Caravan and Camel have been moving along in parallel
directions over the years. Both have proved strong British
bands playing strong British sounds. Latimer: "I always
wanted to keep the music very English because I didn't feel it
was worth competing with the Americans. At one stage Peter
wanted to be a Santana type band, but I believed we should
stick to doing what we did best and not try to copy other
Breathless was an album that marked both a change of personnel and a change of philosophy for the band. By the time the next album I Can See Your House From Here, was recorded, there were further changes within the group.
Latimer: "Dave Sinclair only came in for the tour, he didn't actually join the band on a permanent basis. Mel's situation has always been one of coming and going. He's done something on the latest album and he'll do something on the next album, probably a maiden tour next time - but he's never been a permanent member.
"So the real change we had then was Richard. Richard couldn't really cope with our level of touring. We were playing a lot of concerts, doing around 70 concerts in 78 days - it was very hard work. And we were playing to a lot of people every night, houses of around two to three thousand. That was when we recruited Colin Bass who has worked out extremely well. He's a very different player to Richard, very solid. Jan remained with us and we still kept the two keyboards idea going. Kit Watkins, who used to play with a band called Happy The Man, also joined us."
A new producer was brought in for the I Can See Your House album - Rupert Hine.
"Rupert was great fun to work with, he was really up and zappy," says Latimer.
I enjoyed making that record. We did it rather quickly and it wasn't a lengthy production."
The next project for Camel was Nude, a concept album in the mould of Snow Goose. Duncan Mackay came in on keyboards because both Kit and Jan had decided that they were going to take time out to do solo projects.
Why another concept? "First, I found it very easy to do things like a book or a movie where things are laid out and you have defined pictures of what you are doing. Second, I wanted to get my teeth into another concept. I'd been wanting to it for a couple of years, but hadn't come up with anything I thought was worth doing.
"Then Susan Hoover came up with the idea of a Japanese soldier marooned on an island for 30-odd years, fighting the Second World War. The deeper I got into it, the more I saw musical possibilities. Also, I was influenced from my touring in Japan - we had done two tours of Japan by that stage and I had been moved emotionally by both.
"The music was hard work, but the story was even harder
because we wanted to take it away from the basic Japanese
idea and use it on a much more universal level so it wasn't
actually just related to a Japanese soldier. It could have been
any soldier and we worked very hard on the story to get it
"It turned out to be a fun album to do and everyone was in to doing their part. Duncan and Mel put a lot of energy into the recording and it was also fun to work with Tony Clarke and Haydn Bendall who'd worked on the Sky thing. And recording it at Abbey Road we got stars walking in and out of every session. We even had Kate Bush come in and make us a cup of tea."
A successful tour followed. Latimer: "Nude won back a lot of Camel fans who had become disenchanted with the band after Breathless and I Can See Your House From Here. I think that with those albums the fans were unsure of the directions the band was going in. With Nude, most people's reaction had been 'Thank God, you've done another concept album at last'. We were so pleased. It sold well too, and the tour was both successful and enjoyable, despite being very hard work - another case of 67 dates in 68 days."
For the 10 years Camel has been in existence, fans have come and gone, but the majority have been there from the start. Latimer: "Camel fans are a very odd breed - they seem to stick to us like glue. There are numerous people who have stayed with us from the word go, from MCA to Nude. But at the same time we still attract a lot of younger fans. Our fans/audiences cover the full age spectrum.
"It's not just the old fogeys who buy our records and come to see us. But it's nice when you meet people on the road and they tell you they've got all the Camel records - and they probably known more about Camel than we do."
Autumn 1981 saw the release of "Chameleon - The Best Of Camel".
"It was difficult to know what to include and what to leave out, especially since we had nine albums to draw on. But it was an enjoyable project and I believe "Chameleon" includes some of our most popular numbers and also gives value for money."
1982 sees further development - a new album "The Single Factor" released in May, and a new group. Andy Latimer and Kit Watkins are joined by David Paton (Pilot, Alan Parsons Project), Chris Rainbow (Alan Parsons Project), Andy Dalby (Kingdom Come, Kiki Dee, Vapour Trails) and Stuart Tosh (Pilot, 10CC) making the strongest line up to date.
Here's to the next 10 years of CAMEL.
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