January 31, 2010

An horrid English dance production with an historical TEB track!

If you don't have fear to confront yourself to the Horrifying Land of Contemporary Music Market, you can buy a new compilation with one of the most famous TEB tracks in - "Fleance", from the original 1972 "Macbeth" soundtrack.
In this recent double CD "Art of Chill 6" (Platipus Records DCD PLATCD225 2, distributed in England on November 2009), where "art" is really a wasted word to use for a ugly thing as this, for about 15.00 euros you can have 31 tracks played by great musicians as Tim Buckley, Velvet Undergound, Beaver & Krause, Suicide... and less great as Yazoo, Goblin, Gentle Giant... BUT MIXED by I Monster (??!!)!

Despite the promotional notes ("Groove Dis Exclusive. British production team that specilizes in psychedelic, electronic-tinged pop confections often based around samples from odd sources, mainly easy listening records. Born out of early WARP bleep culture and IDM, they come back w/ this 2 disc 31 trx mix of incredible diverse chill tunes") this remixed TEB track (based on the 2003 remixed version) is a real monstrosity, believe me! (anyway you can check by yourself listen to some samples at http://www.groovedis.com/shop/Various-ART-OF-CHILL-VOL.6-IMONSTER-DCD-p-220649.html).
So, please, save your moneys & make some free downloads or buy another copy (CD or vinyl, doesn't matter...) of the original "Macbeth" soundtrack...
(I hope at least TEB musicians can get some royalties from it...)

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

January 30, 2010

TEB first photo session by Ray Stevenson.

Ray Stevenson, probably the main photographer of the Third Ear Band in the Sixties, got a complete photo session of the group at Kensal Green Cemetery of London (see at http://www.kensalgreencemetery.com/index.html), one of the oldest cemetery in the world (first funeral made in 1883), placed in North London, near Harrow Road.

The session, kept sometimes in 1969, was managed to obtain  some photos for "Alchemy" cover, the first album.
Stevenson got some b/w and colour shots of Sweeney, Coff, Minns and Carolyn (Glen's partner) around tombs and small paths.

Finally, the photo selected for the inner cover had taken at the monument of Spencer Ricketts (1788-1867), "a naval commander who had served under Nelson and married an heiress, as "an atrociously rich Gothic shrine'. . ." (from the cemetery Web site). 

The monument (see here two beautiful photos taken by Jacqueline Banerjee in 2007), characterized by "a raised sarcophagus, decorated with shields, is enclosed by eight red Peterhead granite colonnettes and rests on stubby colonnettes of green Cornish serpentine;
the canopy sports cusped arches, gargoyles, crockets and finials galore"(quoted as above).

As journalist Chris Blackford  writes on 2004 "Alchemy" CD booklet, the shot for the cover it's a real group trademark, with Sweeney, Minns and Coff "pouring out from under the cusped arches", and "that mysterious arm reaching for the abandoned violin".

The shot printed on the original cover.
A different shot from the session.
Another shot from (with a well visible Carolyn)  was published on "I.T." n. 63 (29-08-1969)
Because that "mysterious arm" was her's, I  have asked Carolyn the meaning of it, but she doesn't remember anything about. So, no particular meanings or deep  mistery in it... "Just happened", she said me candidly, and the arm was captured in the shot...

Some years later, Ray Stevenson would be become famous as one of the best Sex Pistols photographers. From the beginning of his career at London Cousins Club, on 1966, he made books and exhibitions (read at http://www.raystevenson.co.uk/). 
He stated on November 2009: "In 1966 I was working in a professional darkroom when I heard Buffy St. Marie on the radio singing “Until it's Time For You to Go.” Something in the song and her voice made me want to meet/photograph her. My youthful naivete allowed me to make phone-calls resulting in me getting invited to her press reception and to her gigs. It was all so easy.I liked those folk people and started going to the Marquee Club on folk-night where I met Sandy Denny who introduced me to many other musicians and Cousins Folk Club. I in turn made Fairport Convention aware of Sandy! In 1969 I wound up sharing a house with Sandy and her husband.
All my best pictures are of people that I really liked, either musically or personally. You can easily tell from my books of contact sheets who it was I didn't like" (words taken from http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=185398013543).

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

(updated on August 7th, 2011)

January 29, 2010

Morgan Fisher joined the Third Ear Band in 1972. Here's the proof!

Morgan Fisher (www.morgan-fisher.com), eccentric  English musician (keyboards and synthetizer player), composer and photographer, played for some weeks with the Third Ear Band at the end of 1972. He has been so kind to answer to my quick questions....

