January 09, 2010

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

Here is the second part of the very long interview with Clive Kingsley, the original electric (raga) guitarist in the Third Ear Band. Memories full of new point of views about very beginning phases of band's history...

Who composed the first tracks of TEB? Who decide to play the so-called "electric raga"? 
"All music in the first TEB was composed (and not written down) by myself ... so when I left the original music went with me, but they did of course keep some elements of my original idea. Some of my tunes were "Time Garden", "Sun Kaleidoscope", "Luna Landscape", "The Song of Los". I used some of them over the years later on with other groups and 
solos etc.".

Can you describe me the music TEB play in that first period? Do you know how (and where) many concerts you did? 
"We did make a couple of tapes... One went to Sweden and another copy I lost. We were also filmed at a gig in Notting Hill Gate by a German company... I don't know what may have happened to the film. We played quite often at Middle Earth and the UFO Club as well as with gigs in Nothing Hill and once a concert in Southampton. Also a few free open air concerts in London parks. We played somewhere at least once sometimes more most weeks... Spring 1967 to Summer 1968 was my time with TEB".

What do you remember about the famous Arts Lab and Jim Haynes? 
"I played there quite a lot. The best gigs but very anarchic with Mel Davis, Barry Pilcher and many other poets like Jeff Nutall and more.. Great 'fun' playing. I liked the macrobiotic food there too although I was not yet a vegetarian. Lots going on in the whole building on different floors/rooms etc. I didn't know Jim Haynes at any personal level".

Do you recall something about the "Levitation of St. Pancras" ritual, probably organized at the beginning of 1968? 
"No, nothing much at all. Something vaguely 'rings a bell' nothing more". 

On Paul Minns'diary (and then in my book) the date of June 9th, 1968 (concert at the Middle Earth - "The Tribe of Sacred Mushroom") was the day where all your instruments had stolen... Another source (Sweeney to IT in 1969) tells that the instruments had stolen at the end of a concert at UFO Club... Do you remember exactly the event? 
"No. The instruments were not stolen at Midle Earth or the UFO club. We played a gig in a small club (basement type) in Notting Hill Gate. We were due to play another gig within the then next day or day after that. That next booking may have been for either of the clubs mentioned. Glen suggested I leave my guitar and amp in the van along with some of the other intruments to save carrying back to my bedsit... the one and only time I ever left my guitar anywhere. The next day Glen told me the guitar, amp and also his drums and the cello had been stolen...".

But why you didn't play in TEB anymore? Who (and why) decided to leave you out of it? Sweeney explained the thing ("Gandalf's Camdem", 1969) so: "This [the stolen instruments] seemed so significant, that we took it as a sign. Apparently we had been going in the wrong direction by going acoustic...". And so (IT 1969): "The original TEB was incredibly pretentious and diabolically evil to listen to - I mean, nobody really knew what they were doind and we had this lead guitarist, who had this powerful amplifier and used to have it full up. Once he got started we couldn't really stop him. He was good, he had his own thing going, but he had no awareness at the time of any group thing...". Which is your personal point of view about the thing? 
"Glen never at any time suggested to me there was any problem with my playing. He and even more so Carolyn just praised it. I never owned any amp over 30 watts output. Once with the Hydrogen Jukebox at the early UFO Club I did borrow the Pink Floyd's amp for me and the mikes as in those first days we only had absurdly low power amateurish amps and the club was big and noisy to say the least! At the time I was very naive, perhaps, and so engossed in music and the hippy scene... that while I saw the jealousy of some who were around us I also saw I had ' fans' of my own playing... beyond the group. Although I was 100% for the 'group' . I did not hear the things you have mentioned until years later... and even then watered down and from another source. For a long time I would always defend Glen when others spoke against him. He had given me the courage initially to drop out from my boring office job to try for music full time! Very soon within a day or two at most after the instrument loss Glen said we could go 'acoustic'. Paul Minns offerred me the use of an old spanish of old very poor quality acoustic guitar he had hanging as decoration on a wall. I tried it and even composed two new tunes on it, but for me it was not much use for serious playing. Ok maybe for a folk singer. Nothing really seemed to be happening with the band so I went off to Ireland for a few weeks to see a woman I knew over there. In the end I did a fair amount of walking while there. I was never invited back to play in the band. In hindsight I now think I was used and taken advantage of and although I certainly have no proof so it remains a possible 'conspiricy theory'. The instruments may well have been 'arranged' to be stolen my guitar being the most valuable and difficult to replace (I had no insurance). Maybe Graham, who lost the cello, was suspicious as he more or less immediately said he would 'call it a day' while I suspected nothing. Whether or not Glen had any hand in the theft, I think he must have been very jealous/envious of my playing and the power (not volume it generated) Glen always had to be the one in control/pulling the strings. I think I threatened this... He may even have been deluded into thinking I was a threat to his relationship with Carolyn his long term partner". 

