Roy Harper – The Early Gigs 1967/68

Roy Harper – The Early Gigs 1967/68

It’s hard to describe the early concerts in those two years as they weren’t really concerts like people were used to. They were events, gatherings, exchanges, sharings.

A concert was a performance. A singer/band would take the stage, present their songs, the audience would applaud, they’d introduce the next number and the musical performance would be appreciated. Roy’s gigs were not like that.

Roy would arrive with his battered guitar case, having hitch-hiked or arrived by train, depending on where, set up on a stool, using the house PA, and begin. No sound checks. No introductions. No appearing out of the wings (there usually weren’t any wings in those little clubs).

When he’s got himself together, played about with the tuning, he’d start with a little maniacal laugh and then proceed into some tale about an event on the way in or something that had caught his attention, with an occasional strum and giggle.

Yes, there was a musician on a stage, and an audience, usually seated on uncomfortable wooden chairs in a small drab hall, but this wasn’t exactly a recital.

Roy treated all his venues as if they were his front room and his audiences as if they were a bunch of friends who had just dropped in. He talked to us as if we were sitting around a table together, whatever came into his head. He explained his poems, talked about current events, thoughts and feelings. Then he’d play a song. Even once he’d started he might stop partway in to share a thought that had come into his head.

Some found this approach frustrating. They had come for the songs, not to hear Roy waffle on. They wanted a more professional performance.

But for me, and the others like me, who cottoned on to the whole unique experience, this was gold dust. Roy’s mind, his thoughts and feelings were every bit as fascinating and insightful as the songs. His ramblings and incisive dissections shone a searchlight of the songs and the events, feelings and thoughts that had led to the creation of the poetry. He was analysing and illuminating society and life in a way that nobody else had ever attempted. Mind blowing. There was nobody like this.

Not only that, but Roy was illuminating thoughts and ideas that had been floating around my head. It felt like he was clarifying and solidifying my own mind.

The ideas and exchanges not only explained the poems, and gave greater meaning and importance to the lyrics, but they sent tendrils of thought out into all aspects of the world around us. His mind was electric and electrifying. Roy’s mind was on fire, flitting here and there, dissecting, expanding and questioning.

No two concerts were ever the same. They depended on his mood. Sometimes there was more banter than song, other times more of a performance.

A Roy Harper gig was more of a sharing than a gig; an insight into a unique mind.

I think a number of us lived in dread that he’d ‘be discovered’ or become ‘famous’. If some promoter/manager took him on board and tidied the act up, removing the banter and making it ‘more professional’, we lose that relaxed sharing.

Not to say that the musical performances were not intense and incredible; they were.

I remember sitting in awe as Roy performed McGoohan’s Blues for the first time. It was an awesome slab of epic social commentary to the most rousing musical energy. It blew us away. The power and intensity; the sheer scale. Dylan was the only one who came close (I always saw It’s Alright Ma,(I’m Only Bleeding) as being the only song that was similar in scope and impact).

That alone was surely worth the entrance?

For me, the St Pancras Town Hall gig in early 1969 felt like the end of that era. Roy had become much more successful. The queues went around the block. The venues were bigger. It had become increasingly difficult to maintain that informal intimacy. Though Roy did not change, the nature of the events, size of the audience, and distances involved between Roy and the audience, created more of a ‘performance’ element. Roy had graduated into a performer, not by choice, by sheer popularity.

Things changed.

Sadly, I’ve never heard any recordings from those early two years. No bootlegs surfaced. They reside in my memory. And, of course, our memories are imperfect, constantly reinvented, inaccurate and prone to subjectivity. In my mind those early gigs were monsters that shook me through to the core.

Arguable one of the best songs ever written!

A combination of brilliant lyrics, great melody, fabulous musicianship and a wonderful production.

(2) Roy Harper – Me And My Woman (Remastered) – YouTube

Roy Harper – The Lord’s Prayer – Extract from the On Track book.

Lifemask – 1973

Harvest label 1973

Recorded at Abbey Road Studio

Pete Jenner: producer

John Leckie: sound technician

Roy Harper: vocals, guitars, synthesiser and bass plus all song writing

Jimmy Page: lead guitar

Brian Davison: drums on ‘The Lord’s Prayer’

Tony Carr: bongos

Steve Broughton: bongos

Ray Warley: flute on ‘The Lord’s Prayer’

Brian Hodges: electric bass on ‘Bank of the Dead’ and ‘The Lord’s Prayer’

Laurie Allan: drums on ‘Highway Blues’

For Roy this was a time of frustration, satisfaction, illness, triumph and confusion.

