It is a memoir of a life spent in appreciation of Rock Music and one in which Rock Music has helped shape my thoughts, views and ethics. It marries significant events in my life with the music that was influencing me.
The book begins with my early experiences with Rock ‘n’ Roll, through the revelation of the Beatles, life in the 1960s, the discovery of Captain Beefheart, Roy Harper, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Son House, on through Punk and life as an idealistic teacher, and right up to the present time.
This is not the jottings of a fan but the serious attempt to review a life sculptured by the events I have lived through and the people I have had the privilege to know. It takes you on a journey of discovery through concerts, friendships and recording studios.
I have discovered a lot about life in the course of this journey.
To purchase follow this link:-https://read.amazon.co.uk/kp/card?preview=inline&linkCode=kpd&ref_=k4w_oembed_rwRe2DwMwHhmOS&asin=B00TQ1E9ZG&tag=kpembed-20
What follows is an extract from the book. I hope you enjoy it.
In Search of Captain Beefheart, Son House, Roy Harper, Woody Guthrie & Bob Dylan
This book is a memoir of a life spent immersed in Rock Music. I was born in 1949 and so lived through the whole gamut of Rock.
Rock music formed the background to momentous world events – the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, Iraq war, Watergate, the miners’ strike and Thatcher years, CND, the Green Movement, Mao and the Cultural Revolution, Women’s Liberation and the Cold War.
I see this as the Rock Era.
I was immersed in Rock music. It was fused into my personality. It informed me, transformed me and inspired me. My heroes were musicians. I am who I am because of them.
Without Rock Music I would not have the same sensibilities, optimism or ideals. They woke me up!
This tells that story.
Fight for what you believe with passion not violence.
Be prepared to take some heavy blows!!
Jack White launched into the searing riff that was the intro to ‘Death Letter Blues’. It shot me straight back to 1968 and the thrill of seeing and hearing Son House. Son’s national steel guitar was more ragged than Jack White’s crystal clear electric chords, and nowhere near as loud, but the chords rang true and the energy and passion were exactly the same.
Meg pounded the drums and the crowd surged forward.
It was Bridlington Spa in 2004. White Stripes were the hottest thing on the planet. The place was packed and the atmosphere electric. I was right near the front – the only place to be at any gig – the place where the intensity was magnified.
It was a huge crowd and they were crazy tonight. I could see the young kids piling into the mosh-pit and shoving – excited groups of kids deliberately surging like riot cops in a wedge driving into the crowd and sending them reeling so that they tumbled and spilled. For the first time I started getting concerned. The tightly packed kids in the mosh-pit were roaring and bouncing up and down and kept being propelled first one way and then another as the forces echoed and magnified through the mass of people. At the front the crush was intense and everyone was careering about madly. My feet were off the ground as we were sent hurtling around. I had visions of someone getting crushed, visions of someone falling and getting trampled. Worst of all – it could be me!
For the first time in forty odd years of gigs I bailed out. I ruefully headed for the balcony and a clear view of the performance. I didn’t want a clear view I wanted to be in the thick of the action. It got me wondering – was I getting to old for this lark? My old man had only been a couple of years older than me when he’d died. Perhaps Rock Music was for the young and I should be at home listening to opera or Brahms with an occasional dash of Wagner to add the spice. I had become an old git. Then I thought – FUCK IT!!! Jack White was fucking good! Fuck Brahms – This was Rock ‘n’ Roll. You’re never too old to Rock! And Rock was far from dead!
The search goes on!!
We haven’t got a clue what we’re looking for but we sure as hell know when we’ve found it.
Rock music has not been the backdrop to my entire adult life; it’s been much more than that. It has permeated my life, informed it and directed its course.
From when I was a small boy I found myself enthralled. I was grabbed by that excitement. I wanted more. I was hunting for the best Rock jag in the world! – The hit that would send the heart into thunder and melt the mind into ecstasy.
I was hunting for Beefheart, Harper, House, Zimmerman and Guthrie plus a host of others even though I hadn’t heard of them yet.
I found them and I’m still discovering them. I’m sixty four and looking for more!
Forget your faith, hope and charity – give me Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll and the greatest of these is Rock ‘n’ Roll!
