February 25, 2010

A brief interview with Dave Tomlin, Giant Sun Trolley founder.

Thanks to journalist Andy Roberts (his last book is titled "Albion Dreaming: A popular history of LSD in Britain", published in 2008 by Marshall Cavendish) I have had the opportunity to contact  Dave Tomlin, founder with Sweeney of Giant Sun Trolley and guest musician in some other TEB recordings (“Lark Rise”, on “Alchemy”, composed by him, and “The Magus” album…). 
Even if concise, Tomlin explains here some obscure things about his experience with Sweeney and the TEB...

When/where/how you met Glen in the Sixties? What you was doing in that period? 
"I met Glen at the London Free School where I was teaching music in 1966. Up until that point I was saxophonist playing modern jazz with The Mike Taylor Quartet having just recorded the LP 'Pendulum' which had just been released [Released in 1965, this very rare record it's been re-released on CD in 2007 by Sunbeam Records. Interesting to know that Tomlin recorded in studio also with The Bob Wallis and His Storyville Jazzmen in 1959. A CD, realised in 2007, is now available...]".
Who had the idea of Giant Sun Trolley? Which's the meaning of the band name? 
"The Sun Trolley takes its name from a poem I had written that year. It is rather naive and very hippy: 

"The Giant Sun Trolley is coming
League transversing it globally encircuits
Beneath the eversun
Where lances of pain become rays of warmth
Emanating mindwards and on
Till, reaching the epiphany of space and time
Flashes in ozonic splendour for Cosmic Man."
©1967 Dave Tomlin 

Sometimes to Glen the Giant Sun Trolley was basically a duo - you and him... but in other interviews we realize that probably was a trio, with Roger Bunn in it... Can you make us the things more clear?
"The group was composed of myself and Glen plus occasionally Dick Dadem on trombone and Roger Bunn on bass…"

Which was the project behind the Giant Sun Trolley? Glen talked about it as "a music guerrilla"...
"The group was 'free-form' so had no repertoire, and each week used different musicians to augment the group at UFO. There were no recordings. The guerrilla music was played without permission in local parks which meant we had to do a runner whenever the authorities turned up. All these details are contained in my three books "Tales from the Embassy" vol. I, II, and III [if someone is interested to buy it, please contact him through blog's editor e-mail address]. The empty Cambodian Embassy in London was squatted for fifteen years by myself and others. Glen sometimes rehearsed the Third Ear there before going to Italy. He formed this group in about 1967 when I left Sun Trolley to go travelling…". 

What do you remember about your involvement with TEB in "Alchemy" recording sessions, where you recorded "Lark Rise", a your composition? 
"I composed 'Lark Rise' on violin whilst travelling with horses and carts and came into London just as Glen was recording 'Alchemy' and did just one track before leaving". 

Do you know if some GST musical recordings (probably live) exist? 
"Sun Trolley made no recordings...". 

Did you considered Glen a friend of you? 
"Yes, Glen was a friend and I used to visit him in his last days in the hospital". 

Do you think there is a place now - in contemporary arts - for projects as GST and TEB? What are you doing now? 
“No, there is no use for anything like GTS or TEB now, everything dumbed down and too commercial. Not doing anything now except writing”. 

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

February 24, 2010

Third Ear Band rehearsaled at the squatted Cambodian Embassy in London during the late Eighties.

As every serious fan knows, Third Ear Band used the squatted Cambodian Embassy to rehearsal at least two times - in July-August 1988, just before the first Italian tour, and in November 1989 for a new Italian tour scheduled for next December, then cancelled because Sweeney's personal problems. 
You can see here a sequence of unpublished photos of the TEB (taken by Carolyn Looker) playing at the Embassy in November 1989:

TEB at the Cambodian Embassy (L-R: Dobson, Carter, Sweeney, Allen) Photo: Carolyn Looker

Maybe it's interesting to know that, inspired by the story of the squatted Embassy, Dave Tomlin wrote an interesting trilogy  titled "Tales from the Embassy" - "a non-fiction book; a true story about a group of hippy artists in the ‘70s who squat the abandoned Cambodian embassy and turn it into a Transcultural centre for Art" (according the same Tomlin). 

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

February 20, 2010

A Third Ear Band ephemera curiosity.

During the TEB Italian second life (1988-1993), my friend Gigi Bresciani (of "Music On" agency) produced some gadgets for the band, selling them on concerts and showcases. 
You can see here two (now very rare) TEB pins with a logo taken from a 1969 concert poster. Just an ephemera curiosity for maniac of the group (but do they still exist?)...

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

February 19, 2010

Two very rare 1970 TEB photos in a moralistic context.

Two very rare photos from the "Third Ear band" recording sessions in  Abbey Road Studio 2, probably taken in April 1970.
Famous Italian magazine "Domenica del Corriere" published them that year inside a report about drugs and youth culture.
The captions say:

"This man in a Civil War uniform is called Glen Sweeney and he’s the drummer of The Third Ear Band, made up of him, cellist Ursula Smith, violinist Richard Coff and oboist Paul Minns. The four musicians have recorded a suite in four movements titled “Air, Water, Fire and Earth”."
And under a photo of Richard Coff:
"One TEB’s member is listening to a recording while he’s rolling an hashish cigarette. Drugs is one of the big evil of English youth world and Pop music’s".
A great rare document... even if in a moralistic context...

