Anecdote – Jackson C Frank at a small club on Ilford High Street in 1969

Anecdote – Jackson C Frank at a small club on Ilford High Street in 1969

 

Jackson C Frank at a small club on Ilford High Street in 1969

Jackson C frank was a major singer-songwriter from the sixties though not too many people would know that. He was a regular at Les Cousin,  partnered Sandy Denny and persuaded her to give up her job and sing full time, was a close friend of Roy Harper (who wrote the song My Friend for him) and was a great influence on all those songwriters of that era. His first album, recorded in 1965, being groundbreaking. A beautiful, melodic album of well-crafted introspective songs that are haunting.

The Contemporary Folk scene had taken off in a big way in England. Donovan had popularised it and Dylan’s success had made acoustic music a viable commercial exercise but the whole scene had blossomed underground with the likes of Davy Graham, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. It had different roots to that of Greenwich Village in America, although there was a lot of overlap.

I stumbled across this folk phenomenon via a number of sources. When I was fourteen I had been introduced to Woody Guthrie and Big Bill Broonzy by a girlfriend of mine. Then Donovan had started playing on Ready Steady Go. It seemed to fit together. Donovan at the time put the same sign on his guitar that he’d stolen from Woody – ‘This machine kills fascists’. I liked that.

Then Robert Ede and Neil Furby played a part in my education. They were two school-mates. Neil nicked one of my girlfriends but he introduced me to Bert Jansch and John Rebourn, so I suppose that was a fair exchange. Bob had bought the Jackson album the day it came out (he was way ahead of the game) and lent it to me. I loved it. I was hooked right from that first hearing. It was perfect – the voice, guitar, melodies and lyrics all gelled for me. I immediately went out and bought my own copy.

So contemporary Folk Music became a big part of my life.

The final culmination of that time was to discover Roy Harper in Les Cousins with his first album. That blew them all away. But that’s another story.

Back in those halcyon days of the mid-sixties, 1965-66, prior to the advent of Roy, I spent a lot of time in my room with my old dansette record player, playing those first albums by Bert and John. I just loved the passion, integrity and guitar. But the album I played most was Jackson’s. Those songs were absorbed into my being. I knew them inside out.

For over three years I enjoyed that album. When I went to college I met up with Pete and we roomed together for two years. It was a delight to discover that he not only also adored Jackson but could play all his songs. Pete was an outstanding guitarist.

Most of the time in London I never saw Jackson advertised anywhere though he did play the folk scene and was a regular at Les Cousins where I went quite often. I looked out for him without success. But there was so much going on in the Folk and Rock scene that it was not foremost in my mind.

Then in 1969 Pete and I discovered Jackson billed at the Angel in Ilford High Street. The Angel was a pub with a room above it for small music events.

We arrived early. It was set out with a number of round tables with chairs around them. We purloined a table at the front. There were only about thirty people in the Audience. Jackson was quiet and softly spoken, very laid back. He played his songs faultlessly. They were all the songs from that album with nothing new. We clapped each rendition madly. It was brilliant to see him in the flesh. His playing was faultless. His personality shone and those songs were sparkling diamonds.

I would have loved to have heard some other new songs as well though. We were hungry for more of these extraordinary compositions. It was not to be.

After the concert everybody else left but we stayed behind and chatted.  Jackson was very friendly and appreciative. He told us that there was no fabled second album or live performance. He said he had not written any other songs but that turned out not to be quite true. The song Golden Mirror, which has just been discovered from a TV programme, is from that period. I do not think he had the confidence in his new material.

Jackson left Pete and I with the sense of a really warm and shy character who was very approachable. We both thought he was a genius.

The next week he was supposed to have turned up for a guest appearance (the only guest – an honoured spot) at Roy Harper’s fabled St Pancras Town Hall gig. He never showed up. I asked the guy he had been with in Ilford, who did turn up to the Roy gig. He informed that Jackson would have come but he was unwell.

I never saw him advertised again. He seemed to evaporate into the night.

I spoke to Roy about it much later and he sadly shook his head and told me he had not seen him again either.

It was only long afterwards when the CD, with those later recordings, came out in the 1990s that I became aware of his tragic fate.

