A fraternal collective of musicians clustered around the Kentish tourist town that is home to the Church of England's Archbishop, the Canterbury Scene provided the cradle for a half-dozen of the most freewheeling British bands of the post-psychedelic era. Though the direct musical similarities between Canterbury's major bands -- the Soft Machine, Caravan, Gong, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, Hatfield & the North, Egg, National Health -- aren't overwhelming, each featured a clever synthesis of jazz improvisation and rock rhythms with clever, intellectual songwriting tied to psychedelia. It's no wonder the Canterbury bands became so close, since many of its major figures began their musical careers in a beat group called the Wilde Flowers. Together from 1963 to 1969, the Wilde Flowers included most of the figures who later formed Canterbury's two best bands, the Soft Machine (Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers) and Caravan (Pye Hastings, David Sinclair, Richard Sinclair, Richard Coughlan). After both the Soft Machine and Caravan released their debut albums in 1968, they became popular in England's psychedelic underground. By the early '70s however, a series of fragmenting lineup changes and the subsequent formation of new bands soon multiplied the force of the Canterbury scene. Early Soft Machine member Daevid Allen formed Gong, and both Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt eventually left the Softs to begin their own solo careers. The musicians that led the new incarnation of the Soft Machine, including Elton Dean and Hugh Hopper, began pushing the band in the direction of instrumental jazz-rock. By the mid-'70s, many of the remaining Canterbury bands had progressed from psychedelic and prog-rock to embrace extended fusion jams with few lyrics. Many of Britain's better avant-garde or fusion musicians of the 1970s and '80s -- including Fred Frith, Allan Holdsworth, and Peter Blegvad -- also began their career playing in Canterbury bands.