I was a kid in the Thames Delta, with pet crow called Joey, 2000 pet mice (unnamed), a couple of snakes, a mammoth tusk, a track bike with a fixed wheel, a friend called Mutt who liked blowing up things, a friend called Billy who kept a big flask of pee in the hopes of making ammonia, and a lot of scabs on my knees.
My search for the heart of Rock began in 1959 and I had no idea what I was looking for when I started on this quest. Indeed I did not know I had embarked on a search for anything. I was just excited by a new world that opened up to me; the world of Rock Music. My friend Clive Hansell also had no idea what he was initiating when he introduced me to the sounds he was listening to. Clive was a few years older than me. He liked girls and he liked Popular Music. Yet he seemed to have limited tastes. I can only ever remembering him playing me music by two artists – namely Adam Faith and Buddy Holly. In some ways it was a motley introduction to the world of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
I was ten years old which would have made Clive about twelve or thirteen, I suppose he could even have been fourteen. That is quite a lot of years at that age. We used to got off to his bedroom, sit on the bed and he’d play me the singles – 45s – on his Dansette player. He’d stack four or five singles on the deck push the lever up to play and we’d lean forward and watch intently. The turntable would start rotating; the mechanism clunked as the arm raised, there were clicks and clunks as the arm drew back and the first single dropped, then the arm would come across and descend on to the outer rim of the disc. The speaker would hiss and crackle and then the music kicked in. We watched the process intently every time as if it depended on our full attention.
The Adam Faith singles were on Parlaphone and were red with silver writing. The Buddy Holly was on Coral with a black label and silver writing. We reverentially watched the discs spinning and listened with great concentration to every aspect of the songs. It was a start.
Yet Rock ‘n’ Roll was by no means the only quest I’d started on. I was an early developer. I’d hit puberty at ten and can imagine myself as the scruffy little, dirty-faced kid who climbed trees, waded through ditches, got covered in frogspawn and lichen and was suddenly sprouting pubic hair – very confusing.
Life was going to change for me. I was in a transition phase.
My friend Jeff has a photo of me from this age that seems to sum it up very nicely. I was briefly in the cubs before they chucked me out for being too unruly (they – ‘they’ being the establishment – also chucked me out of the scouts and army cadets!). I went to cubs with my mate Jeff. Jeff lived at the end of the road and I used to go and call for him. It was only about 400yds away. I set off in plenty of time, did my thing on the way and arrived at Jeff’s house. His mum obviously did a double take and went for the camera.
Oblivious to any underlying motive on Jeff mum’s part I innocently posed with Jeff. The resultant picture, which shows the two of us proudly standing to attention doing the two fingered cub salute (very appropriate I always think), showed Jeff immaculate with creases in his shorts, flashes showing on his long socks, cap, woggle and scarf all perfectly aligned, and me not quite so sartorially presented. To start with I am utterly begrimed with green lichen, having shinned up a number of trees; one sock is around my ankle and the other half way down my calf; my scarf and cap askew, and my jumper and shorts a crinkled, crumpled mess. It looked like a set-up but was probably par for the course.
Looking back I can see why Clive liked Buddy and Adam. Buddy Holly was a genius. In his short career of just three years he wrote tens of classics of Rock music with hardly a dud among them. He was highly prolific, innovative and talented. I think of him as the Jimi Hendrix of his day. He was far ahead of Elvis. His mind outstripped all the others. I think Buddy’s death, along with Jimi’s, John Lennon’s and Jim Morrison’s, was the greatest tragedy. Out of all the early Rockers he was the one with the musical ear, the melody and adaptability to have really progressed when the music scene opened up in the 1960s. The other Rockers all got caught in their own 1950s style or went Poppy. I would have loved to have seen Buddy interacting with the Beatles. My – what we missed out on!
In many ways Adam Faith was Britain’s answer to Buddy. The arrangements of the songs were cheesy covers of Buddy and Adam did his best Buddy warble. Britain hadn’t quite got it right with Rock music, the production and direction from management (Larry Parnes the old-fashioned British Impresario has a lot to answer for as he guided his Rockers into a more ballad driven, family safe, Pop sound that he figured would make him more money) was all a bit twee. Even so, back then, Adam Faith sounded good to me. In Britain in the 1950s we were starved of good Rock ‘n’ Roll. The good old Auntie Beeb, with its plumy DJs did its best to protect us from the dreadful degenerate racket created by the American Rockers.