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

February 17, 2010

The favourite Giant Sun Trolley song.

According Glen Sweeney (1996), Giant Sun Trolley favourite piece, this song - composed by Dave Tomlin - had played and sung during various open air happenings in 1967 and on several appearances at the UFO Club, in London.

Song For the Sun Trolley

We are standing on
our own horizon
paths that lead this way
by pass yesterday

It's made more or less
out of nothingness
but that does not mean
it cannot be seen

There's no reason why
we should have to lie
if the sea runs dry
we can drink the sky

Atom fuse and share
Aphrodite's hair
she and Hermes run
followed by the sun

If the sun and moon
should doubt
I am sure
they would soon go out.
©1967 Dave Tomlin

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

February 14, 2010

"Time & Music in the Third Ear Band's experience" by Paul Minns (part 2).

This is the second part of 1996 Paul Minns' memories about TEB experience. In the first part (read at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2010/02/time-music-in-third-ear-bands.html) there was some strong opinions on Glen Sweeney's role in the band, the Blackhill Enterprises naive management and a general negative vision on the things happened. In these memories Paul talks deeply about the music TEB played, with an adverse criticism on the electric phase where the group seemed ready to become a pop rock thing. Probably this is also the best analysis on TEB music, made by a very sensitive person, honest and competent....

"The Music 
'Five years playing without anything being written down', 'A giant jam and it sounds like it' - some say. Fifty percent of the time it did but when it did come right it was magic. The group was supposed to be more important than the individual but I was frequently frustrated by the lack of "go" by the others, expecially Coff, and this is evident in "Alchemy" (hear "Area Three"). About that time I drove it from the top and I could have played with anyone. The line-up could have had a trombone, acoustic guitar or even at one point voice with varying degrees of audience success. Why some performances were better received than others has continually baffled me. Very little was discussed about the music between the musicians except for obvious project like "Macbeth" which makes this all quite difficult to recall. The best Third Ear Band music was the earliest and this for me has been confirmed by the emergence of a tape prior the "Alchemy" made at the beginning of 1969 [Paul means the unrealised reel of "Raga in D" that he found in his attic with the "Abelard & Heloise" soundtrack...]. Direct, uncompromising and strangely like a field recording despite its studio origin. One can understand this music's affinity with the outside where we often played like itinerant beggars crouched in the parks. Some pieces were blatantly naive (in the best sense), "Rite of Spring" music laced with birdsong and shades of Douanier Rousseau ("Mosaic" is such a progeny). Originally acoustic (I'm not counting the manic electricity of the Kingsley era when I hid behind the stacks) the music over the years deteriorated in relation to the amount of new gadgetry and amplification that was taken on board. The rush in the 1970's for the hemi-demi-semi quaver sheets of sound were no substitute for the acoustic concentration of a beautiful tone. One think of Miles Davis whose early priority must of been his tone which I am sure came from is "classical" training. In the same vein I never practised but spent a lot of time scraping my reeds. Later I felt marginalised by my background when it was proposed Third Ear Band should become a rock'n'roll band! For me, being an oboist wasn't enough. I had to improvise and obviously I had to be adapt at playing to achieve that. Having been brought up in classical music in the 1950's I quickly realised that the solo oboe repertoire was pathetic and that I would have to look elsewhere. In the band's early days I couldn't really play very well and I was very much to be seen but not heard thanks to Kingsley. He did me a service - there was much to be observed at the Middle Earth venue. I had come to realise that an identity had to be stamped on each piece either by key/scale or theme and that listening to one's fellow musicians was the only way this music would work.

Indian music provided a key to this door. To many of our circle this came from Dr. Jog and his jugalbandi colleague the shenai player Bismillah Kan (EMI ASD2312 in "Music from India" series, [pubblished in 1965]). It was only a short step from this shenai/violin to our oboe/violin.
Coff was also from classical background; still had lesson and for fun played Bach "Tri Sonatas" with me. An American draft-dodger he visit his "shrink" just in case there came back at his door. He was constantly bemused but as he was earning a trickle of bread it was better than starving (which we were all pretty near).

There was no attempt to duplicate ragas - the "feel" was more important. The thought to replicating Indian music makes me feel ill and the best thing we ever did was to steer clear of this and to do our own thing. We used the term "raga" to loosely describe a single theme that increased in speed unlike the constant music of "Dragon Lines" and "Mosaic". There was an exception to this with  a killer of a piece that we called "The Groove" with Coff confortably strumming and increasing the speed with me trying to keep up. I can't tell how much I resented this - "Earth" on the second album is this same piece. I thought of it as being Greek but this is a nonsense. Our philosophy was very much "of the time" with everyone  seemingly tapping things  or dancing. In listening to the Indian duets the one thing I didn't like was the mimicking of what the other had played which smacked of the "look what can I do". But it was the sarod player Sharon Rani who enabled me to fathom what was going on in this music. I think the most important thing Indian music taught me  besides the rhythm was the use of  the full range of the instrument plus the leaps this could involve.

