June 26, 2017

"Blackhill Bullshit", a very rare underground magazine by Blackhill Enterprises agency.

Blackhill Enterprises was the main agency of the Third Ear Band. Founded in October 1966 by Peter Jenner and Andrew King, taking the name from King's holiday cottage in Wales ("Blackhill Farmhouse"), it managed bands and musicians as Pink Floyd, Edgar Broughton Band, Roy Harper, Kevin Ayers & the Whole World, Al Stewart, Bridget St. Jones, Michael Chapman, Pete Brown... the cream of the English underground.

Andrew King and Peter Jenner with the staff at Blackhill headquarter
(photo ©Adrian Boot)
Blackhill made an agreement with E.M.I. and gave many artists (often produced by Jenner and King themselves)  to its subsidiary label Harvest Records managed by Malcolm Jones,  that published records from June 1969 to July 1985. Harvest catalogue is one of the most creative ever, a peculiar, unique mood for listeners to feel the end of '60's-beginning '70's.

Blackhill Enterprises staff with Glen Sweeney on the centre (beyond Andrew King) (photo ©Adrian Boot)

Judgements on Blackhill's experience are controversial: for Glen Sweeney and Paul Minns the agency was a mixture of improvisation and naivete; for Andrew King the Third Ear Band's approach to music biz was amateurish. "Blackhill was only interested in Art, TEB were only interested in Money (and sex and drugs)", stated a caustic King when I interviewed him. "EMI didn't know what they were interested in, but felt that should be money involved. There wasn't really anyone at EMI (except perhaps Malcolm Jones) capable of having a conversation with them. So Blackhill was always the go-between; and really Blackhill had no clear plans as to what we were trying to achieve.The TEB were so divorced from the normal sort of "act", that it was always difficult to see them as anything more than a sort of strange hobby; despite the fact that they sold a lot more records than more conventional bands (e.g. Kevin Ayers)."

Apart this, Blackhill was certainly an hotbed of creativity and inventiveness. They promoted the first free live concerts in England, made innovative graphics for posters, handbills, press releases, coining ironic promotional saying as the emblematic "No announcements, numbers lasting 15 to 20 minutes, art form or cons?" about the TEB's music (from the original tour programme with Al Stewart, January-February 1970).

One of the less known Blackhill's outputs, now very rare objects for collectors (one single issue was sold in 2013 for £40!), was the magazine "Blackhill Bullshit", a 16 colour pages plus cover published by Cornfield Music Limited and distributed free to concert promoters and agents in order to publicise agency's artists.

"After the first couple of issues (edited by Hugh Nolan), Adrian Boot took charge as editor, and designed the layout and artwork (the work of Robert Crumb, Kim Deitch, Simon Deitch, Wally Wood, Skip Williamson and Fred Pipes also appeared regularly).
The first two issues feature Mick Farren's pared-down autobiography, as well as Chris Welch on Ron Geesin, Pete Jenner's report from LA, features on the Battered Ornaments, Edgar Broughton, John Martyn and others, plus news of concerts, tours, and Implosion at the Roundhouse.
"Issue #4 announces Pink Floyd's July 1970 free concert in Hyde Park, and prints a full-page ad. for Phun City, with artwork by Ed Barker, and issue #5, amidst numerous, irreverent comments on the music scene, reports from various rock festivals, including Phun City ("One long boring rip off").

Issue #6 features a three-way interview with Edgar Broughton, Steve Broughton and Pete Jenner, and #7 solicits help for Bullshit's "massive legal costs… We're constantly being plagued with writs, constantly being sued for libel" (these included an obscenity case after apprentice vicars in Bristol were sent the magazine: IT #124 reported that "It is rumoured that the lovely Lyn of Blackhill didn't exercise her discretion quite enough when mailing out the mag, and the young vicars received a nasty cultural shock"). "
Issue 4 (see above) shows Glen Sweeney on front cover and Paul Minns, Ursula Smith and Richard Coff on the back. 
Glen and Paul never talked to me about this magazine, so it's possible they didn't give too much importance to it (infact it seems there are no many references to the Third Ear Band on the issues).

Just eight issues was printed from November 1969 to March 1972, when Blackhill started to have some troubles to stay in the market.

"Blackhill Bullshit" #1 (November 1969)

no©2017 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)   

June 19, 2017

An old friend of Paul Minns contacted the Archive.

