Making contact with Roy Harper for the first time in 1968 -Extract from Ruminating on Roy Harper.

Making contact with Roy Harper for the first time in 1968 -Extract from Ruminating on Roy Harper.

I am presently rewriting this book. I should be through in a week or so and then I will start thinking about publication.

I have used this long-standing relationship to provide a backdrop to my life and the times I have lived through. I found it useful to illuminate both Roy and his music and the impact it has had on my life.

This is a short extract – an account of the first time I met the man face to face.

I’d be grateful for any feedback.

Meeting Roy was a lot easier than I thought. I had no interest in being a fan. I was fanatical but not about Roy as a star, as a musician or performer. I was intrigued with the man. I needed to know if he was genuine and I knew I would connect with him if he was all he seemed. I wanted to make that contact with him on a personal level yet making any kind of friendship seemed absurd. There was a gulf between us. Roy was, whether we liked it or not, up there on a stage and I was a young kid in the audience. Roy was in his mid-twenties with a wealth of life experience and I was starting out with a brain only starting to gel out of the pupation of adolescence. We might both share a perspective on society, life and loves and a common fascination with Kerouac and Ginsberg but we were still worlds apart. Just what did you say to a living hero when you met them?

For once my imagination and quickness of mind and tongue failed me. Or rather my imagination worked all to well. I could clearly see myself in my mind’s eye tongue-twisted and embarrassed mumbling my lines as the imperious Harper looked on in bored bemusement. Regardless I had to press forward. There was no going back. I rehearsed some stupid lines in my head and was determined to approach the man and say them. Life has since shown me that the only thing holding you back is your own subconscious. It sits on your shoulder whispering in your ear about all the potential disasters awaiting you. It is an expert on your every weakness and fear.

Needless to say it worked out totally different to the pictures I had built up in my mind. I hung around the stage as Roy collected his stuff together following a gig at some college or other – I think it was the Queen Mary College. It didn’t take long for Roy to pack up. He travelled light in those days. All that was required was that he put his acoustic back in its case and collected his black notepad of lyrics, poems, ideas and thoughts together. I like the image of Roy gathering his thoughts. There were no Pas or cables, no gizmos or foot-pedals. Back then it was just Roy, an acoustic guitar and a couple of mics courtesy of the venue – unadulterated and naked. He sat and spilled it forth.

I stood there nervously waiting with my heart pounding and a lump in my throat. This was hardly the hipster of cool that I saw myself as; it was much more the adolescent fool. Still – nothing ventured – nothing gained.

Roy looked over and saw me. His face broke into a big warm smile and he strode over and grabbed me by the hand.

‘I’m glad you came over, man,’ Roy enthused shaking me by the hand. ‘I’ve seen you at a number of gigs and I was going to come and speak to you. It’s good to see you. Here. Here’s my number. Give us a bell and we’ll get together for a smoke or something.’ With that he scribbled on a page of his notepad, pressed a piece of paper into my hand and was gone, off to collect his paltry pay, and off back on the bus home to Kilburn to the flat he shared with Mocy, Nick and a range of pets. For gigs further afield he would catch the train or even hitch-hike but this was just down the road for him.

I had said nothing. I had his telephone number. I was ecstatic. It was like arranging your first date or something. I could not believe how it had gone. Roy had asked me to give him a ring and for us to get together and I had not said a word. I had not made a fool of myself.

I look back at that now and am amazed at the complete openness of the man. He was so friendly and generous to a complete stranger of a kid – so genuine. It is a measure of the open-hearted person he was back then.

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