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)


  1. That picture on the inner sleeve of Alchemy has fascinated me for years, it helped creating a misterious charme around a band I knew nothing about when I was a kid. It is even strange to see a picture of that monument in colours!

  2. It's been the same for me too and I couldn't image that many years later we had could understand at least his origins... Unfortunately, Ray Stevenson doesn't answer to my request of an interview, because it'd be very intriguing to investigate more...

  3. Re: Carolyn's Mysterious Arm reaching for violin - it's intersting to see it in one of the other pictures from the session included in The Acid Prankster piece from Unhinged, so not just an accident??

  4. You're right... I had forgotten that other picture... One of the many TEB little mysteries around...