March 14, 2010

Third and last part of excerpts from "Tales from the Embassy" trilogy written by Dave Tomlin, Giant Sun Trolley founder.

This is the third excerpt from Dave Tomlin trilogy inspired by his experiences in 60's/70's at the squatted Cambodian Embassy, in London.
Here you can read about an happening Giant Sun Trolley (Tomlin, Sweeney and Dadem) played in Oxford in 1967...

Morning comes to the Free School, but precisely what morning is a consideration long abandoned by the faculty and whatever guests they are entertaining, who themselves have been drawn here by their desire to attain the same exalted state.
At the Free School, or ‘School of Freedom’, as Smith prefers to think of it, the ruthless eye of this collective regard had quickly identified the first major obstacle to that freedom, and time, together with day of week, has been entirely excluded from their discourse and eradicated entirely from any serious consideration. Serious because the occasional visitor, wandering into the cellar on some local errand might innocently enquire: ‘What time is it?’ To be met with much mirth from the faculty. However, this nameless morning infiltrates the blanket of sleep which enshrouds the recumbent forms and first one, and then another yawn their way up into a sitting position and begin warily watching each other to see which will succumb first to the desire for tea. 
P. B. Rivers sits up and runs his hands through his hair. ‘Why have we woken up?’ he asks the room at large. P. B. Rivers teaches 24hr existentialism at the school and frequently starts the day with difficult questions of this kind. Smith, always ready to stick his neck out says the first thing that comes into his head. ‘Well why not?’ he asks. ‘You’ve got to start the day somehow.’ P. B. Rivers fixes him with a long, cold look. ‘Have you ever considered,’ he says. ‘That there may be other ways to start it?’ 
Smith hasn’t considered this and it is way too early to do so, what he wants is a cup of tea and he leaves this challenge to the others. ‘As Jane Austin might have said,’ he thinks, ‘P. B. Rivers has no small talk.’ Finally, conceding defeat, young Nick gets up and puts on the kettle and before long is handing round the cups. Nothing is now heard for a while but the grateful slurping of tea until a bell rings out twice. Everyone looks at P. B. Rivers, for had the bell rang once it would have been Smith who received this attention. As a small notice on the doorbell indicates: One ring for a music lesson. Two rings for a dose of 24hr existentialism from P. B. Rivers. Should Smith be called upon he will begin at once explaining the fundamental laws of music to the visitor. ‘Music,’ he begins on such occasions, ‘can only do either one of two things. It can go up. Or it can go down, no other direction is possible.’ So far he has not been refuted, although sometimes among the contentious he encounters a suggestion of volume or speed as alternatives, but these he easily dismisses as secondary considerations. 
However, this morning the bell has rung twice and P. B. Rivers goes to open the door. It is Scipio Hawkins, one of the prime-movers in setting up the school, and he seems to be the bearer of some exciting news. But P. B. Rivers forestalls him, he has a duty to perform and he takes the role seriously. ‘Why did you wake up this morning?’ he asks. But Scipio nimbly fields the question. ‘To come and tell you something, I only rang the bell twice because I didn’t want a music lesson,’ he says. ‘Then speak on,’ says P. B. Rivers magnanimously. ‘There’s an event coming up next week in Oxford,’ says Scipio. ‘International Times is supporting a movement for spontaneous street theatre which a group of undergraduates are fomenting. A few of us are going up to give our support and some music would be really cool.’ 
P. B. Rivers is interested in none of this, his mind focused entirely on the present he has no room for such poncey notions as some “other” place called “Oxford”. ‘If that’s all you got up for then you should have stayed asleep,’ he says dismissively. ‘But now you’re here you can have a cup of tea, which is the real reason that you and everybody else wakes up.’ Smith’s ears have pricked up on hearing of this opportunity to take his guerrilla music to the streets, for now that the Portobello is closed to him he is at a loose end. ‘I’ll see if I can get a couple of Moonjelly men’ he says, and later, when the London contingent arrives at Oxford, Dick and Zen have come to stand shoulder-to-shoulder. Through the warren of narrow streets the revellers march, their banners waving amongst a sea of hippy flowers and a whiff of incense is in the air. Scipio, his silver lamé jacket discarded and dressed now in an outrageous suit of psychedelic camouflage moves here and there, flickering through the crowd like a crackerjack with camera at the ready. And Zen, somewhere behind Smith is punctuating the whole thing with his alchemical beat. 
Booma, booma, dinga, 
booma Booma, booma, dinga, booma 
Dick is prancing well ahead, his trombone swinging from side-to-side as he bellows out a military march, which, conceding a little to Smith’s musical approach, he is making up as he goes along. Smith is playing in precise five second bursts, a sudden swirling cluster of random tones, followed by five seconds of silence; he finds these kinds of yogic disciplines a satisfying contrast to the exuberant circumstances. The grey stone walls of church and college echo back the trombones roar and the piercing squawk of saxophone. Back and forth from steeple to tower the echoes ring and Dick is in his element. Forgetting all his good intentions and carried away in his excitement he now begins putting in a bit of elephant. ‘Oh, no,’ thinks Smith. He had warned him about this. ‘Whatever you do, don’t put in any elephant,’ he had told him. ‘Oxford is a quiet city and if you start rampaging it could lead to serious trouble.’ In his next five seconds of silence Smith moves forward to restrain him. Dick however, is far beyond any constraint; he is unleashing the raucous trumpeting of a mad bull-elephant as it lays waste to all around. Smith gives up, resigned to the disaster that must surely follow. Then, the wild bellows suddenly cease, and Dick stops dead in his tracks. He shuts his slide with a snap, turns, and runs off down a side street as fast as he can. Smith stares after him wondering what has got into him. ‘Maybe he left the gas on,’ he thinks, and is about to formulate more theories of this kind... but he is only allowed the one shot, for the next moment he feels a firm grip on either arm and he is in the hands of the police. They bundle him roughly into the back of a van and through the back window he watches as a line of policeman link arms and attempt to funnel the crowds into a side street. Suddenly from amongst the students a huge roll of ‘Mellomex’ silver plastic film appears and begins to unroll. The students take it at either end and hold it up like a long mirror stretching from one side of the street to the other. The police cannot get past this barrier, for as they attempt to push through in one place it only tightens it in another, and now the two ends begin an outflanking movement. Getting behind the police they start to roll up their line and try to wrap them up like a gigantic parcel, but just in time to avoid this they withdraw to mount an offensive elsewhere. Smith sees no more for the van starts up and he is on his way to the police station. Sitting in the back he is puzzled by only one thing. How did Dick get warning in time to do a runner? 