I wonder where Clive is now; is he still alive? I wonder what happened to him through those heady days of the 1960s. I don’t suppose he even thinks about me much or imagines what he unleashed.
I am a collector. It is a strange addiction that started back then. Clive would sell me his Adam Faith and Buddy Holly singles when he’d got bored with them. I bought them cheap and I still have them all.
The age of ten was a bit of a milestone year for me. I not only discovered Rock ‘n’ Roll but also fell madly in love. Glenys was a dark Welsh temptress of eleven who utterly bewitched me (females are always portrayed as temptresses – but I was certainly tempted!). She too had reached puberty early and the two of us indulged in ‘real lovers kisses’ like they do in the films. For nine months it was heaven. We even talked about having kids and wrote each other love letters.
Glenys was a bit wild and, obviously, led me astray. We planned to get out for a night on the town. We could imagine the delights of Walton-on-Thames at night. For us it was the big city – all full of lights, crowds and excitement. We saved our money and arranged to go to bed fully dressed, slip out when our parents had gone to bed, meet by our tree (a big elderberry tree that we had a camp in) and head off to the bright lights – big city. Even at ten I had a craving for the Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle. We were wild, man! Unfortunately I must have drifted off to sleep and awoke the next morning fully dressed with light streaming through the window. Glenys assured me, huffily, that she’d waited for hours. Then, next night, I got there and she never showed up. Then on the third attempt my dad caught me wandering around and I had to make a lame excuse about needing a drink of water. Glenys and I never actually made it to those illicit bright lights. But that was probably a good thing. It remained a mythical place of bustle and excitement where in reality it was probably all shut up with just a couple of fish and chip shops and a load of drunks.
I was hopelessly in love. I’m not sure about Glenys – she did seem to be cultivating a stream of admirers. But the love affair was doomed. Her family moved and took her with them. I was bereft.
This was made worse by the doldrums that Rock had lapsed into in 1960. Life was crap.
I lapsed back into the solace of my huge collection of pets and wild animals. I taught my crow Joey to talk and fly. I sold my mice, guinea pigs and hamsters to the pet shop and ran a mini stud farm while I tried to allow my broken heart to mend. It was a kind of hibernation.
I emerged to find, at the age of thirteen, that there were loads of other girls all brilliantly enticing and willing to engage. There was also suddenly an explosion of Rock music. I resumed both my quests and the zoo took a distant third place.
I am writing this in my ‘den’. I spend a lot of my life here. I have my shelves of vinyl albums, my drawers of CDs, my cupboards of singles, my piles of magazines, my hundreds of Rock biographies all around me. I’m immersed in it. Yesterday I spent the day organising my CDs. It takes a bit of doing as I’ve over ten thousand. I use the Andy’s Record shop system; I catalogue them using the first letter of the first name – so Buddy Holly goes under B. I have tried grouping them under genres or eras but that’s fraught with problems. At some time I will endeavour to rearrange my albums. I don’t need to that but I do like holding them, looking at the covers and reading the blurb. It brings back memories and I can imagine the music and the feelings that went with it, the concerts, the friends and the times we lived through. There’s something very tactile about an old vinyl album. It’s a piece of art. When you hold it there’s warmth to it. You connect with the people who held it before you, the feel of the music, the musicians and the era it was made in. The cover tells you a story from the artwork, the photos and liner notes, to the label it was released on. Certain labels mean something special like Folkways, Electra, Stax, Dead Possum or Track. You knew what they stood for.
Collecting is an obsession. It is probably a type of madness, a symptom of autism that is mainly confined to males – but what the hell!
Back in the ‘old days’ there were hundreds of us collectors. We’d meet up clutching our recent purchases, pass them round, discuss them madly, play them, argue over them and roll our joints on the covers. We’d vie with each other to get hold of rarities, obscure bands or artists, bootlegs or rare pressings. We’d develop our loyalties and our allegiances for certain artists (the more unknown the better) and develop our collections. The first thing you did when you met someone new was to get a look at their collection. It told you everything you wanted to know.
