January 07, 2010

The electric raga guitarist. An interview with Clive Kingsley about the TEB (Part One).

Clive Kingsley, now 71, is living quietly near Hamphsir. In 1968 he was the electric raga guitarist of the first TEB line-up. Left the music about twenty years ago, he's very happy now to give us his memories on the past...

Usually the story of English Sixties underground started on June 18th, 1966 at Royal Albert Hall with "A new moon Carnival of Poetry"... What do you remember about it? Did you was involved? Sweeney said to me he was involved with The Giant Sun Trolley... Can you confirm it?
"I knew nothing of that event... I doubt if it was truly very "underground" in that year at the Albert Hall!!! I had not long returned from living in Canada where I had been involved in underground music which at that time was 'avant garde' jazz pioneered by mostly black american musicians... Albert Ayler, Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman and others.
As you no doubt know, the hippy and then flower power movement began in San Franciso area from the original beatnik poets etc of that area... Alan Ginsberg, Timothy Leary etc.... who had in turn been influenced by Aldous Huxley, Henry Miller and of course earliar "Bohemians" of Europe, the painters etc. etc. From time to time in one way or another they were also influenced by things from the East... philosophies Zen etc.
Yes, Glen Sweeney, Roger Bunn and Dave Tomlin were The Giant Sun Trolley... amusingly once refferred to in court by a judge as "the big green jelly!"
I met Glen, Dave and Roger first at the "24 hour Technicolour Dream" at Alexandra Palace in spring 1967. This was the true launch of the flower power movement in the UK.... There had been a few 'events' in Notting Hill Gate area in 1966 but really just emerging via an anarchist and other groups . Prior to the "24 Hour Dream" event the UFO Club (Tottenham Court Road) had existed for a short time.
A musician friend of mine (who I had known since the early 60's), Barry Pilcher, told me about the UFO Club and the then 'owner'/organiser and so we went there and played for free with a group we had recently formed The New Music Workshop which included Terry Day as drummer plus a bass player. From that we were invited to play at the "24 Hour Dream" event...".
In Terry Day Web site (http://www.terryday.co.uk) he writes that in 1965 you, Glen Sweeney, Barry Edgar Pilcher and Lyn Dobson were involved in The Continuous Music Ensemble... Can you confirm it? What do you remember about it?
"The Continuous Music Ensemble to my recollection was founded by the founder/organiser of the "Starting Gate" Jazz club at the pub in Wood Green (North London) of that name. I used to go there with Barry Pilcher initially to jam. People like John Surman and Lyn Dobson and other jazz musicians would go there - either as guests or to jam. I got on very well and always remained very good friends with Mel Davis well on into long past my TEB days. Mel had quite few different group names and outlets. One of them being Kingsley-Davis (or Davis-Kingsley!) Expressions and also The Continous Music Ensemble for a time later on. The name obviously derived a bit from the prior quite well known Spontaneous Music Ensemble (John Stephens). I am not aware and very much doubt if Glen Sweeney really played in that group... Glen by 1967 was very 'anti' jazz (verbally that is). There was an event at the Roundhouse (Chalk farm) called the 'Angry Arts Festival' however where lots came together/merged briefly. I don't remember everything that happened at that one off event, certantly I was there along with Glen, Barry, Mel and also many many others... like paywright Harold Pinter who I think may have triggerred that event. Certantly myself and Barry Pilcher played of and on in The Continous Music Ensemble... and then Barry and myself found Terry Day and  a bass player to form The New Music Workshop.
Which the relations with the People Band project?
"I played from time to time with The People Band both prior to TEB and then again after I had left TEB. Mel Davis started and was always the key figure in The People Band. The personnel was changeable and varied from small group to large band. I remember a very young Mike Figgis (later a well known movie director) playing trumpet a couple of times when I was also there. The People Band, as you may know, evolved from The People Show originally and also sometimes much later still playing whole The People Show performed their rather spontaneous theatre events. My last involvement was at Sussex University (near Brighton) with the combined music and theatre version of it. The music part of it was a fairly small group version - I think with myself (guitar) and Mel (piano) being the main parts. Mel could also play the cello well by that time... I  don't remember whether he did or not on that occasion...".
Another fundamental event in the London underground was the opening of UFO club in Tottenham Court Road. Sweeney told to me in 1990 that "A guy I met a long time before, a guy called Dave Tomlin, who used to play sax and was known as an ace guy - he'd taken a lot of drugs and dropped out. I found a note in my door saying 'Meet me at the club at 12'o'clock'. At the time I just had a basic bass drum, a snare - so I took a chance, call a cab and went down there - and this was the opening night at UFO Club"... Do you know something about it? Can you confirm it?
"I was not there on the opening night of the club, going there first with Barry Pilcher, Terry Day and a bass player (The New Music Workshop) a few days before the "24 Hour Technicolour Dream" event. Certainly The Giant Sun Trolley consisted of Glen, Dave and Roger Bunn. I played a number of times at the original UFO Club at Tottenham Court Road, just once with The New Music Workshop, then several times with The Hydrogen Jukebox and TEB. Later also when the club moved to the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm".
About the Giant Sun Trolley: in various occasions Glen told about it as a duo (he and Dave Tomlin), but sometimes he talked about the bassist Roger Bunn. Can you clear me it? Which was the original Giant Sun Trolley line-up? Are you sure it was a trio?
"Yes, original Trolley was Dave Tomlin, Roger Bunn and Glen Sweeney. Glen 'dumped' Dave during the "24 Hour Dream" event to join up with Barry Pilcher and myself and bringing along Roger Bunn to play an early morning music session later on - before midnight Terry Day and the bassist of the New Music Workshop left as they did not like the big hippy rather 'charged' atmosphere at the time... until the early hours there were two stages with music on each and both within earshot, not to Terry's taste I think!
Barry and I stuck it out and had eventually played a rather unusual frantic duo session around midnight! The early morning session was very calm and rather beautiful. I saw the potential of something evolving and closer to eastern music which I already had a strong interest in (for several years)".
Have you listen Giant Sun Trolley playing? What kind of music they was playing?
"In the end The Giant Sun Trolley (which was really Dave Tomlin) simply played one note. Glen told me he was fed up with it and wanted to do much more eventually moving from underground roots to the 'pop' world acceptance. To me he criticised Dave a lot...".

