Roy Harper : my early gig experiences and Newcastle City Hall 1974

roytix1974 I’m going to spend a few days this week blogging about Roy Harper. I’ve become a bit of a fan of Roy’s over the year, which sort of crept up on me without me realising it. Roy has always been there as part of my concert experience, someone who seemed to just pop up and play at many of the festivals I went to in the 70s, and someone that I went to see now and then as an act in his own right. In recent years however I’ve begun to reflect on just how important Roy Harper and his music is to me and, I’m sure, to a lot of other people.
My concert journey with Roy Harper started with the first ever rock concert I attended, which was a Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band concert at Sunderland Empire on 8th March 1969. The support acts that night were Mad Dog, Yes and Roy. I was sitting in the front row directly in front of Roy that night. He was sitting on a high stool, sporting what seemed to me to be incredibly long hair, a pair of beat up old jeans and a pair of big Dr Martin boots. I think he sang Hells Angels, Nobodies Got Any Money in the Summer, and I Hate The White Man. I knew Nobodies Got Any Money in the Summer from the Rock Machine Turns You On sampler lp. I was surprised at the way he interacted with the audience; it was as if people knew him and were having conversations with him from the stalls. It was that authenticity and naturalness that struck me. With Roy what you see is what you get; he always speaks and sings from the heart and is never frightened to tell it as it is.
I saw Roy as support act at a few more gigs, and at a few of the Knebworth festivals in the 70s. My friend’s brother had the Flat Baroque and Berserk album and I used to go around to his house to listen to it. Our favourite tracks were I Hate the White Man, Another Day and Tom Tiddler’s Ground. The ticket here is from a gig at Newcastle City Hall in 1974. The wonderful Me and My Woman was featuring as a highlight of his live performances at this time. This Newcastle concert came one month after Roy’s legendary London Rainbow Theatre show which took place on February 14 (Valentine’s Day) 1974, where he was backed by guests including Jimmy Page, Keith Moon and Ronnie Lane. I went along to the City Hall in the hope that similar guests might grace the stage that night. I don’t recall who the guests were but they weren’t the same guys who played with Roy at the Rainbow. None the less it was still a great gig.
And so my lifelong fascination with the words, music anecdotes and philosophies of Roy Harper began. Over the years I’ve seen lots of faces of Roy: Roy the angry young man (late 60s and early 70s), Roy the festival hippy and raconteur, Roy the face of the alternative counter culture, Roy the electric rock star, and in more recent years the reflective Roy, looking back at his songs, his career and life in general; Roy the wise elder statesman of music. I’m going to write a little about each of these faces over the next few days.

8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tony Grey on March 3, 2022 at 7:48 am

    I saw Roy at The City Hall on 22/5/70, he was supported by The Strawbs who had recently gone electric & added Rick Wakeman to the lineup, I recall Rick vividly because of his very long blond hair, cape & playing two keyboards at the same time.
    Sadly the concert was very poorly attended, with only about 20 in the audience, however Roy was very gracious, gathered the small crowd down in front of the stage, & chatted like we were old friends, it’s a shame I don’t remember much about the music, but it was an enjoyable evening.

    Reply

    • Posted by vintagerock on March 3, 2022 at 12:57 pm

      Hi Tony thanks for your memories. Sounds like a great concert. I wish I could have been there. Strangely and coincidently Rick Wakeman mentioned it at his recent Sage concert. Someone asked him the first time he played in Newcastle and he replied that it was at the City Hall, as part of Strawbs, supporting Roy Harper. He obviously has a good memory! Happy days best wishes Peter

      Reply

      • Posted by Tony Grey on March 3, 2022 at 2:46 pm

        Thanks Peter,
        I did get to see Roy again at The Flowerpot here in Derby a few years ago, but he didn’t seem to have the same connection with the audience, the friend I went with said, “I’m glad I can say I’ve seen Roy, but I wouldn’t go again”. A few weeks ago at the same venue I saw his son Nick, which was a good gig, he’s a talented singer/songwriter, but not in the same league as his dad.
        Unfortunately because we moved away from the NE in 1970 when I was 16, I didn’t get to many gigs at The City Hall, but as other gigs I went to were, The Moody Blues, The Nice & a Lindisfarne Christmas concert, although that may have been when I returned to do my training in Sunderland in ’72.

      • Posted by vintagerock on March 3, 2022 at 2:53 pm

        Hi Tony I am a big fan of Roy, as you probably gathered. I have never been to see Nick, although I probably should. I will try and do so one day, although I am pretty full on with gigs planned this year! So many have been postponed because of Covid and they are now all coming together. I went to see Fairport Convention last night and I am going to see Status Quo tonight. I will report on them soon. I am going to see both versions of Lindisfarne (Lindisfarne and the Lindisfarne Story) later this year to touch base with them again (or what remains of them!) Happy days Peter

      • Posted by Tony Grey on March 3, 2022 at 3:17 pm

        I’ve seen a couple of incarnations of Lindisfarne over the years, more recently with Billy Mitchell as frontman, always enjoyed them. The Lindisfarne Story is a great night too, trying to persuade my wife to go again.
        Like you I’ve got a few gigs lined up, some rescheduled from last year, tonight I’m off to The Flowerpot, with another Shields lad exiled in Derby, to see Welsh rockers Man.

      • Posted by vintagerock on March 3, 2022 at 3:28 pm

        I have not seen Man for many years. I am so jealous! They have no gigs lined up here in the near future. I used to love them when Mickey Jones was alive and Spunk Rock was a classic Happy days Peter

      • Posted by Tony Grey on March 31, 2022 at 6:59 am

        Peter, the Man gig was brilliant, only Martin Ace from left from the early days now but they were superb, James on lead guitar was amazing, backed up by Josh Ace on rhythm & second lead guitar, a really solid rhythm section from Shane on drums & some great keyboards from Malcom Morley who sang lead vocals on a couple of tracks.
        Man opened up with Spunk Rock & rocked the room for over 90 minutes, thevonly thing the gig wanted was a psychedelic light show! Sadly being a Thursday night it wasn’t a big crowd, but we left buzzing, my friend Phil, another former Shields lad now living here in Derby, said he really only came to the gig because I wanted to go, but he was pleased he did come & was very impressed with the band.
        Highly recommend catching them if you can, you won’t be disappointed.

      • Posted by vintagerock on March 31, 2022 at 12:01 pm

        Hi Tony takes me back to sitting in the field at the Reading Festival in 1972 listening to Man play “Spunk Rock”. Yes if they come to the north-east I will definitely see them. Happy days Peter

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