Dave Sinclair was born in Herne Bay on 24th November 1947. He eventually attended Simon Langton School, Canterbury, at the same time as several other later luminaries of the Canterbury Scene: Mike Ratledge, Brian Hopper, Hugh Hopper and Robert Wyatt.
Dave was inspired to take up music by the accomplished pub-style piano playing of his Aunt Girlie, and showed a natural flair himself for the piano. Unenthusiastic about the early piano lessons he received after his parents noticed his growing interest in music, he nevertheless persevered as a self-taught player throughout his school years, his sharp ear and capacity for hard work ensuring that his progress was rapid.
On leaving school, Dave joined the Canterbury-based, semi-pro outfit, the Wilde Flowers. Almost every future member of the early line-ups of Soft Machine and Caravan passed through the ranks of this now legendary band during the two or three years of its existence (1964-67).
When changing musical fashions led to the disbandment of the Wilde Flowers, three members of its final line-up – Scottish-born (but Kent-educated) singer and guitarist Pye Hastings, Canterbury born-and-bred drummer Richard Coughlan and Dave himself – teamed up with another ex-member, Dave’s cousin Richard Sinclair, a guitarist and vocalist from a musical Canterbury family who soon showed an extraordinary aptitude for bass guitar. They jettisoned most of the Wilde Flowers cover versions in favour of self-composed originals and called themselves Caravan.
Early successes on the local music scene soon led to London gigs and record company attention, followed by the recording and release of their eponymous first album. Well-received by critics and public alike, Caravan unfortunately proved to be something of a false start when the U.S. – based record company, Verve/Forecast, ceased its UK operations shortly after the album’s release.
Luckily the band now had professional management, and shortly began a long, successful association with Decca. Their second album, If I Could Do It All Over Again I’d Do It All Over You appeared in 1970, a spin-off single leading to an appearance on BBC TV’s flagship chart-rock show, Top of the Pops.
In the Land of Grey and Pink, the band’s third and arguably most celebrated album, followed in 1971. Dave contributed a side-long suite of songs and instrumentals, entitled “Nine Feet Underground”, an allusion to the basement flat in Canterbury where it was composed.
Dave left Caravan in the late summer of 1971, and worked with Matching Mole – he contributed the beautiful ballad, “O Caroline”, to its first album – and an early line-up of Hatfield and the North, before making a welcome return to Caravan in 1973. He stayed with them long enough to record three more successful albums – the much-loved For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night, the ambitious Caravan and the New Symphonia (recorded live in London with a symphony orchestra) and the melodious, slickly-produced Cunning Stunts, to which he contributed the bulk of the material.
Dave also toured the United States for the first time during the mid-70s with Caravan, but left in 1976 to pursue an ultimately abortive solo album (high-quality demo recordings of its songs have subsequently appeared on CD as Moon Over Man).
Dave later worked with the fairly low-key outfits, Sinclair and the South and The Polite Force, and the rather more high-profile Camel (as well as its later offshoot, Mirage). He returned to Caravan in the 80s and 90s to record The Album, Back to Front and The Battle of Hastings but left the band in 2002 during sessions for The Unauthorised Breakfast Item. He has since released a series of solo albums, beginning with Full Circle and Into the Sun and continuing – after his permanent relocation to Japan in 2005 – with Treasure Chest, Stream, PianoWorks I: Frozen in Time and The Little Things. Dave is active internationally as a composer and performer and has recently completed a new solo album, Out Of Sinc.
Neil Saunders, April 2014. Updated May 2018.