Roy Harper on Flat Baroque and Bezerk

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Flat Baroque and Berserk (1970) is the fourth album by English folk / rock singer-songwriter and guitarist Roy Harper


‘Flat Baroque and Berserk’ was the first record of mine to go into the charts. For the first time in my recording career, proper care and attention was paid to the presentation of the song. Peter Jenner was assigned by EMI Records to produce the recording. Peter and I got on really well and he was a better overseer of my work than anyone I have been involved with before or since. I had also had a Studio upgrade. EMI Studios, Abbey Road was at that time the most advanced studio in Europe, and over the next ten years I was to record in near-perfect conditions.

Over those years, the studio buzzed with four separate Beatles, some Stones, The Pink Floyd, Cliff and the Shadows, Gracie Fields, three of four musical knights, Kate Bush, Olivier Newton-John, The Hollies, Yehudi Menuin, Stefan Grapelli, The Plastic Ono Band, Eric Clapton; you name them, they were all there. Jimmy Page and I were in there three or four times together.

It was a creative hotbed where the technical staff, headed by Ken Townsend, were second to none.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was very pleased with my first record made in such elevated surroundings. The song that I was best known for in those days, ‘I Hate the White Man,’ was recorded live for this album, and still stands as a testament to my lifelong devotion to espousing equal rights for all humans. I have long since wondered about the wisdom of stating that you have the capacity to hate your own race for it’s misdemeanours, but as a polemic it has been both an effective tool and somewhere of a place for a humble humanitarian to stand.

‘Another Day’ is probably one of the best love songs I ever wrote, and much of the rest of the record is on a gentler level, although ‘Hells Angels,’ recorded with ‘The Nice,’ is raw and was very eventful.


TRACK LISTING

1. “Don’t You Grieve” 5:43
2. “I Hate the White Man” 8:03
3. “Feeling All the Saturday” 1:56
4. “How Does It Feel?” 6:29
5. “Goodbye” 5:42
Side two
No. Title Length
6. “Another Day” 2:57
7. “Davey” 1:30
8. “East of the Sun” 3:02
9. “Tom Tiddler’s Ground” 6:48
10. “Francesca” 1:19
11. “Song of the Ages” 3:52
12. “Hell’s Angels” 7:46

Personnel
Roy Harper – vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar on “Hell’s Angels”
David Bedford – arrangements[8][9]
Skaila Kanga – harp on “Song of the Ages”
Tony Visconti – recorder on “Tom Tiddler’s Ground”
Keith Emerson – keyboards on “Hell’s Angels”
Lee Jackson – bass guitar on “Hell’s Angels”
Brian Davison – drums on “Hell’s Angels”

The album contains some of Harper’s best-known songs – Tom Tiddler’s ground especially.  “I Hate the White Man”, in particular, is noted for its uncompromising lyrics, and Allmusic described the song as certainly one of his most notable (and notorious) compositions, a spew of lilting verbiage that’s hard to peg. It could be irony, it could be ironic self-hatred, it could be muddled reflections on the chaos that is the modern world, or it could be a combination of all of them. Harper described the song as, ‘a testament to my lifelong devotion to espousing equal rights for all humans. I have long since wondered about the wisdom of stating that you have more than the capacity to hate your own race for it’s (sic) misdemeanors, but as a polemic it has been both an effective tool and somewhere of a place to stand.’

Skinner’s Rats

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A retrospective look at life in a band in the 1970s by one of the Mumble’s top writers …


In late 1971, I joined a band. What kind of band was it? Well… a folk band… no, a ceilidh band… no, a… um… well… Basically all of those and none. We would open our set with the intro to Richard Strauss’s ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’, which would then segue into the theme tune from the BBC’s ‘Music While You Work’, which would in turn segue into a medley of Irish and Scottish reels. Oh, the second half of our performance, after a beer break, would always start with the beginning of the 2nd Movement of Haydn’s ‘Surprise’ Symphony. It got the attention of the people in the pub.

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When I first joined, I played mouth organ. The rest of the band were Rick West (guitar), Peter ‘Blossom’ Currie (accordion), and Barry Laing (fiddle), and we had got together through vaguely knowing each other at Goldsmiths College. We had a residency at the Walpole, a pub in New Cross, SE London, and our boast was that we would go for a whole evening without repeating a single tune. That meant we played every jig, reel, and Strathspey we could think of, sung every English, Irish, and Scottish song we could remember, and then resorted to South African Voortrekker tunes and comedy fox-trots – Blossom had been a session musician for the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and also had spent time in Africa. I can remember Barry standing on a bar stool, singing ‘We Are The Bold Gendarmes’. Barry had one of the clearest, most distinctive voices on the folk scene, and you can hear it on this recording of the New Zealand song ‘Shanties By The Way’.

