June 16, 2016

Memories of Brian Diprose: the Third Ear Band 1977-1978...

Brian Diprose is a (blues) bass player who had some relations with the Third Ear Band in the second half of Seventies when Glen Sweeney and Paul Minns tried to relaunch the group with a new musical direction
After few concerts in London with a line-up including Glen, Paul, Diprose and Marcus Beale (one of the few documented gig was at the Roundhouse), in 1978 the band recorded the well-known psychedelic pop album "Apocaliptic Anthems", realised by Ma.So. only in 1991 as the Hydrogen Jukebox with a new title: "Prophecies". Getting in touch with Brian through Jacob Brookman (a musician who played with him in a blues band)  it is a good chance to have some memories from that obscure period (even if he says "I'll try to answer your questions as well as I can, but it was a long time ago!"...) and to reveal some little mysteries (i.e. the band who recorded the pop album was a new line-up of the Third Ear Band, not a new version of the Hydrogen Jukebox!).

When you met Glen? Which was your experiences in music until that period?
"I started off playing in a local band in 1967 that played covers of songs by Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, The Foundations, Lee Dorsey, Sam and Dave and other soul acts of that period. I was also a member of a folk club and met Steve Ashley there.

After a few years Steve invited me to join his band Ragged Robin and we played on the college and University circuit alongside acts such as Steeleye Span. We also got to know Fairport Convention very well. Steve had recorded an album of his songs using a variety of musicians before we became a band, and he

wished to replace the opening track 'Fire and Wine' with the version that Ragged Robin had worked out. We used Dave Mattacks on drums as our regular drummer was unavailable for the session. We also recorded an instrumental 'Morris Minor' at the same time. That was the only material that made it on to record for the band until we were asked to play on a record by Anne Briggs who was a highly regarded folk singer and
one- time partner of Bert Jansch. 
We recorded with her in one session and the album 'Sing a Song For You' was eventually released in 1996.
I also played in a local band where I met Mick Carter. It was just a loose collective of musicians playing covers and we played mainly in pubs."

Did you know the band before meeting Sweeney? Which was your opinion about the music the band played?
"I didn't know the band before I met Mick, but he told me he had been jamming with Glen and Paul and various bass players for a few years. It seemed that the bass players were unused to playing free form music that had no structure. I wasn't familiar with the band's music but I knew of the band's reputation. When yet another bass player left I volunteered my services and began weekly rehearsals at Paul's house in Sheperd's Bush".
Do you remember the exact period of your experience with the band?
"I believe I joined in 1977 but there is no record of that fact".

There's just only a documented gig with you in the band: do you remember other concerts played?
"There were other gigs but I think they were all with Marcus Beale. I don't think we played any gigs with Jim Hayes. The gigs were at Bath and Cambridge, but I don't know the dates or the venues".

When you played live with TEB the tracks was from their repertoire or from the new pop album?
"I believe I only played four gigs with the band and all the songs were from the Hydrogen Jukebox repertoire. Glen was the leader and he was totally committed to this project and the gigs were set up to promote those songs. To pad out the gigs there was a lot more improvisation if my memory is correct".

Did you record something on live or at rehearsals?
Jim gypsy Hayes
"Sadly, nothing was ever recorded at rehearsals. I can't imagine why that was the case as I know there were some great moments of Paul and Mick trading licks that I would love to hear now. I think the simple explanation is that none of us thought to take a tape recorder along to the sessions, which seems a great shame now". 

How it happened the band became The Hydrogen Jukebox? Any memories about it?
"All decisions about the band's direction were made by Glen. For instance, it was he who decreed that the band would be song based. To that end he turned up each week with a set of lyrics which Mick and I would devise music for. As you know, this did not sit well with Paul as the songs had to have structure, which ran counter to the Third Ear Band ethos. As none of us were singers we had to audition for one.

(L-R) Diprose, Hayes, Carter, Phil Shaw (recording engineer) and Sweeney.

We landed on Marcus, and he was there for perhaps a year or more, but he was young and open to constant criticism from Paul, with the result that some days we would hardly play any music at all. When he eventually left we tried again and got Jim. Although it was a tough challenge for Jim to learn all those words and invent melodies for the songs, I think he did a marvellous job. So we were all set to record the album and, just before we did, Paul quit, which was a terrible shame as he had some beautiful parts worked out.

Jim 'gypsy' Hayes
All this time we were the Third Ear Band and Glen went round the record companies trying to get a deal for it, but failed.
After the recording was done and could not be sold, the band fell apart immediately. Jim lived in a caravan in the country and had no telephone so we had no way of contacting him, and we never heard from him again. As Paul had left the band we had nowhere to rehearse and Mick, Glen and I were heartbroken that the 2 years we had spent bringing the album to fruition had not found a buyer, so we split up. 

