Roy Harper was born in Rusholme (Manchester) in 1941. His mother died three weeks after he was born. As a child from the age of 6 he lived in St. Annes-on-Sea which he describes as being "like a cemetery with bus stops". At the age of 12 he started writing poems influenced by John Keats and Jack Kerouac. A year later he began playing skiffle music with his younger brother David and he was influenced by blues music. He wrote a song about David "Davey" on his album "Flat Baroque and Berserk" (1970). At the age of 14 he formed his first group (De Boys) with David and his other brother Harry. At the age of 15 he joined the Royal Air Force to become a pilot but after a few years he realised this is not what he wanted. These experiences can be heared in "Committed" from his debut album "Sophisticated Beggar" (1966). He became a street musician from around 1961 traveling to North Africa, Europe and London for a few years. Musically Roy was influenced by Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie and Miles Davis. In 1965 he started doing musical performances in the folk scene besides artists like John Renbourn, Paul Simon, John Martyn, Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake and Bert Jansch.

Roy in 1969

Finally in 1966 he got his first record deal. His debut album "Sophisticated Beggar" consisted of songs and poetry backed by accoustic guitar and recorded with a Revox tape machine. He hired American producer Shel Talmy for his second album "Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith" (1967). Bert Jansch contributed sleeve notes for the album and Harper paid tribute to Jansch with the song "Pretty Baby" which was released as the B-Side of his exclusive debut single "Take Me into Your Eyes". In 1968 he talked about co-writing a rock opera with Pink Floyd. That opera never happened but the connection with Pink Floyd was important. At the end of the 60's he released his third album titled "Folkjokeopus". In the 70's he signed a record deal with EMI's subsidiary label "Harvest Records" to release his next albums with the help of Pink Floyd manager Peter Jenner. He recorded 8 albums in the Abbey Road Studios. "Flat Baroque and Berserk" was the first album for Harvest Records. "Hell's Angels" is a song he did with The Nice and "Another Day" was covered by many artists including This Mortal Coil and Kate Bush. Led Zeppelin paid tribute to Harper with their version of the traditional song "Shake 'em on Down" that was retitled to "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper" which appeared on their album "Led Zeppelin III". Harper and Lep Zeppelin became friends and Harper made pictures for the album cover of the Led Zeppelin album "Physical Graffiti". The picture he made is probably of Bonzo (John Bonham) in tights for the Roy Harper St. Valentines Day gig. The album "Stormcock" from 1971 featured Jimmy Page on guitar credited as "S. Flavius Mercurius" for contractual reasons. In 1972 Harper appeared in the film "Made" for which he also created the soundtrack to be released as his next album "Lifemask" (1973). At the time it was supposed to be his last album since he had been diagnosed with the little-known genetic condition HHT. The album shows Harper's so called lifemask instead of a death mask. In 1974 he was recovered from HHT and his next album "Valentine" was released on Valentine's Day. A concert with the members of Led Zeppelin took place at London's Rainbow Theater and was released as his first live album "Flashes from the Archives of Oblivion" (1974). 

David Gilmour with Roy Harper in 1975

In 1975 he appeared on the Pink Floyd album "Wish You Were Here" (1975) singing "Have A Cigar". Roger Waters couldn't sing because he has strained his voice while recording "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and David Gilmour declined to sing. So that is how he ended up on the album "Wish You Were Here". They were both recording at Abbey Road studio's at that same time. Harper's album "HQ" came out of these sessions.

Roy in 1971

In 1977 he released the album "Bullinamingvase" which led to objection for the release of the song "Watford Gap" on that album. Harper tasted the food at Watford Gap service station and it was horrible. He even tried to get media food commentators interested to write a review. But someone at EMI had connections with the owners of the service station and in the UK the song was replaced with "Breakfast With You" a song Harper himself rejected for the album. On the song "One of Those Days in England" Paul and Linda McCartney did backing vocals. It would be his last release in the 70's before returning in the 80's.

My top 3 of Roy Harper albums looks like this:

  1. Bullinamingvase (1977)
  2. Folkjokeopus (1969)
  3. Valentine (1974)

Original album cover

Bullinamingvase (1977)
One Of Those Days In England Part 1 / These Last Days / Cherishing the Lonesome / Naked Flame / Watford Gap / One Of Those Days In England Parts 2–10

Original album cover
Folkjokeopus (1969)
Sgt. Sunshine / She's the One / In the Time of Water / Composer of Life / One for All / Exercising Some Control / McGoohan's Blues / Manana

Original album cover
Valentine (1974)
Forbidden Fruit / Male Chauvinist Pig Blues / I'll See You Again / Twelve Hours of Sunset / Acapulco Gold / Commune / Magic Woman (Liberation Reshuffle) / Che / North Country / Forever

She's The One

Sgt. Sunshine

Forbidden Fruit


One Of Those Days In England Part 1

Cherishing The Lonesome