Roy Harper – The Lord’s Prayer – The Best Song Ever?

Is this the greatest song ever recorded? Is it the very peak of Progressive Rock? A twenty Three Minute epic!

I certainly never tire of it.

There is certainly nothing quite like it. It combines Roy’s poetry with the most amazing music. It is a song that covers the spread of human civilisation using Geronimo as the way in to the stone-age mind.

The main part of the poem was written while on acid and looking at a piece of artwork of Geronimo that was produced by James Edgar.

The lines are each poems to ruminate on in some revelry of meditation. There is so much in it.

The song was actually created by melding together the various components – the opening poem (originally called lifeboat) – the central poem and a song that Roy had already written for the end.

It appears to be quite repetitive on first listen and difficult to get into but the sophistication builds with each listening and there is a masterly use of studio techniques that really enhance.

I was fortunate to be at Abbey Road studio for the recording of this album and watched Jimmy Page lay down the incredible guitar in one take. He was rocking with it totally absorbed and note perfect.

I have discussed this many times with Roy and we are in agreement that this is probably the greatest piece of work he has ever produced – the culmination of all the elements of his craft.

I love it.

Roy Harper – The Lord’s Prayer

 

A) Poem
B) Modal Song parts I to IV
C) Front Song
D) Middle Song
E) End Song (Front Song reprise)
There once was a man from the old stone age
And he used to follow the weather
But now he’s got hung up on filling a page
Upon whether to go or together
And he’s been around for so damn long
With his whooping and wailing
Crushing questions between right and wrong
And impaling
The best he can hope and the worst he can fear
On the solstices of an illusion
A massive erection of pushy defence
Up the whole of the prosecution
Great solace the wound, great relish the pain
To be loosing the reins of a poem
To bleed from the tip of my tongue yet again
That part of my heart that is showing
These children conceived in the womb of this crash
To be the sponsors of nothing much more
Than rearguard directions of crossfingered sections
Of purpose pot – looking for nothing
But what is this last desperate vestige of heart over head
But another conjecture
No more the tomb of the martyred dead
Than the ghost of our parting gesture
And a hundred billion crystal balls
Represent a remarkable failure
To swell the song each moment long
At the counterpoint of nature
As four thumbs flick the tarot deck
And two tongues fork eight aces
Maybe sixteen fingers feel
The fool lives in two places
Where rosy lee can read this tea
And leave me living the story
A white dove with a hawks’ head
And an open mind before me
To sail for a land where life is a high
Not a word to be heard or be spoken
But the soul – woven web of the endless touch
Of a child who could never be broken
Who plays a new world on the brink of the ebb
As the fish cats prowl in the harbour
And now soars high on the beckoning tides’ long arm
To weigh his last anchor
And the sou’westers sing as the lifeboat bells ring
In the heads on the faces of changes
The heavens collage on Excalibur’s edge
The star in his movie converges
With fate, in his task, and doom on his brow
And a ship in his eye in a bottle
Who speeds, to force, to want, to have,
To find, to further fortune,
Who comes from the north, west, south and east
Of the passions of a spirit
With all the flight of the wildest beast
To ever spur a stirrup,
Whose pulse is the master of action
Whose heart is an everlasting secret
Whose arms are desire
Whose lips are welcome
Whose eyes tell stories
Whose head is a journey
Whose hands unfold
Whose feet fly
Whose face is the stained glass window of a continuous orgasm.
Whose being is mine
Whose wounds are precious
Whose poem is a flower
Whose gentleness is the devil
Whose identity is naked
Whose magic is a gift
Whose power is the transparent tapestry of history
Whose stamp is a freak
Whose wits are battles
Whose cousin is dog
Whose times are well fought for
Whose stoneage is clever
Whose poets know
Whose music is barbarian
Whose artists are helpless spherical mirrors spinning on the horns of a tidal
wave
Whose information is belief
Whose complexes become religion
Whose foundation is spread
Whose word is god
Whose books are projectiles
Whose message is must
Whose excuse is holy
Who passed it down to me;
Whose enemies are landmarks
Whose fear is himself
Whose hope is lust
Whose wish is fresh
Whose position is wary
Whose mottoes are covers
Whose name is hidden
Whose nose is suspicious
Whose technology is a tangent
Whose strategy is dissent
Whose thoughts are games
Who shares his lot
Whose ace is death
Whose fingers invent
Whose tales weave
Whose knots are tied
Whose mouth is open
Whose ears pierce
Whose direction is out
Who is aware of disease
Who feels the need to cleanse his soul
Whose style is disguise
Whose dream is innate
Whose woman is soothing
Whose little children are the delicate blossom of an orchard of electricity
Whose spell is for conflict
Whose quest is strength
Whose war declared
Whose suicide is noticed
Whose shadow is cast
Whose vibes you feel
Whose pedigrees are haunted
Whose age is unknown
Who takes under his wing
Whose freaks are real
Whose reality is hunger
Whose words are jagged
Whose tears are shed
Whose sick hang
Whose weak are kicked
Whose cities are bad shelters
Whose sanctuary is an idea
Who sat round a fire
Whose teeth chew
Whose faith is change
Whose old age comes quickly
Whose youth burns
Whose systems are white sticks tapping walls
Whose prize possession is the planet;
Whose wildest lust is escalation
Whose cul-de-sacs are feelers
Whose main route is massive
Whose run is a dance
Whose vehicle is fantasy
Whose home is high
Whose role continues
Whose bearing is savage
Whose saints are dead
Whose sons bark
Whose daughters play
Whose strength is against
Who grows in the sun and sleeps in the moon
Who roams deserets, plateaux, mountains, forests and plains with vast armies
Who am I
The spirit of those who were not here
And never knew it
Who left this prayer to elope
A lover’s journey through it
So children leave your windows open
Across the sea
Join our hands across the many land
You and me
Never grown old
Seeing without ever being told
Something to say
Shut away
Blackboard so grey
Anyway
I’m dreaming
Out along the back row
Out the window
Cast away
Be free with me
Today
Great heart mean streak
Spare part speed freak
I set myself a problem when I built myself a wheel
I got myself another when I rode a horse to feel
The plains underneath my reins
As fast as running water
And the big lady I’m playing with
Has played a game of poker
With me and cat and this and that
Until she scored my joker
Now we ride in chariots
By the side of one another
Her soft side
My rough ride,
Nothing to fear
The unknown soldier’s grave is already here
Is it too late
To create
A world made with care
Is it there
Or fleeting
Here today and gone
Tomorrow’s child
Looking so wild and free
Are we a choice
With no voice
Can it be
Great heart, mean streak
Spare part speed freak