Also about this time I was greatly influenced by the music of the Balkans, expecially Albanian bagpipes.
I copied the breathing technique as well I could and the idea of an acciaccatura grace note (see "Area Three"). Early recordings for Geesin/Essex Music library [read about it at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2009/12/national-balkan-ensemble-aka-third-ear_11.html] were of this type but I haven't heard them for years (any chance someone?). I never listened to classical woodwind. Through Sweeney I heard such jazz greats as Eric Dolphy, Pharoah Sanders and Charles Lloyd. John Coltrane was the greatest influence: I had known his work years earlier and liked is modal period. From "My Favourite Things" I copied some arpeggio chords ("Hyde Park Raga") and use of harmonics. I went on to discover more magic in this area.
Thrills between a true note and a harmonic equivalent gave a sort of shimmering; nuances between the same note with different fingerings - all now have become standard oboe technique (hear the start of "Egyptian Book of the Dead" and "Area Three"). The only jazz oboist I had heard was Yusef Lateef. It was a slightly corny track with snake  charmer overtones and a tone to match. This has always been my gripe with oboists - they often sound like strangled chickens. Ives' music was unknown to me and it came as a pleasant surprise to hear "In the cage" from his set for Theatre or Chamber Orchestra 1906 much later - it has remarkable similiarities.
Malipiero is another I likebut I fancy his rustic lack of modernity would be despised by the intellectuals.
The early music was evolved over a long period of time - memory being crucial. We played to audiences almost every day - they the unknowing (?) guinea pigs accepted (?) any mistakes as "blind alleys". It seems like a dream now as to how liberal people were then. At the Arts Lab I remember Jim Haynes marvelling at our peregrinations and the more blind alleys the better. I took comfort from Vylat Khan's sitar "collapses" that occured regularly; that added to the eventual climax of the raga. In a way these uncomfortable parts gave a clearer idea to the listener what we were trying to do. Another person described the music as similar to the late Beethoven "Quartets"!
With Sweeney setting each piece with an individual speed/rhythm added to our key/motive they soon had an identity. Within a "raga" framework we were able to play for two hours at Les Cousins repeating every twenty minutes the "same" pieces. I should add that it was  in the early hours and everyone was half asleep. This raga idea  in meaning that it would increase in speed gave it a sense of purposeful drive that the 'constant' pieces never achieved  (except the "Egyptian Book of the Dead" which combined both). On "Alchemy", "Ghetto Raga" and "Area Three" are of this type. "Mosaic" used a form of minimills akin to African music which was not fully explored. I was influenced on this by Stravinsky's "Three Pieces for String Quartet". Unfortunately this piece coming at the start of "Alchemy" was totally untypical of the album. The "Alchemy" recording went like a dream and was completed in a week. I remeber nothing of the production except that a few unnecessary effects were introduced, the worst at the end of "Egyptian  Book of the Dead" sounding like a pyramid's bathroom. "Dragon Lines" had successfull overdubs but I was basically against any mucking about with the music. If I had had my way I would have had a close sound with no presence but in the end my tone was changed to fit the track after half-heartedly agreeing to use this "exciting" medium. I can't honestly say that I felt any different playing live outside than in the studio - I was so immersed in my instrument... The breathing made me so high and I can fully understand why wind players are so reluctant to stop. I lost the ability to play after the last Hyde Park concert (1969). I had problems finding somewhere to live, holding down a part-time job and my reeds were a continous problem for which my tone and technique suffered. Whilst playing at Arts Lab someone from Munich television called Morse (?) heard us and commissioned the music for "Abelard and Heloise", an animated film about 45 minutes long. I remember this as having fixed artwork with tele-visual techniques to give movement.
The artist called Fuchs (?) produced Hieronymus Bosh/Fuseli type colour fantasmagoria. It went surpisingly well. The film had distinct episodes to which we had to play while watching the film. I remember very little about this, except that Coff and Ursula, disillusioned, had formed a clique. Not long after they secretly decided to split and I remember there was a great rush to the bank. It rankled with them that nothing musically was discussed - in what direction the group was to go. To Sweeney this all smacked of insurrection as it was "his" band.

I was quite unable also to comtemplate a more structured approach to the music - perhaps even composition! It sounds daft but I related composition to classical  which could only mean betrayal. As I realise now it was one thing to be able to improvise but quite another to improvise a theme. I have always loved lyrical classical music such as Prokofiev and I like to think that this shows - initially it came easily. For others though it blatantly didn't. Pressure was put on us to produce the second album (1970) which was a disaster.
At one point I had to convince  Coff that it was possible to represent "air" as music. This turned out to be the best  track, although it involved a major edit (we tagged the beginning onto the end) which was a pity. "Macbeth" was done at Air Studios playing live to black/white rushes. Often we repeatedly  watched gory scenes. Polanski related quite a bit but was under pressure from the bankers as things dragged on. He had strong views about film music such as doing the complete opposite to that on the screen. This was contrasted with "cartoon" type sound for each action in the fight scenes. We spent a long time in the studio with very little material to show for it. The engineers didn't know what the hell was going on (I don't blame them). I was struggling and had to restrained from attending the last sessions. Buckmaster reminded us of his needing to protect his reputation and there was general jockeying for Polanski's favour. The Sharon Tate murder had happened not long before and I felt that by choosing "Macbeth" Polanski hoped to substitute one grisly act by another, so erasing his memory. My playing was very shaky on the record which I produced - everyone else having done a runner.

