From Hors D'Oeuvres Issue Eleven Page 14
ROY HARPER....GRANITE IN BLOOM
In 1969 Roy undertook a small tour of six venues along with Ron Geesin & Ralph McTell. Featured here is an article which appeared in the tour programme.
Sept. 26/27 Purcell Room, Royal Festival Hall
Roy Harper isn't an example of an category, the epitome of any movement or a rung on anybody's ladder; he built himself alone, piece by piece and his defiant character stands proud after the ordeal as if chiselled from belligerent granite.
From the grime of sleepy all-nighters and the economic depression that stalks the young musician, Roy toiled at his task, preached his own gospel and carried the often savage lyrics and soft melancholia to every stage the would allow him to play. He beat his guitar or caressed. He verbally bruised any disinterested or aggressive audiences, because that is his way. Across from the basements of Soho's Les Cousins to the shores of Castro's Cuba, he delivered his caustic social denunciations with brass knuckles, yet maintained a mellow tolerance that needed only an ounce of recognition to help it blossom.
When I first arrived, unemployed, in London, I was duly informed that Harper had a pad and a habit of keeping people in need of a place to sleep. I checked it out and found his age-old Kilburn abode to be over-run with homeless persons and Roy himself in a confused state, unable to work on his songs. Neither could he bring himself to level any eviction notice on his tenants. This situation saw it's results in the frantic distress throughout his first LP on Strike Records, 'Sophisticated Beggar'. As I watched and indeed helped on the production of the LP, I was able to observe the effect it had on Roy. Something was at last beginning to point in a definite direction and he started to bundle together all the sprawling tentacles of his verse, gather in the nebulous meanderings of meaning and concentrate on equipping his songs with clean, solid themes.
Each theme lost none of it's strength, but became a series of related comments instead of an encyclopaedic menagerie of gropes in the dark. He was never interested in money, it was simply a necessary vehicle for purchasing food and paying rent. On the rare occasion when he might be caught doing something brash and bourgeois-like buying the Bentley he now drives-there is always that note of sarcasm which lends the view he is taking the mick out of it by indulging. The only things he did need, the very roots of his existence, were to write, to sing and be heeded. Hence the reason why he took his self designed publicity notices for 'Sophisticated Beggar' down Oxford Street and handed them out to busy shoppers in an effort to spread his word.
The initial impact of the LP was greater than expected and so took the burden of distribution out of Roy's hands into the waiting hands of the public. His confidence grew and his lyrics improved with new control he exercised. Slowly, Roy was establishing his own personal form of musical government, which was accepted with great pleasure when the next phase of his development appeared on the 'Come Out Fighting Genghis Smith' LP, a CBS release. Though his career was rapidly changing, he still hooked up the microphone on Sundays and recited his Quasimodo speech to the congregation filing in and out of the noisy church opposite his flat- but it wasn't a freak out any longer.