   He had just produced the magnificent Stormcock, an achievement of supreme quality on so many levels and he knew it. However the album did not sell brilliantly. EMI had not given Roy enough publicity and the album was not well received by the music press or general public.

   Yet Roy was being recognised as a major artist by the rock intelligentsia. Led Zeppelin, the Who, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd and Paul McCartney were dropping in to recording sessions, showering Roy with plaudits and singing his praises.

   EMI were still backing Roy, in a half-hearted way. He was still provided with studio time, a budget and Pete Jenner. Roy needed to create an album to equal the brilliance of Stormcock.

   Out of left-field came a film opportunity. Roy auditioned for a lead role in the John Mackenzie film Made co-starring Carol White. Against strong competition from Paul Jones (of Manfred Mann) Roy was given the part. He was to play Mike Preston, a touring rock musician, who formed a transient relationship with Valerie Marshall, played by Carol White. Carol was well known at that time, having starred in two successful films of social realism directed by Ken Loach – Cathy Come Home and Poor Cow. Made was going to be a similar type of film. Initially Roy was energised by the idea of becoming a film star but soon found the process became tedious and constricting.

   EMI were probably rubbing their hands with glee. They could see that the prospect of Roy in a major film would lead to a soundtrack and possibly a hit single.

   Unfortunately, that was not quite the way Roy saw it. Although he reluctantly worked on writing and adapting a few songs for the film his mind was fixed on a far more adventurous and artistically creative song and album. ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, along with the other songs for Lifemask, was already forming in his head.

   An even greater problem then arose. At around this time Roy became ill. He thought it was the effects of some particularly strong grass that he had been smoking which had left him dehydrated. It soon became apparent that this was not the cause. Roy was diagnosed with a condition called polycythemi, which means that he had too many red blood cells. The cause was a blood vessel disorder called haemorrhagic telangiectasia. It was a dangerous condition because blood was being shunted through interconnecting blood vessels instead of flowing through his lungs. It left Roy short of oxygen. His body was trying to compensate by producing more red blood cells than he needed. Roy constantly felt unwell and lacking in energy. He had to have pints of blood removed in order to reduce the red blood corpuscles. Roy eventually had a fairly major operation to close the shunt vessels and redirect the flow of blood through his lungs.

   The publicity department at EMI needed to keep Roy in the limelight and dreamt up a cock and bull story about Roy being ill from giving the kiss of life to a sheep on his farm!

   In the heads of EMI and film executives Made was giving Roy an opportunity to write a film soundtrack. Punchy two and a half minute songs from the film would be given airplay and propel the film and album to popular acclaim.

   In Roy’s head the film score was a burden. The idea of producing pop songs for the film was an anathema. Indeed, he hated the one song he did produce for the film – ‘Social Casualty’, which later, with different lyrics, became ‘Bank Of The Dead’. ‘Social Casualty’ in the film version, with the lyrics about the character Valerie and her baby, was not included on the album and has never been released.

   In the midst of trying to deal with his illness and make the film Roy was working on Lifemask in Abbey Road studio with the help of a full supporting cast including Jimmy Page.

   Roy’s creativity at the time was focused on the twenty three minute epic that would comprise the whole of side two on the album. His medical condition was giving him premonitions of early death. Roy had been told by the specialist that he was not destined to make old bones and so he was determined to pack everything into one great piece of work.

   The gatefold cover (designed by James Edgar), which opens centrally, has a ‘deathmask’ of Roy which is really a lifemask. This is symbolic of Roy cheating death and surviving to make the record – an affirmation of life! Inside the album cover there is a picture of Geronimo that James had coloured red and yellow, and which sparked the idea for the central part of the poem that became ‘The Lord’s Prayer’.    

Now on Sale at Burning Shed:

Roy Harper On Track (

Roy Harper: Every Album, Every Song (On… by Opher Goodwin (

Roy Harper – The Lord’s Prayer (Remastered) – Bing video

Another Roy Harper snippet from the book – Review of One Man Rock ‘n’ Roll Band.

One of my favourite tracks. An incredible sound. I’ve heard him do this so many times live – such power!! Just listen to that guitar!!

One Man Rock and Roll Band

In the zoo that was once on the top floor of Harrods Roy introduced himself to one of his more serious girlfriends by saying that he was a one man rock and roll band. It seems highly appropriate given the immense sounds that Roy can generate by just himself and an acoustic guitar.