I remember Jackson fondly. He was a sweet, pleasant man, full of emotion and compassion. He wrote songs and music that were so touching and beautiful that they still haunt me.

I think he suffered. He was too kind and vulnerable. Fears robbed him of his potential. The terrible memories of that High School fire in which he was burnt and his girlfriend and fourteen others died, haunted him. It created a mental anguish that he never recovered from. Nobody deserved to suffer the way he did. He was a genius who impacted on the music and songwriting of so many others – including Roy, Sandy, Bert, John and the Fairports. He should have been lauded to the rafters. Instead he is largely forgotten.

I’ll never forget that night in Ilford. That might have been his last gig.

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Anecdote – Roy Harper at St Pancras Town Hall 1969

Anecdote – Roy Harper at St Pancras Town Hall 1969?

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Roy Harper at St Pancras Town Hall 1969

When I first saw Roy Harper he was at the beginning of his career. The first gig was sandwiched between Bert Jansch and John Renbourn at Les Cousins. Roy was one of those regulars there and not yet one of the headliners.

I was smitten. Not only were the songs extraordinary but the banter was revolutionary. I hadn’t heard anyone talk like this. It seemed to me that I was hearing some young Jack Kerouac on speed, in one long stream of consciousness. You not only received a brilliant musical event but you also were regaled with whatever thoughts were going through that remarkable mind…. And there were no end of thoughts. Roy would say whatever came into his head. His mind was like quicksilver. There were asides, commentary and polemic. It was unfiltered. I had not heard anyone like it. Not only that, but his thoughts were echoing my own. It was as if he was articulating all of the concerns that I was experiencing.

You did not get a concert with Roy. It wasn’t so much of a performance. He treated the audience as if they were friends and the club as if it was his front room. This annoyed a lot of people. They wanted a slick presentation. They wanted to sit and appreciate the guitar playing, melody and songs. For me that was not the crucial element. I was enthralled with the ideas, the exchanges of views, and the unadulterated access to the mind of another human being, someone with the same sensibilities as myself. I was as intrigued by the diatribes and asides as I was by the music. I did not mind if he stopped halfway through a song to inform us of a thought, tale or idea that had just strayed into his head. I found that extraordinary and illuminating. He was opening himself up and revealing his inner thoughts. There was no holding back. I’d never encountered anyone like that before.

It must have appealed to a lot of other people too. When I started following Roy he was playing the small club s and venues to small audiences. That rapidly changed. It happened almost overnight. One minute there were thirty or fifty people and the next there were queues around the block.

Roy was extraordinary

I saw the change.

The St Pancras Town Hall gig felt like the end of an era. It was a farewell to the warm intimate meetings of a small group of friends and the ushering in of a larger arena. For me it was the change from Roy the small-time amateur, free-wheeler, to Roy the performer.

That gig was special – a watershed.

It was as if all the faithful gathered together in one place for one last bash. This was Roy with his friends. After this it would never quite be the same. We would have to share him with both the rest of the music punters and show biz in general.

For this evening we had him to ourselves.

I still remember it. There are concerts when everything comes together to create perfection. The audience and Roy were one. Roy was relaxed. The music and banter flowed and gelled and everything was suffused with warmth.

You do not get too many magical evenings like that. This wasn’t a concert so much as a sharing of spirit.

St Pancras Town Hall was the end of the beginning and a more suitable gig could not have been arranged. We were moving into the next and larger phase and it would be one filled with delights as Roy blossomed musically and his recording career took off, but nothing could ever transcend the intimacy of that evening.

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Anecdote – My first Roy Harper gig

Anecdote – My first Roy Harper gig

 

My first Roy Harper gig

It was 1967 and I had been told by my friend Bob that I ought to check out this singer that he’d seen. He told me that he sounded like me. He talked about the same stuff. And that I’d love him. Bob was cool with his white plastic mac and black tousled hair. If he thought that then it was worth checking out.

I put it to the back of my mind.

I had recently been getting into Jackson C Frank, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. I had a motorbike and the means to get into London. The Sixties Underground was opening up to me. I was immersed in the Blues, West Coast Acid Rock and the Psychedelic/Progressive scene. It was all happening.