At the station they push him towards a heavy iron-sheeted door and his saxophone, still slung around his neck, tilts forward and a bunch of daffodils, slipped into the bell by a young hippy girl during the march, slides out and falls to the ground. Smith stops abruptly, and the policemen who surround him come to a halt and watch, as slowly and deliberately he bends down, and collecting up the daffodils places them carefully back into the bell of his saxophone. He is just about to put the final touches to the arrangement, wondering how long he can spin it out, when he receives a violent push from behind. He is launched forward straight at the iron door and only just manages to get his hands up to save his face, but his saxophone, hanging loosely before him smacks into the unyielding door with a nasty crunching sound. The delicate shell-like bell crumples on impact. ‘Well, I suppose I asked for that,’ he thinks, and having conceded this, wonders if the gesture had been worth it, and then... ‘Probably not,’ he thinks. The police station is small and ill-lit and the desk-sergeant looks up as they enter, his nameplate, gold lettering against the varnished wood says: Sergeant Hillter. ‘Name?’ he barks and then... ‘Address?’ Smith gives him both and the Sergeant looks at him with narrowed eyes. ‘London,’ he says. ‘Come down here to stir up some trouble have you?’ Smith doesn’t answer; he no longer feels so bolshie. ‘Have you got any identification?’ asks the Sergeant next, but Smith has nothing of the kind about him, he knows no one in Oxford and cannot even provide a phone number to check on. ‘Then we shall just have to keep you till we find out who you are.’ says the Sergeant, handing a bunch of keys to one of the constables, and Smith is taken along a short corridor to a cell and locked up. 
The cell has a small barred aperture through which he can watch the reception area; he doesn’t even want to think about his saxophone. A long boring hour has gone by when a sudden flurry of activity seems to electrify the dark-uniformed denizens in the reception and a swirl of bright colour lights up the gloom. Smith catches a flash of something at the front-desk and the Sergeant stiffens in his chair. It is Scipio Hawkins, his psychedelic camouflage amplifying the low-wattage bulbs of the room to mesmerise the Sergeant with its dazzle. ‘I think you’re holding a friend of mine here,’ he says. ‘A certain Mr Smith.’ His manner is confident and there is the suggestion of an edge to his voice. ‘We do have such a person here,’ says the Sergeant stiffly. ‘But he has no identification.’ ‘I can vouch for him,’ says Scipio. ‘Oh, yes,’ says the Sergeant. ‘And who might you be Sir?’ Scipio takes out his wallet and hands over his card. 
The Sergeant takes it and reads: 

