Yes, dear inveterate TEB fans, at last we have got the announced interview with Ursula Smith, the legendary great cello/violin player of the Third Ear Band!
As she writes me from his home in Norwich,
"(...) Sorry this has taken so long. I hope it is of some use/interest. Life takes so much time!".
Right. Here's the interview...
|Ursula Smith at the end of a concert with the Norwich Philarmonic Orchestra (2011)|
What kind of musical training have you got?
I remember we were playing to an audience of about 90 mostly young girls in a courtyard. . Around the yard were tall concrete walls with small cell windows in them , at the end of each number all these hands came out of the cell windows and waved.
One girl spoke to me in the interval and told me that she had been in the Arts Lab near Covent Garden, and she was on an acid trip, when the police came in and the the Arts Lab was raided. She was arrested and now she was on remand in Holloway. It came as a complete surprise to me at the end of the concert when Glen came up to me and asked me to join the Third Ear Band and I accepted. I learned later that the reason I was asked was that there had been several gigs that Paul Buckmaster was not able to do".
|TEB 1970 (L-R): Minns, Sweeney, Coff and Smith (photo by Blackhill Enterprises)|
One of the early bookings I did was the first Isle of Wight festival with Bob Dylan on the bill. We arrived on the island by ferry and then drove to the venue field. The day before had been the rock and roll night headlined by the Who. We were on in the afternoon with folk artists like Tom Paxton, Richie Havens and Julie Felix, and in the evening was the comeback concert of Bob Dylan backed by the Band.
When I walked out on the stage there were people as far as I could see. I sat down and when the amplification was set up, I drew my bow across the strings and and I heard this great roaring sound, through the giant sound system and the monitors.
The other band members got set up and as we started to play the music came together.
|TEB on stage at Isle of Wight Festival (August 1969) with Ursula on cello (on right)|
We did some broadcasts mostly for John Peel, sometimes with an audience and sometimes just as recording sessions. The album "Earth Air Fire and Water" was recorded in Abbey Road Studios.
Abroad we did the Paradiso in Amsterdam, where most of the audience were lying on the floor, and we did several festivals in a giant sports stadiums in Germany.
There was a festival in an Aircraft hangar at Le Bourget airport in Paris, where the Pink Floyd were playing with a whole range of other bands. I remember we stayed at the Paris Hilton and we did a TV show in Belgium. We did two concerts in the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank - the first one was called "The Crab and the Crescent Moon": this was shortly after the moon landing and the title was based on a dream that Glen had had. Dave Loxley did a poster for the concert which was based on a tarot card.
We were booked to do a national tour with folk singer Al Stewart. Glen wanted to call the tour "Atlantis Rising", myself and Steve [Pank, her husband and road manager of the TEB] were detailed to go and see Al to ask him if he would accept that title. He was a bit doubtful about it and said he would be just as happy if the tour was called ‘Ham and Eggs’.
However he accepted the title and during the concert we shared with him at the Queen Elizabeth Hall he gave a short speech about how Nostradamus had predicted the assassination of the Kennedy brothers. He then sang a song about Nostradamus. Later when he toured America his tour was called ‘The year of the Cat’.
The Third Ear Band played for two Druid ceremonies, the midsummer one on Glastonbury Tor and the Dawn Equinox ceremony at Parliament Hill in London.
We had been in Germany playing at couple of festivals and recording the soundtrack for a German TV production of Abelard and Eloise. On that, we first watched the movie though on a TV screen and then it was played in front of us while we improvised the music.
When we arrived back in London having had virtually no sleep we were immediately rushed into the back of a van and driven to Glastonbury Tor. We climbed the Tor carrying the instruments. Luckily it was beautiful day. My cello was the heaviest and the biggest. The person having the most problem was the Chief Druid who looked like he might have heart attack at any moment. He had to keep stopping to have a rest. When we all reached the top I found that there was nothing for me to sit on, so I sat on the side of the Hill. After the Druids performed their ceremony, we played to the people and to the Sun.
|TEB playing for Druids in 1970: Ursula on left with Glean on tablas and Coff on violin|
The dawn ceremony for the equinox was on Parliament Hill in Hampstead. We processed with the druids and formed a circle, and the druids started the ceremony. Paul was asked to play to announce the rising of the sun.
The Chief Druid got the time wrong and Paul had to keep playing for ages till the correct moment of the sun rise. We were honoured to be asked to take part in these ancient ceremonies, it was a unique experience for the band.
We also did a concert in the Royal Festival shared with a French avante garde music group...".
We were busking near Speaker's Corner Hyde Park when this South African guy came up to chat to us, and said he knew a guy who ran an equipment shop and he could get us some equipment there.
We went to the shop and Richard spoke to the manager who told us that this person was an intelligence agent for the South African government and that we should be very wary of him.
After that Richard rejoined the Third Ear Band and so did Paul Buckmaster. Soon after that the Third Ear Band got signed for doing the music for Polanski’s "Macbeth"...".
I moved to Norwich with Steve in 1971 and our son was born there in the Autumn of that year. By then Steve was playing the guitar and bass guitar and we formed a folk dance band called the Haymakers. We played at dances, clubs, festivals and fairs until the early 1980s.
On one occasion I depped for Dave Swarbrick of the Fairport Convention. I did the arrangements for a live production of Peter Bellamy’s "The Transports" and recorded [on cello] with the comedy folk duo The Kipper Family as part of The New Trunch Coronation Band.
|Ursula on cello during a rehearsal at St Andrew's Hall (Norwich) on 5th December 2008|
|Ursula on November 6th, 2010 at St Andrew's Hall Mahler rehearsal|
"Naked" (LP/CD - City Slang, GER 1992)
Ursula played violin and cello on three tracks. Read at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.it/2013/04/unknown-1991-ursula-smiths.html
3 tracks have taken from the never officially realised BBC 1982 production titled "Maritime England Suite" (read details at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2010/11/ursula-pank-nee-smith-played-also-on.html)
(Discography updated on April 17th, 2013)
no©2011 Luca Ferrari