One day I turned up at the Walpole to find they had bought me a drum kit. “I can’t play drums!” I said. “You’re a musician – you can play anything!” they said. The kit they had bought me was an ancient 1930s dance-band set, with a huge, thin bass drum, a set of ‘Chinese temple blocks’, what must have been the original Zildjian cymbal mounted on a spring (and it seemed to have had a bite taken out of it), a rattle, and a stuffed parrot. I made do. I painted a big ‘The Who’ logo on the front, in honour of Keith Moon. A few months later, when I returned from a holiday, they told me, “We sold the drum kit… but we bought you a double bass!” I looked at them in disbelief. “I can’t play a double bass!” I said. “You’re a musician – you can play anything,” they said. I struggled with the bass for three months or so. We used to travel everywhere in Blossom’s short-wheelbase Land Rover, Blossom driving, his girlfriend in the passenger seat, and the rest of us plus the double bass and all the other instruments crammed in the back. At one stage we had a gig every night for a week, and my fingers were raw. I gave up and left the band shortly afterwards. I spent some time as a solo artist, singing, playing melodeon and anglo concertina, on the folk club circuit in London after that, but that’s another story.

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Skinner’s Rats 6 1981: The band in trio formation.

The band had several changes of personnel – at one time various members found their way temporarily into The Cray Folk, who were sort of a rival band, and various members of the Cray Folk defected to the Rats, which made things rather confusing. I seem to recall once playing melodeon in an ad-hoc line-up that went by the bare name of Skinner’s Rats, but of which I was the only original member… or was it the Cray Folk with no original members? I can’t recall! At one point, during a time when Barry was absent, the band was joined by a Scottish fiddler called Kenny Logan. He played a Hardingfele – a Norwegian fiddle with a set of sympathetic strings – and he taught the band the wonderful Irish jig ‘Banish Misfortune’.

The band had a couple of tracks on a compilation album of folk acts from Kent, and then brought out an album called ‘My Boy’s Can Play Anything’, which was the boast of their manager, the landlord of the Bull Inn at Farningham, when people rang up to hire the band for a wedding, a funeral, a Bar Mitzvah, or whatever. I also got in on one recording session, which resulted in a single. It was a rather lacklustre version of ‘Granny’s Old Armchair’ with ‘Tramps and Hawkers’ on the B side – it was always on the jukebox at The Bull, but I am glad to say it has otherwise sunk without trace. If you do happen to come across a copy, let me know! Lead vocals were by Pete Hicks formerly of the Cray Folk, and I can be heard plunking away at the double bass and joining in the choruses. But the last I heard Skinner’s Rats is still going, with the core members of Barry and Blossom. Here’s Blossom half way up Mount Etna in 2012!

I think our greatest moment came when we played the Roundhouse in London. It was the night of the ‘Greasy Truckers Party’, 13th February 1972. We arrived late and were told we had missed our spot and couldn’t perform; however, part way through the evening there was a power cut, and the organisers realised they had an acoustic band ready to go, so under battery lights we were ushered onto the stage. My ‘The Who’ drum kit drew cheers, but when we launched into ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ the crowd of bored hippies went wild! At that time Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey was a popular movie to drop tabs of acid to. The London Chapter of Hell’s Angels was in the audience too, and I seem to remember they took Blossom on as a Prospect. Of course we never made it onto the album, except as the John-Cage-like track ‘Power Cut’, though the album cover has a picture of us. Good grief – this was all nearly half a century ago!

Paul Thompson

An Interview with Steve Arnott

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Steve Arnott had a dream; then he got a bus; then he got on the telly – The Mumble absolutely adore the guy…


Hello Steve, where are you from & where you at?
Hi Mumble I am from Kingston upon Hull and I am still here.

Where did your love of music come from?
My love for music came from hearing singers such as Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson played by my mum. Then I discovered hip-hop culture at the age of 9 through breakdancing.

You’ve got three famous singers from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and India Arie… Yazz could then cook 🙂 Starter: Fallafel and Houmous; Main: Stuffed Wild Mushrooms and for Pudding: Lemon Cheesecake.

Where & when did you get the idea for The Beats Bus?
I came up with the idea about 5 years ago as I used to do workshops with young people aged 16-25 in Hull city centre. The workshops were really successful, but there wasn’t a lot attending so it started me thinking why? I came to the conclusion that not a lot of families have excess money to give the children to travel to the city centre everyday, so I needed to make a travelling recording studio/workshop vehicle.