Mr Scipio Hawkins. Editor. 
International Times. London. 

The Sergeant frowns, he has never heard of the paper, but these are London people and the International sounds impressive. ‘There will be a report in tomorrow’s paper about today’s event,’ says Scipio, ‘I shall write it myself and it can come out one of two ways. We can thank the Oxfordshire Constabulary for their wise forbearance etc., since I don’t suppose anybody wants to be accused of Gestapo tactics. And,’ he goes on, placing a significant finger on the Sergeant’s nameplate. ‘Names might well be mentioned, and typographical errors are endemic in the newspaper world.’ The Sergeant makes no answer to this, Scipio’s psychedelics seems to have completely thrown him, after all, anyone with enough bottle to wear such a garment might well have a lot of clout and he wants no trouble. Getting to his feet he retires to an inner-office from where, after a brief conference with its occupant he returns with a bunch of keys. ‘We’re letting him go,’ he says, and his tone gives nothing away. Smith watches as the Sergeant comes to his cell and he hears the welcome sound of a key turning in the lock. Outside, evening is falling and the setting sun paints the old stones of the ancient city in a ruddy glow as Scipio and Smith walk back to a flat where their friends are gathered. ‘What happened to your saxophone?’ asks Scipio, noticing the smashed bell of the horn. ‘They ran me into a door,’ says Smith, regarding the ruined instrument. It is a bad omen. It looks as if, like it or not, he is being drawn in McCafferty’s direction and the thought is depressing. ‘There’s something about me the police don’t like,’ he thinks, and looking at his damaged horn he sees immediately what the finger of fate has so obviously pointed out: It is not he the police dislike. It is his saxophone. ‘It’s my saxophone!’ he bursts out. ‘I must be playing the wrong instrument.’ Not being party to Smith’s inner thought processes, Scipio has to take this at face value. ‘Yeah. Wow man,’ he says. But Smith has plunged once more into his latest revelation. The saxophone. The most bolshie instrument on the planet. Its associations with jazz making it decidedly hip, and hipness raises the hackles amongst the Philistine. The status-quo represents the fixed; while the hip is fluid and changeable, and change is anathema to the powers-that-be. Now Smith can almost hear the voice of the establishment raised to admonish. ‘If there’s any changes to be made around here, we’ll make them. All right? Then we’ll tell you about it.’ Smith is now at the edge of a major shift; his saxophonic days are over for sure. But what next? ‘Something you don’t have to put in your mouth,’ he thinks ‘The Banjo? No. Something more respectable like the violin. Then... That’s it; the violin of course.’ Having made this decision, the mere intention has given him an inner gravitas. As a violinist his credentials will be assured, already he feels the sense of dignity appropriate to such a respectable member of the musical community. ‘I’m going to take up the violin,’ he announces, and Scipio, a man who has rung many changes himself, takes it in his stride. ‘Wow man, yeah,’ he says. 

Back at the flat Smith catches sight of Dick and Zen. ‘How did you know they were coming?’ he asks when he gets Dick alone. ‘I saw them reflected in my trombone,’ he says. ‘The bell is like a rear-view mirror and I saw them coming up from behind.’ ‘Why didn’t you warn me?’ asks Smith. ‘There wasn‘t time,’ answers Dick. ‘You had just started a burst and I wasn’t going to hang about counting up to five till you’d finished.’ But Smith is not mollified. ‘Well if you hadn’t put in so much elephant we might have got away with it.’ he says". 
(©2010 Dave Tomlin - from the book "Tales from the Embassy" vol. 3)

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

March 12, 2010

Second part of the excerpts of "Tales from the Embassy" trilogy written by Dave Tomlin.