Les Cousins seemed to have it all when it came to the singer songwriter and what passed as ‘Contemporary Folk’.

I headed up to catch a gig by Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. It set me back a cool 20p.

Les Cousins was a basement club , down these stairs into the cellar laid out with tables and chairs and a stage. It was cosy.

Bert and John did individual sets and sandwiched in between was this fair-haired troubadour with a contagious chuckle and wicked mind. I didn’t twig straight away that this was the guy Bob had told me about. I was captivated by the patter. He only played three songs. I remember one was Blackpool. None of them were his epics. He hadn’t written those yet. But what he had to say and the power of him came straight across to me. I was smitten.

Roy Harper rocked my mind with the force of a tsunami. He was articulating the thoughts inside my head and putting them into words.

I knew I had to see him again soon, and quick, if for no other reason than to find out what I was thinking!

Roy Harper – Desert Island – lyrics about appreciating the wonder of the planet and not abusing her.

Roy Harper – Desert Island – lyrics about appreciating the wonder of the planet and not abusing her.

This is a beautiful song – part of a much longer one – crafted into a pearl of delight. It is catchy enough to have been a hit without losing any of its substance.  That’s a rarity. Roy does not preach. He paints pictures with words and adorns them with melody. I senses pathos behind the almost jaunty presentation. It’s a lyric with deep meaning.

This is a song in which Roy apologises on behalf of the entire human race for the abuse of the planet. The ‘I’ and ‘me’ are generic.

Throughout time we have treated the planet and the life that lives on its thin crust with disdain. We have polluted and butchered as if it is a limitless, infinite source of everything. When there were few of us it was sustainable. Now there are so many it is not. We are destroying the thing that gives us life.

As Roy puts it – ‘Turning the oxygen off in the intensive care unit’.

The world’s forests and oceans are becoming deserts.

Somehow we have to reach a point where we can sit and wonder at the beauty, watch a sunset, delight at a creature’s antics, and witness with wonder.

Given a paradise to play in we create a concrete hell of toil and misery. That’s intelligence for you.

Surely we can find a sustainable way and not destroy everything that’s good? Surely we can have a meaningful life that isn’t a drudgery?

Roy Harper – Desert Island

Gonna paint my room like a desert island
With yellow sand and blue lagoon
Invite you all to come and live there
One afternoon
It’ll be when no-one’s looking
More likely that not
We’ll close the door and turn the sky up
Find a good spot
Air fire water earth you were paradise
I’m sorry about me
I was under impression
That you were free and easy
Gonna paint my room like a desert island
With clear skies and rising swell
Leave the clowns on the jaded horizon
In Wall Streets of Hell
I must say goodbye to the blindfold
And pursue the ideal
The planet becoming the hostess
Instead of the meal
Air fire water earth you were paradise
I’m sorry about me
I was under impression
That you were free and easy
(To plunder)

Roy Harper – Forever – the most beautiful love song ever written.

Roy Harper – Forever – the most beautiful love song ever written.

I prefer the first version of this on the first album, simply recorded live in a make-shift studio. It captures the heart and essence.

It is the most incredible evocation of the love that burns and you think will be there for eternity as the endorphins soar.

You can picture two young people together, in love and dreaming of being in that moment for the rest of time and a day.

Sadly that was not to be. Moments pass. But the beauty of that moment was captured in this gem. We can hold it and watch it sparkle. It radiates the emotions that were captured and locked inside the words.

Forever

We’re just spinning leaves
In the flight of a dawn
, little girl
Falling through an eternal horizon of time
But as we lie here I’d like to think
That all we’ve got will be ours forever
Don’t you think we’re forever
Don’t you think we’re forever

I can hear a voice

On the wings of a dream, little girl

Melting me into love as it touches my heart
But sheltered in the distance of your sleep
Is all that I could love in a lifetime
Don’t you think we’re forever
Don’t you think we’re forever

Open your eyes
To the call of the winds, little girl
Can’t you here them all saying I’ll always be yours
Lying in the misty morning sun
The pillow of the night still beneath you
Don’t you think we’re forever
Don’t you think we’re forever

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!