 

What kind of things do the kids say The Beats Bus makes them feel?
Confidence, a sense of family, proud to be part of it and they are excited about the future, which is great.

How did the documentary, A Northern Soul, come about?
I met Sean the director at the event “Made in Hull” that he created but previously. We had had a discussion through a mutual friend, Rebecca Robyns, about each other. Sean was looking for a character and I had a story to tell. Then we met we agreed to start filming and the rest is history.

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What was it like working with these particular film-makers?
It was a pleasure working with Sean, he is a very inspiring man and we are both from Hull. Sharing the same background we struck up a strong bond and friendship straight away.

How did A Northern Soul, change your life?
The documentary has changed my life massively; it has helped me fund my dream and also provide free workshops for young people in Hull.

Did being the City of Culture change Hull?
No, it never changed Hull, it has always been an awesome city. What it did do though is shine a light on our creatives and massively boosted our civic pride.

What’s happening right now with The Beats Bus?
In 2019 we are rolling out free workshops for young people who get stuck on their estates because they have no money to travel. We want to try and raise their aspirations. We are also working with the Police on a ‘no more knives’ campaign which is going to be an exciting project.

What would you say to somebody who has a dream?
Follow it with all your heart and going up, under or over to achieve your destiny. It is in your hands – choose a path and make a plan.

Have you thought about taking The Beats Bus further afield – perhaps even the Edinburgh Fringe?
Yes and we will, but at the moment we are concentrating on helping our community as they really need it.


www.beats-bus.co.uk

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Divine’s Hogmanay

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Stramash, Edinburgh
31.12.2018.


Having lived in Edinburgh for the greater part of my life now, Hogmanay I have experienced, the bells and the Fireworks, from just about every location possible in Edinburgh. On Princess Street, Calton Hill, Arthurs Seat, Blackford Hill, last years Princes St Gardens. With the frequency of mega firework displays in Edinburgh. The appeal for the OOOOoo Ahhhhhhh factor wains somewhat. So I wasnae sure what I was going to do this year., however good The Human League, Colonel Mustard And The Dijon 5 and Rag N Bone Man were at last years street party was baltic and not the most comfortable gig I have attended So the musical draw was nae there for me this year.

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The Muse was taking me to the Cowgate and Stramash to witness and groove Three local Bands that I have celebrated in reviews of past years. Sea Bass Kid, who I shared the bill with at Granny Radge’s Hogmanay Bash at The Backpackers in 2014. They were first on, so I made sure that I was on time.to experience proceedings with David Blair and our host Steven StramashThank you for the invite guys  . Sea Bass Kid were the perfect band to bring the Bells in. A Folky Stomp that cover everything from Reggae, Ska, Rock N roll Folk and traditional Scottish tunes. The dance was on and Stramash was packed to the rafters. at the Bells, Aulde lang Sign was the song of choice and everyone in Stramash Loved hugged and kissed. It was awesome. When they did a cover of Underworlds Born Slippy, performed in sea Bass Kids unique Folk Rock way, myself and the celebrating audience agreed, it was absolutely fantastic. 5 stars all round guys. Awesome 

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There were so many people in Stramash last night that I love and had nae seen for a while. there was a really good vibe perfectly created by Sea Bass Kid. The party was on. Bombskare are a local Ska outfit that have achieved great things in recent years becoming festival headliners, with an infectious blend of Rock N Roll and Traditional Ska. Its been a while They always bring my inner Ska Boy out and I was all Walt Jabsco for the occasion. Sea Bass kid had warmed the venue to fever pitch Bombskare set it on fire. Everyone was having the best time. fantastic Gig Another 5 stars.

By 2.00am on The First Of January 2019. I was knackered and my hip was nipping, my boots though, were supporting my sartorial elegance and thoughts of blisters were far from my mind. So my apologies to Jay Supa and his wonderful band for not staying for his performance, But they are a band that have created the funk in my world in years past and I know that you will have continued the delight in my absence. Love you guys.  Divinexx.

All in All 5 Stars All Round

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

The Medicine Men, Stanley Odd, Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5.

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Barrowland Ballroom. Glasgow.
22nd December 2018


My night was curtailed by TK Max Berghaus walking boots. BLISTERS! I danced so much during The Medicine Men and Stanley Odd. Stanley Odd I had seen before on the festival circuit so I knew to expect good quality Scottish Hip Hop.. The Medicine Men I had nae seen before. Being a Spiritual Healer the name of the band intrigued me. An emerging talent that took Rock N Roll inspiration from Rush, progressive and captivating.creating in unison a very satisfying Progressive Rock/Funk groove. The perfect opener for the nights proceedings.