Here's the second part of Dave Tomlin's "Tales from the Embassy" excerpts. You can read here the meeting with Dick Dadem and Glen Sweeney and the first Giant Sun Trolley appearance at UFO Club
Behind the name of Skipio Hawkins there is John Hopkins, the manager at UFO... 

"(...) Noticing Smith’s lack of interest he falls silent and directs his gaze upon the man in the corner, who, without a pause in his booma-booma dinga-booma, repeats in the tone of a Magus: ‘This is where it’s at,’ and then, a considered afterthought: ‘All the rest is funny hats and hoo-ha.’ 
Smith later recruits the man, whose name is Zen Glen, to accompany Dick and himself that night at UFO. ‘What will we play?’ asks Dick. Again Smith can only speak for himself. ‘Well I’m going to be a bird,’ he says, ‘probably a seagull.’ 
The idea of rending that desolate squawk intrigues him no end and his saxophone will lend itself well to the task. Dick is beginning to relish this new approach to music and his naturally zany nature leaps at possibilities. ‘I’ll be an ostrich then,’ he announces. ‘It has to be a big bird because of the size of my trombone.’ ‘But ostriches don’t sing,’ says Smith. ‘And anyway we don’t both have to be birds.’ 
Dick thinks for a bit, and then... ‘A lion,’ he shouts with glee. The idea excites him, ‘I’ll be a lion roaring in the jungle,’ he says. 
Now Smith knows he has struck gold and found two worthy companions for Moonjelly’s Saturday night sojourn into the ridiculous, the outrageous, and the incomprehensible. Putting their heads together they work out the finer details of the coming performance. ‘Dick will go roaring through the jungle,’ says Smith. ‘Zen will let them know where it’s at, and I’ll soar around screeching and squawking. It will be a riot,’ he says. Zen now leaves to pick up his drums while Dick goes off for something to eat, and they arrange to meet later in the Tottenham Court Road. 
From the left a large magenta blob comes wobbling across the field of view. The upper part is swollen and barely able to contain its fullness, while below it trails nebulously away into a long trail of misty red particles. Soon, however, two bright orange discs, close together and following parallel trajectories speed into view and head directly across the path of the blob. A collision is unavoidable, and when the impact occurs the orange discs sink deeply into the blob and seem about to pass right through to continue their course beyond. But the greater mass of the blob slows their progress, bringing them to a halt barely half-way across. Captive to its greater momentum, they now yield all independent movement and join the blob in its stately progress to the right.
This however, is a minor incident in comparison to the larger threat that now challenges the blob. For behind it there appears a fast moving wave of emerald green, the trailing wake of an even larger blob which, unable any longer to contain its huge mass spills over from above and engulfs the magenta blob in a great wave. For a few moments the entire field is green, and then: Blip! From deep within its emerald centre the magenta blob re-emerges, and: Blip! Blip! Its two orange eyes appear.
Light shows of this kind are the latest thing, and in every available corner enthusiasts set up their screens and drip their coloured blobs onto slides held in the beam of a projector. The medium is evolving fast as they vie with each other to produce different effects and like alchemists guard their techniques closely. The venue is dimly lit but for the splurging colours from the light shows; and the air is perfumed by clusters of incense sticks which project smouldering from every cranny, sending their smoke to drift in languorous clouds across the flashing projector beams.
The concourse is crowded with a carnival of revellers dressed in a motley of freaky costume. They come to trip, to dance and chew the psychedelic fat. It’s Saturday night at UFO! This is where it’s really at.
Upon the podium a black-clad figure leaps, its bowler-hat aflame with candles perched around the rim. An amplified voice thunders out across the concourse, and a demon drummer wildly flails his sticks. The figure whirls around and round the candles spinning a wheel of fire as if, shape shifting, it has stepped from another and crazier world.
A silk top-hat projects like a chimneypot above the sea of mop-headed hippies, bobbing around on the head of a lone dancer in full evening-dress. Complete with silver-topped cane he dances a solitary jig, as if unaware of the rebel costumes of his compatriots. Foxy girls with heavy mascara slink in the candlelit shadows, where sugar-cubes receive their globule of nectar from the tip of a glass dropper, to be sucked like lemon-drops by hopeful trippers intent on adding spice to the night.
Tralee, her usually wild hair combed and piled high for the event, has dressed in black and stands regal as a duchess talking with Harry Flame. Harry has made no concessions to the carnival air, but wears his usual tatty raincoat and grubby collarless shirt. He is above and beyond such irrelevancies and is here merely to sniff the psychic atmosphere, and perhaps distil a potent line of poetry from some small but significant incident.
Skipio Hawkins; Impresario and host of these weekly revels flits here and there, his silver-lamé flowered jacket flashing as he goes about his thousand-and-one Saturday night scams.
The podium is hosting a succession of flamboyant groups, who each take the stage with their retinue of devout followers. For this is the breeding ground of future superstars, and from here they launch themselves like rockets high into the new musical firmament.

