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The life and times of the Third Ear Band. 268 pages.
Giant Sun Trolley were legends in the earliest stirrings of what became the underground in London in late 1966, coming to full flower in the summer of 1967; doubly legendary because they never recorded anything. One of them, Glen Sweeney, went on to form the Third Ear Band and remained both deeply integrated into - and a spectre at the edges of - the experimental / psychedelic / pop explosion that followed - and whose reverberations still echo. Their first album, Alchemy, released for a dubious EMI, won them fans for life, and their soundtrack for Roman Polanski's Macbeth - recorded with Paul Buckmaster in the band - made them famous. Then it was over. They now rate a passing mention in historic accounts, but hardly anyone knows anything more about them. But it's worth knowing. Their experiences and trajectory, as unpacked and laid out here, draw back a curtain on this most febrile and complex period of British popular music history - because they weren't products of this era but amongst its creators. Their stories are not tidy. In addition, the various witnesses to this small drama have little to lose by being honest, which they mostly are. That's what makes this book important. The core - and most of its content - is first person testimony: dozens of interviews from the time, and more recently, with the main protagonists, who reveal where they came from, what they were, what they wanted, the way they understood what was happening - and what part they played in this fascinating, marginal, instructive and all too human story - before it all fell apart. Always misfits, the Third Ear were nonetheless '60s underground family and their story is worth hearing all the way to the end. Taking Sweeny as the main character also sheds light on the mindset and the ideas flying around at the beginnings of what became the Summer of Love clearly showing its roots in American Beat culture, currents in contemporary art, proto-environmentalism, utopian politics, mysticism and, of course, drugs - though little of that is directly addressed; it's just there, holding everything else up.
A must for every Third Ear fan, this volume is comprehensive, with every gig and recording and event laid out in order and considerable detail. It's also very readable - even if you know nothing and could care less about the band. The dreams, the rise, the fall; the shadowy comeback; the end; what was lost and what was gained.
And there's character, lots of character straight from the brain to the paper. You can inhale a sense of the mechanics of hope, exploitation, psychology and history here - not because that's what the book is about (it's not; it's a gathering of facts and memories) but because they animate the testimonies and career trajectories the form of the book lays bare. It's a leaf caught in the tide - with the mundane consequences.
Included with this limited edition book is a CD containing the 6 previously unreleased tracks that were intended to have been for their third album had EMI not suddenly dropped the band as the musical climate changed. The masters were then lost and were rediscovered during the making of this book, in Denim Bridge's attic.
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