Back then records were hard to get hold of. They meant something. You had to hunt them down. Every Saturday you’d be making the rounds of the second hand shop, rifling through the bins of vinyl albums hunting for the bargains and rarities, with the expectant baited excitement of discovering that gem. You’d meet up with your friends, show your purchases off with pride, and discuss your new discoveries and what gigs were coming up. It was a good way to socialise. Nowadays we are few and far between and viewed suspiciously as eccentric dinosaurs, children who have not grown up, or sad decaying hippies. Ho hum. We still do it though.
In the age of decluttering, coupled with the wonders of digital (I also have a few terabytes of digital recording – mainly live concerts and bootlegs), where you can download a band’s or label’s entire recorded output onto your I pod in an hour or browse through all the cheap releases on Amazon or EBay and find exactly what you want in minutes – it takes most of the thrill out of it. I have now obtained albums and recordings, in pristine quality, that, in the early days, I would have died for but there is no longer the same thrill in the hunt or the excitement of uncovering a longed-for rarity in the second-hand rack. It’s the same with football – now you can have exactly what you want, when you want it, it does not mean as much.
In 1959 I started my collection of singles. Having become addicted I moved on to albums. My first purchase was the quite incredible ‘Cliff’. I know, Cliff Richard is naff, a sugary sweet, Christian Pop singer. That has its elements of truth now – Cliff is undoubtedly a wet twerp. But in 1959 Cliff was a genuine British Rock Singer and produced more great Rock ‘n’ Roll tracks than anybody else. There was more to Cliff than ‘Move it’. He, more than anybody else (apart from ‘The Sound of Fury’ and a little later Johnny Kidd plus a few assorted tracks by other mainly Larry Parnes kids) captured the sound, excitement and rebellion of Rock ‘n’ Roll. His first album, recorded in 1959 live in the studio before a small audience of screaming girls, was a storming, rockin’ affair. Back then Cliff was neither wet nor Pop. He, like Elvis, suffered from bad management, and was directed down the saccharin Pop road to success. What a travesty. He became wet, Pop and MOR. I still love that first album though.
Strangely, given that most collectors are blokes, it is seemingly the girls who buy the most singles. They set the trend. And girls tend to like songs to be sweet and sickly. They veer away from the loud and raucous. They like the pretty boys. It paid Cliff, Billy and Johnny Burnette to become sweet faced pin-ups rather than wild rockers.
Soon I had a heap of albums including the wonderful Eddie Cochran, Little Richard, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. I made little brackets so that I could put them up on the wall in my tiny bedroom. When someone shut the door too violently they flew off the wall into a heap on the floor to my great dismay and chagrin. I was a junky. I had to get my regular fixes of Rock ‘n’ Roll. I sat in my room playing them over and over. When I got a new record I’d rush back and play it to death while reading all the liner notes until I’d absorbed every note and word and wrung everything I could out of it.
As a kid I loved the loud visceral excitement and rebellion of the music. As I grew older I wanted something more. I wanted something that was more musically complex and intellectually stimulating. I still loved the excitement and energy of early Rock ‘n’ Roll and R&B but I craved something more.
I was looking for Roy Harper, Captain Beefheart, Son House, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan but I didn’t know it. It was a search that took me through many absorbing and exciting revelations. There was, of course, the Beatles, Stones, Downliner’s Sect, Pink Floyd, Free, Hendrix, Syd and Cream. There were the Doors, Country Joe, Janis, Jefferson Airplane and Love, Zappa, Jackson C Frank, Leon Rosselson. There were Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed and Slim Harpo. There were the Who, Kinks and Prettythings. There was Bert Jansch, Donovan and John Renbourn, Otis Redding, Aretha and Booker T. There were the Sex Pistols, Clash, Stranglers, Stiff Little Fingers, Elvis Costello, and Ian Dury. There was Bob Marley, Michael Smith and Lee Scratch. And now there’s Nick Harper, Eels, White Stripes, Tinariwen and the North Mississippi Allstars. There were a thousand others. I saw most of them live. I met a number of them. I even got to the recording sessions.