‘What time are we on?’ asks Dick.
‘Around four o’clock,’ says Smith. ‘Only when the dancers are completely exhausted will they be in a fit state to hear what we have for them.’
‘Right,’ says Dick. ‘And then we blast them with the jungle stuff.’
‘Don’t be too sure,’ says Smith. ‘That’s only plan “B”. Plan “A” is whatever happens when we get up there.’
Moonjelly waits and bides its time. The energy is still too high and the atmosphere taut with an expectation which they will not even attempt to fulfil. Moonjelly is something else altogether.
Much later, Smith goes looking for Zen and Dick. Their moment is fast approaching and the dancers are working themselves up into a final frenzy. The podium is now bathed in a ruddy glow from a bank of rosy-hued spotlights, while the latest avant-guard of psychedelic rock-groups reflect this colour and cavort, strutting like pink flamingos amidst a maelstrom of electronic guitars.
‘Get ready,’ says Smith, having found Dick and Zen. ‘This is their last number and we’re on next.’
The dancers, now utterly exhausted, are dropping like flies to the floor and seem, to Smith’s eye, to be about ready for an earful of Moonjelly.

Zen sets up a simple mid-tempo beat:
Booma-booma, dinga-booma
Booma-booma, dinga-booma

He closes his eyes and is off, drifting away into his own rhythmic self-hypnosis until oblivious to anything else at all.
Dick raises his trombone and lets forth a terrible roar; then, as if not satisfied with this he unleashes a torrent of roars and fearsome growls.
Smith is already squawking away in his highest register. Up here above the clouds he dips and soars, sending his harsh call out over the recumbent figures that litter the floor before them. Ten minutes of this and Dick, not one to hide his feelings looks fed up. He walks across the podium and speaks into Smith’s ear.
‘I’m going to put a bit of elephant in,’ he says truculently, as if daring Smith to object.
‘Brilliant,’ says Smith, much heartened by his new friend’s genius. Dick starts screeching in his upper harmonics before descending into a trumpeting bellow, which, were the space not confined, could have been heard as far afield as Farringdon or Charing Cross. Smith however, sticks to his seagull and flies now above a bleak foreshore where craggy rocks sit in white necklaces of broken sea, as his forlorn avian song comes echoing from the bell of his tenor-saxophone.

When Moonjelly has blown itself out Dick puts away his trombone and makes off. Smith is about to leave the podium himself, when he notices that Zen, eyes still shut, continues to beat out his...
Booma-booma, dinga-booma
Booma-booma, dinga-booma

Smith taps him on his shoulder and Zen, from deep within his bongo nirvana opens startled eyes.
‘What’s happening?’ he asks.
‘We’ve finished,’ says Smith.
(©2010 Dave Tomlin - from the book "Tales from the Embassy" vol. 1)

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

March 10, 2010

First part of excerpts from "Tales from the Embassy", Dave Tomlin trilogy on his experiences in the Sixties!!!

You can read below the first part of some excerpts from "Tales from the Embassy" trilogy written by Dave Tomlin about his esclusive experiences in the Sixties.
Behind some nicknames you can discover well-known characters of the TEB story:
Zen Glenn is Glen Sweeney
Mr. Smith is the same Dave Tomlin
Dick is Dick Dadem
Moonjelly is the Giant Sun Trolley

Trios Eros is The Third Ear Band.
So now we have the rare opportunity to know some obscure facts of the past, as the happening in Kensington park that was the beginning of the so-called "guerilla warfare" ...

