May 26, 2016

Interview with Paul Buckmaster about his art of arranger.

This interview with Paul Buckmaster edited by George Cole was published on the The Guardian Web page on September 30th, 2010. Even if there are no references about Buckmaster's work with the Third Ear Band, it's an interesting excursus about the art of arrangement...

Life's a beach ... Brian Wilson in his studio. Photograph: Rb/Redferns

Elton John, the Beach Boys and the fine art of pop alchemy.

"They are music's unsung heroes, yet their work can turn a great song into a classic, intensify the emotional impact of a heartrending lyric or make a stirring vocal performance even more memorable. Arrangers are often said to have "sweetened" the music by adding strings, horns and other musical elements, but such a description doesn't do justice to how much an arranger's work can transform a piece of music. Think of how the swirling strings and plucked violins on ABC's The Look of Love heighten the song's poignancy, or the drama of the brass interjections on Love's Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale, and you can hear the impact an inspired arrangement has on a song.

Even so, it's easy to be unaware of what an arranger actually does. A good person to answer that question is Paul Buckmaster who, over four decades, has arranged songs for the likes of Elton John, David Bowie, Miles Davis, the Bee Gees, Guns N' Roses and the Rolling Stones.

So what is the art of a good arrangement? "Being able to enhance the emotive quality and bring out the intent of the lyric and the artist's performance," says Buckmaster. "Adding orchestral passages and textures should give added depth and dimensionality, physically, psychologically and aurally speaking. I feel I've succeeded when the goose-bump thrill factor kicks in."

A good arranger needs lots of skills, Buckmaster says, including a thorough working knowledge of harmony and counterpoint, the ability to sense what is right and proportional in the context of the song being arranged, knowledge of composition, and the art of orchestrating. Buckmaster's work as an arranger has been mainly influenced by classical composers: "However, one cannot deny the influence of arrangers like George Martin, Nelson Riddle and Gil Evans – I particularly love Claus Ogerman's way of writing," he says.

There is no set template for how an arranger works. "Sometimes I work with the artist, sometimes with the producer; sometimes both. Often, I'm sent the basic track or demo and am left alone in relative freedom to make my own choices," says Buckmaster. "On the first three Elton John albums, Elton gave [the late producer] Gus Dudgeon and me total freedom; the only part which was never arranged was Elton's piano. One exception was Sixty Years On, where I decided to transcribe Elton's original demo piano part for the harp intro, changing the last three bars. Gus and I sat in his office and went through each song, and worked out the type of orchestration which would suit each track. We effectively designed each song as an individual piece, giving it its own character."

An example is on Your Song, where Buckmaster and Dudgeon decided to not bring in the rhythm section until the third verse. "The delayed entry of the rhythm section makes it more dramatic, and serves to lift the piece into a more propulsive mood. One general rule is to hold back as much as possible, to give the listener the chance to let the song grow and unfold, introducing new sonic elements, such as new instruments or sectional groupings. If you use everything from the beginning, you have nowhere to go."

In 1969, Buckmaster's manager Tony Hall introduced him to David Bowie at Gus Dudgeon's office. "Gus and Tony thought I should be the arranger for the forthcoming recording session for Space Oddity," Buckmaster says. "Writing the chart for rhythm section and strings was fun – I was still new to this and tried out some unusual effects." The session took place at Trident Studios in London using an eight-track recorder: "It went smoothly," recalls Buckmaster, "we did the basic track first, with David on jumbo guitar [large body acoustic], together with the rest of the rhythm section and Rick Wakeman's Mellotron, then David's vocal and Stylophone [a pocket-sized, stylus-operated electronic keyboard], and finally, strings and flutes."

