May 21, 2015

"The Scene". Rab Wilkie's memories from the past (part one)...

After a first contact by mail, I asked Rab if he could tell something about his meeting with our Holy Band.
Even if with some wrong memories (for example, Dave Tomlin never played a trumpet or a tambourine...), this is a very interesting personal recollection of the climax lived in the end of Sixties/beginning of Seventies. A precious little contribution to the Third Ear Band's story... 

"Hi Luca,
What a pleasant surprise to hear from you! (One never knows what to expect when leaving a message on the internet). I'm not sure I can help you much more with 3rd Band info, but I'll add a few things here, just in case they're
of interest. (I'm more a writer than a talker).
I met the band around August 1967. I was age 21. And hung out with them for several months until April 1968. In May 1971, on a flying visit, I popped in to see them during a recording session for MacBeth. That's about it, as far as in-person interactions go with the main members of the band. But it was a big scene overall, with all sorts of people, artists & musicians, coming & going, and things going on.
I first made the connection to this scene in Toronto, Canada, in 1965 when I roomed in a house in the Yorkville Village area - Toronto's hip version of the East Village in Manhattan. Barry Pilcher was staying in the same house.
He had recently arrived from London where he had played sax with the Hydrogen Jukebox & Dave Tomlin, also with Glen and others. 

The following summer I lined up a job for him as a forest ranger on a fire lookout tower in northern Ontario. We each manned a tower (May-September) in the same area, about 20 miles apart; and would chat by radio-phone some evenings. (One night he was almost struck by an incoming meteorite).
That autumn he returned to London, and I flew over to visit relatives in Plymouth, Devon.

In January 1967 I moved to London and met up with Barry again. He was the only person I knew in the city at that time. But a couple of months later I decided to become a monk and spent six months in a Thai Buddhist monastic centre near Richmond. I moved back into the hub of things in mid August where I reconnected with Barry and some of his musician friends, including Glen, Carolyn, and Clive Kingsley who was playing guitar with the band. Barry played sax with them. 
This was just before they decided to call themselves the Third Ear Band, and the band itself had not quite formed. Various musicians came and went, and Barry & Clive apparently did not quite fit. Glen of course was the mainstay, with Carolyn. (Barry & Clive eventually went off to do their own things. Clive ended up in small coastal village in Cornwall; Barry got married and moved to Ireland but continued to play gigs here & there).
On one occasion I joined the Third Ear on stage at a venue in Covent Garden at a "happening". The only instrument I owned then was a bagpipe chanter, so that's what I played. The other attraction was a dance troop, Exploding Galaxy. (My main instrument was alto sax, but it was a while before I could afford even to rent one.. and then I left, returning to Toronto). 

Pilcher and Glen in 1991
So, aside from the meeting at Glen's & Carolyn's flat - which I described previously in my first message to you - where the idea of a name for the band was discussed and more or less decided, I can't say that my influence or interplay amounted to much. And with so many people & things always happening, on the periphery, I'm not surprised that to Glen & Carolyn I've become a forgotten footnote. But at the time, amidst the chaos, they helped many of us - including myself - stay focused. They were always very open and friendly, sharing their enthusiasm and experience with the scene; and
music was at the heart of it.
"The scene" of course involved much more than music, and I became more involved with the literary & mystical side of it. With crazy poets & publishers of the "Underground press". I was involved with Steve Pank and Muz Murray as they planned to start a "mystical scene magazine". The result was two different magazines, Muz with "Gandalf''s Garden" and Steve with "Albion".
I co-edited Albion with Steve, but it did not survive beyond the first issue. (I left a month before it hit the streets).
Meanwhile, poets such as Neil Oram & Harry Fainlight were roaming around Notting Hill and Westbourne Park doing poetry, Ginsberg parachuting in to dance and bop balloons at Chalk Farm, etc; and John Michell was re-writing "The View Over Atlantis" after his first manuscript had gone up in flames. (There had been a fire in his flat when he was out).
But at least we managed to publish in "Albion" John's Caxton Hall talk on Stonehenge & Flying Saucers.
John has been in a slump about the fire. When Barry and I dropped in at a friend's flat on Westbourne Park Grove one Saturday morning in November, John was there, staring into space, sitting on the floor, his back against the wall. It was chilly and the room was unheated... no shillings left for the gas meter. But he seemed not to notice even though coatless.
One of the women offered him a hot mug of tea, which he absently took with a slight nod of his head, and held tightly, warming his hands.
It was a long time before he took his first sip. The mood was morose.
Everyone seemed sluggish. Then Dave Tomlin rattled a tambourine, drums were revealed, and from my pocket I pulled out my chanter.

A moment later, the whole crew had formed a procession and were heading out the door towards Portobello Market, Dave in the lead like the Pied Piper of Hamelin. (Except I had the pipe and he was Tambourine Man).
As we were about to march into the open-air market, a horse in front of us bolted, scared by our loud Janissarian arrival. But disaster was narrowly averted as Dave rushed forward and grabbed the horses reins, calming him almost instantly. (Scientology had worked for Dave. His presence of mind was legendary).
But that wake-up incident pretty well ended our event. It was time to get on with the day and the 'happeners' scattered, going our separate ways.
Barry and I headed back towards Notting Hill Gate.
"Where's John?" I asked. "Did he come with us to the Market?"
Barry was silent, thoughtful. His eyes skewed upward as if looking for a bird in the clouds...". 

(end of part one - to be continued) 

no©2015 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)   

No comments:

Post a Comment