Review by Mark Hughes for DPRP Mag – Opher Goodwin — Roy Harper: On Track… Every Album, Every Song book

I do enjoy reading the reviews for the book. Gives me a boost! Thank you to all who leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Means a lot!!

Opher Goodwin — Roy Harper: On Track… Every Album, Every Song [Book (157 pages)]

country: UK

year: 2021

Opher Goodwin - Roy Harper: On Track... Every Album, Every Song

info:

 sonicbondpublishing.co.uk

Mark Hughes

Another title in the rapidly growing list of books published by SonicBond, this time featuring original maverick and friend to a guitar rock god or two, Roy Harper.

As a long-standing Harper fan I know that tackling his discography is not a task for the faint-hearted. With albums going in and out of print, reissues, alternative versions and limited editions, there is a lot to get to grips with. Thankfully Goodwin handles everything with aplomb, clarifying where extra tracks on various re-releases originally stemmed from and where they fit into Harper’s recording chronology. It makes it easy to disentangle the frequently messy and confusing slew of releases from a prolific writer.

Of course, it helps that Goodwin has been friends with Harper since 1967, just after the release of Harper’s surprising debut album Sophisticated Beggar; surprising in that it eschewed the folk and blues numbers that Harper had gained a reputation for from his busking and folk club performances and comprised all-original material. Perhaps more startling was that it also featured a full band in places, not what the folk crowd that had primarily been his audience up to that point had been expecting. These were the first signs that Harper would stick to his own plans and not be pushed into doing what others necessarily wanted or expected.

What will be alien to modern bands is the fact that Harper’s first two albums, released on different labels, were both commercial failures. Yet the musical environment of the time meant that it was the music that mattered and the lack of commercial appeal was not considered a black mark against the artist. He found a longer-lasting home on Harvest Records for his third album, Flat Baroque And Berserk, the first of seven essential albums he recorded for the label over the next decade.

Goodwin’s personal memories and analysis of the songs and albums adds a lot to the book and offer insights that keep things interesting, more than some other titles in the series in being a sterile list of songs. Harper was never an artist that was likely to trouble the singles chart but he did consistently release such items. Although a lot of the songs unique to the format, particularly from the earliest years, have been compiled and re-issued, his b-sides remain some of the hardest items to locate for the collector. In that respect this book is a valuable guide to what was released, and in some cases what has not been released, both of which can be quite frustrating for the searching completist!

I would have liked to have seen a bit more on the live Roy Harper as, despite the brilliance of the studio output, it was on stage that Harper excelled. As at least a couple of the official live albums were assembled from a multitude of recorded concerts, there is potentially a lot of recorded material that remains locked in the vaults. However, considering that recording details and locations were omitted from Inbetween Every Line as all the tapes were mixed up and it wasn’t deemed necessary to sort them out, it could be a major task sorting them out if, indeed, they still exist.

Despite his long recording career, there doesn’t appear to be much studio material left languishing in the vaults and it seems increasingly unlikely that Harper will return to the studio to record a new album, despite how well his last album, 2013’s Man And Myth was received. So it is from these putative live archives that any future releases will presumably be drawn.

As such, this volume can be assumed to be as complete a record of the musical legacy of one of Britain’s finest and most idiosyncratic singer-songwriters as you are likely to find. Written in a relaxed and enjoyable style, it is an easy-to-read volume that will introduce, and re-introduce, the reader to the delights of the Harper catalogue. I certainly dug out a few of his lesser-played albums from my collection and listened to them in a new light after reading the book. And if that is not recommendation enough, I don’t know what is.

Now, back to searching for the missing items. Anyone know where I can find Goodbye Ladybird?

Today’s Music to keep me SssSsAaaaNnnnEEe in Isolation – Roy Harper – Work Of Heart

While not being one of Roy’s very Best albums this is still brilliant. I don’t think he ever made a really bad one. Even his worst have great redeeming songs and features.

It’s great to get out one of the ones that I play less than the others and rediscover the gems!!

I think I might have a Roy Harper day and immerse myself. Higher and Higher drawn to the flames. I hope the spirit metaphysic doesn’t put the light out!

Roy Harper: Every Album, Every Song (On Track) Paperback

Roy Harper: Every Album, Every Song (On Track) Paperback – 29 July 2021

by Opher Goodwin (Author)

4.7 out of 5 stars    46 ratings

Roy Harper: Every Album, Every Song (On Track): Amazon.co.uk: Opher Goodwin: 9781789521306: Books

Roy 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. He is lauded by the likes of Dave Gilmour, Ian Anderson, Jimmy Page, Pete Townsend, Joanna Newsom, Fleet Foxes and Kate Bush. Who else could boast that he has had Keith Moon, Jimmy Page, Dave Gilmour, John Paul Jones, Ronnie Lane, Chris Spedding, Bill Bruford and Steve Broughton in his backing band? Notable albums include Stormcock, HQ and Bullinamingvase. Opher Goodwin, Roy s friend and a fan, guides the reader through every album and song, providing insight into the recording of the songs as well the times in which they were recorded. As his loyal and often fanatical fans will attest, Roy has produced a series of epic songs and he remains a raging, uncompromising individual.