   The track starts with Roy’s unique electrified acoustic guitar style tuned to DADGAD which is why it feels rather Indian in style. The picking, chords and rhythm are distinctive. His voice calls over the top of the strident guitars. With the heavy guitar sound Roy really creates a one man rock and roll band.

   This is an anti-war song. The sixties was the time of the Vietnam War, a most unpopular war with soldiers returning home to an antagonistic reception.

   There are references to the First World War. This was supposed to be the war to end all wars – yet many wars later the clamour for war continues.

   The song also refers to the huge peace rally outside the American embassy in Grosvenor Square when the usual thugs turned up to turn a peaceful protest into a violent riot. Roy is suggesting how much more effective it might have been if the marchers had walked behind medal-wearing First World War veterans in a united and peaceful demonstration against an unjust war.

   It culminates with a crash of piano reminiscent of the Beatles on ‘A Day In The Life’ before fading out on a drone along with noodling guitar.

   Roy mixed this song blind by covering up the board and just following what sounded right! He achieved a stunning piece of music, poetry and production.

Roy Harper: Every Album, Every Song (On… by Opher Goodwin (

(1) Roy Harper – One Man Rock And Roll Band (Remastered) – YouTube

Extract 2 – The first album – Sophisticated Beggar – Roy Harper: Every Album, Every Song (On Track) 

Here you go. As requested: another little snippet from the book. I wrote it as a homage to the brilliant music of someone who I rate not only as a friend but the greatest songwriter and most outspoken singer this country has produced. I really enjoyed writing it and would like to thank everyone for the brilliant reviews. This is the first part of the introduction for that brilliant first album; an album like no other.

Sophisticated Beggar (1966)

Strike label 1966

Peter Richards: producer

Roy Harper: guitars, vocals and writing of all songs.

Paul Brett: guitar

Bert Jansch: guitar

John Rebourn: guitar

Richie Blackmore: electric guitar

Lon Goddard: guitar and the drawing for the cover.

Unknown: drums and organ

The title says it all. Roy saw himself as being outside of mainstream society. He was using his intelligence and creativity to scrounge a living.

   He was, and still is, the sophisticated beggar.

   Pierre Tubbs produced this album for Strike records. Roy claimed that it was a true garage album because it was recorded in a makeshift studio, converted from a potting shed in Leatherhead. As far as studios go it was a primitive set up and the album was recorded on a basic reVox tape machine.

   The story is that a bunch of shady underworld characters were laundering money and they set up Strike Records in order to hide their activities.

   Out of Strike Records came this remarkable album which is quite unlike anything his contemporaries had produced.

   Nobody seems to remember who exactly played on what. There were no professional notes made. The tape was left to roll and the numbers were mainly one single takes with a minimum of overdubs. Options were limited. The equipment wasn’t up to much. Only one or two of the tracks were worked on and added to – notably the track that was selected as the single and the other chosen as its B-side.

   It is surprising and unusual for the time that Roy did not want to include any of the folk blues songs that he had been busking with, not even among the outtakes. All the songs are Roy Harper originals.

Roy Harper: Every Album, Every Song (On Track): Opher Goodwin: 9781789521306: Books

Exciting developments: Current writing situation

I have just received another contract from Sonicbond Press! I have started writing a book on another of my musical heroes – the great Phil Ochs!

This will be my sixth book with the publisher. They must like what I do!

So, there are currently three books available:

1. Roy Harper: Every Album, Every Song (On Track)

Roy Harper: Every Album, Every Song (On Track): Opher Goodwin: 9781789521306: Books

2. Captain Beefheart On Track: Every Album, Every Song

Captain Beefheart On Track: Every Album, Every Song : Opher Goodwin: Books

3. Bob Dylan 1962 to 1970 On Track (Decades)

Bob Dylan 1962 to 1970 On Track (Decades) : Opher Goodwin: Books

4. Neil Young 1963 to 1970: Every Album, Every Song

Not out until November but can be ordered in advance.

Neil Young 1963 to 1970: Every Album, Every Song: Opher Goodwin: 9781789522983: Books

I have just sent off my book for the new series that Sonicbond are doing on albums. I had the honour of writing the first one for the series. Bob Dylan’s ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ seemed a very fitting one to me. That is due out in January!

For those who can’t abide Amazon all the books are available on the publisher’s site Burning Shed! Roy Harper On Track (

And now I am back to doing one on Phil Ochs. It’s a privilege!!