Roy Harper – When an old cricketer leaves the crease – a delicate poem for those who are gone.

Roy Harper – When an old cricketer leaves the crease – a delicate poem for those who are gone.

 

A good friend of mine died yesterday. I’m putting this up here for Margaret!

Life is a game. We live like a brief flames and then we are gone. It is how you play the game that is important.

Roy is Britain’s foremost songwriter and poet. This is one of his most beautiful efforts. It is an evocative elegy to a life well spent, a game well played and the importance of playing it seriously, with all your heart, all your spirit and with great enjoyment and pleasure.

Roy has always put in one hundred per cent. You cannot deny his passion or his skill. This delicately crafted song will live forever.

It is a love song about death and the memories that linger, the ripples that go on to turn the tides.

It is one of the great songs of the English culture. What could be more fitting than to use the metaphor of cricket – the epitome of culture, the master of games.

When an old cricketer leaves the crease

When the day is done and the ball has spun in the umpires pocket away
And all remains in the groundsman’s pains for the rest of time and a day
There’ll be one mad dog and his master, pushing for four with the spin
On a dusty pitch with two pounds six of willow wood in the sun.

When an old cricketer leaves the crease, you never know whether he’s gone
If sometimes you’re catching a fleeting glimpse of a twelfth man at silly Mid-on
And it could be Geoff and it could be John with a new ball sting in his tail
And it could be me and it could be thee and it could be the sting in the ale, sting in the ale.

When an old cricketer leaves the crease, well you never know whether he’s gone
If sometimes you’re catching a fleeting glimpse of a twelfth man at silly Mid-on
And it could be Geoff and it could be John with a new ball sting in his tail
And it could be me and it could be thee and it could be the sting in the ale, sting in the ale.

When the moment comes and the gathering stands and the clock turns back to reflect
On the years of grace as those footsteps trace for the last time out of the act
Well this way of life’s recollection, the hallowed strip in the haze
The fabled men and the noonday sun are much more than just yarns of their days.

When an old cricketer leaves the crease, well you never know whether he’s gone
If sometimes you’re catching a fleeting glimpse of a twelfth man at silly Mid-on
And it could be Geoff and it could be John with a new ball sting in his tail
And it could be me and it could be thee and it could be the sting in the ale, the sting in the ale.

When an old cricketer leaves the crease, well you never know whether he’s gone
If sometimes you’re catching a fleeting glimpse of a twelfth man at silly Mid-on
And it could be Geoff and it could be John with a new ball sting in his tail
And it could be me and it could be thee.

 

 

Jackson C Frank – An unsung genius.

Jackson C Frank – An unsung genius.

 

I note that Jackson has a new box set of everything that he had recorded. There is also a book about him. Though I can only see that as a Kindle version so far. I am waiting until it comes out as a book.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Recordings-Jackson-C-Frank/dp/B00ZIAOP8K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1438084065&sr=8-1&keywords=jackson+c+frank

I was lucky enough to be introduced to Jackson in 1965. A friend of mine by the name of Robert Ede played his album to me. I was smitten from the very first song.

Jackson played his ten songs with simple guitar backing in the contemporary Folk manner. The album was produced by Paul Simon before he hit the big time and featured Al Stewart on a few of the tracks as second guitar. What made it for me was the memorable melodies, the sad, thought provoking and interesting lyrics and Jackson’s voice.

I hadn’t heard anything like it before or since. Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Roy Harper were just getting their acts together and the contemporary Folk scene, following Dylan’s success and Donovan’s British contribution, was about to inflate.

Jackson was a huge influence.

He only really ever had one album. During those years in the later sixties it was always rumoured that there was a second, but there wasn’t. It seemed that the songs had dried up.

I caught him at a pub in Ilford High Street in 1970. He was outstanding. He sang all the songs. Afterwards we stayed behind for a chat and he was warm and friendly. That was the last anyone heard of him. He was meant to go for a guest appearance at a Roy Harper concert at St Pancras but never turned up.

He was a tragic figure who hated the limelight following considerable scarring due to a fire at his high-school in Canada in which he was badly burnt.

