Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hats Off To Roy Harper

I first heard of Roy Harper in about 1971 because my friend Robin at college had a couple of his albums.'Stormcock' and 'Flat Baroque And Berserk'.They contained such great songs as 'I Hate The White Man','Another Day', 'Tom Tiddlers Ground' and the supurb 'Me And My Woman'.I really liked this music.Although it was folky it was also real spacey, designed for listening to while stoned which we were most of the time.We used to meet up in the morning in somebodys room and have a cup of tea.There weren't enough cups to go around so i always ended up with the tin mug.It was too hot so i had to wear a glove to drink my tea!.Anyway, we used to have a cup of tea and a joint and listen to Robin's albums.

Robin got a flat in a little house in a hamlet called Garth near the village of Penycae which was near Llangollen near Worlds End and The Panorama.Very isolated.One night we went to visit him and we had some acid.Then one of us remembered they had to make a phone call and we had to walk to a phone box about a mile away.We were in the phone box when the acid kicked in, it was really bizarre, tripped out of our heads in a phone box halfway up a mountainside in North Wales.Then we staggered back to the house giggling our heads off and Robin put on his new Roy Harper album called '.Lifemask'.Peaking on acid it sounded incredible.The first track was Roy talking'"There once was a man in the old days who used to follow the weather".I can't remember the rest of it but it blew my brains out, thats for sure!.
Further great albums followed by Roy,'Valentine' which featured the epic 'Twelve Hours Of Sunset'.Roys backing band at this time included Jimmy Page, Keith Moon and Ronnie Lane.They all played with him at his concert at The Rainbow in 74.Roy was best friends with Led Zeppelin who recorded 'Hats Off To Roy Harper' and Pink Floyd who had Roy sing the vocals on 'Have A Cigar' on the Wish You Were Here album.Paul and Linda McCartney also sang on a Roy song 'One Of These Days In England'.HQ was also a great album which includes one of my all time favourite Roy songs 'When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease' which is fabulous and features the Grimethorpe Colliary Band.Roy never made it big in the USA unfortunately.I think the aforementioned song tells us why, maybe he was too parochial, too English, anyway, never mind.He was never that big in Britain either although he did have a large cult following amongst the more discerning music lovers.

I didn't actually see Roy live till the late 70's, early 80's.Michael Eavis used to have some little gigs at Worthy Farm in the barn next to the farmhouse.They didn't have any publicity, it was just by word of mouth around the Bath area.We saw such bands as Atomic Rooster there and one Sunday afternoon i remember seeing the Pipers Of Joujouka, who were these Moroccon Berber tribespeople who Brian Jones had recorded with in the 60's, that was amazing.Anyway one Saturday evening we went over there and saw Roy Harper.That was a great gig and i remember him doing this brilliant song about William Wallace who was a Scottish hero who fought against the English until he was captured and tortured and killed.
I also saw Roy at the small but famous Moles Cub in Bath.After the gig i started telling him about how great he was and all that bollix and he just stared at me as if to say"Fuck off, you asshole", which i did.I will never forget Glastonbury 81 though.I think it was the Friday night and Ginger Baker was headlining.Roy was on before Ginger and Roy played and played.The music had to end at a certain time and Ginger got worried that his set would be really short so he walked onto the stage and told Roy to fuck off.This caused a big row and although it didn't come to fisticuffs it was really funny to see two music legends pushing and shoving each other around the stage.I also remember seeing Roy at a festival down in Cornwall called the Elephant Fayre.That was great as well.Roy was also really good when he appeared at Glasto 82, he was the act before Van the Man on the Sunday afternoon which was one of the most memorable days of my life.

Decades went by and i gradually forgot about how great Roy Harper was until i went to see him at a venue near us,The Cheese And Grain' in Frome, this was about 4 years ago.It was a great concert and afterwards Roy happily signed albums for the fans and i had a little chat with him, he seems to have mellowed over the years and was very friendly.I think he lives quietly in Ireland now and i can't think of anything else to say except "Hats of to Roy Harper!".

I don't think the video's available on You tube really give justice to Roy but this is One Of These Days In England.

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