Roy Harper – How Does It Feel

How Does It Feel

 

Today’s Roy Harper track is off the Flat Baroque and Berserk album ‘How Does It Feel’.

I was thinking today that not only is this one of Roy’s most important songs but it is probably the one that has had the biggest impact on my life. I first heard it live back in those heady days of the late sixties. It must have been 1969. I would have been a young long-haired maniac aged nineteen or twenty who was a permanent fixture at Harper gigs. I wasn’t going to sell out or compromise. Life was a big adventure.

The sixties underground was in full swing and there was still an optimistic vibe. You could recognise fellow travellers in an instant. This was the time of camaraderie and sharing. The zeitgeist was different in the underground.

I can only speak for myself but I did not want what was on offer. We were being programmed to fit in, join the rat-race and be a cog in the machine of society. The idea was to make lots of money, buy a big house, big car and demonstrate that you’d made it.

I opted out of that one. I’d been reading my Kerouac and I wanted something more meaningful. I did not want to be the master’s right-hand nose. I wanted to live, travel, explore and love every minute of it.

I viewed society and a career as purgatory. Society was controlling, hypocritical and selfish. It was a warmongering, elitist machine built on xenophobia, greed and status.

The trouble was that if you dropped out of the machine where did you go?

There seemed few options. You could live off a creative endeavour – music, art, dance or writing (I tried my hand at writing) – or you could try to become self-sufficient (back to the land) or you could exist on the periphery of society, selling candles, dope or homemade trinkets and living frugally in a van.

Well I’d watched my parents just getting old (at least they weren’t on the bandwagon) and I wanted something more.

I looked for something else. I didn’t want a god strapped to my wrist. I didn’t want to be two-faced.

But, as with George Orwell’s Keep The Aspidistra Flying, the more you try to avoid the trap of money the more it gets you.

I would sit and listen intently to this song. The words all struck home. The interesting thing was that Roy was not singing it with great force and fury. It was more wistful, reflective, subdued and even defeatist. There was no way out of this machine. There were no answers. It had you. Even Showbiz was part of the rat-race. Whatever you did you were part of it.

Well I didn’t want to be a big wheel so I found my way into teaching where I felt I could at least try to get another generation thinking and questioning the tenets of the machine we were part of.

It was a compromise. It meant that I did have two faces, one set of words for here and another for there, I was part of the machine and I did always vote for the lesser of two evils, but I still kept most of my ideals intact.

The mindless world was still at my heels and I still railed against it – futilely – and often I felt that most of me had died – but I felt that I still had some vestiges of integrity.

The song had a huge impact on me. It helped me focus on what was really important in life. It made me more aware that there was much to life that work, money and status and to keep those other priorities to the fore. Life was for living not existing.

There were times when I felt bona fide while swimming against the tide, but I still ended up as the master’s right hand nose. I think we all do – even if we think we aren’t!

It was interesting to see that the song was picked up on for the Margaret Atwood TV production of The Handmaid’s Tale. So appropriate.

It is a song that has meant a great deal to me down the years and still does. I was privileged to be part of a select group who actually got to see Roy record it at Abbey Road studio. What a moment in history! I cherish those memories.

It’s not real kid!

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhscUPTaE0M

 

 

Roy Harper – How Does It Feel

 

How does it feel to be completely unreal
How does it feel to be a voter
How does it feel to be a voluntary heel
I wonder who’s it is
I see you queuing up outside Saint Peter’s gate,
You can feel bona fide if you ride with the tide
But it’s not real

How does it feel to be out on your own
How does it feel to be thinking
How does it feel to be out on the run
With the mindless world at your heels
I wish I had no answers to put to you
Cos they got me so high tied I feel
Like most of me has died
And it’s real

And outside on the dragon
And inside in the cold
Mummy’s on the bandwagon, Daddy’s just getting old
And through the blood spew heavens
The roar of lust complains:
Please let me in I have no sin, but you know I’m not real

And how does it feel to be the master’s right hand nose
How does it feel to be lieutenant
How does it feel to be stood on someone’s toes
With a leech bleeding you for rent,
When you say you want a bit more rank
You wanna be a bigger wheel
You can feel magnified if you hide in
Your pride… It’s not real

And how does it feel with a white flag in your fist
How does it feel to have two faces
How does it feel with your god strapped to your wrist
And him leading you such a chase
You got one set of words for him,
And you got another for me
You’re gonna feel mystified when you’re identified
Don’t worry kid it’s not real

And outside on the dragon
And inside in the cold
Mummy’s on the bandwagon, Daddy’s just getting old
And through the blood spew heavens
The roar of lust complains:
Please let me in I have no sin, but you know I’m not real

And through the blood spew heavens
The roar of lust complains:
Please let me in I have no sin, but you know I’m not real

2 thoughts on “Roy Harper – How Does It Feel

  1. Opher: I think Roy Harper was nihilist and he felt people did not take his music seriously. But, he was not serious about how seriously he took his music. But, why would people think his music was a put on, like Spinal Tap…

    1. I’ve no idea why people would think that. I’ve known him for fifty years. He’s a man of great integrity who is always serious about his music.

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