Which were the relations between Giant Sun Trolley and Hydrogean Jukebox? Sweeney told me that for a brief period (maybe from August to October 1967) he played in both bands... Can you recall me the phases of that relations? Do you remember the original Hydrogen Jukebox line up? Who had the idea of the band's name?
"No, Glen never played with Dave Tomlin and the Trolley after spring 1967 ("24 Hour Dream" event), he was always outwardly friendly to him however when meeting him around. Glen had a 'knack' of putting forward warm, friendly feelings to people which most people 'fell for', mistaking it for 'love'. Glen claimed to be a 'Zen master'... for a time I certainly thought it may be so. Later I felt he was a very good hippy version of a confidence trickster. He would say one thing to a person and something quite different behind their back! Unfortunately for me it was a long time before I could really see it all clearly. Whether Dave Tomlin ever truly saw through I don't know. You would have to ask him if he's still around anywhere. I could put you in touch with Barry Pilcher. I still exchange letters with him from time to time. He has no computer access however and lives on a small island off the coast of Ireland. I have his postal address. Terry Day may well have an adress for Mel Davis...".
What happened exactly after the Hydrogen Jukebox split and the end of The Giant Sun Trolley? How do you was involved in the first Third Ear Band line-up?
"Glen very soon after the start of the new Hydrogen Jukebox to dump Roger Bunn saying we should get someone better and more reliable. It was Glen's idea to call the new band The Hydrogen Jukebox from an Alan Ginsberg poem, I believe... Barry and I were the musicians of the group outside of the drum side. My influences were really more towards the east and melodic improvisation when I had he opportunity. Barry would go along with it to a certain extent, but really was still more drawn towards a harder style of free jazz etc.
We got a gig as the Hydrogen Jukebox at the old Ronnie Scott jazz club. Barry got very taken by the jazz atmosphere and and went off on a very prolongued solo or two. After the gig, Glen told me we should get rid of Barry from the band as he would keep us back in the jazz style.
By then I was very much into the whole London hippy scene... which Barry was not really. So in the end I agreed with Glen and Barry went his own way and actually found  two other musicians and played one gig at the Roundhouse as The Hydrogen Jukebox. As a poet I think maybe Barry had a stronger claim to that name than us! It was quite some time (understandably) before Barry and I again became friends. I don't think he ever liked Glen after that...".

An then what's happened...?
"So Glen myself and Carolyn got together to discuss where to go from here... They came round to my bedsit and I put on an Indian classical music record (sitar and tabla) I got. In answer of the question... I turned up the volume. They saw the idea and liked it. Next I went to their bedsit another day and we talked of a name. I came up with The Third Eye, but there was already a group with that name. Carolyn then came up with TEB.
Next was which musicians and how many to join us. At that time Glen played drums with a small kit ... he said he could play repetitive hypnotic rhythms etc. mostly using the tom toms and sometimes cymbals etc. In those days I just played electric guitar (rather classy and costly Gibson!)
I said we could do with a stringed instrument like a violin or cello to more or less take the role of the drone of a tampura and also a wind instrument like a flute, clarinet or soprano sax to be a bit like an Indian shennai. All to be quite high powered to stand with people like Hendrix and Clapton but with this Indian and other eastern feel and very melodic.
Anyway, Glen said he knew a classical oboe player who never played for people but liked all sorts of music and lived in Noting Hill Gate area also. This was Paul Minns. Paul was very shy, very cynical /sceptical and introverted when I met him. He would only play very, very quietly and would not make best use of a mike. He was not used to playing for an audience. I'd played in bands and groups for audiences of all types for at least ten years. When I played with him I gave him lots of solo space and would to sometimes played with him, but he would just go quieter and quieter and pretty well disappear. Audiences at that time liked my playing and did not want to be put to sleep any more than I did.
Glen also found someone to play cello, a chap called Graham (I don't remember his last name). He wasn't really a musician, but was quite keen! He was also rather nervous playing for people, but picked up the idea of being a bit like an Indian tampura quite well.
We played a lot of gigs Middle Earth, UFO Club. Many other small clubs and a couple of concerts. There were people around with a lot of jealousy of the band and as well as of myself...
I think Paul Minns did play quite a lot better later one when he just had a violin to duet with. I went to see them in concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on one occasion about a year after I had left. I don't know what circumstances why he left the band, but did hear about 5-10 years ago that he had committed suicide. Graham the original cello player left when I think his cello went along with my guitar and amplifier".
(end of Part One - to be continued)

no©2010 Luca Ferrari


  1. Thanks. As soon as possible I'll post the second part of it...
    Nextly I'll post here also a short interview with Simon House and one with the Abbey Road engineer Peter Mew...
    So, keep in touch!