Roy Harper – Ewell Technical College – circa1971

Roy Harper – Ewell Technical College – circa1971

 

Seeing Roy back in the late sixties and early seventies was exhilarating. He was writing all those great epic songs and was full of passion, fury and joy of life. It was in there and it simply had to come out. The songs flooded out of him. I didn’t think anything could match McGoohan’s Blues, but there was I Hate The Whiteman, How Does It Feel, Me and My Woman, Highway Blues, Hors d’oeuvres, Same Old Rock, One Man Rock ‘n’ Roll Band, Another Day, and loads more. There seemed an endless stream. Each performance seemed to launch another gem that sent your mind reeling and he was hitting out at that establishment in a way that no one else did. He was on fire.

There was such a force to his performance that you were swept up in it. The power was extraordinary. He was that snarling bullet, blue-jeaned James Dean, Jack Kerouac and Che Guevara all rolled into one.

Ewell Tech was typical but also exceptional. It was the early seventies, around 1971 I believe, but I could be wrong. I never kept a diary. At that time I was doing one or two Roy gigs a week. I was enthused. It demonstrated a number of things about Roy. Firstly – he loved performing. Secondly – he wasn’t doing it for the money. When he got into it there was no stopping him – literally there was no stopping him.

Ewell technical college was one of those places on the college circuit. It was rather typical. We were in a big hall with uncomfortable wooden seats and the place was packed. Roy was at the peak of his power and was pulling in a good audience. The crowd were receptive and into it.

Roy went on at around nine o clock and was due to finish at eleven. It was one of those gigs that ignited. Despite the dinginess of the hall with its poor acoustics and the discomfort of the chairs the gig was on fire.

Eleven came and went. At eleven thirty the caretaker, who had to tidy up and lock up, came on to have a quiet word with Roy but to no avail. At midnight the lights went off but Roy continued to play in the dark. The audience thought this was great and the mood actually went up a degree. Ten minutes later the electrics went off. This was a game now. Roy did not want to stop. He was really into it and having a great time. He continued to play acoustically and the audience simply pressed closer to hear it. There was a real party atmosphere.

It looked like we might be here for the night and despite the last busses, trains and whatever nearly everyone stayed.

At one thirty the police arrived. Roy took no notice. They bodily picked him up under the armpits, still clutching guitar, and carried him outside where they deposited him on the steps while a disgruntled caretaker locked up, glared at everyone and stalked off into the night.

It didn’t stop there.

Roy had not had his fill yet. He set up on the steps with everyone gathered round and proceeded to do another hour and a half. At three it was time to call it a night and we all set off into the dark, happy bunnies. There was much chortling and laughter as people wandered away.

What a night!

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