Alice Through the Looking Glass

Band members               Related acts

- John Ferdinando - organ, flagelot, glockenspiel, guitar,

  bass, mandolin, piano, autoharp, percussion
- Peter Howell - organ, flagelot, glockenspiel, guitar,

  bass, mandolin, piano, autoharp, percussion




- Agincourt

- Ithaca 

- Tomorrow Come Some Day





Genre: psych

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Alice Through the Looking Glass

Company: Tenth Planet

Catalog: TP-032

Year: 1997

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG

Comments: 1997 official reissue; 

# 335 of 1,000 pressed

Available: 1

GEMM catalog ID: 4

Price: $50.00

Cost: $1.00


Based in the small Sussex village of Ditching, The Ditching Players were the town's small amateur theatrical group.  In 1968 the group decided to stage a play based on Lewis Carroll's 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' and asked John Ferdinando and Peter Howell to provide the music for the production.


Playing in a string of local rock bands such as The Four Musketeers, Merlin's Spell and The Tudor Mood, Ferdinando and Howell were mainstays on the local music scene and the perfect candidates to score the project. The two were happy to oblige, using it as an opportunity to combine Carroll's work with their own growing interest in musical experimentation.  With help from a small Philips tape recorder, the pair managed to record what unintentionally has become a classic slice of English folk-cum-psychedelia.  The results are even more astounding when you remember that the pair were tasked to compose incidental music for the play.  The fact that Howell and Fedinando managed to create a charming musical score that carried the plotline while incorporating a wide array of intriguing studio effects (backward tapes, vocal effects, etc.) makes for an amazing record.  So what's the hype all about?  Well in simple terms what you hear is a mixture of dialogue from the play, rounded out by original material written to kick the story along.  The album actually includes three tracks that were cut from the play - "Through the Looking Glass Wood", "The Walrus and the Carpenter" and "Whose Dream?".  At least one review we've seen compares the project to something out of The Moody Blues catalog.  That comparison isn't too far off, however we'd modify it to add that it sounds like The Moody Blues had they lived in a small English village.  Quaint, low-keyed and largely acoustic, material such as the instrumental "The Alice Theme", the freakout ballad "Jabberwocky"" and "" is completely engaging.


Unveiling their work during play rehearsals, actors and stagehands started asking for copies of the music.  Howell and Ferdinando had 50 copies of the soundtrack pressed by the small London-based SNP label.  When those sold out the pair had another 23 copies pressed.  That was it for the original run.  Twenty two years later the LP was officially reissued by Tenth Planet.  The reissue was limited to 1,000 copies.


"Alice Through the Looking Glass" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) The Alice Theme (instrumental)   (Peter Howell - John Ferdinando) - 

2.0 The March of the Chessmen (instrumental)   (Peter Howell - John Ferdinando) - 

3.) Jabberwocky   (Peter Howell - John Ferdinando) - 

4.) Dance of the Talking Flowers (instrumental)   (Peter Howell - John Ferdinando) - 

5.) Alice's Train Journey (instrumental)   (Peter Howell - John Ferdinando) - 

6.) Through Looking Glass Wood (instrumental)   (Peter Howell - John Ferdinando) - 


(side 2)

1.) Dum and Dee (instrumental)   (Peter Howell - John Ferdinando) - 

2.) The Walrus and the Carpenter (instrumental)   (Peter Howell - John Ferdinando) - 

3.) Alice Meets the Knights (instrumental)   (Peter Howell - John Ferdinando) - 

4.) A Sitting On a Gate (instrumental)   (Peter Howell - John Ferdinando) - 

5.) Her Majesty Queen Ace (instrumental)   (Peter Howell - John Ferdinando) - 

6.) Whose Dream? (instrumental)   (Peter Howell - John Ferdinando) - 

Over the next decade Howell and Ferdinando continued their musical partnership through a number of obscure and highly sought after projects including Agincourt ("To Fly Away"), Ithaca ("A Game for All Who Know"), and the self titled projects "Tomorrow Come Some Day", and "Friends".  Howell subsequently focused his time and talent on his job with
the BBC Radiophonic Workshop where he was tasked to compose theme and incidental music for various television shows, including updating the original Dr. Who theme song.

 There are numerous highlights scattered throughout the album, but pride of place must go to Jabberwocky, an impressive melange of treated vocals and backward tapes that is worth the price of admission alone.  With its drowsy atmosphere, myriad sound effects and languid organ-based sound, Alice certainly invokes the spirit of the psychedelic age, albeit from the perspective or photogenic Middle England rather than hallucinogenic Middle Earth.  Rarely can an album or book have ended with a more apposite line.  Life - what is it but a dream?"




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