During the course of the sixties and seventies I must have gone to a hundred and fifty Roy Harper concerts. There’s only one person who might have gone to more Roy Harper concerts than me and that was Bob the Rucksack. He worked for British rail and had free travel all over the country. For a time in the eighties and nineties he made it his business to go to every single Harper concert and notched up some train miles in the process!
Some concerts stand out in the mind more than others. Often Roy would share the bill with other acts, usually as top billing. I’ve seen him play with some strange combinations – the Bonzo Dog Doodah Band, Al Stewart, Ralph McTell, Ron Geesin etc. But the strangest match-up I ever saw was Roy playing a small pub in London with Free as the support act.
I picked up Roy from Forwych Road on my motorbike. I had a 350cc AJS. Roy had a guitar in a case slung over his back.
Somehow we arrived at the pub. I’m not sure how because my ability to navigate is notoriously bad. I parked the bike on the pavement outside the venue. Roy gave me the guitar to carry in. I was a roadie for the night.
I remember walking into the changing room. Free were already in there and we were greeted warmly. We sat around and chatted.
There were no costume changes back then. You performed in what you normally wore. When it was time for the show to start Roy stayed low-profile but I went out to watch Free perform. There was no stage. They had set up in the corner of the pub. The audience, probably only a hundred or so, stood around and watched.
I had the privileged position of being right at the front. When Koss stepped forward like, an unleashed Goliath, to play his solos it sent Goosebumps all through me. He looked like a lion with that mane of hair and his playing was so powerful. The band were colossal and to be stood next to them as they played was an immense joy – to be that close!
After their set Roy came out with his battered acoustic, sat on a stool, used the pub’s mics and set off.
I was nervous.
Following the power of Free, I wondered how he was going to cope. But Roy was completely unfazed. The banter flowed. The songs fired. The audience was transfixed. It was a Roy gig.
What a night!