Holy ways of the Net! Few days ago Nigel Wakeham, an old friend of Paul Minns, contacted this Archive just to tell me some memories about the old days in London.

Nigel wrote me this: 
"Paul and I were good friends in the early/mid-sixties but I lost contact with him when I went to work in Africa in 1970. Your archive is fascinating and the music is wonderful. I was very sad to hear about his death when I started looking for him. Regards, Nigel Wakeham".

Paul Minns' father (Francis Minns) with Matthew (Paul's first son).

So after that we had some chats by e-mail and he told me:
"My best story about Paul is of an occasion when we were drinking one Saturday lunchtime in the Finch's pub off Portobello Road when Colin McInnes came in (he was a well known British author in the Fifties and Sixties; maybe you saw the film adaptation of Absolute Beginners?).  Colin approached us and we got talking and he said that he recognised Paul.  What he did not know was that Paul's father who was an illustrator, had illustrated some of his books and he had obviously seen a resemblance in Paul.  He rather took to Paul and we went back to his flat and continued drinking and then he made a play for Paul (McInnes was gay and fairly outrageously so given the period).  Paul not being that way inclined was not interested but we had an enjoyable afternoon for all that!  Paul was at the time sharing an attic flat in Notting Hill with an aspiring poet called Robert (who I would really like to contact but I have forgotten his last name) and I used to visit them quite often.

Paul Minns and Mary Haynes married - Kensington Register Office, March 28th, 1969.

"I tried to contact Paul on my return from Africa quite a few years ago and it was then that I found out that he had taken his own life.  Very sad; he was a really nice guy and really full of life when I knew him."

"I don't think he was married when I first knew him which was earlier than 69, maybe in 64 or 65 and he was then definitely living in Notting Hill (Elgine Crescent I think). Maybe I had lost touch by 69 as I was then in my last year of school of architecture and was working day and night. I used to go with him to his music lessons (clarinet or oboe) with a very well known classical musician who lived in Chiswick (cannot remember his name)."

no©2017 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)    

June 12, 2017

Updates about Glen's book and TEB CDs...

Due a different planning of the catalogue (many records by Arthur Brown and Rick Wakeman!) and some misunderstandings with Gonzo, the new TEB live album will be available just from August 18th, 2017.
Recorded at Tuxedo Club, Piacenza, on January 14th, 1989, this is a great concert in a strange day-off tour date with a rare performance of Dave Tomlin's "Lark Rise" played by a wonderful line-up - Glen Sweeney (hand drums), Mick Carter (electric guitar & effects), Lyn Dobson (flute, sax) and Ursula Smith (violin).
For pre-order please go to Gonzo Website at  

The book
Now finished, it contains 25 poems, 3 manifestos, aphorisms, interviews with and about Glen Sweeney, memories of Paul Minns, Dave Tomlin, Steve Pank, Morgan Fisher, Clive Kingsley, Paul Buckmaster, Ben Meredith, Carolyn Looker, Andrew King, Linda Kattan...; posters, ads, photos, some of them from the family archive.
Cover and graphics by talented Martin Cook. The book is scheduled for September 2017.

Brain Waves
The reissue of the last Ma.So. album recorded in 1993, now deleted, will be available from September 2017. It will show a brand new booklet and one bonus-track.
For pre-order please go to Gonzo Website at  http://www.gonzomultimedia.co.uk/pre-orders.html.

Other projects/ideas around 
Gonzo intends to reissue that old 'strange' "Radio Session" CD made by Voiceprint in 2004 (21' only) enhanced with some live unrealised tracks. This CD is scheduled for next November.

Also, at the beginning of 2018 there's the idea to reissue the Hydrogen Jukebox CD "Prophecies" (now deleted, it seems the album circulated just in Italy...) with a brand new cover and  booklet. No unrealised tracks included, I guess. 

Another interesting project could be the publication of a full concert the band played in Mantua in February, 11th 1992, one of the last gigs ever played. An Italian TEB fan, friend of mine, Flavio Poltronieri recorded the concert and he's agreed to realise it...  

Still no news from Denim Bridges about the legendary Balham recording sessions (he's very busy with Reinassance on a worldwide tour), but I am optimistic about the chance to see it on CD one day...

no©2017 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)    

June 09, 2017

Inner sleeves as visual artifacts.

A very interesting and fascinating dimension of the vinyl album culture is the inner sleeve as a form of visual art.
Here below you can see Harvest Records inner sleeves in b/w and colour versions of TEB's albums.

