording from the ’92 tour, sadness loomed on the horizon. By March, instead of working in the studio, Latimer would see his father die and begin a new learning process in life. A musician himself, Stan Latimer had been the one to recognise young Andrew’s talent and send him to lessons. The experience stunned Latimer and delayed production of ‘NEVER LET GO’ until August ’93. Afterwards, he spent personal time with his family. As they shared stories and recollections of Stan Latimer and their mutual past, Latimer discovered his fraternal roots. In 1994, he returned to the studio seeking solace in music and began work on the album that would become ‘HARBOUR OF TEARS’. Latimer would pour his heart into the album and end it with a track titled ‘The Hour Candle (A song for my father)’ which had been inspired by a hymn sung at the funeral. Fans would write to share their experiences of loss and recovery. Latimer’s grief would gradually ease and CAMEL began to prepare for another tour. CAMEL prepared to set out on the road once again. On the ’92 tour, fans proved that absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder and turned out in droves.
The ’97 tour was even more successful, reaching new territories in a now opened Eastern Block including the Czech Republic and Poland. CAMEL would see the customary changes in their makeup, with Paul Burgess and Mickey Simmonds struggling to balance time with their young children and life on the road. Dave Stewart would take Burgess’ place and Foss Patterson would replace Simmonds. Thus, another live performance was captured on tape and video recorded for posterity. In 1998, joining the highly successful collection of live recordings, ‘COMING OF AGE’ was released on both video and compact disc. Recorded in Los Angeles, California, the performance was attended by fans and friends alike including original keyboardist, Peter Bardens whose appearance was announced to the audience when Latimer dedicated ‘Never Let Go’ to “Me old mate, Pete”. By evening’s end, an impromptu party ensued and the two musicians privately reminisced until the early hours while the rest of the entourage danced the night away. ‘COMING OF AGE’,would prove a superb visual and audio testament to the enduring strength of CAMEL. The appearance of the Hale-Bopp comet in the heavens added an allure to the tour, seeming to follow the band around the world. This tour would be as emotional as the ’92 tour. The affection for CAMEL was tangible.
As the 20th Century wound towards the 21st (metaphorically speaking), CAMEL would reach a quiet turning point. No longer bound by the shackles of record company whims and pressures, CAMEL has attained a level of acceptance and maturity. Independence is hard work, but ultimately satisfying, and artistic freedom a price worth paying. CAMEL prepared for the final release of the century. Bass, long since involved in the world music scene, had given Latimer a gift of a book entitled ‘World Music – A Rough Guide’. In the section on Arabic music, Latimer read about a form of musical poetry called ‘rajaz’. Sung in ancient times, ‘rajaz’ was a spontaneous composition inspired by the rhythm of the camels footsteps to help the weary travelers reach their destination. Latimer was smitten with the idea that the rhythm of the camel would help people reach their journey’s end.
Returning to his musical roots, Latimer composed chiefly on the guitar and in October 1999, ‘RAJAZ’ was released. A beautiful collection of songs, hypnotically interwoven, ‘RAJAZ’ also welcomed the return of Ton Scherpenzeel on keyboards (courtesy of CD-ROM).
Sending files electronically and communicating directly, the two former bandmates plan future projects together including a guest appearance by Latimer on a Y2K Kayak album. For more than 27 years, CAMEL have been and endearing, enduring musical force. Players have come and gone; some have returned. Some albums have been better than others but this is always an assertion for the beholder. Few agree on which album is their best. But there is no doubt that the single, most durable force behind CAMEL has been and always will be Andrew Latimer.
Latimer has guided CAMEL through the highs and lows of musical tastes, trends and fashions. He has, from time to time, stumbled beneath the pressures of outside forces and these times are left to the listener to decipher. But all will agree that Latimer has never compromised the sound, feel and integrity of CAMEL. Latimer has stayed true to himself and it is his ‘sound’ that transports you back or holds you in the present. Like good friends getting together after a long break, you pick up right where you left off, as if you’d never parted. Life’s what happens when you’re busy making plans…no sooner did the dust seem to settle than a storm blew up that surpassed everyone’s worst nightmares.