For those interested in other books of mine:

Nick Harper: The Wilderness Years

Nick Harper: The Wilderness Years: Goodwin, Opher: 9798815185630: Books

In Search of Captain Beefheart (a memoir)

In Search of Captain Beefheart: Goodwin, Opher: 9781502820457: Books

Both of which have great reviews!!

Or, on the other hand you might like something completely different – like a taste of Sci-Fi. I write under the name of Ron Forsythe:

Your Site ‹ Ron Forsythe —

Why not take a chance??

Thanks for taking a look!

Please leave a review!

My Best Books on Rock Music! Treat yourself!

Very reasonable prices!

Here is a list of some of my top Rock Music books (all available in paperback or kindle and some in Hardback):

Captain Beefheart On Track: Every Album, Every SongCaptain Beefheart (Don Vliet) was undoubtedly the creator of the most bizarre and wonderful music. A child prodigy sculptor, he applied his artistic approach to music, creating ‘aural sculptures’. He befriended Frank Zappa in High School, collaborating on a teenage rock opera and sci-fi/fantasy film entitled Captain Beefheart vs The Grunt People. It was from this film that Don took his name. Of course, a magic character had to have a magic band. Captain Beefheart On Track: Every Album, Every Song : Opher Goodwin: Books
Roy Harper On Track: Every Album, Every SongRoy Harper must be one of Britain’s most undervalued rock musicians and songwriters. For over fifty years he has produced a series of innovative albums of consistently outstanding quality. He puts poetry and social commentary to music in a way that extends the boundaries of rock music. His 22 studio albums 16 live albums, made up of 250 songs, have created a unique body of work. Roy is a musician’s musician. Roy Harper: Every Album, Every Song (On Track): Opher Goodwin: 9781789521306: Books
In Search of Captain Beefheart – A Rock Music MemoirThe sixties raged. I was young, crazy, full of hormones and wanting to snatch life by the balls. There was a life out there for the grabbing and it had to be wrestled into submission. There was a society full of boring amoral crap and a life to be had in the face of the boring, comforting vision of slow death on offer. Rock music vented all that passion. This book is a memoir of a life spent immersed in Rock Music. In Search of Captain Beefheart: Goodwin, Opher: 9781502820457: Books
Bob Dylan 1962 to 1970 On Track (Decades) Out this month!!  Bob Dylan is the magician who sprinkled poetic fairy dust on to the popular music of the early sixties and his songwriting sparked a revolution and changed rock music forever. The diminutive poet/singer claimed he was merely a ‘song and dance man’ but Dylan altered popular music from intellectually bereft teenage rebellion into a serious adult art form worthy of academic study. Bob Dylan 1962 to 1970 On Track (Decades) : Opher Goodwin: Books
Neil Young 1963 to 1970: Every Album, Every Song   Out this Autumn!!  In the realm of singer songwriters, few have been as influential as Neil Young, whose music has always been creative and relevant throughout six decades. Neil is a chameleon for whom boundaries of genres do not exist. He has delved into folk, country, r&b, rock ‘n’ roll, grunge, hard rock, electronic and pop and made them his own.Neil Young 1963 to 1970: Every Album, Every Song: Opher Goodwin: 9781789522983: Books
Nick Harper: The Wilderness Years    Nick speaks!  I first met Nick when he was a young child and over the years he has become a close friend. This book illuminates the genius that I feel is Nick Harper and is designed to accompany ‘The Wilderness Years’, a trilogy of vinyl albums. Nick talks candidly about many aspects of his music and career. I include, with Nick’s permission, the lyrics of all the songs featured in the trilogy. There are also many photos dating from his childhood to the present day.Nick Harper: The Wilderness Years: Goodwin, Opher: 9798815185630: Books
The Blues Muse – A novelI was in conversation with a good friend who, like me, is a Rock Music fanatic. We have both been everywhere, seen everyone and have had our lives hugely affected by music. However it is not who you have seen but what you failed to catch that you dwell on. I said to him that it would be brilliant if we had a time machine and were able to go back and see all the major events in Rock history; Robert Johnson play in the tavern in Greenwood, Elmore James in Chicago, Elvis Presley in the small theatres, The Beatles in Hamburg, Stones in Richmond, Doors in the Whiskey, Roy Harper at St Pancras Town Hall…………….. and a thousand more. Then I realised that I could. The Blues Muse: Goodwin, Opher: 9781518621147: Books
Rock Routes – A History of Rock MusicThis charts the progress of Rock Music from its beginnings in Country Blues, Country& Western, R&B and Gospel through to its Post Punk period of 1980. It tells the tale of each genre and lists all the essential tracks. I was there at the beginning and I’m still there at the front! Keep on Rockin’!!Rock Routes: Goodwin, Opher: 9781514873090: Books
Opher’s World Tributes to Rock Geniuses  If you like Rock Music you’ll love this! – 195 tributes to Rock Acts of Genius. – Each one a gem of a picture. You’ll find out what makes them so brilliant and a lot more besides! This is the writing of a true passionate obsessive. These are Ophers tributes to Rock geniuses – loving pen-pictures to all the great artists and bands that have graced the screens, airways, our ears, vinyl grooves and electronic digits – (well a lot of them anyway). These tributes make you thrill to all the reasons why they were so great.Opher’s World Tributes to Rock Geniuses: Goodwin, Opher: 9781508631279: Books
537 Essential Rock Albums  – Pt. 1This is not your average run through an opinionated list of somebody’s favourite albums. This is much more than that. By the time you get to the end of the book you will be in no doubt as to the type of person who has written this and what their views are. This is Opher at his most extreme and outspoken. He’s been there at the front through thousands of shows, purchased tens of thousands of albums and listened to more music than seems possible to fit into a single life.537 Essential Rock Albums – Pt. 1 The first 270: Goodwin, Opher: 9781502787408: Books