When/How did you join the band?
"I joined TEB in late 1972. I think it was through an ad in the back pages of Melody Maker, where most bands used to advertise for new members (including the next band I joined - Mott the Hoople). I think they may have been aware of my previous prog-rock band Morgan, and that I had a groovy VCS3 synth - as did Simon House, who I gather I was replacing".

Do you remember which was the line-up?
"Glen Sweeney, Paul Minns, Mike Marchant and one other guy on bass, I think. Glen seemed always cheerful and a bit in another world. And now he really is - RIP. Paul was a bit distant and forbidding as a person, but his sound was a vital part of the band - perhaps at this time the most important and distinctive element in the TEB sound. Beautifully fluid and mysterious. Mike was always friendly and chatty and his guitar (with plenty of flanging and delay) seems now like a forerunner of the Cocteau Twins sound. We reconnected via Facebook a few years ago. I was sad to hear he had
passed away recently. Is any of the band alive I wonder...?

Where did you play with them?
"The answer that pops up in my head isalways "2 radio shows and one gig" but it may be the other way round. I think we
did one show in North London, one radio show for the BBC (possibly Peel?) and perhaps one show for another radio station. I remember recording one of the radio shows at home when it was broadcast, so it didn't go out live. I'm afraid that recording has disappeared. I don't remember playing any keyboards or melodic stuff - mostly drones and effects from the VCS3". 

Do you know if some recordings exist?
"I can't remember there being any rehearsals at all - I just stepped into to the band and started playing".

Have you got stuffs as photos, magazine cuts or something else from that period?
"Sorry I have nothing at all. I was with the band such a short time, I doubt there were any photos taken or reviews written. I was ready to continue with them, but when Mott came into my life in early 1973 the attraction was greater. Glen was very gracious and understood that I would be better off in a band who were working hard and about to do a big US tour. I never saw TEB after that".

What do you think about TEB and their music at the time?
"Frankly I felt that TEB were better as an all-acoustic band, which is how I had always heard them before. Somehow they could create eerie, hypnotic atmospheres and structures without the need of electric instruments. That was their unique quality. So while I was with them I felt the band's sound (with Mike on electric guitar and me on synth) had become a bit more ordinary, with shades of Tangerine Dream and similar bands - and it was partly my fault! I knew that if I stayed longer with them I would try to discuss it with them and see if they could return to their earlier sound. But alas there was not enough time for me to get to know them better and become more of a contributing member. Still, I am grateful for that brief visit to the shadowy and sometimes sparkling world of TEB".

Two footnotes:
a) I've checked all my sources about TEB radio shows recordings, but nothing is documented from that period.  So... ?!
b) I'll be grateful to Morgan forever for the clever & brilliant idea to edit "Miniatures" in 1980. A real minimalist masterpiece! Thanks.

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

January 28, 2010

A Third Ear Band (visual) line-ups chronology (last updated on March 23th, 2012).

I try here a band line-ups chronology based on some sources: Paul Minns' diary; my book "Necromancers of the drifting West" (Stampa Alternativa, 1997); Rod Goodway and Terry Day Web sites; Glen Sweeney's interview on "Unhinged" (1990); interviews/memories with/of Ursula Smith, Steve Pank, Dave Tomlin, Clive Kingsley, Denim Bridges, Rod Goodway, Simon House, Morgan Fisher, Lyn Dobson, Mick Carter, Carolyn Looker, Paul Buckmaster, Brian Meredith, Brian Diprose.
This visual line-up can be related to the TEB chronology post in this archive at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2010/02/after-attempt-to-make-complete-list-of.html

The Giant Sun Trolley (June 1966-Spring 1967)
Glen Sweeney (hand drums), Dave Tomlin (flute, sax), Roger Bunn (bass)
The trio played mainly in London, the most important was the appearance at the legendary "14th Hour Technicolor Dream" (April 29th, 1967). According Dave Tomlin (2010), sometimes played with the band also Dick Dadem (trombone).

Dave Tomlin (1967)

The Hydrogen Jukebox #1 (Spring-Summer 1967)
Glen Sweeney (drums), Clive Kingsley (electric guitar), Barry Pilcher (sax), Dick Dadem (trombone)
Very few concerts played mainly in London.

A rare shot of Glen Sweeney on stage with The Hydrogen Jukebox in 1967.