He came across to England on the QE2 and wrote the songs for that notorious album. He performed at Les Cousins and Bunjies as a regular and set up with Sandy Denny. Roy Harper was a big friend and wrote the song ‘My Friend’ for Jackson.

In 1970 his life went to pieces. He got married, divorced, lived on the streets, had his eye shot out and died as a down and out. There were more recordings done in the early seventies and some early demos have been uncovered. But for me that early album is the nub of all that was good in that contemporary folk scene. He was seminal.

So long Jackson!

Roy Harper – One of Those Days in England pt. 2-10 – lyrics of an epic song with a wide spectrum of thought, controversy, history and sentiment.

Roy Harper – One of Those Days in England pt. 2-10 – lyrics of an epic song with a wide spectrum of thought, controversy, history and sentiment.

One of my all-time favourite songs.

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Roy has never been one for producing a short snappy Pop song. Most of his early albums feature an epic song that is far-reaching and has a scope sufficient to cover the gamut of society, the universe and history.

We have been regaled with the poetic visions of McGoohan’s Blues, I Hate the Whiteman, The Lord’s Prayer, The Game, Me and My Woman, Work of Heart and Burn The World.

Each one of those songs is packed with more controversy, venom, social commentary and poetic vision that most of the world’s top singer-songwriters have managed in an entire career.

These are epic songs with a scope that is encompassing, intelligent, perceptive and thought provoking. There is nothing easy-listening about anything Roy does. He doesn’t duck issues or court popularity.

If he feels it then he writes it. You need to have your brain engaged to tackle a song like the twenty odd minutes of concentrated polemic that is One of Those Days in England. It is a song about life, history, the future and the world we are building. Not many people would ever dare attempt such a challenging scope. It’s complexity is daunting. Yet it is not opaque because of that. The variation, melody and drive make it accessible and enjoyable.

Roy is an artist in both music and words and the result is extraordinary.

Not many people come close.

One of Those Days in England pt. 2-10

Every Wednesday morning, at about the hour of ten
I give the queen my autograph, she gives me the yen
The man behind the counter smiles, the door man bows again
Just another day down on the dole queue

But the government must love me ’cause they keep me out of work
They must be saving me for something special
Maybe it’s the job of rolling spliffs for Captain Kirk
Or giving Miss Lovelace a pubic hairdo.

One of those days in England with a sword in every pond
And birds in every garden in the land
One of those days in England when the passion never ends
A slowly moving season by the fire of my friends.

And though the time fast slips away, it’s long enough to laugh and play
Around the fireside making hay, dreaming of tomorrow, you know there’s no today.

One of those days in England with the willow hanging on
I dreamt I met an old man down the road
Whispering the mysteries of patterns up ahead
And stirring past reflections with the sword of lightning said,

Alfred had me made from Albion’s everglade
And I made him to lie with me whence all my troubles fade
You may have read the signs, beware of strange designs
For though the victors write the books, the loser speaks the lines
So let’s now both be gone, ’tis far to Avalon
And though we go our different ways, I’ll see you there anon.

And so I got on board the bird of aeons and I rode
But everytime I met a prince, a fork came down the road
I kept on thinking that I’d stop once everybody showed
Gathered in the myths of our reflection.

But stopping ain’t that possible this far into control
This far beyond the non imagination
No more than I can shed the moving forces of my soul
The time lords of the slowly revolution.

You and me, mother, we’re gonna raise a ship full of kids and slowly lose them
Why does it matter where they’ve all gone, we don’t even have the power to choose them
You and me, father, we’re gonna colonise all of the stars with lots of our madness
Shooting through space with sons on our hips and guns on our lips to play snakes and ladders.

Oh heavens above, I’m coming with love all over, over you.

You and me, sister, we’re gonna plant a bomb in a street to change law and order
And when we’ve killed all who resisted the call, we’ll discover a brand new wall at the border
You and me, brother, wrapped up in silence, brooding for better breathing spaces
Seeing ideals, we were one time a part of rip us apart in our holiest places.

Oh heavens above, I’m coming with love all over, all over you.