It’s been quite a journey.
I am a collector. I have the records to prove it. I also have the collection of memories.
The life we live, the choices we make, the ideals we chose to live by, all make us the people we become.
I have always been an idealist. I wanted to solve all the world’s problems and have a great time doing it.
I also became a teacher.
My music has been the soundtrack to my thoughts, dreams and ideals. It has driven me, provoked my thinking, awoken my sensibilities, fuelled my anger, and filled me with love and pleasure.
I apologise to me wife and kids. It’s not easy living with an obsessive junky, an insane romantic on a mission. Someone will have to clear out my den. My head will take care of itself. Those thoughts, memories and dreams will be gone but hopefully they’ll leave behind a few ripples that will make the odd person think.
Right now I’m off in search of my heroes. There’s still much to discover.
Telling it like it was – the liner notes for ‘Live at Les Cousins’
I’ve just reread the liner notes I did for the Les Cousins CD and I think it stands up as a summary of life back then in 69. It’s worth another spin.
‘1969 was a good year whichever way up you look at it. There was something in the air – probably ghanga. Everyone was suffused with an optimistic outlook. Everything was imbued with change. All the old crap was being jettisoned – ideas – thoughts – careers – suburbia. The world was new. The world was new. People sat up all night enthusiastically discussing the creation of the universe, the size of infinity and the intensity of the human spirit. Hair sprouted out of every available orifice – well – almost. People actually shared things with each other.
You could buy OZ and IT and read about Kerouac, Mao, Che, Ian Anderson, Captain Beefheart and Cochise. Everyone was dropping out into more meaningful existences that involved creativity and positive life forces as well as hugely wonderful esotericosities. You could spend hours discussing the obvious fact that T.S. Elliott would definitely have been straight while Shelley would probably have been a Freak. You enthralled to the tales of Black consciousness as epitomised by the Black Panthers, who had emerged from the Civil Rights Movement campaigns, Vietnam draft dodgers and utopian dreams of perfect societies based on freedom, creativity and harmony. There were free concerts, sit-ins, marches, demonstrations, happenings, love-ins and a whole range of other consciousness-expanding activities.
The underground created an instant identity. You were either a Freak or Straight. It had something to do with the length of your hair as well as the ideology you identified with, and the drugs you were using. Freaks were pacifist sexual explorers embarking on chemical research and human, spiritual, political and environmental investigations. The ‘Revolution’ was just around the corner. In many ways, it had already happened. Straight society was already superfluous. We had our own Press, music, fashion, drugs, lifestyle and culture. Our language was permeated with Black hipster slang, man. Our dreams were megalomaniacal. I have my own theory that the planet just happened to pass through a cloud of hallucinogenic dust that only infiltrated certain young minds.
Of course, it was all a hugely naïve and pretentious bubble that could not hold its breath too long and subsequently produced a litany of disasters and chemical casualties. Still, even with the power of retrospective sight, it was wonderful to have been there and been part of it even if it was not a very smart career move for many of those involved. One is also forced to acknowledge that for most of the pseudo-freaks it proved to be little more than just another fashion statement, a passing phase which was fun at the time and got you laid. Sadly, the idealism went over their heads. Even so, it was an age of re-evaluation and individuality that engendered huge creativity in dress, thought, art and music and was the genesis and spawning ground for a lot of things that did not bear fruit until much later.
The most important thing about it was that it was so incredibly energetic and vital. There was so much to do, so much stimulation, so many places to be, people to meet, thoughts to share. All the doors were open. The 60s was a huge university and the curriculum was open-ended.
London was the driving force of the counter-culture. You could drop acid and do the Tate Gallery, 2001 or the Bonzos.
The club scene was alive and diverse. There were bands on tap every night with Blues from Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack and John Mayall – Folk with Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Jackson C Frank – Psychedelic Rock with Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Traffic, Nice, Cream, Family, Free, Tomorrow or Jethro Tull – West Coast Acid Rock with Country Joe, Captain Beefheart, the Mothers and the Doors – black blues with Son House, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf and Jimmy reed – Old Rock ‘n’ Rollers like Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. It was all mixed up with Jazz, Indian and pseudo-classical as with the Third Ear Band. Not only that, but it was ridiculously cheap. You could regularly see bands like Pink Floyd and Edgar Broughton for free. Hyde Park was a regular freebie. The festivals were three days for £1.50p. A gig was often 15p. Led Zeppelin at the Toby Jug was a staggering 25p –rip off or what? I could go on and on and get even more grotesquely nostalgic. Aye lad, when I were young. Them were the days.