The (Electric) Third Ear Band #1 (Autumn 1967-June 1968)
Glen Sweeney (drums), Clive Kingsley (electric guitar), Paul Minns (oboe), Brian Meredith (electric cello)
According Kingsley, this band played "a lot of gigs at Middle Earth, UFO Club. Many other small clubs and a couple of concerts". (C. Kingsley, 2009)

             Brian Meredith and Glen Sweeney on stage in 1967 (courtesy B. Meredith)

The Third Ear Band #2 (The National Balkan Ensemble) (July-December 1968)
Glen Sweeney (hand Drums), Richard Coff (violin), Paul Minns (oboe), Benjamin Cartland (viola)
The band recorded three tracks sold and realised by Music Standard Library and one track for "Alchemy" album, never published ("Raga in D").

           The National Balkan Ensemble a.k.a. TEB: (L-R) Minns, Cartland, Sweeney & Coff.

The Third Ear Band #3 (December 1968?)
Glen Sweeney (hand Drums), Richard Coff (violin), Paul Minns (oboe)
For a short period the band became just a trio (with Carolyn as a muse). No recordings  and few concerts, just a photo session with photographer Ray Stevenson at the Kensall Green cemetery of London. 

L-R: Minns, Sweeney, Coff (ph. ©Ray Stevenson).

Third Ear Band #4 (December 1968-? Spring 1969)
Glen Sweeney (hand Drums), Richard Coff (violin), Paul Minns (oboe), Mel Davis (viola)
This line-up recorded all the edited "Alchemy" (Harvest 1969) tracks. In the studio, guest musicians was DJ John Peel (Jews harp) and Dave Tomlin (violin).

The Third Ear Band #5 (Spring-Summer 1969)
Glen Sweeney (hand Drums), Richard Coff (violin), Paul Minns (oboe), Paul Buckmaster (cello)
This line-up played just few live concerts, among these the famous Hyde Park free one.

Coff, Sweeney, Minns and Buckmaster at the "Tree Ceremony".

  (L-R): Minns, Buckmaster, Sweeney and Coff at the Roundhouse (London) May 30th, 1969

The Third Ear Band #6 (Summer 1969-July 1970)
Glen Sweeney (hand drums), Richard Coff (violin), Paul Minns (oboe), Ursula Smith (violin)
This TEB line-up made many live concerts, TV and radio appearances. The group recorded "Third Ear Band "(Harvest 1970) and the TV soundtrack "Abelard & Heloise" (edited on CD in 1997 by Stampa Alternativa with Luca Ferrari's book "Necromancers of the drifting West").

(ph. ©Blackhill Enterprises Ltd.)

The Third Ear ('Big') Band (or Electric Earband) #7 (September 1970-July 1971)
Glen Sweeney (drums), Paul Minns (oboe), Paul Buckmaster (electric bass), Denim Bridges (electric guitar)
After the acoustic phase, the idea was to form a 'pop band': this line-up played various live concerts, some radio programmes, an album - never realised - announced to the press as "The Dragon Wakes" and a single titled "Mistress to the Sun", still in EMI vaults. Bridges has got six unrealised tracks from it (read at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2009/12/how-many-teb-unrealized-tracks-left.html ), Luac Ferrari just one ("Raga #1").

(ph. ©Blackhill Enterprises Ltd.)

The same line-up, with congas player Gasper Lawal as guest musician (see below), on September 1970 played two set live in the studio in Bremen (Germany) for the TV programme "Beat Club". A DVD from it was realised in 2011 by English Gonzo Multimedia (read at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2011/11/lost-broadcasts-dvd-review.html ).

The Third Ear ('Big') Band #8 (January 1971)
Glen Sweeney (drums), Paul Minns (oboe), Paul Buckmaster (electric bass), Denim Bridges (electric guitar), Richard Coff (violin)
A return of Coff on violin just to record on air a "John Peel's Sunday Show" session broadcast on January 17th, 1971 (read at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2009/12/rarities-of-national-balkan-ensemble.html).

The Third Ear Band #9 (July 1971-February 1972)
Glen Sweeney (drums), Paul Minns (oboe), Paul Buckmaster (electric bass), Denim Bridges (electric guitar), Simon House (violin)
The band, formed to record "Macbeth" soundtrack (Harvest 1972), played also some few live gigs.

A rare TEB photo from Japanese magazine "Tokyo Tim" (1972?).

TEB recording "Macbeth" from a magazine cut with Sweeney handwritten notes.

The Third Ear Band #10 (March 1972-? 1972)
Glen Sweeney (drums), Paul Minns (oboe), Simon House (violin), Mike Marchant (electric guitar), Peter Pavli (electric bass)
Despite some rehearsals, this band never played live.

The Third Ear Band #11 (December 1972)
Glen Sweeney (drums), Paul Minns (oboe, recorders & hammond), Mike Marchant (electric guitar & vocals), Simon House (electric violin, VCS3 & piano), Dave Tomlin (bass)
This line-up, 'pop' oriented, recorded "The Magus" (with engineer Ron Kort at percussion and doom piano) just in five days. The record will be realised by Angel Air just many years later (2004).