"No flowers for McCafferty
A police inspector from a central London station has telephoned the embassy asking to speak with Smith.
‘I understand that you are a friend of Mr Michael McCafferty,’ says the inspector.
‘Well I know him,’ says Smith. ‘But I doubt he has any friends.’
‘So it seems,’ replies the inspector. ‘And what about relations, did he have any family?’
‘I think he may have a sister somewhere,’ says Smith. ‘But why did you say “did”?’
‘Because he’s dead,’ says the inspector. ‘He was found floating in the river off Wapping Pier with a knife in his back and we’re trying to trace his next of kin.’
Smith cannot help him and the inspector refuses to give any further information.
‘I’m afraid the matter is still under investigation.’ He says, and ends the call firmly by putting down the phone.
McCafferty dead, and in such a fitting way, thinks Smith. It seems to him almost inevitable that given his approach to life he must end this way. He imagines the shadowy hulk of Wapping Pier. A full moon hangs over the river. Street lamps on the far shore dapple the surface with dancing reflections and a black hump quietly breaks the waterline turning lazy circles in the shadows of the pier. McCafferty, face down and transfixed has gambled once too often and someone has finally called him out. Nevertheless the news appals Smith, and he sits on the stairs near the telephone casting his mind back to the time when McCafferty had first appeared on his event horizon. 

It is the summer of 1966 and revolution is in the air. Something new is trying to be born and the establishment ethic is nervous, shifting uncomfortably on its ponderous foundations. McCafferty has arrived at the London Free School with a short haircut and a copy of Auden’s poems in his jacket pocket from which he is fond of reading aloud. He renders the lines in a forceful manner, the words articulated precisely and delivered in a sarcastic tone, as if the poem lays bare the pathetic and sorry state of his listeners. Smith’s connection with the school had begun the previous winter, when at a meeting called to found a free school in Notting Hill he had volunteered to teach a class in music composition. He had subsequently spent many chilly evenings in the dank basement in which it is housed waiting for the hoard of culture hungry locals to come pouring through the door. His waiting had been almost entirely in vain. One or two pensioners had ventured down looking for a cup of tea, a few bolshie teenagers hang around for a while restless and looking for some action.
‘I’m here to teach you how to write music,’ says Smith, and they look at him as if he is mad.
‘It’s the Thursday night down at the scout-hall syndrome,’ he thinks. ‘We’d do better running a bingo club.’ 

