Barbara Gaskin was born and grew up in Hatfield (SE England). As well as singing spontaneously from early infancy, she had formal training in piano and cello from the age of 10. In her early teens she taught herself acoustic guitar and performed in local folk clubs.
In 1969 she moved from Hatfield to Canterbury to study for a degree in Philosophy and Literature at Kent University, but immediately became involved in the Canterbury music scene, joining folk rock group Spirogyra as vocalist. Spirogyra quickly procured a recording contract and subsequently made 3 albums for B & C Records while gigging extensively on the UK college circuit, as well as completing numerous successful tours of Europe. During the same period, Barbara met guitarist Steve Hillage (also a student at Kent University) and via Steve, the members of Canterbury band Caravan, and Steve's old friend and musical colleague Dave Stewart. Barbara guested both live and on record with Dave's band Hatfield and the North, and was a member of the Ottawa Music Company, brainchild of Dave Stewart and Henry Cow drummer Chris Cutler. The intricate, largely instrumental music of bands such as Egg, Hatfield & The North and Henry Cow, and by contrast, the more spontaneous, lyrically driven approach of Spirogyra, were both powerful formative musical influences on Barbara during the six years she lived in Canterbury.
When Spirogyra split up, Barbara left England to travel in Asia for nearly three years, following her interest in Eastern philosophy and culture while earning money by teaching English. She continued to sing - in Japan, professionally - and while living in Java and Bali became very interested in gamelan music. She also lived in India for a total of 18 months.
On returning to England, Barbara was invited by drummer Germaine Dolan to play keyboards and sing in the all female band Red Roll On. Based in Canterbury, the band played in clubs and art colleges in the London area. Barbara also renewed her musical association with Dave Stewart by contributing vocals to his compositions on Bill Bruford's Gradually Going Tornado album. In 1981 Dave & Barbara joined forces and recorded the hit single 'It's My Party'. The collaboration has continued to this day with a series of singles and albums on their own Broken Records label (see A brief history of Broken Records.)
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