  Thank you for looking. Why not try one or two? And please leave a review! Cheers Opher

The Ten Best Roy Harper Tracks – a fan’s choice

Posted on  by Opher

Roy is the one person who has consistently recorded epic songs with great poetic lyrics and social content. Nobody else comes near. In my opinion he is the greatest songwriter Britain has produced.Here are my choice of his ten best songs.

The Lord’s PrayerAn epic poem/song spanning the whole of human history.

Me and My Woman

Another epic tale of the struggle living in a society like this and the healing strength of a relationship.

McGoohan’s Blues

One of my favourites from the very early days when he used to rage this out with passion.

How Does It Feel?

I think I prefer this to Whiteman.

One Of Those Days in England

An epic song about England the like of which only Roy can do.

The Game

A vitriolic diatribe against society and the hypocrisy and the game we live in

Hallucinating Light

The atmosphere on this song is great. Hate the WhitemanA fierce song about the terror of Western society

Another Day

A beautiful love song

When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease

A song about death.

I often like my music strong and deep. Roy hits the mark for me.

The Roy Harper Appreciation Society

Roy Harper Appreciation Society | Facebook

This site is a tribute to the outstanding Roy Harper – without a doubt Britain’s greatest singer/songwriter. Nobody else from this green island comes close. His range and skills are immense. No other songwriter has produced such scathing epic songs exposing the evils of the establishment and the society we live in. Epics such as ‘McGoohan’s Blues’, ‘I Hate The Whiteman’, ‘How Does It Feel’, ‘Me and my Woman’, ‘The Game’, ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, ‘One Of Those Days in England’ and ‘Work of Heart’. Nobody else has produced such haunting love songs as ‘Another Day’, ‘Hallucinating Light’, ‘Forever’, ‘Francesca’, ‘Davey’ and ‘East Of The Sun’. Then we have those incredible instrumentals – homages to greats like ‘One for Al’ and ‘Miles Remains’ – the comic humour of ‘Nobody’s Got Any Money in the Summer’, ‘Exercising Some Control’ or ‘Manana’ and the barbed environmental songs such as ‘Burn The World’, ‘The Garden of Uranium’ and ‘Methane Zone’. I haven’t even mentioned the atheist laments ‘The Spirit Lives’, ‘Same Old Rock’, ‘Black Cloud of Islam’ or ‘If’. Even with all that, there are a multitude of other gems. I’ve only scratched the surface! Enough to last a lifetime of listening, enjoyment and thought. So many levels. So much to get lost in. For those fortunate enough to have seen Roy perform live a number of times, they would have realised that there is more than the songs; there is also the between songs banter. That too is at a level above. So get those speakers blasting and get writing about what you find great about this great output of 250-plus incredible poetic splurges of musical delight!

Roy Harper – Desert Island – A delightful Song about the Plunder of the Planet

Roy Harper – Desert Island – A delightful Song about the Plunder of the Planet

Posted on  by Opher

The beauty of the song belies the message. The planet is beautiful and we are plundering it.

The planet becoming the hostess
Instead of the meal
Air fire water earth you were paradise
I’m sorry about me

Desert Island

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)