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Indeed, the morning before the gig, I had freshly dyed my hair flame red, Brought a ten year cycle of Healing Development to a satisfying conclusion, shaped my eyebrows, crimped my lush red hair and spent some quality time doing my make up. When one has healed as deeply as this and one knows that this feeling in my heart a quiet celebration and my date with The Mustards at the Barrowland Ballroom gave me an added incentive to look fabulous. I had time to pop in to see Amisa Neonova before I walked into town for my bus to Glasgow, My boots had created a blister the day before so bought some plasters, hmm its a new boots kind of thing. So I placed plasters in the appropriate places and two pairs of socks. By the time I got to the bus stop the plasters were failing in preventing the blisters from hurting. It was nice to get on the bus my hip was nipping a bit too (Old age and growing pains). I meditated throughout my lovely bus ride. Holding the love in The Barrowland. The morning before whilst sending distant healing I had asked the Angels to ground the love and heal the hearts of the people attending in the Barrowland Ballroom. It worked. ❤ The place was Bouncing. However the walk from Buchannon street to The Barrowland, having only been there once before I had a vague idea of where I was heading, Divine disnae have a fancy phone so I had to use old skool tech knowledge and asked people directions to get to my destination. I wanted to be at the venue in time for The Medicine Men so had hastened my pace. This was not proving fitting for comfy walking.The Blisters were bringing tears to my eyes. The Barrowland Ballroom’s Brilliant neon sign flashing its multicoloured Glory, I joined the queue and picked up my AAA All Areas. Pass, put my coat in the cloakroom, had a burger and a can of juice and headed to the ballroom.

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I hit the Ballroom dancef loor bang on 7.30pm. To be delighted by The Medicine Men, proving to be the perfect warm up for Stanley Odd. Who thrilled the increasingly filling Barrowlands. inbetween bands DJ5 mixed classic rave keeping musical momentum and driving my dancing feet wild. I boogied with Angela Jack for a while. By the time Colonel Mustard took to the stage my right foot was so sore it hurt to move it. So I flashed my AAA pass and took a comfy seat at the back of the Ballroom on the riser. It was a perfect vantage point.

Having followed the rise of Colonel Mustard And The Dijon 5 for a number of years now, this would prove to be the 2nd time I have seen them take the Barrowland by storm. Both times filling the place with their loyal Yellow Army, inbetween the two times I have witnessed the live spectacular, This band have notched up the air miles both creatively and physically. Taking the show to be a Headliner at The Edinburgh Hogmanay Street Party to headlining most of the Scottish festival circuit performing to increasingly bigger audiences. They have also taken the Yellow Movement to South Korea twice. So with a set of songs so well rehearsed, it would be impossible not to thrill the now capacity Ballroom fit to explode with anticipation of their heroes return. With DJ5’s opening banger The Dijon 5 took to the stage and the party went off.

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The Mustards played their cannon beautifully, full of colour an inflatable bounciness, firing through all of their greatest songs. The Ballroom was full of Bouncing happy people singing along to all of the songs performed, word perfect. A testament to how greatly loved Colonel Mustard And The Dijon 5 are. This band of Angels donate a large proportion of Gig profits to worthwhile charities. Indeed a creative art performance spectacular that benefits all concerned. So it came as no surprise that they were inducted into The Barrowland Hall Of Fame last night. The audience went wild, the legendary sprung dance floor was bouncing. This was the ultimate feel good Gig, The 90 min performance time flew by but bye eck I’m glad I made the effort.

After the gig I was torn between the options of going to The Art School After Party or catching the 23.59 bus home. My blistered foot was dictating the flow. So I hobbled across Glasgow and got the bus back to Edinburgh. The boots are going back to TK Max.

5 Stars For the Performance.
0 stars For the Boots

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

Photography: Mundito

An Evening of Traditional Music

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Royal Conservatoire Scotland
Glasgow
5th December 2018


Back at the beautiful Ledger Room in early December, there was a great sense of welcome at the Royal Conservatoire Scotland. The title anticipated an enjoyable show: “An evening of traditional music” to be given by students from all four years of the programme. All of whom performed songs that were both covers and songs written by traditional composers; odes with both serious and frivolous content and all on the theme of traditional Celtic (Irish & Scottish) folk music.

It was the sheer variety of this performance that really held it apart from other musical gatherings of the classic traditional kind. And the refreshing youth at its heart did nothing but refresh us as we sat in our plush red seats. The set was prepped for up to 8 or 9 players who, apart from the piano carried their own instruments on stage each time. There were violins, bagpipes, piano, guitar and, as a constant throughout, a harp. With each instrument being used to the fullest extent, the evening proceeded with high exuberance and brilliance from every performer. Having a new group on stage for every song only enhanced the sense of entertainment and made the evening fly by.