It began in late 1999… As Camel arranged the early preparations for their Y2K tour to tour with ‘Rajaz’, the clouds began to gather. At first, things proceeded smoothly with Latimer, Bass and Stewart eagerly anticipating their reunion and rehearsals for Y2K. Camel’s UK agent, Paul Boswell, was dilligently booking performance dates and it was shaping up to be a more extensive tour for the band, with opportunities to perform in new countries. With the lineup of the trio seemingly solid, all thought it a straight-forward matter to arrange a keyboardist. A message from East coast promoter Rob La Duca reached CP in early 2000, with a simple suggestion to check out a French-Canadian keyboardist named Guy LeBlanc. Good ol’ technology. LeBlanc, also an independent recording artist, had his own internet presence so it was merely a matter of visiting his site and listening to a few sound bites. Latimer promptly arranged to meet Guy LeBlanc. In mid-March, Guy LeBlanc officially joined Camel for tour Y2K. It was smooth sailing for a whole 2 weeks when Camel Productions received an unexpected e-mail from drummer Dave Stewart saying he had accepted a position as manager of an Edinburgh drum shop and would not keep his commitment to the tour. Momentarily stunned by the news, Latimer, Bass and Hoover tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with Stewart, eventually accepting the need to replace him, albeit with great reluctance. Bass suggested his former band-mate Clive Bunker who had once played with Jethro Tull. Bunker accepted the gig and arrived at Little Barn Studios for rehearsals on 4th August. Spirits were momentarily high but years of alternative playing styles hampered Bunker’s ability to perform the difficult time-sequences demanded by Camel music and spirits quickly crashed. This, it would transpire, would be little more than a mere blip on the artistic landscape. Only 48 hours later a virtual tidal wave struck when manager Susan Hoover was seriously injured in a horse-riding accident. As the Life Flight Rescue heliopter lifted her skyward, it seemed tour plans would vanish into the clouds along with her. Hoover would later quip “I wasn’t about to take the hit for cancelling the tour”. Insisting the band was made of sterner stuff, she refused to cancel the tour and promptly began working from her hospital bed. But there was still the problem of a drummer. Fortunately, LeBlanc had an ace up his sleeve. 10 days from the first performance, LeBlanc’s compatriot, Denis Clement (pronounced Den-ee Clahmah) arrived at Little Barn studios. Despite being a completely unknown entity, it was clear after 10 minutes into their first ‘jam’ that he was the man they needed. High energy replaced the tension and rehearsals began in earnest. On 21st September, Hoover left hospital in a wheel chair and 3 days later attended Camel’s full scale rehearsal to hear Camel Y2K for the first time.
26th August saw the first official performance of the band where, at concerts end, Hoover received a standing ovation. But of course it just wouldn’t be interesting if it suddenly all went smoothly. Performing to sell-out crowds that were blown backward by the power and force of this lineup, events would catch Latimer up. Finally relaxed and his guard down, a cold virus firmly took hold after as many days as Clement had before the first performance. He would suffer throughout the tour, eventually losing his voice altogether in Holland. Upon reaching the UK in early October, Latimer chipped a bone in his knee, which was eventually nicknamed ‘chip’, but his cold would claim the Dublin performance at the 11th hour when doctors ordered him to rest or risk damaging his vocal chords. During the interim, Hoover recovered adequately to travel to the UK by 4th October and triumphantly walk, unaided, into the Cambridge gig. By the time the band hit Greece, Latimer was sufficiently recovered and Camel’s Tour Y2K ended on the high note of a ‘Lady Fantasy’ sing-along as the Greeks gave the band a sendoff that would erase any thought of the previous drama, replacing it with a sense of tremendous accomplishment and satisfaction.
In spring of 2001, Camel completed a much-anticipated tour of South and Central America. This segment of Y2K had been postponed from November 2000 due to prior committments of other band members and due to Latimer’s need to return home not only to recover fully from the cold that had plagued him but also for knee surgery to remove ‘Chip’. By Easter of 2001, Camel were enjoying the warm welcome of fans throughout the southern hemisphere. On the 3rd March, Camel were included in the UK’s Channel 4 television series ‘Top Ten’ (on Progressive Rock) which included interviews with Camel’s original band members. Much was said about change, the good the bad and the ugly of it, but mostly the good. Andrew Latimer is keenly aware of his responsibility to the ‘sound’ that is Camel. Whatever changes the future may bring, Latimer will guide Camel carefully, always maintaining contact with the roots of Camel. As original drummer Andy Ward said in his interview ‘change is a good thing and it’s been good for Camel’
Note: Peter bardens passed away 22 January 2002.
1973 – Camel
1974 – Mirage
1975 – (Music Inspired By) The Snow Goose
1976 – Moonmadness
1977 – Rain Dances
1978 – Breathless
1978 – A Live Record (live)
1979 – I Can See Your House From Here
1981 – Nude
1982 – The Single Factor
1984 – Stationary Traveller
1984 – Pressure Points – Camel Live In Concert (live)
1991 – Dust And Dreams
1992 – On The Road 1972 (live)
1993 – Never Let Go (5. September 1992, Enschede, NL) (live)
1994 – On The Road 1982 (live)
1996 – Harbour Of Tears
1997 – On The Road 1981 (live)
1998 – Coming Of Age (13. März 1997, Billboard, Los Angeles, USA) (live)
1999 – Rajaz
2000 – Gods Of Light 73 – 75 (live)
2001 – The Paris Collection (30. Oktober 2000, Bataclan-Club, F) (live)
2002 – A Nod And A Wink
2013 – The Snow Goose – extended re-recording of 1975 album