Roy Harper In Session — 1968 — Past Daily Soundbooth

Stormcock (1971) is generally regarded as a masterpiece: a sprawling but focused suite of four lengthy tracks which explored the inner space of Abbey Road Studio to rhapsodic effect. Like Astral Weeks refracted through the pages of OZ magazine, the songs span an enormous spectrum of experience, from the frontline of social unrest to the secluded, birdsong-infested lanes of the English countryside. Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page added guitar, disguised as ‘S Flavius Mercurius’, highlighting a relationship with the group that had begun at the 1970 Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music. “Hats Off To (Roy) Harper”, an incoherent, gutsy blues workout on Led Zeppelin III, paid tribute to the singer’s status as a beacon of integrity for the underground scene.

Harper enjoyed a special relationship with Led Zeppelin, and his subsequent albums began to move into harder rock territory with the addition of various key collaborators including, as well as Page, orchestral arranger/keyboardist David Bedford, David Gilmour, Chris Spedding, Bill Bruford and John Paul Jones. Lifemask (1972) contained several songs written for the film Made, directed by John Mackenzie, which starred Harper as an edgy, high-maintenance rock star. Valentine (1974) was launched with a gig featuring Page and Bedford plus Ronnie Lane and Keith Moon. He was invited to sing lead on the single “Have A Cigar” from Pink Floyd’s classic album Wish You Were Here (1975). In the same year Harper released HQ, a rock based album notable for the closing track, “When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease”, an elegiac hymn to unchanging ways and mortality which BBC DJ John Peel insisted should be played in the event of his death.

With the dawn of the 1980s Harper took part in a musical exchange with Kate Bush, who guested on The Unknown Soldier (1980), while Harper returned the favour by appearing on Bush’s hit single “Breathing”. Harper rode the unsteady waves of the music industry during the early 1980s but kept up a productive output that saw his music taking on a prophetic role, expressing more explicit concerns with environmental disaster, religious fundamentalism, urban poverty and the first Gulf War, on releases like Once (1990), The Dream Society (1998) and The Green Man (2000). In 1994, exhibiting typical desire for autonomy and self-sufficiency, he set up his own record label, Science Friction, to curate and rerelease his entire back catalogue, along with a clutch of CDs of live and unreleased material covering his entire career. In his book, The Passions Of Great Fortune (2003), he published his complete lyrics together with photos, annotations and re-evaluations of every one of his songs. In 2005 Harper was awarded the Mojo Hero Award by the staff of Mojo magazine. The award itself was presented by long time collaborator and friend, Jimmy Page.”

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