A back cover of "Harvest Sweeties" anthology (German edition Harvest 1 C - 048-29 0772) shows some albums published at the time by Harvest, with "Alchemy" among them:

Here below you can see two promo posters from Folk & Progressive music Web sites:

no©2017 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)   

June 05, 2017

New sighting of Richard Coff alive and well in Florida (USA).

Richard Coff is alive and well in Davie, Florida, where he lives since the Eighties. As we know he founded and runs a school there for teaching the famous Suzuki method for violin.
There's a Web site of the school at http://www.suzukiacademy.org/ where you can find very interesting things about its activities, and a technical essay written by Coff himself in 1998 titled "Suzuki Violin vs Traditional Violin—A Suzuki Violin Teacher’s View" (http://www.suzukiacademy.org/suzuki-violin-vs-traditional-violin/).
It's a very stimulating point of view by 'our' violinist related to a long-standing debate between different schools of thought.

A recent photo of Coff playing a violin is available at the Suzuki Association Web site where there's a section (https://suzukiassociation.org/people/richard-coff/) dedicated to him with some informations about his career.

Through my friend Steve Pank I've tried to involve him into the writing of the book about Glen Sweeney and the Third Ear Band, but he isn't interested to it...

no©2017 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)  

June 02, 2017

Ray Stevenson's memories on Kensal Green cemetery TEB's photo session.

Ray Stevenson is a sort of obscure cult hero for many of us. It was him who took the first proper photo session of the Third Ear Band at Kensal Green cemetery (read at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.it/2010/01/teb-first-photo-session-by-ray_30.html), then obscure icons in popular music; years later (1976), after having photographed rock legends as Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, The Who, Fairport Convention..., he 'discovered' the Sex Pistols before they become "The Sex Pistols" and took some now historical pictures of them.
Having tried for many years to find him through the Web (http://www.raystevenson.co.uk/ his official Web site), few days ago, very surprisingly, he replied me and we had the brief conversation you can read below. He conscious that "as they say "if you can remember the 60's, you weren't there!", and this seems to be true for me"...

How old was you in 1969 when you shot the session with the TEB at Kensal Green cemetery? 
"I was 20 in 1969". 

When/how/where you met the band for the first time?
"I can't remember our first meeting. Glen, Carolyn and I would be at the same clubs [one of them was Les Cousins] and events and we gradually got to know each other."

Maybe at Les Cousins? They played there some gigs regurarly with Davy Graham...
"They played Cousins??? I really have no recollection of that, and I was there most nights. A visitor once looked at my Album collection and commented "You've got 3 of every genre!" I would say that they were the best of each genre... Bert Jansch, Fairport Convention, Hendrix, Stones, Pink Floyd, Peer Gynt Suite, My Fair Lady Soundtrack, Burundi Drummers, Gregorian Chant, Segovia, but it is Roy Harper that I am still returning to, but in digital form."

Who decided and contacted you to ask you to take the photos for the band?  
"I don't remember getting a commission for the session, most likely would be a random meeting and being asked 'Do you want to do a session?' That was how thing were back then."

Why was chosen just the Kensal Green cemetery? Did yoy recall something about that event? (when there was the session? which kind of camera you used for it?...)
"Kensal Green Cemetery was the bands decision. Probably because Hyde Park was featureless, there were very few suitable locations. Back then I had a Nikon-F and a Nikkormat, with 28mm and 135mm lenses, more importantly TRI-X Pan film."

Had you involved into the artwork of the "Alchemy" cover? 
"I had no involvement in the artwork of the Alchemy cover, but was delighted with the end product."

Later you took some photos of the band at the Isle of Wight festival (August 1969): do you remember anything about it? 
"Isle of Wight... So many bands, so many people, so many friends, so many years ago, I can't remember anything significant."

What happened to the photographs you took? Why some agencies (i.e. Rex Features) put on sale just some pictures (read at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.it/2017/05/found-four-never-seen-before-pictures.html)? Have you still got that old picture? Are you selling them?
"I still have (very nearly) all of my negatives from 1966 onward, my agency Rex/Shutterstock are digital, and have scans of my more useable images." 

Have you met the band later? 
"The last time I saw Glen and Carolyn was in Portobello Road, they had sailed their little boat from England, through the French canals, then sunk when they got to the Mediteranian. Very sad."

no©2017 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)