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.

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