Prior to 1994 I had seen Roy Harper more than any other musician. The only reason this changed was my move to the USA that year. I had laughed with and at Roy for a long time, I had picked him up off the floor and helped him to the stage and he had stepped over me on the way from the stage possibly on the same evening. My eldest son went to see him twice in the womb and my wife fell asleep at at least three of his shows. I had seen him at festivals, churches, concert halls, Irish Centers and lecture theaters. I had waited for the bus with him, bought him drinks and laughed cried and howled with him. He was not a hero to me and my friends but he came close.
He has always been an enigma, making you uncomfortable in his beliefs and things he says and also making you very comfortable with is ability to tap into what you are thinking. He is an iconoclast and ultimately a deeply flawed human being as many of his contemporaries are.
Of all the English songwriters he is the closest I think to merging poetry and music. His imagery and use of language can at times make you weep with the beauty of the words and then he can rage like no other, pointing an accusatory finger at politicians prophets and priests. His sound especially in the 80’s was loud and angry, the audience was made up of punks, hippies, old and young and when he played you could hear a pin drop. When he rambled it was a conversation with the audience and no two shows were the same.
As an ex-pat there is nothing more enticing than the memories of home but can we ever go back there to that place and time we miss. We have all moved on and grown a lot so those places we remember are just that memories, whether it is the shingle beach in Brighton or the woods in Formby looking for squirrels before there was a parking lot and gate.
Even though Roy has gone quiet after his most recent troubles and the questions surrounding him. I still remember him giggling as he began the Lord’s Prayer under the mirror ball, sitting on the illuminated floor trying to decide if he should finish so the disco could begin in Southport. Or the infamous day we declared we are with the band to con our way into the Adelphi, the band being one man and his guitar.
I saw Roy once in the USA and I have the poster to prove it and a signed menu from the bar. We played ping pong and I got boisterous and we laughed at each other. We remembered some gigs we thought we could and pretended it mattered. I wanted him to be great but he was OK and I may have made a fool of myself. He was kind to me and ultimately that is what I remember.
If you have twenty or so minutes to spare go wallow in that nostalgia.