The other major event was "The Sun Wheel Ceremony" with the electronic composers from France. Parmegiani had come over previously to record some of our musical sounds so he could take them back, regurgitate and spew out something tasty.
The idea was to play along with this tape at concert. I remember no reharsal, although I can't believe we walked on cold, with a predictable result - a mess. The French tale themselves very seriously and must have been horrified by our laissez-faire approach. I think this had originally been set up by EMI but as usual nothing came of it. One novel feature at the time was the quadrophonic sound. Imagine trying to play to it.
Regrets. That more music had not been produced without the strict drum beat. Ditched the pop tag. Moved on sooner."
©1997 Paul Minns

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

February 12, 2010

"Time & Music in the Third Ear Band's experience" by Paul Minns (part 1).

During the writing of my book on TEB titled “Necromancers of the drifting West” (published by Stampa Alternativa in 1997), I asked Paul Minns to write his memories about the experience to play in the band.
Here's his important, disenchanted contribute written in December 1996, where we can read probably for the first time all the Paul's caustic vision of things:

"The Time
For me the music died around the time of the first Hyde Park concert (1969) with the Blind Faith. It was possibly for a variety of reasons - exhaustion (Sweeney and Blackhill were totally unware of protective management - I reckon we must have played on everage three times a week since starting), boredon or even for personal reasons but I believe there was an unmistakable climate change. Flowers were out - squatting was in - self determination was in the air and rightly so. Unfortunately it was the time of the supergroup which sounded better than the reality and no one seemed to be interested in Indian music or the like. After that Third Ear Band was staffed by various personnel with an air of the walking dead all directed by Sweeney.
I need to talk about him now because  he was both the founder and distroyer of the band.
He enjoyed the 'pop' limelight, despite its obvious lie, and totally fronted the band (I couldn't care as I was only interested in playing but Coff was sat on regularly). For Sweeney this was better than work but it didn't prevent him from behaving like a foreman. Really all we had done was to produce music quite unlike any other in the scene and we could be slotted-in as a contrast - but we were no pop. Much later when we were on the slide  he brought in vocals and we were just another band.
But to start at the beginning...

In 1968 I met Sweeney during his existential/Zen/modern jazz phase. A drummer, he had progressed through skiffle to full kit with a touch of the Orient thrown in. He prided himself on "not knowing the difference between a crotchet and a hatchet" and almost insisted on mispronouncing the names of the foreign writers, composers etc. à la Peter Sellers. He was on the  lookout for musicians and chanced on me. I lived in a garret in Notting Hill Gate (London) where I had lived for years trying to make sense of my life and getting nowhere.
Fed up with classical music (I had played the oboe years before and still dabbled), he encouraged me to join him at various venues. My early gig recollection is at Middle Earth (a prime alternative venue in Covent Garden) with a cellist called Brian, Sweeney and Clive Kingsley, and acid head guitarist who heard no one except himself - a sheet of sound.

These gigs didn't start until after midnight and I remember catching many times a night bus back home. Strangely these were perhaps the happiest times for me. There was a great feeling of belonging  to a movement quite unlike  m y classical days  when the only topic  of conversation was the make of one's instrument.
These gigs at Middle Earth were fairly hairy with one band regularily setting like to themselves (Tintern Abbey - are they still with us?), Soft Machine's Robert Wyatt in underpants crying with the effort of playing 11/13 on the drums and Bowie, doing mime and playing solo guitar (embarrassing).
There in the small hours continental film crew made ther way between the stages looking for confirmation of the Swingin' '60.
TEB at the Roundhouse (August 1968) for an Harvest showcase (L-R: Cartland, Coff, Sweeney, Minns) ©Robert Ellis-REPFOTO

Later, Middle Earth was closed down after The Tribe of the Sacred Mushroom held a purported sacrifice of a child. We were there and it was one of my funnies memories. 

White tuniced with with spears, the tribe had set up a dais and we were to provide the music. I think I glimpsed a young girl but before anything could start the doors burst open and in swept Covent Garden workers looking for the intended "victim" to be followed five minutes later by many police. Being pacifists the tribe offered no resistance thank godness but the child vanished into thin air in the following hilarious melée. It was the end for Middle Earth...

Other places we regularly played locally were The Crypt (St. Lake's Church), All Saint's Hall and a small basement cafè in Westbourne Grove. These gatherings amazed me in that audiences put up with such spartan surroundings - a cross between a folk music youth club was the nearest I had ever seen.
Les Cousins in Soho, I.C.A., the Arts Lab and the Roundhouse were more 'salubrious' venues and the last two brought us in contact with non-music acts on the scene such as The People Band, Will Spoor and The Living Theatre.
Somehow we were invited to play for The Alchemical Wedding - John Lennon and Yoko Ono in  a sack - at the Royal Albert Hall. We were the only music? I could hardly believe so.