There was no time to think – you were too busy doing stuff. The Incredibles at an all-nighter – Eel Pie Island bouncing up and down on the rotten floors to the flames of Arthur Brown. – giving demons hell with the Broughtons – at the Marquee with the guitar histrionics of Alvin Lee and Ten Years After – Hendrix smashing ceilings at Klooks Kleek – killing unknown soldiers with the Doors at the roundhouse – the Nice knifing organs at the UFO club – The Who smashing amps and Mooney driving his Roll’s and Lincoln Continental into swimming pools and ponds.
The Moving Being Dance Group naked and cybernetics at the ICI – it was all too much. Too much so that it was far out, man. Somewhere to the side, Straight society was landing on the moon but that was a side issue – we’d already visited other universes.
Even though the politics were getting out of hand in Grosvenor Square and Kent State, People’s Park and Chicago, where the Yippies put up a pig for president and Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin went to court in war-paint and jesters costumes, it was great.
Life and theatre had become confused.
Obscenity was on trial and was let off with a caution.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, there was this acerbic fiend who was putting vitriolic poetry to music and playing acoustic guitar at colleges and Folk Clubs – in fact anywhere that would have him. His name was Roy Harper and he had a sharp wit, quick mind and a maniacal laugh. He ranted, railed and played a mean guitar. His voice was good and his songs were excellent.
I first caught him playing three numbers sandwiched between Bert Jansch and John Renbourn at Les Cousins in early 1967 and I was hooked. I made it to three concerts a week and at least one had to be a mandatory Harper gig. I had discovered someone who was articulating the thoughts that were buzzing around my own head. He was painting my own pictures for me.
An early Harper concert might well meander through a few hours of thoughts and interjections with the odd song thrown in. The subject matter, targets and degree of vitriol depended on the mood and substances consumed. It was rarely dull.
Roy has never been a ‘performer’. What you see is what you get. He treats the stage like his front room. It’s not so much a performance as a dialogue that he enters into. You get the full contents of his mind – often mid-song and with no holds barred. No areas are taboo. For many, who are not quite on his wave-length, who may have come along for the songs, it is a frustrating experience. For those of us who like to mentally walk through the sundry realms of possibility, it is a voyage through your own thoughts and a highly stimulating process. Of course, that is not to suggest that the songs are not brilliantly good, too, but he ain’t no Cliff Richard or Paul Simon.
By 1969, Roy had progressed from street busker to songwriter supreme. We’d been regaled with Sophisticated Beggar and Come out fighting Ghenghis Smith and had our appetite whetted by the raw brilliance of Folkjokeopus. He was rampant and at his most aggressive. On stage masterpieces like ‘McGoohan’s Blues’ and ‘I Hate the Whiteman’ poured napalm on the claustrophobic society, we were all railing against. In was the sort of exhilarating invective that caused Melody Maker to accuse him of not coming up with any panaceas. I guess that before you can identify the answers you have to explore the problems. Roy was the octagonal peg who refused to be slotted. You got the idea that he was none too fond of Christianity and not a great admirer or respecter of rules and regulations. His ideal existence would have been a little more unrestricted.
We’d all heard a lot of songs live and were living in a great sweat of expectation. Roy had signed to the new prestigious ‘Underground’ label – Harvest – the same as Pink Floyd, Edgar Broughton and a host of others – and at last he was going to be properly produced. It was all going to do justice to the songs – and about time too! Peter Jenner was going to produce it at Abbey Road studios and he was a great guy who was sympathetic to the mood of the moment and the idiosyncrasies of the loony who hadn’t yet found his bus.