You told me you was in contact with TEB also later, watching their concerts and going into recording sessions? What do you remember on it? 
"Glen invited me to go to Abbey Road studios one day when they were making the 'Alchemy' album. I don't know why he invited me, I went to try to find out why, but never did really he certainly never asked me to play. I went to two concerts. One out of curiosity and the second as it was in Brighton near where I had moved to. He also invited me backstage to the famous Rolling Stones Hyde park concert where they played as backing group. The Queen Elizabeth Hall concert was interesting, not bad at times, but the American violinist really seemed on a very wierd ego trip, like he was so in love with himself and his playing in his duet with Paul Minns. They had a very pretty girl called Ursula playing cello at that time! Why did the personel of the Jukebox/TEB changed so much/often?".

Have you got some particular memories about the period (half-end 1968...) TEB recorded some tracks as The National Balkan Ensemble for Ron Geesin? 
"I moved to Sussex in the Autumn of 1968. I've heard a few various tracks an someone gave me a tape of the first two recordings. I once bought a copy of the first "Alchemy" one, but later threw it out! I do have the CD "Magic Music" which Glen sent me a year or so before he had a stroke. I was always prepared to get together again with Glen assume the best of him, that we had really once actually been very good close friends as he had implied... done his best to imply. If he ever was, he must have been/become very paranoid... or he was simply a very clever con artist. I was certainly aware of him being the con artist with others, so probably just my own ego kept me from seeing he was just the same with me. A "Zen master" or just a master of using the ego of others to further his own?".

What are you doing now? 
"I am very interested in the teachings of J. Krishnamurti and go to the centre in Hamphsir for dialogue from time to time. I do Tai Chi and Chi Kung exercises regularly and walk quite a lot. A few years ago fro 1986 or 1987 after more or less stopping playing music and giving up smoking I did a lot of running, many marathons and other races. Nowadays more just walking. Creatively, photography is now my main thing. I've been into it from my teenage years to a certain extent, but with the advent of digital and computers its gone to a whole new level for me. I still have a guitar I bought cheaply while I lived in Sussex and formed the Sun Dragon group. It's a nice instrument, 1950's British Selmer, I think. I should really renovate it. I also have a good quality Japanese Shakuhachi flute. I very rarely feel like playing music now. I think I may prefer the sounds of nature most of the time".

Can you tell me your experiences in music after the TEB experience? I know you formed in 1968 a band called Sun Dragon... And then?
"In Sussex formed Sun Dragon and also ran a club for a while. Played quite a few gigs, then also played with various musicians playing jazz based free music. Played again with the People Band. I then studied Indian classical music and the sitar with Imrat Khan whenever he came to England for about 5-6 years. I then also taught myself various other instruments - saxes, violin, synthesiers etc. Also I started making multi recordings of my own music. I moved to Cornwall first in 1976 and went back Sussex twice before finally moving to where Iive now. Since living in Cornwall I played with a lot of people from time to time. Also in Devon and Bristol playing with music cooperatives. Playing with some very experienced musicians and also those with no experience but an ability to play good music..."