19 thoughts on “Roy Harper – The Lord’s Prayer – The Best Song Ever?

  1. I may have said this already. Forgive me. This song is possibly the one I would take to that desert island. Complete, uplifting, heart rending. It burned itself into my soul.

      1. It’s been a while! Keeping the Harpic flag flying. Regular visits to see young Nick, with and without band. He has regained a full head of steam. And a pilgrimage to see Roy at Birmingham booked. Would be good to catch up with him personally there, but not sure how that will come about. I miss him so much.

      2. Hi Andy – yes Nick is certainly flying and I’m looking forward to seeing Roy again. I miss him too. There’s nobody comes near! Keep in touch!

  2. I wrote this piece a good while back for another blog, a fully fledged Prog blog and if I remember it received about two-thirds likes to a third dislikes which is about par for the course with these things. I’d written it off the cuff, on the hoof, with no pre-planning or anything and it was simply my truthfull expression of thoughts at that time. I make no apologies for it’s content nor for it’s poor construction. After all if Roy can get away with it so can I! I’ts been severely edited to avoid getting get too technical with blurb about chord changes etc., as that’s too boring for here and I took the liberty of changing the opening sentences to fit it in with your narrative. Here goes and sorry!

    It could be regarded as the very peak of Progressive Rock were this the only example of Prog that any listener heard. It isn’t for a number of reasons. The production values are extremely poor, the mix is wretched, particularly the backing track and the rhythm section. It loses all points on any score of a Prog epic because of that. I’ve heard more energy on a Gilbert O’Sullivan track. Page is buried in a mire of spaghetti fuzz and should have been able to provide considerably more guitar layers. Instead he’s left sounding weak and non-commanding. I would have wanted him to be more useful and similar to David Gilmour on Echoes. His guitar for Al Stewart’s Love Chronicles was so much more superior than this, with what sounds like a basic run-through trial before he actually gets around to cutting the real deal. Roy, always the mic hogger doesn’t know when to wind his neck in and the beginning pales forever upon the second listen. Losing these opening minutes with all that schoolboy erection stuff would be an improvement. It makes for a turgid listen on repeat play. Roy’s lyric track passes muster and perfectly engaging despite the production shortcomings up until the “Whose…” section, which very shortly becomes wearisome and utterly trite – as in dull of account of overuse trite. With verses such as “Whose artists are helpless spherical mirrors spinning on the horns of a tidal wave” and “Whose little children are the delicate blossom of an orchard of electricity”, the listener is being deceived by verbal spaghetti until they read these lyrics for themselves and burst out laughing at the convolution of ineptitude. Some serious editing should have been employed by Peter Jenner in this instance as that’s what he’s being paid for. After all if he’s not going to give his full attention to the actual music content, he at least must therefore have time to peruse what he’s listening to coming from Harper. But no, alas, we’re subjected to five minutes going around in sonic circles leading to nowheres. Finally we’re spiraled back into where we started and it teeters along for a few uninspiring and sonically uninteresting minutes and fades into a whimper of an ending. The listener is left somewhat startled and questioning “is that it, where’s the ending?”
