line up: Roy Harper - (acoustic guitar, tambourine, vocals, washboard),
John Fitzgerald (piano, trumpet, concertina, harp, keyboards, organ),
Ian Anderson (flute), Nick Harper (guitars), Jeff Ward (bass, mandolin,
percussion, guitar, drums), Steve Barnard (drums), Ric Sanders (violin)
Rusholme-born Roy Harper is one
of the greatest British songwriters of all time. His guitar work
has influenced many including Led Zepplelin and Jethro Tull to name
but a few. At the age of 15, life at home with his devout Jehovah's
Witness mother became too much and he left, lying about his age
to join the RAF. He performed skiffle at camp concerts until he
suffered a nervous breakdown that led to his committal in the Lancaster
Moor Mental Institute. Roy escaped in his pyjamas through a bathroom
window and was later arrested in London, where he was sentenced
to jail for trying to climb the clock tower at St. Pancras Station.
During 1964, after getting out of prison, he toured the World, busking
in Africa, mainland-Europe and London for a year, before graduating
to the folk clubs where he earned the chance to record his first
album. 1966's "The Sophisticated Beggar" , included "Committed"
, a song which celebrated his mental condition. The album attracted
the attention of Columbia Records, for whom he went on to record
"Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith" in 1967. With the release
of his next album, "Folkjokeopus", in 1969, he was already
gaining a reputation that earned him a contract with EMI's Harvest
Records. He recorded "Flat Baroque and Berserk" in 1970,
which included the track later covered by Kate bush and Peter Gabriel,
"Another Day" .
1970 also saw Led Zeppelin pay tribute to Roy on their album, "Led
Zeppelin III" with the track "Hats Off To Harper"
and as a result 1971's "Stormcock" also featured Jimmy
Page as guest guitarist. In a productive period, Roy found the time
to write the script and music for the film ‘Made’ ,
in which he also starred opposite Carol White. The soundtrack was
also released in 1973 under the title ‘Lifemask’.
In 1974, roy found chart success with the album "Valentine"
(UK number 27) and on Valentine's Day, February 14th, of the same
year, Roy performed at London’s Rainbow, backed by Jimmy Page
(Led Zeppelin), Keith Moon (The Who) and Ronnie Lane (The Rolling
Stones). Material from the concert was included on the live double
album "Flashes From The Archives Of Oblivion" which also
appeared David Bedford, Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), John Bonham
(Led Zeppelin) and Ronnie Lane (Small Faces).
In 1975, Roy appeared on Pink Floyd’s UK and US Number 1 hit
" Wish You Were Here" album, singing "Have a Cigar"
before releasing his own "HQ" album. In promoting the
album though, too many excesses caught up with Roy and he collapsed
on stage, as a result for the time since 1966, the World went without
a Roy Harper release. In 1977, Roy returned in fine form with the
"Bullinamingvase" album, which included guest vocals from
Paul and Linda McCartney on "One Of Those Days In England"
The album reached UK Number 25,
representing Roy's most succesful period. Roy however fell out with
his record company who insisted he released more material quickly
to capitalise on his new-found fame. As a result, in 1978, the compilation
"Roy Harper 1970-1975" album was released and much of
Roy's other work remained un-released until 1988's rare "Loney
On The Bus" album - (The "Commercial Breaks" album
was eventually released in 1994).
In Harper 1970-1975’ (Harvest), kept his name in front of
the public whilst he was out of action and introduced him to many
new fans. ‘ In 1980 the acclaimed "The Unknown Soldier"
album included ‘You’ , a duet with Kate Bush who later
thanked him on the cover of her 1980 Number 1 "Never For Ever"
album for "holding onto the poet in his music" . In 1982,
Roy harper split from Harvest and formed his own record company
(Public), releasing "Work Of Heart" which was chosen as
The Sunday Times 1982 Album Of The Year. In 1985, Roy joined Awareness
Records and recorded "Born in Captivity" . which included
the acoustic demos for "Work of Heart". In the same year,
Roy collaborated with Jimmy Page on the Top 20 album "Whatever
Happened To Jugula" which was released on the Charlatans '
Beggar’s Banquet label.
Roy forgave EMI and re-signed for them in 1986, releasing the live
album "In Between Every Line" , followed by 1988’s
"Descendants Of Smith", which he criticised as being 'ruined'
by the record company! After such heavy criticism of EMI, Roy returned
to Awareness Records in 1990 with the brilliant "Once"
album which featured Dave Gilmour and Kate Bush. whilst, true to
Harper-style, Roy failed to receive sales success he did enjoy widespread
media approval. He also released the 2-track "Burn The World"
album which again failed to chart.
In 1991 Roy’s son Nick, a superb guitarist himself, became
a part of Roy's touring band. "Death Or Glory?" , Roy's
1992 album release was perhaps his most personal yet and was quickly
followed by the re-release of the entire back-catalogue on his own
Science Friction label. In 1998, Roy returned to the fore with the
brilliant new album "The Dream Society" , again winning
rave reviews and attracting the interest of fellow musicians without
stealing the hearts and cash of the mass record-buying public. Roy
Harper probably ranks alongside The Bee Gees as Manchester's most
productive and respected act since the 1960's - if only he had their