June 10, 2010

Steve Pank about the origins of the Third Ear Band.

On July 2004, Steve Pank, original TEB road manager and promoter, wrote a piece for the booklet of "The Magus" CD, under the name of Steve Barker.
This is the first part of it, related to the origins of the TEB, that I print with the kind permission of Steve.

"The Third Ear Band was born out of the mystical swirlings of the artistic underground of the London of 1967.
In the early Sixties the free jazz revolution in New York City happened, and a flurry of records on the ESP label came out, in the wake of the experiments by Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra etc.
Glen, then a jazz drummer, had an idea for a free jazz group with a light show and poetry, and he visualised that this could produce a commercially successful record. He advertised in the "Melody Maker" for musicians and among those whose applied were Dick Daden, an ex army trombone player who had worked commercially in circus bands, a tenor saxophone player of Russian descent called Jan Diakov, and a trumpet player whose name was Steve Pank.

Sounds Nova rehearsed upstairs in a public house in Barons Court, called the Barons Arms, later called the Nashville. Glen’s partner Caroline read poems by the Beat poets, and a primitive lighting system flashed for effect. This band still existed in 1966 when a newspaper called the "International Times" appeared, describing itself as an underground newspaper.
Around this time, Glen met Dave Tomlin, a new wave [free jazz] player who played tenor and soprano saxophone and flute. Dave was well respected on the jazz scene and had led jazz groups including such people as Jack Bruce of the Cream and John Hiseman, later of Coliseum. He had also played on a tour supporting Ornette Coleman.

Soon after this, the publisher of the "International Times", John Hopkins, or ‘Hoppy', started a weekly Friday night all-nighter called UFO, in the premises of the Blarney club, an Irish club in the Tottenham Court road. It was run to raise funds for running "International Times".

Hoppy asked Dave Tomlin to play there. Dave asked Glen to accompany him and the free jazz duo they formed was called The Giant Sun Trolley. UFO was a mixed media event with light shows, film clips, poets and bands. It was also a launching platform for bands such as the Pink Floyd and the Soft Machine.

Around December 1966, the offices of the "International Times" were raided, and the police took virtually everything out of the office in Southampton Row. It was decided to continue with the newspaper, and to hold a bumper event called the "14 hour Technicolour Dream" in Alexandra Palace, as publicity and as a fundraiser for relaunching the paper. At this event Glen had a pickup band with a guitarist called Clive Kingsley, and a saxophone player called Barry Pilcher. This group was called the Hydrogen Jukebox. They gained notoriety at the event by accompanying a girl called Nita having a paper dress cut off her with scissors, this was reported with a photograph in the "News of the World".
Late in 1967, Glen formed the first edition of the Third Ear Band, a name suggested to him by Caroline, taken from a book title.

Soon after its formation, the van carrying the equipment was broken into and Glen’s drum kit was stolen. Nothing daunted, Glen formed another line-up with his friend oboe player Paul Minns, and decided to play hand drums. He then met viola player Ben Cartland who had played with Steve Took, the original drummer of the duo Tyrannosaurus Rex. Ben had an intriguing style of using one string on the viola as a drone and playing notes up and down the next string up giving his style a very Indian sound.

Soon after this, Richard Coff joined the band on violin. Richard was a classically trained violinist from Florida. With this line up, the early Third Ear Band did a number of performances in a church hall called All Saints Hall [now demolished] in Notting Hill. They signed a management deal with Blackhill Enterprises, formerly the Pink Floyd management who booked them into concerts and colleges around the country. They had a weekly residency in the Arts Lab, run by Jim Haynes [on the photo below] in Covent Garden, and performed in the Albert Hall at the ‘Alchemical Wedding’, an Arts Lab benefit at which John and Yoko also performed.

Shortly after this Ben Cartland left the band and. Glen cast around for a replacement, a bass instrument. He engaged Mel Davis, an avant-garde jazz pianist who was the leader of the People Band, and who also played the cello. At this time the band’s road managers were Steve Pank and Jan Diakov, former members of Sounds Nova. Meanwhile, Blackhill Enterprises had negotiated a record deal EMI on the Harvest Label. It was this band line up which recorded the first album for Harvest Label, ‘Alchemy', along with guest appearances by John Peel, [jaws harp] and Dave Tomlin, by now playing the violin. Mel Davis left shortly after the album was recorded. Initially Mel’s replacement was Paul Buckmaster, the cellist and arranger.

The Third Ear Band was the opening act at the free concert given by the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park. Subsequently, because of his other commitments, Paul Buckmaster left and his place was taken by cellist Ursula Smith, a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, who first met with the band at a benefit concert for the remand inmates in Holloway Prison.
The first album was released and the band did a concert in Queen Elizabeth Hall called ‘The Crab and the Crescent Moon’, titled from a dream that Glen had had. Then later they did a National tour with folk singer Al Stewart.
In summer 1969t the Third Ear Band appeared on the Bill with Bob Dylan at the Isle of Wight Festival.
The second album, called variously "The Third Ear Band" or "Air Earth Fire Water" after the titles of the four tracks on it, appeared early in 1970.
Early in 1971 Ursula Smith and Richard Coff left the band and Paul Buckmaster returned. Along with guitarist  Denny Bridges.
This was the line-up which recorded the music for the Roman Polanski film of "Macbeth" and the album ‘Macbeth’, the last one recorded under the EMI Harvest contract...".

©2004-2010 Steve Pank

no©2010 Luca Ferrari                                                                    

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