    What Roy originally had was a five minute number and was fifteen minutes short of a proper LP. It’s obvious to most that he simply cobbled up a load of surrealist imagery in the vain hope it would fill the empty gap. It did maybe but certainly not the energy gap. It may well do that for upon first listen and again maybe for the second. Thereafter, it’s quickly becoming all too clear that it’s just a project in waiting, a work in progress, an unfinished suite. An unfinished masterpiece even as some might say. We must remind ourselves that this was 1973 and Pink Floyd was doing this sort of thing so wasn’t it perfectly alright for another artist who is similarly non-commercial and has also been rolled on board the Harvest label roster, that they too should try for a side-long epic? Isn’t this the sort of thing that Harvest artists are supposed to create? In theory probably so, but manipulating a theory into the finished musical article takes a great deal of acumen and I don’t think Harper was as yet nearly ready for such demands on his creative skills. He’d already proved on previous albums that he could clearly hold his listeners undivided attention on several of these ten minute long mini-epics he’s recorded and he should have realised that to be his limitation of comfort zone, for himself and us. This one was a much bigger ask and a step too far. Better luck next time Roy.

    I still stand by every word I said there. In fact I’d probably be a lot more scathing were I to write an account today.

      1. It’s a review about a record Opher, nothing more and that would be in equal terms to as much as it pleases you as expressed in your introduction, wouldn’t it?
        If you want to kiss Harper’s arse, you’re welcome. I just don’t do sycophancy.

      2. Agree that some serious editing should have been made. It’s really boring to endure over twenty minutes and it was spoiled.

      3. Not for me or Roy. I love every second of it and Roy was considering lengthening it to double its length in order to develop the ideas and do it justice. That would be great.

  3. That very over used word annoys me a lot.
    Yes, Opher, genius on acid. Let’s discuss that … Discussion over.

  4. Like many I’d bought this for the Page appearances. Can’t hear what’s Progressive Rock about it. It’s a song-poem without a song and I can’t think of very many people with any knowledge of the Apache Indian chief Geronimo or the painter James Edgar that would help them understand what this is about. James Edgar was better known for painting the portraits of eminent Reverends, men of the cloth, than anything else. There’s a line in it “losing the reigns of a poem”, about half-way in I always lose the will to listen to any more and have to agree.

    1. I think you have entirely the wrong James Edgar. James was a cover illustrator and artist involved with Hipgnosis – who did the artwork for Pink Floyd and many others.

      1. You should have made yourself more clear with that. Having read your quote “looking at a piece of artwork of Geronimo that was produced by James Edgar.” what was I supposed to think? There’s only one James Edgar with any artworks hanging in any art galleries in this world of any note and you immediately lead me to suspect it was him – a genuine portrait artist and who had lived within the same time frame as Geronimo.
        This other, more modern, non-portrait painting, graphic artist and far lesser known James Edgar did NOT do the artwork for Pink Floyd. That was the domain of Storm Thorgerson, Hipgnosis’ principle artist.

      2. It’s alright, I got it when you explained 2nd time around and needn’t repeat yourself with the 3rd!

        Yes, I have heard of Hipgnosis, very much so in fact and own two rather large and expensive coffee table sized books featuring their works.
        Hipgnosis had three key designers, Storm, Aubrey Powell and Peter Christopherson. Between them they designed every cover produced by the company.
        Their most well known assistant designers and illustrators were Richard Evans, George Hardie and Richard Manning. Most of the pen and ink graphic illustrations were done by George Hardie. I’ve no knowledge of what James Edgar’s contributions were as I can’t seem to find any acknowledgement of him within these two publications, hence, why over the years, I was not familiar with his name as a Hipgnosis design artist. Perhaps he was only there for a short spell.

      3. Steve – I wouldn’t know. All I know is the close association with James Edgar and Roy Harper as a designer. I met him a number of times and was impressed with his work. As to what else he did I am unfamiliar.

  5. Steve, I’m glad you clarified what kind of ‘Reverend’, as that’s Cockney slang for something else entirely!

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