The earliest virtually unpaid gigs surprisingly were with some of the biggest names - John Mayall at Southampton (it was a booking mistake, we played in the interval and a hat was passed around) and with The Who at Bournemouth. Our amplification was minimal - what a contrast.
John Peel gave us our first broadcast interview on "Night Ride" and organised a concert with Bridget St. John for those on remand in Holloway Jail - a shocking Victorian place. It took place outside on a square of asphalt with the inmates cheering and waving out of the cell windows. Considering the type of music it must have seemed to an outsider like a dream.

About this time Blackhill's Peter Jenner wanted to manage us. He and Andrew King had  a varied stable and we fitted in quite well. People like Roy Harper, Edgar Broughton, Peter Brown and Kevin Ayers. Kevin I remember told me that our band sounded like an oasis amongst everything else at a Roundhouse gig.
Back at the agency everyone seemd to hover as if expecting something. Something promised perhaps. Blackhill's fame rested as much on the bands they had lost as on those they had retained. There was something of the schoolboy in them, expecially King (called supercilious by some but to me more mocking).
Parallel to this was the EMI Harvest deal and our first experience of promotional tour with their artists. Later to their credit they organised the Hyde Park concerts, both of which we opened. We were politely received but the concerts as a whole were not a great success. After that followed tours with Al Stewart (who I had never heard of and then heard too much of) and John Fahey, the guitarist.
Fahey was an  ordinary American kid who played pinball and the guitar well. Stewart was a stupid link-up that did nothing for us as his audience was bedsit girls. He bordered on the saccharine and was as musically interesting as cardboard (unfortunately I never have listened to lyrics).

My best gig memories are of the Brighton Pavillon with Pretty Things and Floyd - we being the filling for a change; the other outside on Primrose Hill with Procol Harum and Soft Machine. The most unlikelky was a May Ball (Cambridge) where we were pratically locked up. Also we visited Kid Jenson at Radio Luxembourg on one of our forays to Europe!
In Nuremburg I was chastised one morning  by a female hotelier for wearing my 'pijamas' which I tried to explain was my Indian long shirt.
Understandably we were fairly unknown and I must admit we looked pretty  tame compared  to bands as  Amon Duul  at one Rhine gig. There was quite a bit of aggression around as it  was the time  of colleges unrest. Our rodies  was so important  that for years  they earned  more than us. Without the anxiety undercorrent of the band they were a breath of fresh air  with their banter. I liked very much the way one roadie called Paul related to the amps as they were people - "he doesn't like that" (after blowing something). With the unexplained need for greater volume, mikes went out and bugs were in. I managed to fit one in an alternative F vent but the tone changed for the worse. I also had my own H/H amp which had various  gadgets but my heart wasn't in it and they were underused.
Lastly, I was very proud to have done benefits and free gigs for organisations as diverse as a Buddhist retreat, White Rabbit's Aardvark scene in London's East End, LSE sit-in, the Druids and Release.
These were the cornerstone of my life".

©1997 Paul Minns
(end of part one)

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

February 08, 2010

Peter Mew, Abbey Road sound engineer, recalls TEB in the studio...

As every TEB fan knows, Peter Mew has been the recording engineer produced TEB albums in Abbey Road (now he's a remastering engineer).
Waiting for his answers to some questions I've sent him some weeks ago, these are his memories about his involvement with Harvest Records, with a short funny anecdote on Glen Sweeney...

"I started at Abbey Road on July 26th 1965. It was mandatory in those days:  you began in the tape library. It was great training, it showed you where all the rooms were and you could get to know all the people. 
I did about 18 months in the library. At the end of '66 I moved up and became a tape-op for allocated sessions with producers like John Burgess, George Martin, Ron Richards, Norman Newell and Wally Ridley. Mostly EMI producers and acts because  there were hardly any third party acts coming (or allowed) in. I would also do classical sessions and playbacks for classical producers because they couldn't work the machines on their own. I had no formal music training but I played bass in a band.
"The system that applied at the studio was that after tape-op you went on to cutting lacquers and masters and then when someone died at the top everyone moved up one. At the beginning of 1967 there was a change in management and several of the engineers left and it was recommended that I became and engineer and become the first person to miss out the cutting stage - which happened. The first album I worked on was "S.F. Sorrow" by the Pretty Things. I worked with Norman Smith on The Pink Floyd sessions and I engineered continually until 1987.

