‘Breathless’: How Camel Held Back The New Wave

The progressive rock staples had a long-established audience by the late 1970s, and proved it again with their new UK release of September 22, 1978.

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Camel ‘Breathless’ artwork - Courtesy: UMG
Camel ‘Breathless’ artwork - Courtesy: UMG

Progressive rock giants Camel had a long-established audience by the late 1970s, and proved it again with their fourth Top 30 album in little more than three years, Breathless. Released on September 22, 1978, it hit the UK chart on October 14.

After first charting with The Snow Goose in 1975, a No.26 entry, Camel made the Top 20 twice in a row, with Moonmadness, No.15 in 1976, and Rain Dances, No.20 in 1977. Breathless, the fourth of eight UK chart albums, consolidated their success at a time when the new wave was supposedly sweeping all before it.

Farewell to a founder

Recorded at the famous Manor Studios and produced by the band with Mick Glossop, it’s a landmark in the Camel story because this was the final album to feature the band’s co-founding keyboard player, Pete Bardens. After co-writing all but two of the songs on Breathless, Bardens departed before the band toured the record. Mel Collins was now in the fold on saxophones, and two keyboard players were drafted in for the tour: Dave Sinclair, the cousin of bass player Richard Sinclair, and Jan Schelhaas.

Listen to the Prog Rocks playlist.

While the album contained its share of extended, progressive pieces, such as “Echoes,” “Summer Lightning,” and “The Sleeper,” this was a record on which Camel also addressed a more poppy sound. It was evident on the opening, airy title track, with vocals by Richard Sinclair, and elsewhere.

When Sounds writer Phil Sutcliffe went to review the new band line-up right around the album’s release, he found them in good form. “The evidence at the City Hall [Sheffield] was that the spirit of this mildly avant-garde band is surprisingly persistent,” he observed. “Their standard material was gratefully received and the new funky developments — welcomed by the open mind of an amiable crowd.”

Buy or stream Breathless.



  1. Percy van Staden

    December 9, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Camel’s first album was the first music that I listened to while stoned, and the experience remains one of the highlights of my life. That was way back in 1974.
    I was on the verge of becoming a professional drummer at the time, and Andy Ward’s sound and style was what I aspired to. My life’s focus was set on sounding like Andy Ward. When I mentioned this to two fellow musicians in 1976, they said “that’s exactly who you do sound like”, What a compliment that was!
    But I really liked everything about Camel; the compositions, the tonal quality of the music as a whole, the fact that the band included a Hammond, and of course Andrew’s amazing guitar solos.
    For me, Camel epitomised what a band should sound like. It still does, 40 years on.
    Finally, I’d like to say that I’m really happy that Andrew has recovered, and doing what he does so well.
    Thank you so much for enriching my life through your music.
    Best wishes,
    Percy van Staden

  2. Arsene Holmes

    December 9, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    My introduction to Camel has been Summer Lightning which I loved.
    Then I went to see them in Paris hoping they would play it. They did not 🙁

    But as they were touring to promote “I can see your house from here”, Andy played Ice
    and my life has never been the same again.
    I remember to this day being close to the stage and listening to Ice which I did not know and being unable to speak for 5 minutes when it ended.

    It remains to this day my favourite piece of music

  3. Michael abshier

    September 24, 2016 at 2:14 am

    Still one of the finest groups to ever grace our planet.from mirage to the snow goose to rain dances to beyond. Unique sound,always leaves me breathless.bless you Andrew,andy,doug,and the one and only Peter gardens!

  4. Roy Clay

    January 24, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    I am so lucky to have Pete Bardens personal recordings of that time, which include early versions of these tracks in studio. Included is the unused intro to Summer Lighting 3 x and every track is represented in various stages of work. Thank you Pete RIP you are sorely missed. I loved your rude song titles on the cassette case 😉

  5. Pingback: reDiscover The Secrets Of Camel’s A Nod And A Wink | uDiscover

  6. Anton Eriksson

    October 14, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    I’m a youngin’ and a Scandinavian so the fact that Camel hit home is maybe a bit of a stretch, but boy if it wasn’t for Down On The Farm – a classic hit that we still fill the pubs with to this day – then I wouldn’t have ever heard of this phenomenal band. I love most of their albums but Down On The Farm on Breathless is where it’s at.

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