Some song arrangements add so much to the finished product that it raises the issue: where does arranging end and composition begin? And in light of the fact that some session singers and musicians have successfully claimed a share of song-writing royalties for their contribution to the music, shouldn't arrangers also occasionally receive a royalty for their efforts? "It's a very good question, and it opens many cans of worms," says Buckmaster, "In my view, arrangers should be paid their one-time creative fee, but I feel they should also be entitled to some kind of percentage at the back end, especially if the record goes gold. The contribution made by the arranger to the success or memorability of a recording, is in many cases, undeniable."

Buckmaster cites the french horn glissando in the introduction to Marvin Gaye's I Heard It Through the Grapevine. "Without the low-register, rhythmic violin/viola answer-phrases, and the rising string counter-lines during the turn-around, would the record be as interesting?" he asks. "There's no doubt that the song is strong in its own right, and I absolutely do not intend any slur on it. But try to imagine the cut without those elements. Jeremy Lubbock's swooping string-phrases on Michael Jackson's Billie Jean is another – the examples are endless."

Five great arrangements

Massive Attack: Unfinished Sympathy
Arranger: Wil Malone

Massive Attack created a song that featured samples, scratching, a strong groove and a superb vocal by Shara Nelson. Wil Malone, renowned for his string arrangements (he did the arrangement for the Verve's Bittersweet Symphony), was given the rhythm track and complete freedom to write an arrangement for it. It took Malone two days to compose the arrangement, which was recorded with a 40-piece string orchestra at Abbey Road Studios. "What you are trying to do is tailor the arrangement to the band or artist. The challenge is to provide an interesting arrangement that doesn't swamp the tune," says Malone. He certainly succeeded. Listen to how the cellos add tension to the song's intro or the way the violins enhance the emotional intensity of Nelson's soulful vocals. Unfinished Sympathy is a song that moves both your feet and your heart.

Glen Campbell: Wichita Lineman
Arranger: Al de Lory

Composer Jimmy Webb got the inspiration for this song when driving in a remote area of Oklahoma and spotting the solitary figure of a lineman working at the top of a telegraph pole. The result was a mournful country ballad full of yearning. Al de Lory's arrangement uses sweeping violins to evoke a vast empty space and the loneliness of the lineman. A finishing touch was to bring Webb's Gulbransen electronic organ into the studio to create the sound effect of a telephone signal travelling along a telegraph wire.

The Temptations: Papa Was A Rolling Stone
Arranger: Paul Riser

This epic track, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, is unusual in having no harmonic progression – it sticks rigidly to the B-flat minor chord. The track is dominated by a never-ending bass riff and non-stop hi-hat beat, and on top of this, arranger Paul Riser laid violins, cellos, harp and reverberating trumpet. The result is a 12-minute classic, which earned Riser a Grammy award.

The Beatles: A Day in the Life
Arranger: George Martin

For what was to be the final track on Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles wanted to include a symphony orchestra, and Paul McCartney wanted a 24-bar gap filled with a spiralling descent of sound, recalls producer/arranger George Martin in his book, Summer of Love. Martin used a half symphony orchestra, instructing each member to start by playing the lowest note on their instrument and end by playing their loudest and highest note. The rest is history.

The Beach Boys: God Only Knows
Arranger: Brian Wilson

On a song whose beauty can make grown men cry, Brian Wilson used an array of instruments including violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet and accordion to produce one of the greatest love songs of all time". 

no©2016 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)    

May 15, 2016

TEB concerts old ad found.

Here's below you can see an old ad for two concerts TEB played in Birmingham and Bristol on February 12th and 15th, 1972. Not that wounderful one, you know... but better than nothing.

The musicians was the same who recorded "Macbeth" soundtrack. Soon after that Paul Buckmaster left the band and TEB loose the contract with E.M.I...

 no©2016 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)    

May 07, 2016

Stripping the Peel: strange revisionism of an underground icon...?!

