Roy Harper: Another Day (1970)

Roy HarperI saw Roy Harper play live at the Half Moon in London on August 19, 1991. Since he rarely played in the United States, I was grateful for the opportunity to finally see him.

The show was kind of a disaster. Roy came onstage in what can only be described as a severely altered state. “I’m not ripped—I’m shredded,” were his first words to the audience. Things went downhill from there. He forgot the words to some of the songs. He changed songs before finishing the one he was playing. He rambled and at one point made chicken noises into the microphone. To make matters worse, there was a drunken heckler at the front of the stage that yelled out nonsense throughout the show, at one point attempting to knock over the speakers at the side of the stage. Apparently, the club didn’t believe in bouncers.

At the end of the set, Roy told the audience that there would be some improvement during the following two nights. That was little consolation to me—I was catching a flight back to the States the next day.

Still, I don’t hold it against him. I heard that he’d had some personal problems that night. Besides, it’s Roy Harper.

If you don’t think you’ve heard Roy Harper, you probably have. He sang the lead vocals on the Pink Floyd song Have a Cigar. In addition to Pink Floyd, he’s worked with a myriad of rock luminaries, including Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Ronnie Lane, Keith Moon, David Gilmour, Paul and Linda McCartney, Keith Emerson, and Kate Bush.

“I was never really a bone fide member of the folk scene. I was too much of a modernist, really. Just too modern for what was going on in the folk clubs. I wanted to modernize music, but more than that to completely modernize people’s attitudes towards life in general. I was involved in trying to bring meat to the folk music, which is a big mistake anyway.”

Roy Harper, October 2008

Roy recorded 21 studio albums, plus a number of live albums and compilations. The featured track, Another Day, is from the 1970 album Flat Baroque and Berserk. The first version is the album track. The second is a video by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, which I added because it complements the Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush video from my last post.

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Bob Dylan: Idiot Wind (1975)

Bob Dylan

Going to a Bob Dylan concert is a bit of a crap shoot—you never know what you’re going to get. It could be great. It could be incoherent. It could be a little of both.

In 1961, Dylan began singing and playing folk music in New York’s Greenwich Village. By 1965, he’d written a number of notable folk songs and protest songs, including Blowin’ in the Wind and The Times They Are a-Changin. March 1965 saw the release of Bringing It All Back Home, Dylan’s first album featuring the use of electric instruments.

The folk music establishment went ballistic. Ewan MacColl, writing in Sing Out!, said:

“Our traditional songs and ballads are the creations of extraordinarily talented artists working inside traditions formulated over time…But what of Bobby Dylan?…a youth of mediocre talent. Only a non-critical audience, nourished on the watery pap of pop music could have fallen for such tenth-rate drivel.”

There are folk music enthusiasts who to this day still haven’t forgiven Dylan for breaking out into the mainstream.

“A lot of people can’t stand touring but to me it’s like breathing. I do it because I’m driven to do it.”
— Bob Dylan

Idiot Wind is one of my favorite Dylan songs. It’s certainly the most angry. Because of copyright issues, I can’t reprint the lyrics here, but fortunately, the lyrics are printed on Dylan’s website. The song comes from the Blood on the Tracks album, released in 1975. The version presented here is from a 1976 concert.

Paul Kelly – Before Too Long (1986)

paul-kellyPaul Kelly has received much recognition in his native Australia—he was inducted into the the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame in 1997. He remains less well-known in the United States, where the current top 20 includes albums by Lady GaGa, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, and the rap “musicians” du jour.

Talk, the first album by Paul Kelly and the Dots, was released in 1981. Subsequent bands and projects include Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls, Paul Kelly and the Messengers, Paul Kelly (solo), Paul Kelly and the Stormwater Boys,
Uncle Bill, Professor Ratbaggy, Paul Kelly and the Boon Companions, and
Stardust Five. Paul co-wrote the hit song Treaty with Aboriginal rock band Yothu Yindi and wrote material for other musicians. He also recorded soundtracks for the films Lantana and One Night the Moon.

…Lyrics are important but the most beautiful lyrics in the world are going to be no good unless you’ve got a decent tune.