"Harvest was part of a very experimental era, this followed the whole Mersey scene and The Hollies etc., who up until this time had basically been singles based. It really started with the Floyd (apart from who-know-who) - EMI letting the bands into the studio to see what happened which is why you got so much diversity - The Third Ear Band with a free form  thing which could last twenty minutes. As an engineer I got worried that the tape would run out before they finished the number! I remember Glen Sweeney, who for the first two albums, I believe, was the percussionist, with his talking drums, finger-cymbals and other esoteric instruments. At some point along the way, someone suggested that he should have a drum kit, so they bought  him a big shiny one and they went into one of their elongated numbers, and about fifteen minutes down the line it all stopped and fell apart, and you could hear from the studio: "Oh, my leg's gone, my leg's gone, I can't play anymore". After that he was always known at the studio as Glen 'The Leg' Sweeney.
Paper cut with (L-R) Peter Mew, David Gilmour and Roger Waters at the desk.
"I recorded The Edgar Broughton Band, Kevin Ayers, Roy Harper, Pink Floyd and Formerly Fat Harry. I did the studio part of "Ummagumma" where they each decide to do a quarter each.
I started on 8 track for Harvest and then I went 16 and then 24 quickly after. The great thing about working at that time was how the record company allowed quite a large budget for this experimental kind of music. It gave young engineers like me a lot of time to experiment with our craft. We got time to tinker  around with various mike positions, etc, and could spend half a day on one instrument while the band decided what they were actually going to play... it was a fantastic grounding. Someone had discovered that if you hit a gong and immersed it in a bath of water that the pitch changed as you immersed it. So one of the things I wanted to know was what does it sound like underwater. So we got a mike and wrapped it in a polythene bag and recorded underwater. It sounded great for about fifteen seconds, until the water seeped into the bag and shorted the mike out!
Another good trick was the method of getting the right level for a bass drum.You would hold a lighter in front of the speaker and wait until it blew the flame out.

"(...) You mixed the albums you recorded and it was pretty quick especially with 8 track. There were a few effects boxes but most of the albums' relied on the music not the effects. 

(...) Cannabis had a big bearing on things. Many's the time  I've sat at the desk at three o'clock in the morning watching someone stoned out of their mind, they're thinking they're playing the most amazing guitar solo in their life, and I knew that it was absolute crap and that they were going to do it all again the next day: they always did it again. Not mind expanding - mind contracting. Sessions could last from 12.00am until 2, 3 or 4 in the morning. I was working in studios 2 and 3 with strings recorded in 2, but not with hit acts - it was more "Who's that?", than "Who's who"."

(from "Harvest Festival" 5CDs booklet, Harvest Records UK 521 1982, 1999)
©1999 Peter Mew-Harvest Records

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

February 07, 2010

New Italian book on English electric folk (with TEB included).

A new Italian book about English electric folk music titled "Fairest Isle. L'epopea dell'electric folk britannico" has been printed on Aereostella home publishing (price 17.00 euros) . 
The author, Antonello Cresti (musician with Nihil Project) writes a 141 pages essay on this important experience of  the 'popular music', covering a big lacuna in the Italian market.
Among folk 'star' as Pentangle and Fairport Convention, also bands as Incredible String Band and Third  Ear Band.
A short interview (in Italian) with the author is at http://www.musicalnews.com/articolo.php?codice=17929&sz=3
The book can be bought at: http://www.aereostella.it/
no©2010 Luca Ferrari

February 05, 2010

Ten rare wonderful b/w photos of the original Third Ear Band (1968-1969) available at Repfoto agency.

Repfoto. The Rock Library is a famous agency run by photographer Robert Ellis. You can check is vaste catalogue at https://www.repfoto.com/index.php5: there are over 97.000 images of musicians and rock music events from the last 40 years (1960-2009) on this site, viewed by over 20.000 unique visitors per month.

"Repfoto evolved from the work of photographer Robert Ellis", explains the fascinating notes of the site. "He began in the late sixties working on local newspapers before turning his attention to the emerging 'Folk' scene. He used to frequent a club of a Sunday night called 'The Fuggle & Pippin' in the back room of a pub in Malvern, buried in the English midlands. All traditional english songs, fingers in ears and curious instruments. The club joined a regional booking circuit for itinerant and visiting folk singers. Soon, top flight singers and bands were turning up and they, in turn, were regaling the audience with stories of other singers, places and happenings. A large contingent of club members pitched up at the 2nd Cambridge Folk Festival in 1968 on these recommendations. Naturally Robert took his camera. Here he met Karl Dallas, the senior folk writer for leading UK music paper Melody Maker. The next week saw Robert's pictures (of Tom Paxton!) in his column. In the late sixties, the electric version of folk music was just taking hold of the folk scene, but the new heavy rock band sound was sweeping all before it.

"Robert made a 'pilgrimage' to London's Royal Albert Hall to witness 'Tommy' by the Who (just turned up with his camera at the stage door!) This sealed the direction his photography was to take. Within two years, the MM's rival, the New Musical Express, decided to abandon its 'American Pop' policy, hired a new editor - Nick Logan - and embraced the 'English Rock Revolution'. Robert moved to London in 1971 and worked for the NME for the next four years. Then, a friend, colleague and inspiration, Barrie Wentzell, quit the MM and recommended Robert to replace him. Coinciding with that event, the apathy of NME to the major rock bands of the day was alienating Robert, who by then was heavily in demand as a touring photographer by those very same bands, (eg ELP, Genesis, Wings, Status Quo). He accepted the MM's offer but his tenure did not last long as he was seldom available for the work MM wanted. By the early eighties, other photographers were asking if he could place their photographs in the magazines he was by this time supplying, worldwide. Repfoto was born. To be continued".

With £ 9.99 payment you can watch for a month all the shots and decide to buy them (one old photo A4 size is about £ 100).