I was fortunate enough to attend many of the sessions and there are legendary episodes involving unwanted American ‘guests’ and vending machines. Still – that’s another story. However, to cut a long story short – Roy did not want ‘White Man’ sanitised in the studio. He had this vision of it raw and dripping venom. He wanted it spat out live in front of his audience, in a small club.
The idea was that ‘White Man’ was going to be the focus of the next album and it was going to be recorded at Les Cousins where he first started out. It was Roy’s second home – an intimate and totally familiar environment in which he could relax with the nucleus of his now considerable following and give full vent to his emotions. There was to be no holding back.
The news got out that the gig was going to be recorded and it was consequently heaving.
Dylan was playing to vast crowds on the twee Isle of Wight, while Harper held court in the sordid backstreets of Soho. It seemed somehow appropriate.
The place was hot with packed freakdom and the air was heavy with sweet-scented smoke. You went down these steps into this underground darkened cellar. EMI had brought its mobile recording equipment and the whole concert was recorded for posterity. I remember Roy being slightly more manic than usual and breaking a string on the first ‘take’ of ‘Whiteman’ so that he had to do it again. I guess it was the tension of being recorded and wanting to make it a good one or else just the way he was trying to put everything into it. Maybe it was the heat generated by the faithful?
It wasn’t just the guy striking the match – we were all on the album. We sat enthralled in the darkness, hanging on every note, willing it to be right and mentally holding it together.
It was one hell of a gig. We emerged into the streets of Soho with big smiles on our faces. The moon shone – the pavement echoed and we dispersed into the night bubbling.
In the event, they recorded the entire evening though only four reels of tape of the gig were found. It had sat on the shelf in EMI right up til now – a neatly packaged bit of history – vintage Roy Harper in his full potency when it was all new and looking to change things – snarling fit to shake the world!
The strange thing is that Roy Harper has never lost it. He’s still as crazy and still ranting against the system, trying to change it. You’d think he would have learned something in the ensuing quarter of a century!
Thank shit he hasn’t!
It’s a dirty job and someone has to do it – stick their head above the parapet and have the squealers, snouts deep in the trough, pass their judgements and make their superior snide remarks. If it wasn’t for a few torches in the darkness, we’d all be lost and slotted up our own arses by now. Maybe we are?
He may be crazy but he still makes a lot more sense than all the tribes of grey mediocrity who seem to be shaping our destiny.
Here’s to the next twenty-five years of insanity!
Hmmm – not a lot has changed since then. It seemed appropriate that a 69 concert should get released in 96 – as I said in the original – whichever way you look at it.
‘What a great read , what a journey , If you like music you’ll love this book . From the folk roots of London to the crossroads of Robert Johnson . From the delta of blues through to Greenwich village ! From the Height Ashbury hippy time to Hull.’
A memoir of my life in Rock Music! Now available in both paperback or kindle. Or you can obtain a signed copy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Extremely well written in a nice easy flowing casual style.
The writing flows along and draws you in. I read it in one sitting and then went back to read it again.
His writing and humour lifts it above the usual book.
The writing is never ‘dry’ – there is entertainment alongside education.
The writing is energetic, insightful and, in many places, inspired.
As soon as I started reading “on track…..Roy Harper” I was hooked.
Makes me want to play every song (again).
Excellent and enjoyable – thorough, detailed, super anecdotes and “eye witness”, and an easy and fun read.
The book gives new insights into familiar tunes and lyrics, brings knowledge about recently heard gems and adds a greater depth to our collective knowledge about one of the most loved singer/songwriters of his generation.
A wonderfully insightful and personal journey through Roy’s songs.
I have had a most enjoyable week reading Opher Goodwins’ book about Roy Harper’s songs while relistening to my own albums.
This book deserves to sit by your side, in any reading of this masterful lyricist, singer, songwriter, and poet.
Opher has a longstanding friendship with Roy and this shines through in this very interesting book.
No-one but Opher could have released a book on Roy Harper’s songs quite like this one, I say….. Full marks!
I too have three copies left out of my three batches if anyone wants a signed copy.
Thank you all so much for your support and the fabulous reviews. They really cheer me up.
What is more important is that so many of you feel that I’ve done justice to Roy’s incredible body of work. It is time we had a celebration of the songs of Britain’s best singer-songwriter. He deserves much greater recognition.