Sitting out there with this silvery hair and your thundery look when you really don’t care, but I love you
Dolly blue rivers, foreverness givers, I’ll go without knowing and know without going above you
Stood on the ship in a dream at third slip with Britannica’s tallons on Albion’s grip, do you need me ?
Looking for you when it’s catch 22 and you’ve never been here but it’s always been blue up above me, up above me.

Oh Mrs. Space took her man to the human race
And together they humped over the edge
Nine months later, they were sharing a brand new face
The latest thin end of the wedge.

And baby grew, grew into a space cadet
Legend lives, he screamed under his breath
I’m in the queue, in the queue for the hell of it
Some place inbetween life and death.

Oh Mrs. Space, I love you, with your come home early eye
Don’t ever come between us ’cause times don’t change, they fly.

And it don’t seem long since my life was an endless stream
The future fled into time without trace
I see the end now but I’ve fallen in love again
With a girl who can travel in space.

Oh Mrs. Space, you lead me a wild goose chase
Inbetween, inbetween every line
Well hell, girl, I don’t even know your face
‘Cause you see you’ve been sitting on mine.

Oh Mrs. Space, I love you, with your come home early eye
Don’t ever come between us ’cause times don’t change they fly.

Slowly slipping into history feel us go
With these times another age could never know
See the photos black and white and quaintly dressed
Stood in queues of people smiling, sorely pressed.

Your silent room is the collection of your ways
Every shelf is built of all those different days
And those much younger cannot understand by half
The wireless living room, the faces ’round the hearth.

The ration books of Matthews out there on the wing
The corner shop that sold us almost everything
The farthing in the change, the sirens and the planes
Puffing billies, shunting eras down the lane, down the lane.

You know we’ll soon be gone from here, year upon light year
We’ll take the stories with us there, the memories are dear.

One of those days in England, mum was rustling up the grub
And dad was off out propping up the pub
One of those days in England that you just could not forget
From the mists of secret morning to the golden red sunset.

And though the time fast slips away, it’s long enough to laugh and play
Around the fireside making hay, dreaming of tomorrow, oh you know there’s no today.

Oh you know there’s no today
No, you know, today.

Roy Harper – Desert Island – lyrics about appreciating the wonder of the planet and not abusing her.

Roy Harper – Desert Island – lyrics about appreciating the wonder of the planet and not abusing her.

This is a beautiful song – part of a much longer one – crafted into a pearl of delight. It is catchy enough to have been a hit without losing any of its substance.  That’s a rarity. Roy does not preach. He paints pictures with words and adorns them with melody. I senses pathos behind the almost jaunty presentation. It’s a lyric with deep meaning.

This is a song in which Roy apologises on behalf of the entire human race for the abuse of the planet. The ‘I’ and ‘me’ are generic.

Throughout time we have treated the planet and the life that lives on its thin crust with disdain. We have polluted and butchered as if it is a limitless, infinite source of everything. When there were few of us it was sustainable. Now there are so many it is not. We are destroying the thing that gives us life.

As Roy puts it – ‘Turning the oxygen off in the intensive care unit’.

The world’s forests and oceans are becoming deserts.

Somehow we have to reach a point where we can sit and wonder at the beauty, watch a sunset, delight at a creature’s antics, and witness with wonder.

Given a paradise to play in we create a concrete hell of toil and misery. That’s intelligence for you.

Surely we can find a sustainable way and not destroy everything that’s good? Surely we can have a meaningful life that isn’t a drudgery?

Roy Harper – Desert Island

Gonna paint my room like a desert island
With yellow sand and blue lagoon
Invite you all to come and live there
One afternoon
It’ll be when no-one’s looking
More likely that not
We’ll close the door and turn the sky up
Find a good spot
Air fire water earth you were paradise
I’m sorry about me
I was under impression
That you were free and easy
Gonna paint my room like a desert island
With clear skies and rising swell
Leave the clowns on the jaded horizon
In Wall Streets of Hell
I must say goodbye to the blindfold
And pursue the ideal
The planet becoming the hostess
Instead of the meal
Air fire water earth you were paradise
I’m sorry about me
I was under impression
That you were free and easy
(To plunder)