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roy harper - the manchester song writer
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""Roy is one of the greatest English songwriters we've had, and people just don't realise it. And I really think that when they do we're going to have another top songwriter up there. He's brilliant." - Kate Bush
 
   

Current 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 sales!

 

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