The Third Ear Band #12 (December 1972-January 1973)
Glen Sweeney (drums), Paul Minns (oboe), Mike Marchant (electric guitar & vocals), Morgan Fisher (VCS3)
According to Fisher (2009), this line-up (probably with a bass player in) played just "two radio shows and one gig" in North London....

The Third Ear Band #13 (January 1973)
Glen Sweeney (drums), Paul Minns (oboe), Mike Marchant (electric guitar & vocals), Simon House (electric violin, VCS3)
With this line-up, TEB played at least a concert at the "Arts Theatre" of Cambridge on January 23th, 1973 (as documented by a poster).

The Third Ear Band #14 (1976)
Glen Sweeney (drums), Paul Minns (oboe), Mick Carter (electric guitar), Terry Haxton (bass and keyboards), Gary Heath (synthetiser)
Some weeks of rehearsals but never played live.

The Third Ear Band #15 (Spring-July 1977)
Glen Sweeney (drums), Paul Minns (oboe), Rod Goodway (guitar & vocals), Mick Carter (electric guitar)
As Rod Goodway remembers in his Archive, this line-up made some rehearsals, very few live concerts and radio appearances.

Third Ear Band #16 (June 1978)
Glen Sweeney (drums), Paul Minns (oboe), Mick Carter (guitar), Marcus Beale (violin), Brian Diprose (bass)
Rehearsals but very few live concerts (among these, on June 4th, at "Roundhouse
Downstairs Theatre" of London).

Third Ear Band # 17 (or Hydrogen Jukebox #2) (1978)
Glen Sweeney (drums), Mick Carter (electric guitar), Brian Diprose (bass), Jim 'Gipsy' Jones (electric guitar and vocals)
This line-up recorded a pop album titled "Apocaliptic Anthems". It would be published just in 1991 by Italian Materiali Sonori as "Prophecies" . According Brian Diprose the band was actually a new line-up of the Third Ear Band. Only in 1991 Glen Sweeney and Mick Carter decided to publish the record as Hydrogen Jukebox...

L-R: Brian Diprose, Jim Jones, Mick Carter,  Phil Shaw (recording engineer), Glen Sweeney.

Third Ear Band #18 (August 1988-September 1988)
Glen Sweeney (hand drums), Paul Minns (oboe), Mick Carter (electric guitar and effects), Allen Samuel (violin)
The band, after a month of rehearsals in London on August 1988, played live in Italy on September 8th (Bergamo) and 9th (Umbertide, Perugia).
From the first concert Materiali Sonori published the live album "Live Ghosts".

 TEB on stage at Umbertide festival on September 9th, 1988.

Third Ear Band #19 (December 1988-May 1989)
Glen Sweeney (hand drums), Mick Carter (electric guitar and effects), Lyn Dobson (saxes and flute), Ursula Smith (violin)
After a three dates tour programmed in December 1988, cancelled owing to Sweeney' unexpected personal problems, this band played on the second Italian tour with concerts at Sarzana, Genova, Bergamo and Piacenza.
From the Sarzana gig the limited edition cassette "New Forecasts from the Third Ear Almanac" (ADN Records 1989).
Between March and May the band recorded a new, never published album, titled "Spirits" (or "Magic").

L-R: Sweeney, Dobson, Smith and Carter in Bergamo (photo: ©G. Bresciani).

Third Ear Band #20 (July 1989)
Glen Sweeney (hand drums), Mick Carter (electric guitar and effects), Lyn Dobson (saxes and flute), Allen Samuel (violin)
This line-up played just a live concert at Vinci (near Florence) on July 8th. In that occasion Materiali Sonori managed a proper photo session ran by photographer Lucia Baldini.

TEB (L-R: Allen, Sweeney, Dobson, Carter) at the Da Vinci's museum (photo: ©Lucia Baldini).

Third Ear Band #21 (October 1989-August 1990)
Glen Sweeney (hand drums), Mick Carter (electric guitar and effects), Lyn Dobson (saxes and flute), Neil Black (electric violin)
Line-up of the third Italian tour (concerts in Gorizia and Bergamo).
After some rehearsals recorded (the unrealised "Necromancer Suite"), the group recorded a second album at the Alchemical Studios titled "Magic Music" (Materiali Sonori 1990). On December 15th also a concert in London. On February 1990 new Italian tour with gigs in Rieti (3th), Rome (4th), Milan (5th), Florence (6th), Genova (7th), Meda (9th) and Longiano (10th).