JP in '60's ("The Word" Magazine Nov. 2015)
I realize it's difficult to accept when one decreases a cult figure of the underground culture as the late John Peel, but now I think it can be a necessary act.
On this "John Peel Wiki" at I've read, along with a valid reconstruction of the band presence at the JP's radio programmes, these unexpected judgments on the Third Ear Band:

"(...) But the band was beginning to lose impetus amidst a wave of personnel changes and eventually split in 1974. Revived versions of the band in the late 1970s and 1980s did not attract Peel's interest.
Later, indeed, he seemed to regard them as one of the less enduring acts of their time; their first Top Gear session was soon after John Walters had become Peel's producer and to judge by their conversation in "Peeling Back The Years" one can infer that Walters was not entirely convinced by them, although he was less critical than Peel: 

JW: Well, frankly, if we are talking about intolerable music, what about the other sorts of new music that I remember having to record and we had to listen to at that time? The Third Ear Band, for instance.
JP: Well, yes. I mean…
JW: It wasn’t really intolerable; it was hypnotic.
JP: Yes, difficult to defend really in a way, except that I played jew’s harp on one track on their debut LP, but that isn’t the reason why they got on the programme. It was just that they again, I suppose, were the sort of band that turned up interminably at benefits and so forth, and when I went down to the various clubs, whether Pink Floyd or Arthur Brown or Hendrix and people were playing, the Third Ear Band would always be on the bill in some capacity, along with another band that we never did actually record, Exploding Galaxies or something…".

John Walters
OK, just licit opinions, but I remember when Glen used to talk about Peel he was always grateful with him and his extraordinary importance in the underground, so it sounds quite strange to me that Peel claimed to have introduced the TEB so many times on his radio programmes just because they were always around...
If you listen to the few BBC radio recordings still available it's a fact their music was totally out of their time, sometimes maybe too naive, but absolutely great and imaginative, creative and unique. For myself very enduring...
So why a so great underground icon could repudiate his choises?

no©2016 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)    

April 25, 2016

Roberto Musci's tribute to the Third Ear Band out in June!

The announced tribute to the Third Ear Band composed and played by Italian avantgarde composer ROBERTO MUSCI will be published by Gonzo Multimedia on June 17th, 2016. Titled "Mosaic", the intriguing project is based on the use of plunderphonics (a technique taken by Roberto from John  Oswald); it will offer to the listeners a new rendition of some tunes from the TEB's repertoire.
I listened to them in advance and I was really amazed by the nature of the music in a true TEB spirit...
Here below you can see the cover of the CD scheduled by Gonzo at the page of their Web site

Roberto says that "doing this CD it was a strange thing. It happened in a very simple and spontaneous way (probably because my music is so influenced by the TEB's one). It has been as I was the fifth member of the quartet, playing with them; this experience gave me a great joy and a huge pleasure...".
You can listen to a sampler of "Area Three" from the album HERE!
An interview with  Roberto on the Third Ear Band is at
A file where Roberto explains his very original project is at

no©2016 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)   

April 19, 2016

"With the obsession of the reed". The second part of the exclusive interview with MARY HAYES.

Here's the second part of the exclusive interview with Mary Hayes, Paul Minns' former wife. The first part is available at the page
As you can see, it's not the best interview about the TEB made by me, but it's an evidence that a good interview is based on a good interaction between the parts...

You told me about your marriage with Paul...
"Initially, my marriage took place with Paul Minns in 1969 and should read as Mrs Mary Minns. I was married to Paul, along with our adopted son, Matthew, 25.10. 1967, and then we had our son, Tristram, 18.06.1970 and our daughter, Amber, 04.09.1967. 

Through the early part of our relationship and marriage, Paul's was a book designer and played the oboe, this closeness with the oboe led to the Third Ear Band since 1969. I noted that Paul's dedication in playing the oboe with the obsession of the reed - meant that most mornings he practised and improved. The perfection of the oboe, was for Paul, enhanced by the reed and was valuable to his playing, with the intense sound of the oboe's performance - harmoniously expressed and shined through - . "

"In terms of life - Paul's loss of his mother and father during the air crash in 1971, then Yugoslavia, was a devastating blow to him - and affected his life. Fortunately, in 1972, we had a daughter, called Amber. In 1980 - 1982, life fell apart, in terms of breakdown - and in 1982, the story goes onwards with Paul's meeting of Kathryn and their joint marriage - and leaving England for Scotland.