There are 10 TEB photos in the catalogue, from 1968 (line-up with Ben Cartland) to 1969 (line-up with Ursula Smith).
Here is a sampler of them, taken from different venues:

The band on the stage (L-R: Cartalnd, Coff, Sweeney, Minns) for a Harvest Records showcase at The London Roundhouse on August 1968  (©REPFOTO-Robert Ellis).

The band (same line-up) is playing here at the Fringe Festival in Camden on May 1969 (©REPFOTO-Robert Ellis).

A nice portrait of Glen Sweeney on stage at the Isle of Wight Festival on August 1969 (©REPFOTO-Robert Ellis).

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

February 04, 2010

An old funny article on the TEB by Chris Welch ("Melody Maker", July 1969).

An old funny article on the Third Ear Band by great journalist & editor Chris Welch, published in "Melody Maker" on July 12th, 1969, investigates on the first steps of the group...

"In the day of The Big Bash, when groups sent their audiences  mad with noise, there seemed a strong likelihood of complaints from races dwelling on neighbouring galaxies, about the racket we Earthmen were creating.
"Hello, this is the planet Blotto here, just north of Andromeda", crackles the message in the ears of a stratled radio telescope operator.
"I say, can you do something about the noise old chap? Much as we enjoy the Who and Pink Floyd out here on dull Blotto (three suns, high methane content, several two stars hotels), the racket tends to upset our highly delicate nervous systems. Can you hear me? No - I can't hear you either!".
But now groups are cooling down all over the globe. Cream became Blind Faith and took a step down from sheer volume. John Mayall dispensed with drums in search of peace.
The ultimate are the Third Ear Band who proudly claim they can actually lull their audience into a trance if not a deep, refreshing sleep.
Merely cocking one ear to the sound of Glen Sweeney, Richard Coff, Paul Minns and Mel Davies, however, is enough to convince one of human intelligence at work.
Their music is demanding, intriguing and unique. A non-electric band, they feature Richard on violin, Paul on oboe, Mel on cello and Glen on tabla and hand drums. They have only been operating a few months and are quickly gaining recognition for blanding of Eastern and European influences.
A recent highligt for them was an appearance on the Blind Faith free concert.
They are managed by the old firm of Blackhill Enterprises, and have their first album "Alchemy" released on EMI's "okay" label, Harvest.
Although they are (gulp) Underground, they are also cheerfully (burp) pop.
Ex-bebop and free drummer, Glen Sweeney told me this week that his current favourite sound is "Dizzy" by Tommy Roe.
"I got some great rhythms off that one. It was groovy", said Glen sounding mildly surprised, as we drank taste-proof  coffee in a plastic egg palace.
I complimented Mr Sweeney on their Hyde Park performance. "Yes, we sound good in the open air. That's how it started really. Me and Dave Tomlin, a jazz tenor player, used to play in the park as the Sun Trolley.
"We got busted by an incredible amount of park fuzz. This was before the official free concerts started, in the summer before last. Somebody recorded a lunatic conversation between us and the fuzz on tape.
"I really don't know what music we were playing then. It was all under the influence of the big turn on of UFO. I used to play a full kit of drums until they got stolen. Then I got hold of some hand drums. There are always a lot of drums hanging around Notting Hill Gate.
"We started the Third Ear Band proper at the end of last summer. Before that it was half electric. But the electric lead guitarist wasn't too successful, and when he left, we found we had an all acoustic group.
"The Blackhill signed us up for what reason I don't know. It was on the strenght of one church all audition.
"We'd rather people called us a pop group. We do ragas, that aren't really ragas at all, and unless we get a turned on promoter, we get into some weird scenes. At Norwich once, when the promoter saw the audience sitting down and closing their eyes to our music, he accused us of putting them to sleep! Complete paranoia. So I imagine we wouldn't do too well on the Pop Proms.
"It's just a question of advertising. We've stayed very much Underground - no photos - and I think this was necessary so people wouldn't put us in a bag. We'd rather the just came up and heard us  without ANY preconceived ideas. I suppose it is a bit shattering to see violins and cellos.
"I'd say ninety per cent of our music is improvisation. It's not really Indian music, although we use a drone instead of the usual bass line riffs. The music draws from everywhere.
"I think our appeal is that audiences can draw their own thing from us.  We make no announcements and none of the numbers have titles. People in colleges we play come up after and say they can get fantastic images in their mind when they listen. We can offer a complete dream. The old Celtic bards used to have the same ability".
"At Hyde Park we had a beautiful audience, but if you get a bad audience there is not much you can do about it.
TEB (L-R: Coff, Sweeney, Minns,Cartland) at the Camden Fringe Festival on May, 1969 (©REPFOTO).
"We once had eight drunk rugby players yelling dirty songs at us. We played quieter and quieter. In the end they seemed ashamed and shut up. But I still don't think they dug the music!".
©1969 Chris Welch-"Melody Maker"