L-R: Lyn Dobson, Mick Carter (rear), Glen Sweeney, Neil Black (rear) (photo: ©C. Looker).

(Elektrik) Third Ear Band #22 (March-August 1991)
Glen Sweeney (hand drums), Mick Carter (electric guitar and effects), Neil Black (violin), Barry Pilcher (saxes)
A short life for a line-up that recorded some tracks for a projected new album ("Song of Gaia" will remain unrealised)... Few live concerts in Italy (one documented in Sardinia) and London.

Barry Pilcher and Glen Sweeney in Glen's Sheperd's Bush flat in 1991 (photo: ©C. Looker).

Third Ear Band #23 (September 1991-September 1992)
Glen Sweeney (hand drums), Mick Carter (electric guitar and effects), Lyn Dobson (saxes and flute), Neil Black (electric violin)
The last TEB line-up ever. Recorded "Brain Waves" for MaSo (published on 1993) and played few concerts in England and Italy (Rome, Bergamo, Naples, Mantova).

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

(Last update on June 16the, 2016)

January 27, 2010

American writer Rick Moody wrote about “Ghetto Raga” as one of his favourite tracks ever.

From “Paper Cuts”, a blog about books of “New York Times” (http://papercuts.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/22/living-with-music-a-playlist-by-rick-moody/), on July 2008 American writer Rick Moody (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Moody) wrote in a playlist about “Ghetto Raga” as one of his favourite tracks ever:

“I can’t remember where I heard this first, but the Third Ear Band is mostly famous for having scored Roman Polanski’s film of Macbeth, a movie that had a great impact on me when I first saw it in high school. The instrumentation was eccentric — percussion, violin, woodwinds — and they played mostly improvised music, which must have sounded unusual to listeners back in Swinging London. But when they got the mood right, as in this long Indian-style drone, the results were eerie and memorable”.
A little recognition by a very good contemporary writer.

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

January 26, 2010

"A very precious little group at one time" by Richard Williams ("Melody Maker", June 6th, 1970) - part two.

Here's the second part of the nice article written by Richard Williams for "Melody Maker" (issue of June 6th, 1970). A rare occasion to read Glen Sweeney talking about TEB experience...
"(...) Anyway the roots of our music are jazz, pop and folk, so I don't see how anyone could find it difficult.
"At the moment, because we're working on the Continent and making decent bread, things are rather easy and the creative ability has sunk, so that we've played a few bummers lately.
"We prefer to work with no preconceived ideas: it's much more exciting that way. For instance, we're doing a concert in June at the Festival Hall with a group of French avant-garde musicians, and we'll just go on and play without thinking about what we're going to do in front.
"Anyway, I can never see the separation between the artist and the audience. To me it's all communion, entertainment, and communication - all these things can happen while you're playing, depending entirely on the audience's heads.
"By the first or second number you've discovered that the audience's heads are maybe into entertainment, which means that they've been working in a factory all day and they want to be taken out of themselves.
"But on a normal trip I think we tend to push them back into themselves, to make them more aware of what they are. However we're beginning to play a lot more rave-up things, which I suppose are entertainment.
"The ideal thing is communication, with no separation between audience and band. I admire what John Stevens is doing with SME, bringing the audience into the music, but that would be difficult for us because of the invisible environmental image we have. People come up and say 'you shoudn't do that, it's not what you do'".
Glen and the Third Ear are involved in a very quiet and honest way with the kind of mysticism which means Stonehenge and Glastonbury Tor.
"The trouble is that you can't be mystical without being called pseudo-mystical, and it's the fault of our previous education.
"I'm at Glastonbury most of the time, but we're all completely honest about it. We'll even use it honestly to make money, because the ancient Egyptians who were into it all said that you had to be rich because only then can you resist tempation.
"As long as I like it, I'll do it. And the Hare Krishna people are right... two records in the chart, and they're very honest.
"We played with the Druids sometimes. They're a bunch of fine old men, and when we played with them at the Tor there was this old chap of about 90 steaming up the hill, loooking like he was about to die. I think they're the true guardians of the mystic traditions int his country.
Talking of the Old Druids got us on the intolerance shown by the so-called 'alternative society' towards member of older generations, and Glen said: "It's all very well, but you have to find a way of feeding it back into the 'straight' society.
"I can't see the point of importing the 'Kill The Pigs' scene into Britain beacuse most of our policemen are really nice chaps - they're certainly not pigs. But I suppose it'll come, because we have to copy America.
"It's like pollution and ecology. We've been into that for ages, but if I say so now it's going to look like a hype because everybody and his brother are in to it, at the same time as they throw their Coke bottles into the river. But we've got to stay with it.
"But I really want to do is get to the straight on their own level, through the jazz thing, and get at the younger people through the underground aspects of the music. Then maybe we'll get the two to meet at some middle level".
©1970 Richard Williams-"Melody Maker"
no©2010 Luca Ferrari

January 25, 2010

Ben Cartland at 101 St. Stephen's Gardens. Memories of David Aragon.

