Roy and the Epic Songs – Circle
For me, Roy is only fully realised in his epic songs. Even though I greatly appreciate his other songs; he has written some incredible love songs, for me it all comes together in the great epics. These are the songs where he has the scope to develop his ideas, his poetry and marry them to the music. The result is that they work on many levels.
I regard those epics in the same way I regard a concerto by one of the classical greats. The songs move through different movements where the music reflects moods and feelings. In addition, there are the poetic lyrics with their layers of meaning.
Each of these epic songs plays through a gamut of human experience. They work on so many levels. You can put your headphones on and lose yourself in the music, the melody and flow of the different movements or you can listen to the lyrics and dissect the nuance and understanding in the way one would with a great poem.
The epic song provides Roy with the scope to delve deeply into his subject and explore it. I like that. Very few other artists achieve that depth and complexity.
It started with his second album – Come Out Fighting Ghenghis Smith. Circle burrowed into his early life, the pressures, home, school and the system. It was the first attempt to explain his philosophy of life and rejection of the rat race. It combined a number of different musical melodies and timing, with poetic lyrics in different metering, along with spoken sections. It was a song like nobody else had ever created. Roy was using the music and poetry to explain his thinking and not merely creating a hit song. The essence was the meaning, what he was trying to explain. This wasn’t merely a song; it was a work of art.
Circle appeared in the early days just after I had first met him. I loved the first album but Circle took the experience into a different dimension. This was someone trying to communicate – not just making music. I was eighteen. I could relate to everything he was saying. I too had felt those pressures from home and school. I too had rejected that whole career, money-making, status-ridden lifestyle that I was being directed down. I was also rebelling against the hypocrisy of God, Queen and Country. I too was looking for something more meaningful, fulfilling and honest. I wanted to be allowed to be myself, to live life, experience it and avoid the pitfalls of a boring career, marriage and a slot in society. I wanted Jack Kerouac’s world of ‘Go’ and Roy was living it. So, I sat in my room and played it endlessly, absorbing and analysing the words until I had absorbed it all.
Roy had given me his phone number and I’d ring him up from a phone box, feeding threepenny bits into the machine, enthusiastically gabbling, asking, explaining what was in my head, and Roy put in his three penny-worth. Those were the days.
Circle was just the start – the toe in the water.
What followed were the other great epics – McGoohan’s Blues, I Hate The Whiteman, The Lord’s Prayer, Me and My Woman, The Game, Work of Heart, One of those Day’s in England, Burn the World.
So many gems.
These epics, to me, brought everything together into a full experience. They are so much more than songs. It is music and poetry in panorama – you get the full picture.