It was a few years later when I got a call from Glen saying the album was out and there was a copy for me. So I went round his house and there I found out that he had re-titled the band the Hydrogen Jukebox. Mick and I didn't know that was going to happen, but I can understand it, as it is completely at odds with the Third Ear Band as everybody knew them".

Mick Carter during the sessions of "Apocaliptic Anthem".

What do you think about the album realised?
"I love the music on the album, but I suppose I'm a bit like most people who find the lyrics a bit hard going. There was no way that Glen would alter them so that's what we had to work with".

What do you remember on the rehearsals and the recordings at the Dansette Studios in Kent?
"The recordings were done live over two days. There was no rehearsal as we had worked everything out before. The recording was made in one room with just a few microphones and there are very few overdubs... I played two bass parts on "Kingdom of the Brave" but I don't remember much else about the sessions as they were so long ago".

Which was the problems to play electric bass in that kind of music and your specific ones?
"When I joined the band Glen had already decided that the band would be playing songs to which he supplied the lyrics, so the music had to be structured as opposed to the freeform stream of consciousness style that was at the heart of the Third Ear Band. As there wasn't a vocalist at that early stage rehearsals would generally start with Glen laying down a beat and the rest of us throwing in ideas that we either had pre-formed or which occurred to us as the sessions went on. We would hang on to the ones that promised to be most suitable for the lyrics that we were complementing.  

TEB or Hydrogen Jukebox? Another shot from the sessions.
I didn't have any difficulty playing electric bass in this scenario as Mick was there playing electric guitar, albeit heavily modified by his extensive pedal board, so the band wasn't set up to be in any way like the Third Ear Band that everybody knew. I only had a rudimentary knowledge of the band's output and I had never seen them live, so, in some ways, I was unburdened by having to make the music become a continuation of that ethos".

Why the band split? What's happened to the guys, expecially to Jim?
"As I said, the band split up at once as no buyer could be found for the record and we had lost our rehearsal facility as Paul had left the band. And Jim just disappeared, never to be heard of again".

Mick Carter and Brian Diprose listen to the album recordings.
Still in contact with Mick? He's a very good person, I remember him as one of the more kind and positive guys I've ever met in music biz. "Yes, I'm still in touch with Mick... We speak on the phone from time to time but I don't see him very often. My sister is married to his brother by the way..."

After this experiences did you play in other bands? Any records recorded/produced?
"I carried on playing and still do. I worked with many fine bands, mostly in blues/soul settings but the music scene had changed completely by the time we finished
the album. 

Brian Diprose with bass playing with Jack Brookman & Old Street Blues
I was in London and all the bands were young and playing punk rock or very stripped down aggressive music and I had to search hard for bands that still wanted players like me. I have been lucky to have kept playing ever since, mostly with covers bands, but with good quality musicians. My current band is The Bluerays which consists of players who have all been professional at some stage of their lives. You can find out about us if you go online to 'Lemonrock...The Bluerays." [go to http://www.lemonrock.com/bluerays]

             The Bluerays at The Three Wishes Winchmore Hill in August 2015

How would you define you?
"I don't know how I define me... I'm a pretty good bass player who likes reading, crosswords and the occasional pint of good beer."

Thanks for all Brian, very interesting and charming...
Brian Diprose with Jack Brookman & Old Street Blues
"Hope that's of use to you Luca. It's been so many years since those days that it's hard to be totally accurate with the details. It's a shame how the music business had taken a completely different track by the time our record was finished but it's great to have it on CD as a reminder of what we achieved. My biggest regret is Paul leaving just before we recorded it. I know that diehard Third Ear Band fans will see it as a sell out, but I think it has a charm and character that stands up on its own...".

Brian Diprose rough discography*

Steve Ashley - "Stroll On" (LP - Gull Records, UK 1974)
He played bass on "Fire and Wine". A CD edition, titled "Stroll On Revisisted", was realised in 1999 by Market Square Records as MSMCD 104. 
Glen Sweeney's Hydrogen Jukebox - "Prophecies" (CD - Materiali Sonori MASO CD900018, Italy 1991)
Anne Briggs - "Sing a Song for You" (CD -  Fledg'ling Records FLED 3008, UK 1996)
Recorded in 1973 but realised in 1996.
3P Sweet - "Too Close to the Moon" (single - Record Records RR1, France 1982) 

* "Sorry, Luca, I made a few other records that never sold and I can't remember them now, but I mostly play live".

no©2016 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)       


  1. Tim Branston here, I wrote and recorded Too Close to the Moon with Brian. Did quite a few gigs, one memorable one when supported by The Anabolic Steroids. Great band, never heard of them again.

    1. How you doing Tim great to see your still playing.

      All the best Tony Watkins

  2. I used to do the sound for Tim and later 3 p sweat. Those were fun days in Tooting