I had begun to devour the weekly music press at the age of twelve, starting with Disc & Music Echo, while John Peel had become my guru on the radio. I had listened to him on the independent radio ship, Radio London, and had reluctantly followed him to the BBC and their new venture, Radio 1. While never quite being able to forgive him for taking Auntie's shilling he did still play the most interesting music. He played Tyrannosaurus Rex every week and they became the next object of my adulation. Again I bought the first three albums the moment they were released. I had pestered the poor man behind the counter at the local Rumbelow's for weeks leading to the release of "My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair, But Now They're Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows" and I bought Marc Bolan's book of poems, "The Warlock Of Love", with similar haste. I was devastated when Steve Peregine Took left. He was my favourite - it wasn't just the long hair, the cloak and the percussion, but he added those strange and beautiful vocalisations to the songs. I was horrified when, in 1970, Jeff Dexter played "Ride A White Swan" over and over and over again at the Third Isle Of Wight Festival. I wasn't aware of the controversy caused by Bob Dylan's expansion into electric expression at the time, but I think I felt betrayed in the same way as John Cordwell who shouted, "Judas!" during the second half of the concert at The Free Trade Hall in Manchester on 17th May 1966. From that moment my relationship with Tyrannosaurus Rex was severed. I had been prepared to give the new man, Mickey Finn, a try but every further move into commercialism (including the unconscionable shortening of a great band name) distanced me more from the band.
At the height of my affection for Tyrannosaurus Rex, though, I begged my parents to let me go and see them play live. Obviously it was not feasible for a thirteen year-old to be allowed to attend one of the all-night gigs at Middle Earth in London that were the tofu of many legends in those days, but when the Babylonian Mouthpiece Show was organised at the Royal Festival Hall 3rd June 1968, my mum and dad relented and bought tickets for the whole family to attend.
|This isn't my ticket, but wasn't far from where I sat.|
Recently I stumbled across Roy Harper's website. He seems to have most of the licenses to his recordings and is able to offer them as downloads. I jumped at the chance of buying a download copy of "Come Out Fighting, Ghengis Smith" and getting my ears wrapped around the title track that has been such an important influence on the way I make music now, or the mysterious "Highgate Cemetery", the doped up, "You Don't Need Money" and the extraordinary "Circle". Although my own parents never put me under the same pressure as the parents of the schoolboy in the song I identified very strongly with the protagonist - victim status has been fashionable for a very long time. As I was downloading the album and one or two others that caught my eye I also saw a hardback version of a book of Roy Harper's lyrics, photographs and recollections, "The Passions Of Great Fortune". I bought that too. I sent an e-mail message to the web-site sharing something of what I have written here. I didn't know if Roy Harper saw the e-mails that were directed to his site. A few days later a heavy package arrived from Ireland. It was my book. Indeed it is a beautiful volume and it was great to have the lyrics of most of the words in one place. As I opened it I came to the title page and there in thick black pen was a personal message from Roy Harper addressed to me and thanking me for my recollections. I cannot say just how much I was touched by this simple and thoughtful gesture. It's a lesson many could learn and a reminder to myself to try and be nice to people.
A couple of weeks ago I went to Norwich to see (and this time hear) Lulu in concert. She was, of course, superb. She has one of the finest rock voices this land has ever produced and, maybe I'm just an old softy, but I did find it very moving that she has only recently found her own voice as a songwriter along with the confidence to sing her own songs. I bought a signed copy of her cd of those songs. I do find great satisfaction in completing previously unfinished business, even if it takes me fifty years.