Is somewhere available some records you played with Sun Dragon?  
"The only recordings I have of Sun Dragon are on a casette tape and of very poor quality sound. Also the music on it is not the best of Sun Dragon. The best music was really in live club situations at that time. Initially, Barry Pilcher who had also moved to Brighton area was involved in it also. He had a number of poetry contacts in Brighton and so the live club events in that town also incorporated poets, folk singers etc. and any other musicians. Once the venue was paid for any money was shared out evenly with all participants. Barry met his now ex-wife in Brighton and eventually they left to go to live near one of her elderly relatives... so Sun Dragon then changed as I had to find other musicians. For me Sun Dragon was I think a time of recovery for me... as I was rather depressed towards the end of 1968 with what had happened in London. Brighton was literally a breath of fresh air!
I did send a Sun Dragon tape (the post Barry Pilcher version of the group) to John Houseman who was the person running the Middle Earth club and who was trying to set up some kind of 'hippy' recording setup. I don't think it ever got very far however. I don't remeber if the recordings on the tape I sent are much different from the one I have. I also went to see John Peel (the late DJ) but had no tape with me... he said he was interested as he was also starting up a record label (Dandelion). He said he thought I should develop an 'image' fo "being" Sun Dragon... rather than it being the name of a group!
Eventually I moved gradually towards studying North Indian Classical music seriously... occasionally playing with other musicians, but letting the Sun Dragon thing go.
I real made all my best recordings from my point of view after Sun Dragon. Some of them my own multi recordings , some collaborations wth others... many of them after I moved to Cornwall in the late 1970's and used mostly other instruments and with less guitar.
I would not want to send my Sun Dragon tape... as so much of what followed is better from my point of view. It's a pity that in my peak music times I never had the benefit of what can be done with the help of a computer. I did get to use quite a few basic synthesiers for a time however... including some duets with a person called Peter Travers. This electronic collaboration became known as Solar Wind... and also with a couple of rather different live 'gigs' as The Dartford Buskers.
I also played quite a lot for a year or two with saxist Lou Gare who had been involved from time to time with a very experimental group called AMM. A poet/writer musician William Pryor was sometimes also involved".

Have you got some photos from the Sixties?
"Unfortunately I have no photos really of those London hippy days. I may somewhere have an old photo taken by Barry Pilcher at the old Starting Gate Club in North London pre hippy and around the time the New Music Workshop was being formed. I probably have a pic of me with the sitar I used to play. I sold the sitar about 15 years ago. If I find those old pics I'l try to scan them and email. Lots of pics were taken of the first TEB... but I don't have any.
I'll attach one of my recent 'photos' for you which is more "where I am now"... from about one month ago... The lighthouse is just a few miles from where I live.

no©2010 Luca Ferrari


  1. Any speculation about EMI/Harvest sessions between TEB and Syd Barrett? They were on the same label at the same time, maybe on the same folk mood. What was Glen Sweeney opinion on Barrett? The same (bad) of Ron Geesin?

    john m.

  2. Very interesting question, I have to admit it. But I don't have any clues on a possible relation between TEB and Syd Barrett on recording sessions at EMI Studios. I met Harvest manager Malcolm Jones on July 1985 and he never talked about it (but I remember he revealed me about the legendary collaboration of Barrett and Ayers for "Religious Experience"...), nor Peter Jenner (or Andrew King) remembered something about it. Having had a long partnership with Sweeney, and having written some books on Barrett, fatally I asked him something, but frankly he hadn't a so good opinion about Syd: he rcalled Syd, of course, during the UFO Club period, but I think he had been more impressed by The Soft Machine. About 'folk mood', Glen loved really much Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and take in great consideration musicians as David Bowie (because he met him at the Arts Lab in '68-'69)and Marc Bolan...