Around about this time, what with the ozone in the air from the seismological shifts taking place in the culture and one thing or another, Smith embarks upon a course of madness which involves the casting away of all possessions and the abandonment of his rented room. He has decided to take to the streets with only the clothes he wears and a wooden flute. Having just finished reading Herman Hess’ Magister Ludi, the image of its hero leaving all behind and casting himself upon the whim of circumstance has appealed mightily to his imagination. It is spring and the weather is fine; he feels confident that by nightfall of the first day providence will have provided him with some shelter.
Providence however, decrees otherwise. After spending a fruitless day wandering the streets of Notting Hill, eyes alert for the chance circumstance which will open the door into a new life, he finds himself late that night still in the same predicament. The streets are deserted and Smith is forced to conclude that nothing much is coming his way at the moment. It is getting dark and a little chilly, he thrusts his hand deep into his trouser pocket and feels a flat tapering object. It is his key to the cellar of the Free School and he cannot resist the opportunity it offers.
Letting himself quickly in he goes to the cellar below where he takes off his shoes, bundles up his jacket for a pillow and climbs upon a small billiard-table which has been donated to the school. Morning comes and he rises early and departs unseen. The next day brings nothing in the way of doors to new worlds, and since he had moved to the area barely six months before he knows no one. Night falls and he must use the key again. And again, and again, and again. But he cannot see any harm in it and no one is any the wiser. After a while he gets the old iron range working with wood taken from local skips. He finds a large can, cleans it out and cooks himself the odd stew with vegetables left by the market barrows in the Portobello road. He is surviving in this way when he meets Bob, an old friend and trumpet player who has nowhere to stay. Smith, feeling that he has a moral obligation to help a friend invites him to shelter for the night at the school.
‘But we must leave early in the morning and allow no one to see or hear us,’ says Smith, and Bob accompanies him down to the cellar that night. And the next, and the next, and the next. Pretty soon a friend of Bob’s turns up. He is a painter and on the street. Bob Dylan is singing, “How does it feel to be out on your own?” and Smith doesn’t say no.
Things are now beginning to happen for him. He has recently collected a few interesting musicians together and formed a group called Moonjelly, and chief amongst these is Zen Glenn, a drummer who uses certain alchemical principles to reduce his technique to a minimum. He produces a simple rolling beat from which he will not deviate whatever the mode or speed of the music. The group play at various neighbourhood venues where their abstract improvisations are looked upon favourably by the freaks of the time. Zen has also picked up the sense of change which lies sparkling in the air and joins Smith one day in a spot of musical guerrilla warfare. Free concerts are the latest underground revolutionary fashion and Zen and Smith have decided to donate their talents to such a concert. They tell no one of their plans or the purity of the ‘happening’ would be sullied. One afternoon they descend upon Kensington Gardens where the bandstand is empty. They mount the steps to the podium.
Smith has recently borrowed an old tenor-sax from Bob’s brother and now he takes it from the bag in which it had been hidden, while Zen unwraps the cloth from a flat Sufi drum. It is a sunny day and the park is tranquil, dotted only here and there by the odd dog-walker or perambulator-pushing nursemaid. ‘It is a good day for a concert,’ thinks Smith, and raising his horn to his mouth blows a sudden high stream of tones which whirl around each other in a tight cluster. He blows hard and long, while behind him comes a mesmerising throb as Zen applies his alchemical skills to his drum and gives support to Smith’s shrieking horn. This performance is no adolescent defiance of authority. It is the creation of an event, a spontaneous happening bursting into life out of the sheer joy of living.
‘Well that’s the theory,’ thinks Smith. ‘Now let’s see how many notes I can play before a park-keeper or the fuzz turn up.’ He applies himself with vigour to his horn, riffling up and down on the keys his fingers striking willy-nilly where they fall, while from the horn comes a wailing stream of honks, shrieks and cacophonic bursts of iconoclastic music.

As the sound reaches them, the figures which dot the landscape turn their faces towards the bandstand and some of the dogs set to barking. But Zen and Smith play blithely on, their music permeating to the far reaches of the park where a keeper on his rounds hears the distant racket and begins his long determined plod to put a stop to it. They see him coming long before he reaches the bandstand and continue the performance until, stern of visage he mounts the steps to the podium. Unscrewing the neck of his saxophone Smith drops the instrument back into the bag, while Zen’s drum disappears with equal speed. They do not wait to hear the municipal admonitions but leave and make for the exit, the keeper’s voice following them across the park.
‘You can’t do that,’ he shouts. ‘Music’s not allowed in the park!’
Smith is glad to have found Zen who doesn’t get nervous in these situations. He has discovered that Zen is an ex-burglar who because he is smallish in size kept watch at the bottom of the ladder while his two accomplices went inside.
‘Yeah man,’ says Zen, when Smith asks him about it. ‘I was third man in a ladder gang.’
‘Do we have to play everything at the same speed?’ complains Dick, a trombonist who joins Moonjelly occasionally.
Zen’s Zen emerges like the proverbial uncarved block.
‘If you want to go faster, go ahead,’ he snarls, and means it.
They are playing a gig at a local church hall and the audience are interested in this altercation and clearly think that the dialogue is part of some multi-media set up. ‘Well sod you!’ shouts Dick, who loses his temper easily and he begins speeding up, pumping the rhythm faster and faster. But he is on his own since Zen stubbornly refuses to budge. Smith, torn between the two, opts in this instance for a speed around half-way between the drum and the trombone. Now he has upset Dick for his lack of support and ditto Zen for his betrayal and they glare angrily at each other, while their audience look on with delight. The performance has real depth and the music is wonderful...".
(©2010 Dave Tomlin - from the book "Tales from the Embassy" vol. 1)

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

March 08, 2010

Johnny Rotten selected a Third Ear Band's track in an old interview!

During an old interview with Tommy Vance for Capital Radio (July 16th, 1977), Sex Pistols/Public Image Limited vocalist and frontman Johnny (Rotten) Lydon selected “Fleance” 


from TEB’s “MacBeth” soundtrack between the records he liked in that period. 