Paul Kelly, Dirty Linen Interview, 1992

I had the good fortune to interview Paul during the 1992 Adelaide Festival, after a performance of Funerals and Circuses, a play written by the late Aboriginal playwright Roger Bennett. Paul acted and sang in the play. Here’s a slightly expanded version of the interview, which originally ran in the October/November issue of Dirty Linen.

After I interviewed Paul, he was kind enough to arrange for me to pick up some of his CDs at Mushroom Records in Sydney. When I got back to Boston, where I was living at the time, I listened to the CDs and really enjoyed them. One Sunday, about two weeks after I’d returned from Australia, I decided to go to Tower Records to see if I could find any more of Paul’s music.

I walked into the CD section of the store and although their was a divider with his name on it, they were out of CDs. Back in those days, they were still selling cassette tapes, so I went into the cassette section of the store to see if they had any of Paul Kelly’s albums on cassette.

I saw this guy bending over to pick something off the floor that he must have dropped. All I could see was the top of his head facing me and I thought that from the top of this guy’s head, he looked like Paul Kelly. The guy stood up and my jaw dropped in disbelief—it was him! I’d just interviewed him two weeks earlier in Australia and I ran into him in a record store in Boston, on the other side of the planet. What were the odds of that?

Holy shit,” I said, “It really is a small world.” I asked him what he was doing in Boston and it turned out that he’d played a gig the night before and was still in town. Unfortunately, I hadn’t heard about the gig or I would have gone.

The video presented here is Before Too Long, which appears on the album Gossip.

Oysterband – Molly Bond (1986)

Originally known as “The Oyster Band,” Oysterband is a folk-rock band formed in Canterbury, UK, some time around 1976. The band’s music fuzes rock and British folk music, and the result is electifying.

Unfortunately, the band is virtually unknown in the U.S. Back in the day when there were rock radio stations, they wouldn’t play folk rock. The only way American listeners would have been able to hear the band on the radio would have been on a college station.

oysterband

The band’s current lineup is:

  • Chopper – bass guitar, cello, vocals
  • John Jones – melodeon, lead vocals
  • Alan Prosser – guitars, viola, vocals
  • Ian Telfer – fiddle, English concertina, vocals
  • Dil Davies – drums

I was lucky enough to see the band in Providence, RI back in the early 90s (during what was probably one of their only American tours) and to meet them. I have a friend in Boston who knows the band so we got to hang out with them before and after the gig. They’re about the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.

“We’ve got a song called “On The Edge” which is a rant against globalization and in particular against McDonalds…You can go into the Arctic Circle and they’ll be a McDonalds that’ll serve exactly the same food as you get in New Zealand. What is the point of that? It takes away all the fun of traveling and all the differences between the countries, and the food’s shite anyway.”

— Chopper, Folking.com interview, 2001

The band moves effortlessly between straight-on Celtic-influenced rock and traditional ballads. The ballads, such as the one presented here, showcase singer John Jones, who has one of the finest singing voices in the world.

Molly Bond tells the story of a hunter who accidentally shoots and kills his beloved Molly, mistaking her for a swan. At his trial, Molly’s ghost appears to the judge and explains that it was an accident.

This video comes from the band’s 2003 25th anniversary concert in London.

Molly Bond
(Trad. Arr. Oysterband)

Lyrics from: Step Outside

Come all you young gallants that delight in a gun
Beware of your shooting at the setting of the sun

It happened one evening in a large shower of hail
When under a bower my love was concealed

He apron flew around her, I took her as a swan
And I shot my own darling at the setting of the sun

As I walked up to her and found it was she
My limbs they grew weary and my eyes couldn’t see

The ring on her finger, most bitterly I cried
O Molly, if you were living, you’d’ve been my fond bride

Home to my father like lightning I did run
Saying Father, dearest father, do you know what I’ve done?

Her apron flew around her, I took her as a swan
And I shot my own darling at the setting of the sun

Her apron flew around her, I took her as a swan
And I shot my own darling, and where shall I run?

His father in the corner with his hair turning grey
O my dear Jimmy, don’t you run away

Stay in this country until the trial comes on
You never shall be hung by the laws of this land

The day of the trial to the judge she appeared
As God is my witness young Jimmy must go clear

My apron flew around me, he took me as a swan
And I know his heart lies bleeding for his own Molly Bond

Molly Bond appears on the albums Step Outside and Alive And Acoustic (no longer available). The live version is slightly different than the original album version—I think it’s in a different key.