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...
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 countires. 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 tremendous accomplishment and
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.
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'.