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

February 03, 2010

Some other Italian TEB’s little nephews…

Again about the TEB as a source of inspiration for bands and artists: in the Seventies, Italian groups as Aktuala (especially for the album titled “La Terra”, published by Bla Bla Records in 1974) 

or experimentalist as Franco Battiato (listen to “Da Oriente a Occidente” in his third LP “Sulle Corde di Aries”, Cramps 1973), took the TEB intuitions to conjugate Eastern classical music (Raga) with folk and contemporary avant-garde sounds (from Penderecki to Miles Davis’“Britches Brew”, from Terry Riley to Ravi Shankar…). Another unknown Italian artist was Lino Capra Vaccino, an important musician got the TEB flavour expecially with the album "Antico Adagio" (Musicando 1978), where the tune with the same title is perfectly TEBish....
More recently, 
almost unknown musicians/groups as like Zeit (two wonderful ethnic records published in 1979-1980 by Materiali Sonori, the best one is "Il Cerchio degli Antichi Colori") or Stefano Giannotti (check his huge production at http://www.stefanogiannotti.com/).
About Fabio Zuffanti, I’ve already written on a recent post (http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2010/02/italian-musician-fabio-zuffanti-demixed.html)... 

Another very interesting Italian artist is Alberto Morelli, a composer, pianist and polinstrumentalist who formed & played with ethnic band Dissoi Logoi (three great albums from “Da Occidente a Oriente”, 1993, to “III”, 2001 – some free downloads at http://www.dissoilogoi.com/), Tangatamanu (a mini-LP in 2005) and Ear&Now (listen fabulous “ffrr”, 2003, and “Eclipse”, 2008, with a clear reference to TEB in “Third Ear Dance”…!) or eclectic Francesco Paladino who recorded a TEBish album with Sean Breadin (Sedayne) titled “Musica Fiuto” in 2005 (Hic Sunt Leones, the label). 

From the link http://www.musichevirtuali.org/music/marchein/index.html you can get a free download of "Baby a", an amazing Marco Lucchi's 1982 composition with some samplers in, among them a strongly manipulated excerpt of TEB’s original “Stone Circle”…

(Update on  May 15th, 2011)

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

Italian musician Fabio Zuffanti 'demixed' TEB 'Air', 'Earth', 'Fire' & 'Water'.

From the Seventies, TEB music has inspired a lot of bands and musicians, advancing the so-called "world music".
In recent years (2000), Italian musician Fabio Zuffanti 'demixed' (?) TEB second album with his group Quadrophonic
Listen/download to these very intriguing mixes at http://www.zuffantiprojects.com/spirals/thirdearbanddemixed.htm , where a brilliant electronic manipulation 'slashes' classical TEB acoustic soundscape. 

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

February 02, 2010

Lyn Dobson or Lynn Darnton? David Aragon about his memories on Cartland...

After to have offered us his memories on Ben Cartland here (http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2010/01/ben-cartland-at-101-st-stephens-gardens.html), TEB fan and Sixties witness David Aragon writes me again in reply to a post of Andy ("I see you mention Lyn Dobson as being in the Tribe of the Sacred Mushroom - wasn't that Lyn Darnton, or were they the same people? I'm very interested in the Tribe of the Sacred Mushroom and would welcome info from anyone reading this blog - you can get me at meugher@googlemail.com. Happy Trails, Andy"):
"Hi Luca.
Many thanks for posting my memories !
I am interested in Andy's comment about Lynn Darnton and Tribe of the Sacred Mushroom. I am thinking maybe it was Lynn Darnton I met - I do remember the 'Sacred Mushroom' connection. Also, Lynn Darnton did some posters for the Third Ear Band. So, it is possible I have confused him with Lyn Dobson, as Lyn Dobson played with Third Ear Band. The Lynn I met, I didn't know as a musician at the time, but did know as being connected with the Tribe of the Sacred Mushroom. I think it's not likely they are the same person, but it would be interesting if they were!! Also, the name 'Lynn Darnton' stirs something in my memory. Hopefully Lyn Dobson can clear it up! And, apologies to him if he never was at 101,or a friend of Pam! The more I think about it, the more I am sure it was Lynn Darnton I met. Oh well, there is still a TEB connection there!
By the way, I was reading the blog, and I came upon the name of Dick Dadem, the trombone player who played at one time with the Third Ear Band. I definitely did know Dick, not in London, but in Glastonbury. He lived with a lady called Joyce Chapman, a lovely eccentric person who I knew well. They lived in a caravan in Glastonbury, and I would visit them often, sitting in their caravan, smoking and talking for hours on end. Dick was very conventional in his appearance, compared to most of us, and Joyce looked more like a hippie than most of us, so they made an odd couple! He was playing his trombone then, and I believe he was playing in either an orchestra or a brass band locally. A very nice guy, friendly to me and good to talk to.The last I saw of Joyce, she was living in the Old Police House in Coxley, near Glastonbury, with her children.This would be early 70s. I wonder what happened to her, and if anyone else remembers Joyce? I don't know what happened to Dick, sadly, and had more or less lost him from my memory until I saw his name there. It brought back some good feelings for me!
Best wishes,
David Aragon".

[An easy research on the Web let us to get a site (at http://www.meditationinbristol.org/chippenham/index.htm) with a such Lynn Darnton as a Buddhist teacher of meditation and this portrait... Is he just him?
About Dick Dadem... apparently no tracks around...]

no©2010 Luca Ferrari-David Aragon