A celebration of Roy’s songs, music and poetry.

With thanks to Liz Goodwin and Mark Ruston for their help.

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Sophisticated Beggar + Outtakes & Unreleased 1966
  3. Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith 1967
  4. Folkjokeopus 1969
  5. Flat Baroque And Berserk 1970
  6. Stormcock 1971
  7. Lifemask 1973
  8. Valentine 1974
  9. Flashes From The Archives Of Oblivion 1974
  10. HQ 1975
  11. Bullinamingvase 1977
  12. Commercial Breaks 1977
  13. Harper 1970-1975 1978
  14. Unknown Soldier 1980
  15. Born In Captivity 1984
  16. Work Of Heart 1982
  17. Whatever Happened To Jugula? 1985
  18. In Between Every Line 1986
  19. Descendants Of Smith 1988
  20. Loony On The Bus 1988
  21. Once 1990
  22. Burn The World 1990
  23. Live At The Red Lion 1,2 and 3 1984-5 1990
  24. The Death Of God 1992
  25. Born In Captivity 2 – Unhinged 1993
  26. An Introduction To 1994
  27. Live At Les Cousins 1996
  28. The BBC Tapes 1-6 1997
  29. Poems, Speeches, Thoughts And Doodles 1997
  30. Song Of The Ages 1997
  31. The Dream Society 1998
  32. The Green Man 2000
  33. Hats Off 2001
  34. East Of The Sun 2001
  35. The Royal Festival Hall 2001
  36. Today Is Yesterday 2002
  37. The Death Of God 2005
  38. Counterculture 2005
  39. Beyond The Door 2005
  40. From Occident To Orient 2007
  41. Songs Of Love And Loss 2011
  42. Live In The Metropolis Studios 2011
  43. Man And Myth 2013
  44. Miscellaneous Tracks, Guest Appearances And Rarities 1970-2000
  45. Afterword
  •  

Introduction

Roy Harper is a unique individual and innovative songwriter who took his first uncharacteristically tentative steps into the London folk scene during the mid-sixties.

   Roy was born on the 12th of June 1941 into the middle of World War 2 and sadly his mother died a few days later from mastitis – a common breast infection that is nowadays easily treatable. The loss of his mother has naturally had a lifelong impact on Roy’s personality.

   Roy’s father married again. His stepmother was a strict and religious woman and Roy’s life of rebellion began.

   Roy’s first memory is of being held in someone’s arms looking towards a red glow on the horizon and being told ‘Manchester’s really copping it tonight’.

   Roy was a wayward child and his younger years were marked by him constantly being in trouble at home and school. As a young boy he was found pedalling on his trike towards Liverpool, many miles from home. Roy’s dislike of the religion his stepmother imposed led to him performing pagan ceremonies and burying effigies in his back garden.

   The genteel town of Lytham St Annes where Roy lived, was once described by him as a cemetery with a bus stop. The tedium of life in the drowsy town portrayed a conservative ethos he fought against.

   As Roy moved into his teenage years, minor incidents progressed into more serious crimes. He and a small group of friends alternated between running free in the countryside and taking part in sprees of shoplifting and vandalism. These ranged from stealing chocolates in Woolworth to breaking into Lytham’s cricket pavilion. They drank the booze they found inside the pavilion and then burnt the building to the ground.

………………

Roy Harper: Every Album, Every Song (On Track): Amazon.co.uk: Opher Goodwin: 9781789521306: Books

In Search of Captain Beefheart – A journey through the Underground of Rock

In Search of Captain Beefheart

Foreword

Fight for what you believe with passion not violence.

Be prepared to take some heavy blows!!

Opher and Liz 1971

Liz & Opher walking down Massachusetts Avenue in Boston 1971 – featured on the front page of the Boston Evening Globe
Preface

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.

In Search of Captain Beefheart: Amazon.co.uk: Goodwin, Opher: 9781502820457: Books

Christina

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant ReadReviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 December 2019

Verified Purchase

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 Haight Ashbury hippy time to Hull ,Intrigued you should be ! I couldn’t put this book down it took me on a musical journey back in time from Blues Folk Rock and Punk and back again , Excellent ! Hats off to Opher . Dylan Thomas Jones .