TEB's fan and blessed witness of London Sixties underground, David Aragon (see a photo of him around 20) 
has sent me some memories of his old friend Ben Cartland:
"In 1968, when I was 16, I left my parents' home in Somerset, England, and took off for Notting Hill Gate, London, to join a friend of mine who had gone there to pursue the hippie dream, and the 'Summer of Love'.
I found him living in a hippie commune at 101 St Stephen's Gardens, not far from the Portobello Road and Ladbroke Grove. St Stephen's Gardens is long gone - pulled down and rebuilt, as I discovered when I tried to revisit there many years later.
There were many people living in that house, and it was a great place to be at that time. For me, at 16, it was a new world, and exactly where I wanted to be.
Apart from my friend Keith (known to all as 'Scorpio'), I also knew George Firsoff, later very active in the movement to free Stonehenge, and quite well known. George was the son of Axel Firsoff, a famous astronomer who lived in Glastonbury. I grew up in Wells, very close by. George had a degree in philosophy from Oxford University, I believe, and was also the author of a book about the hippie movement called 'Spring of Youth'. Eccentric, extremely intelligent, and a good person, he became interested in the psychedelic experience, and spent a lot of time looking into it. George died in 2004, but if you google his name you will find pictures and tributes. As well as knowing him in London, I spent time at his parents house in Glastonbury, and met his parents. They were always interested in what George was doing with his life, and would have conversations about his experiences. Liberal parents, lovely people.They never minded all us hippies turning up there!
Also living at 101 was the infamous Sid Rawle. He lived in the basement there for a while, and was always a larger than life character. Later he went to Wales, where he set up Tipi Valley - another hippie commune which became famous in the media.See him interviewed on YouTube, and also playing a part in the movie 'Winstanley', about the early Digger movement in England. When I first met Sid, he belonged to the 'Tribe of the Sun', and later formed the 'Hyde Park Diggers'. When I had no money, he gave me copies of International Times to sell on the streets of Notting Hill Gate.
The Third Ear Band connection is that Ben Cartland, original viola player with the band, also lived in the house at the time. I remember Ben very well, we were friends for a brief time and he made a big impression on me. I remember him playing the guitar as well as the viola - and also the violin, I think. At the time I may not have known the difference between a viola and a violin. Because of Ben, I became interested in the violin (I still play) and in raga music.
I remember him one day telling me he was trying to work out how to play ragas on the guitar, and playing a few things when I was in the room. I also remember being introduced to Ravi Shankar's music by Ben, who was a big fan. I have a clear memory of sitting and listening to a Ravi Shankar album with Ben, and him picking up the album cover and kissing it in a reverential sort of way.
I remember Ben as being tall, with very long hair, barefoot and dressed in green velvet trousers. He was a gentle guy, softly spoken, thoughtful and spiritual by nature, and a great musician.
Earlier than this, Ben had also played guitar in an early version of Tyrannosaurus Rex (later T.Rex) with Marc Bolan. This was before I knew him. I did meet Marc Bolan on another occasion, in Glastonbury in about 1969, when Tyrannosaurus Rex played Glastonbury Town Hall. A memorable gig! A group of us sat right on the stage, and I sat right next to Marc (you could do that sort of thing in those days!)
Ben's girlfriend at the time was Pam Price, who lived in the basement of 101. She was an artist and had done a series of very intricate pen and ink drawings based on the life of the Buddha. She used these to help me through a particularly intense psychedelic experience I put myself through, and I always remember her kindness on that occasion, and that we struck up a good friendship for a while. On many evenings, the whole house would gather in her room. We would stay up most of the night, getting high and listening to music. Lyn Dobson, who later played soprano sax and sang with the Third Ear Band, was a friend of Pam's. He was sometimes a visitor to the house, and I remember him being there on more than one of these all-night basement sessions. At the time he belonged to something called the 'Tribe of the Sacred Mushroom', I seem to recall.
I never got to see the Third Ear Band at that time - and by the time I did, Ben was not with them. I saw them at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1969, and again at Yeovil Technical College,Yeovil, Somerset in the early 70s. During the Yeovil gig, as the performance progressed,the whole band seemed to me to be levitating several inches above the stage. I remember this clearly, and I wasn't under the influence of anything (apart from the music) at the time! It was an extraordinary experience - the music so beautiful,hypnotic and trance-inducing.
The last time I saw Ben was at The Arts Lab, Drury Lane, London, in the very early 70s. He was wearing shoes by then, had a new girlfriend with him, and we chatted for a little while. I'm really pleased I now have a copy of the National Balkan Ensemble recording, basically an early version of the Third Ear Band, which has Ben playing on it - a good way to remember him". 