Had you ever had contacts with Paul after that?
"As you are aware, the story I heard was Paul's marriage to Kathryn fell apart, and then Kathryn went to Morocco for a month, then back home again, however, the situation had changed and Paul had chosen to take his own life. This could have been Paul's sadness with the loss of his dog and horse - but the impact was strong and neither Matthew, Tristram and Amber ever saw Paul again.

                           A teen Paul Minns (courtesy of Mary Haynes).

In September, 2015, I heard that Kathryn (Ade) had died a few years ago. Paul and Kathryn had no children, however, she was registered with PRS (Performance Rights Society). On this occasion, today, I rang Performance Rights Society to enable Paul's children to eventually become knowledgeable about Paul's musical experience, but now have to know about the occasion of Kathryn's death and if she left a will? I know you've the history about Kathryn and Paul, so you may be helpful in information-." 
no©2016 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)  

April 12, 2016

OZ magazine colourful ads found.

TEB Italian fans pages run by my friend Mirco Delfino (go to, with interesting links with music as/inspired by the TEB, posted these very interesting old colourful Blackhill Enterprises-Harvest Records ads published by the legendary freak underground OZ magazine in 1969 and 1970.

                                                       July 22, 1969

                                    September 23th, 1969

                                         February 26th, 1970

Note the usual Blackhill's style based on imaginative communication full of philosophical and psychological statements and a flower-power call: "To love Blackhill Enterprises is to love Life"... 

no©2016 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

April 05, 2016

An unknown wonderful footage with the Third Ear Band in 1970!

Thanks our friend and TEB fan archeovideologist Spirito Bono we have a new brief footage with the Band on stage aired by WDR TV just few days ago (March 28th, 2016). The little cameo is available in free download at:
It seems* it's taken from the International Essen Pop & Blues Festival (October 1970) where with musicians as Taj Mahal, Keef Hartley Band and Hardin & York... at the Essen (Germany) Galerie der Entertainer played also The Third Ear Band in its best line-up ever: Glen Sweeney on tablas and tambourine; Paul Minns on oboe; Ursula Smith on cello and Richard Coff on violin.
The brief sequence (just 2:38), alternating the musicians' close-ups and a relaxed audience, is the last part of "Earth" taken from the "Elements" album: this really exclusive document shows Ursula Smith using the arpeggio on cello and Richard Coff playing his violin with a plectrum...
Enjoy this obscure pearl!


*Philological/archivistic note: I write "it seems" because the source states that period, but I think it's dubious the Band played in October 1970: in fact in August 1970 Smith and Coff split the group and Bridges and Buckmaster joined the TEB. So it's this live concert was played before, from second half of 1969 to first half of 1970...
Fan and TEB expert Mirco Delfino suggests it could be played on April 24th, 1970 at the Essen TV as reported on the original Paul Minns' journal: in fact the sequence is build on a quite amateurish editing of the band playing on a studio and the audience laying at a live concert...
no©2016 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

March 25, 2016

"Born in Canterbury": a case of Italian crap journalism about the TEB.

Some Italian pseudo-music journalists have the sad habit to repeat the same old tragically fake infos about the Third Ear Band. One of the worst one is named Cesare Rizzi, an author involved with the important publisher Giunti on "guides to" some kind of music.

He wrote three books about the so-called Progressive scene (1999, 2003 and 2010) annoting coincise profiles about bands as King Crimson, Pink Floyd... and fatally (but I'm not agreed with this) the Third Ear Band.
On the volumes he states the band was born in Canterbury!, when even kids know Glen Sweeney's ensemble was born in London Ladbroke Grove.