Also David Tibet (Current 93) on an unedited transcript of "The Wire" Invisible Jukebox interview (May 2001), tested by journalist Mike Barnes, said that "I quite liked the early Edgar Broughton Band. Third Ear Band, my favourite album was Macbeth and my favourite track on that album is that vocal track [Fleance, with vocals by the young Keith Chegwin]. Steve Stapleton is a big fan of the Third Ear Band. They were a band I liked the idea of but the music is a bit too frenetic" (read it at ).

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

March 02, 2010

An analysis of TEB music by guitarist & electronic wizard Mick Carter.

Mick Carter, the last guitarist and engineer of the band, involved with Sweeney in the Hydrogen Jukebox project at the end of Seventies, on October 1996 wrote for my old book an interesting analysis of TEB music.
Now a Senior Archivist near to pension, Mick is an electronic experimental guitarist (à la Derek Bailey), the main responsible of the last TEB musical evolution.

"A note on the Third Ear Band's music
Third Ear Band music is based on scales/modes/ragas. To take only one example, "Alchemical Raga" (on "Brain Waves") uses the Lydian mode alias Raga Yaman (the Greek and Indian versions of the same scale) whose notes are (as we play it in A): A B C# D# E F# G# A compared with standard major scale (or Ionian Mode, or Raga Bilaval): A B C# D E F# G# A.

Mick Carter  on January 12th, 1989 with TEB at "Psycho Club" (Genova) 

Just the use of one change of note in a scale gives it its characteristic "flavour" (Ionian - positive, outgoing; Aeolian - sad, melacholy, introverted; Lydian, a kind of superIonian - open, positive but slightly less "grounded" than the Ionian: this is my subjective view; I'm sure the modes/ragas affect different people different ways).

It has always intrigued me how, despite changes in players from recording to recording (and despite even more radical personel changes during the intervening periods) there seems to be a continuity in the Third Ear Band recorded output from record to record, a retention of identity and approach in what has always been an improvised music and, one would think, dependant on individual and individualistic skills and attitudes.
Within this, the music also seems to progress sonically from recording to recording, a factor which can be partially explained by a gradual change in instrumentation - from acoustic to electric to electronic - partly by gradual changes in the recorded presentation of the band.

"Alchemy" is chamber music for somewhat mutated oboe quartet; the instruments are all acoustic, the ambience, apart from where the band motors off into the reverb, that of a concert hall. Double tracking is minimal.

The "Four Elements" album keep the same acoustic line-up but, although the reverb is used  in the same way as on "Alchemy", instruments are layered upon layer to give the dense texture which, at least on "Fire", gave the recording engineer such problems and which, together with "real world" sound effects, gives the album such an expansive sound.
The soundtrack of "Macbeth" ("Entr'acte"): although a  film soundtrack album, and thus approached somewhat differently to the other records, we see the first entry of electric (bass and guitar) and electronic (VCS3) instruments. Multi-tracking and studio effects are now an integral part of the sound, although necessarily undestated and non-intrusive.
"Live Ghosts", as a live recording, is obiously restricted by practical contraints, but (and from here on I am obviously less able to be subjective) the sound harks back to the "Macbeth" soundtrack and pre-echoes the album to come.
The cello has gone, replaced by electric guitar, which attempts a greater expansiveness and timbral range, but the band  is still three-quarters acoustic.

By "Magic Music" only two strictly  acoustic instruments remain, the reeds and drums, and the violin  and guitar, electronically modified, together with  the reintroduction of a later form of synthesizer, further broaden the sound out into all the ambiences possible in a studio recording.

"Brain Waves", on some tracks at least, features only one acoustic instrument - the drums. Electric violin, electric guitar, wind and guitar synthesizer all combine in the virtual world of studio electronics to produce a large and variegated sound of "orchestral" expansiveness.
Mick Carter 1996 handwritten text

Although I was obviously involved in the later recordings and, one would think, able to shape them according to my and the band's preferences, the music seemed to have a life and development of its own, a "wish" to expand and proliferate within its own identity, which, strangely, the players could only stand and watch and listen to".
©1996 Mick Carter

no©2010 Luca Ferrari