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

Third Ear Band Music on itunes!

Third Ear Band music is available on itunes at http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/third-ear-band/id123202491 with a $ 0.99 downloading for track. 

 Albums available are “Alchemy” (remastered edition), “Live Ghosts”, “Magic Music”, “Brain Waves”, “The Magus” and tracks “Fleance” (remastered from the compilation “I Monster Art of Chill”) “Necromanticus” (“Live Ghosts” second edition bonus track) and “Live Ghosts” (a live version from “All Frontiers” MaSo compilation).

This is itunes brief presentation of the group that states its experimental avant-garde musical nature:
"Although they were loosely affiliated with the British progressive rock scene of the late '60s and early '70s, Third Ear Band was in some ways more of an experimental ensemble performing contemporary compositional work. For one thing, they didn't use electric instruments, or even guitars, instead employing violin, viola, oboe, cello, and hand percussion. More important, they didn't play conventional rock "songs." They featured extended instrumental pieces that often built up from a drone, or hypnotic pattern, to a dense, raga-like crescendo, somewhat in the manner of some of Terry Riley's work. Their "progressive rock" tag probably arose because they recorded for Harvest Records, Britain's leading art rock label, which was home to Pink Floyd, Kevin Ayers, Pete Brown, Edgar Broughton, and many other progressive acts.
The group was founded by drummer Glen Sweeney, who had roots in Britain's free jazz scene, and had played with an avant-garde ensemble, the Sun Trolley. Sweeney described Third Ear's music as "electric acid raga," although the electricity was shut off shortly after they formed, when their electronic equipment was stolen. Sweeney simply molded Third Ear into an acoustic ensemble, with the addition of oboe, violin/viola, and cello. The personnel (with the exception of Sweeney) would rotate over the next few years; their early albums were produced by Andrew King, who had helped manage Pink Floyd in their early days.
Commercial success, or even widespread underground success, was never in the offing for Third Ear Band, and one gets the feeling that was not ever a consideration. Their albums were too somber and experimental for the rock audience, and in the U.S., they are still only known to a very few. Their biggest coup was getting commissioned to score and perform the soundtrack to Roman Polanski's film version of Macbeth (issued on record as Music From Macbeth). The original incarnation of Third Ear Band disbanded in the early '70s. Surprisingly, they re-formed in the late '80s, and released a few albums that boasted sounds and ambitions that were similar to those found in their early work".
no©2010 Luca Ferrari

January 24, 2010

"A very precious little group at one time" by Richard Williams ("Melody Maker", June 6th, 1970).

Among the few articles on the original Third Ear Band, the one written by Richard Williams in 1970 is one of the best ever. Here, Sweeney explains the musical form of the group and the relations with audiences.
"Glen Sweeney, percussionist of the Third Ear Band, thinks that the media  have done a great deal of harm to popular music.
"The methods employed by various critics to write about  the music  have stop our communication, not with the audience, but with the media", he says.
"Those people have just turned on teeneybop. They went through the pretentious bit early on and they have seen Satori, which to them is an acne-faced pop star doing his thing.
"Our kind of music would take  them back to what they've left, so they reject us. But they can't stop it, because the audience knows about music this time round".
The Third Ear Band are one of the few genuinely unique bands on the scene, using almost total improvisation to produce a consistently fascinating tapestry of sound. Besides Glen they include Paul Minns (oboe), Richard Coff (violin, viola) and Ursula Smith (cello), and their second Harvest album, which depicts musically the tour elements of the universe (Air, Water, Fire and Earth), is on the point of release.

"It was conceived at about the same  time as our first album", says Glen, "when we've found that some of our pieces were beginning to represent the elements, which is something we'd wanted to do for a long time".
They are currently going through their biggest set of changes since the early days when Jim Haynes helped them with gigs at the Arts lab. Glen, after a year banging hand-drums, has decided to revert a conventional drum kit, and they are in the throes of purchasing a magnificent British version of the Moog Synthesiser.