But one of the thing that really upset me is when Rizzi tells about the last phase of the band story (the reunion and the records made in Italy): he alludes to a "bunch of Italian fans", not quoting me (a writer about music since 1985) and my friend Gigi Bresciani (one of the most important promoter in Italy)as the only responsible of the band reunion and the very first concerts played here; nor the only book existing on the band (with the very first edition of the "Abelard & Heloise" soundtrack) - "Necromancers of the Drifting West", published by Stampa Alternativa in Rome - written by me (where he could take some verified infos about the Thirds).

An hateful way to make journalism, superficial and amateurish; writing just in Italian they can omitting the truth, but the clever and really passionate fans around the world know where they can find the right stuff!

no©2016 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

March 18, 2016

Maybe the most rare TEB's record?

Probably the most rare TEB's item is this only one single known, the Japan edition of "Fleance Macbeth" (Odeon EOR10140, 1972), from the "Macbeth" original soundtrack (on the B side "Overture"). No value estimated.
Here you can see the front cover and the inner sleeve with photos, notes and the original lyrics of "Fleance".


About other rarities for TEB's KolleKtors, just in these last few days you can get copies of the rare National Balkan Ensemble's record at around 40-60€ at Discogs Web site (
no©2016 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

March 13, 2016

Old rare TEB adverts emerged from the Web!

Few days ago Ebay sellers put on sale two rare old TEB adverts taken from magazines. Here below you can see an advert from "Time Out" (March 1972 issue) for the "Macbeth" soundtrack release. A typical of that time b/w photo pastiche  with the macabre scene of the hangmen.

Again, here below you can watch a b/w page from "Rolling Stones"(December 1969 issue) promoting "Alchemy" with Harvest Records/Blackhill Enterprises releases by Edgar Broughton Band, Pink Floyd and others...

no©2016 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

March 04, 2016

All the cover proofs for "Exorcisms"...

Here we have all the cover proofs made by talented designer Martin Cook for the last TEB's release "Exorcisms".
The new record is available also through the official Gonzo Web site at
First proof with tracks' titles.

Second proof  with different colour, blue eyes and names of band members
 (but with Paul Minns missed).

Third proof  as the second one but with white eyes.
Furth proof as the third one but with red eyes.

no©2016 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

February 06, 2016

New Third Ear Band CD out on February 19, 2016!

The third CD edited by me for Gonzo Multimedia will be on sale on February 19, 2016. Titled "EXORCISMS", it showcases recordings from the 1988-1989 period, when the musicians involved were Glen Sweeney, Mick Carter, Ursula Smith, Lyn Dobson and Allen Samuel.
The album is available in pre-order at Gonzo's page with a wonderful cover made by talented designer Martin Cook.

no©2016 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

January 20, 2016

Old 1972 TEB ad found...

My friend Mirco Delfino, who runs the exclusive interesting TEB Italian Facebook page (, sent me this old ad taken from the great Mike King's "Wrong Movements", a chronological history about Robert Wyatt.
The benefit concert was on January 23th, 1972 at the legendary Chalk Farm Road's London "Roundhouse" and the Thirds played there with  Paul Buckmaster.

Two days later the band played at the BBC a classic "John Peel session" with this strange line-up: Denim Bridges (guitar), Simon House (violin), Mike Marchant (guitar & vocal) and Peter Pavli (bass), and it's difficult to know if it was the same musicians who played at the Roundhouse even because at the time Buckmaster was in & out from the band...

no©2016 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

December 19, 2015

Hydrogen Jukebox's promo card for peaceful and sonic Xmas holidays to all of you!

Note: This 1991 original Hydrogen Jukebox's promo card was designed by Ma.So. and based on the tarots cover concept by Glen Sweeney and the CD back cover photo by Lucia Baldini.

 no©2015 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

December 05, 2015

New review about Gonzo CD by "Shindig!" magazine.

Here's a new review edited by Grahame Bent for "Shindig!" magazine (issue 50) about TEB Gonzo CD "New Forecasts from the Third Ear almanac":

no©2015 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)