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Woven through the established works, the students also performed their own pieces as they had been set tasks to in turn create their own songs; they had come up with something quite serious such as crime stories or death, with a melody to fit into the music to give an exact focus of how to celebrate these stories in turn. The music swelled from traditional dance tunes that had your feet tapping, and only fell just short of getting you up out of your chair to dance, now faster now slower as song by song we welcomed the performers to the stage in ever changing tempo and mood.

More often than not, all the instruments blended together so well that no one performer stood out. Rather everyone focused their attention on their collaborations so that together they shone. And, having said that, the direction of the scores took their turns and twists from solos of violin and the mighty bagpipes which were loudest of all and nearly blew the roof off which their spooky heart-ending dedication to the tradition of Scottish folk music. That sense of tradition grew to a great height when lyrics in Gaelic gave the music a kind of heart and soul.

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A notable feature of this evening of traditional music was the great variety of nationalities who were performing together, which served to emphasise the universality of music and the way it can dissolve boundaries. An ethos that the Conservatoire is very conscious of and proud to maintain. And as they all sat and played together you couldn’t help wondering where they would all be a year from now and what the future would bring. One can only wish them great luck and the best of things for times to come.

There is, it seems, a whole new respect for this evening’s kind of traditional music round the globe because of evenings like this and the work the Royal Conservatoire Scotland is doing. And quite right too – I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it, what’s not to love?

Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly

 

Søndergård’s Guide to the Orchestra

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Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 

Saturday 24 November


To celebrate the Year of Young People, the RSNO performed a programme of  treats for what their celebrated conductor Thomas  Søndergård called “the young at heart”. Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra is known to all classical musically minded families in its narrated version as entertaining but a wee bit didactic. But here we were given the original concert version and Britten’s brilliant orchestration of Purcell’s sea shanty theme an interpretation that was as scintillating as it was instructive. The full-bodied opening statement was followed by each section of the orchestra in turn playing variations on the theme to show off their timbre and range, before the whole was re-built with the finale’s great fugue. But that only describes the form. What the RSNO and their conductor gave us was Britten’s playful catalogue of the almost infinite number of possible textural combinations between percussion, timpani, woodwind,brass and strings, played with terrific clarity. It was like being given a grown up version of what was written for the young, without any loss of the fun it has engendered since its first performance in 1946.

“Open the Eastern Windows” by Michael Cryne, winner of the RSNO’s 17:18 Hub New Work commission is unlikely to enjoy such longevity. On first hearing at least, his composition had no apparent form or discernible logic. With nothing for the mind to latch on to during ten minutes of agreeable sounds apparently proceeding solely via shifts in volume and tonalities, its première was a disappointment.  And then on came two grand pianos which were nestled together like pieces of a jig-saw, and twins Christina and Michelle Naughton to play Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos. The youthful and glamorous pair played the work with brilliance and enthusiasm, bringing out the exoticism and lyricism of the three contrasting movements, while the orchestra’s pleasure in performing this entertaining work with such sensitive interpreters of its shifting moods, was apparent.

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Another première brought a complete contrast of mood in “Ghost Songs”, a specially commissioned work for the year of Young People, from Gary Carpenter. The RSNO’s Junior Chorus gave a wonderful account of his sensitive settings of four poems by Scots poet Marion Angus, R L Stevenson’s “On Some Ghostly Companions at a Spa” and the folk ballad “The Wee Wee Man”. The composer exploited the quality of the children’s singing – not only their remarkable musicianship and beautiful sound – but also their nimble articulation and willingness to engage with the mysterious, spooky, amusing verses they were singing. This new composition will get many an outing over the years to come because its composer matched his forces and materials to express the qualities of the texts, and in so doing created a memorable musical experience for audiences of any age.

Last but by no means least, the final treat on this evening of treats was Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns.  Originally written only for a private concert, the composer tried to get it banned from public performance, fearing, rightly, that its popularity would eclipse, for all time, his more serious efforts. The evident pleasure the Naughton sisters showed, during their energetic commitment to every nuance of the score, more than doubled the fun for the audience. The required chamber-sized ensemble played every creature with serious wit and flair, and the double bass soloist in The Elephant and cello in The Swan were superb. For the RSNO and their conductor it must have been a treat to fill a programme with works they hoped would have their audience leaving the concert hall smiling; and it worked. One caveat: an afternoon rather than evening concert would have brought many more youngsters to hear, and be inspired by, their contemporaries in the RSNO Junior Chorus.

Mary Thomson