"We  work out a basic drone which I always  equate with OM, the sound of the universe, as opposed to most groups who work with  riff patterns  which I suppose are derived somehow from jazz.
The synthesiser will enable us  to use varied multitoned drones, plus attack  and decay effects which will alter the notes over periods of time. We're going to be much more exciting - we really were a very precious little group at one time".
Like, say, Indian classical music (which also uses drones), the Third Ear's output has always seemed to me  to be essentially a functional music, extremely useful for clearing your head. What kind of reaction do they get from audiences?
"We've never had any audience hang-ups. We've played to 150.000 people in Hyde Park, with the Stones, and 200.000 people on the Isle of Wight, plus several other festivals, and no one has ever asked us what the music is about.
"Infact I always get the impression that they know more about  it than we do. We never intellectualise, or even discuss, the music between ourselves.

"When we started we had one piece of music, and out of that the nine or ten items of our repertoire have evolved. What emerges from the improvisations are simple structures which everybody enjoys, but playing to big audiences on the pop scene does tend to change your attitudes, and you tend to produce a certain formula so that when you find yourself in a difficult position you have something to fall back on"."
©1969 Richard Williams-"Melody Maker"
(end of part one)
no©2010 Luca Ferrari

January 20, 2010

A brief involvement with the Third Ear Band. Memories of Rod Goodway.

This memory comes from Rod Goodway Web site (http://www.achingcellar.co.uk/pages/index.html), English underground guitarist (Magic Muscle), and is referred to Spring-Summer 1977.
I contacted him in September 2005 just to inform him Glen Sweeney had passed away...

"Thank you so much, Luca, for getting in touch. I'm afraid I had no idea that Glen (and even dear Paul) was dead. How sad. But I'm very grateful to you for passing on this news to me. I was put in touch with Glen and the Third Ear Band (back in 1977) by my friend Simon House... who also used to be in the band of course. 
As I have said on the Family Tree section of my Web site, I was in no fit state back then to be working so soon after a marriage break-up and severe health problems, but Glen and the rest of the band was very kind with me... and we made some great music together, even though we never got past the rehearsal stage. Glen had some tapes at the time, but I guess they got lost or wiped. I played guitar and sang, and the rest of the band improvised around what I was doing. Very much stream-of-consciousness stuff... but it sounded wild, weird and wonderful...
Thanks again for your time, Luca. 
Peace, Love & Music,

In his Web site, infact, you can read this memory of it:
"I ended up getting a call from Glen Sweeney. Now my whole attitude was kind of punk at that time but the thought of joining a reformed Third Ear Band was bizarre to say the least. So bizarre, what with my marriage cracking up and all, that I thought "great, I'll go along with it".
So in the spring of 1977 I started to go to London, go down to Shepherd's Bush and rehearse with The Third Ear Band once a week to start with. Every Saturday we'd go and rehearse and there were tapes; we recorded them ourselves, they weren't studio tapes but they were well recorded Glen Sweeney apparently played one of these tapes to Pete Drummond the Radio One DJ and he wanted us to do an "In Concert" immediately, for the BBC. I've got a piece here that says "whilst still at rehearsal stages, members have come and gone, but with only the problem of finding a bass player left, the remaining lineup was settled down finally to Glen Sweeney (percussion), Paul Minns (oboe), Mick Carter (guitar and violin) and ex-Magic Muscle guitarist/vocalist Rod Goodway. Musically things have changed dramatically. The extensive use of stringed instruments has been replaced by more inventive use of conventional rock instrumentation. The new material also lends a more attacking quality (“a type of medieval rock'n'roll” is what Glen Sweeney calls it) - a sharp contrast with the calm floating sound of yore. "I thought it was quite good because it had a lot of eastern tinges to it and that kind of is my dream, eastern-flavoured rock or mantra rock That was definitely what The Third Ear Band were into doing in 1977.
Sadly, and I take the full responsibility, my marriage breakup had caused more of an impact than I'd thought and my liver (you know, with the previous problem I'd had) couldn't take the drinking and stuff that I was involved in, and I had a liver failure. So I'm afraid - what with the liver and a mini nervous breakdown - I couldn't continue with The Third Ear Band and wrote many letters to Glen Sweeney and had many kind letters back. We parted amicably but sadly;
I'd work with the guy again any day. Great guy".
The paper cut Rod is talking about is a short piece of "New Musical Express" written by David Illic and edited on June 25th, 1977 - one of the few available about that period. 
After that, TEB failure will lead Sweeney and Carter to form a new pop band, The Hydrogen Jukebox, recording the album "Apocaliptic Anthems", years later published by Materiali Sonori as "Prophecies"...

(Rod Goodway photos taken from "Psychotropic Zone" at http://www.unimeri.com/PsychotropicZone/interview_015.en.php where you can read a very interesting interview with him)

no©2010 Luca Ferrari