Its been almost forty years this month since Roy first woke me up…and that’s pretty amazing since I’m really not that old. At the tender age of ten, in March 1979, I heard my first Roy Harper album and that was that; in a split second, I graduated from the a passing interest in what was on the radio (largely disco and Abba…) to something with infinitely more depth and meaning and successfully bypassed, in a single side-step, all the typically dire music of child- and early teen-hood. It was as though I had been playing at being a child until that point, dressing myself up to look like all the others in case anyone noticed I was a very ancient, ageless, woman stuck into a child’s body; one who was quietly waiting for something that would strike a deep chord into all the unfinished business that I had brought with me into this lifetime so that I could pick up where I left off; and Roy was that very thing.
I know its no coincidence that I “discovered” Kate Bush in that very same month of ’79 (“The Kick Inside” and “Lionheart” had just been released in remarkably quick succession); the two artists have collaborated many times for a pair of dyed-in-the-wool individuals who dilute themselves into pair-work so very infrequently that you really sit up and take notice when they do. Musically speaking, Roy and Kate feel something like my father and mother as they taught me all the ground rules of what makes music, potentially, the most powerful voice we have in a world where people like to close their ears; for both of them get into places so many lyricists get nowhere near and then they echo there and continue unravelling their unanticipated layers, year after year, until the depths of their musical offerings become interwoven with your own experiences in a way that also dilates into unfathomable complexity and vastness. There is simply no knowing or feeling you have “nailed” this kind of music in just one or two listens as it delivers as organically as you are prepared to continue to receive what you hearing, delivering most when you aren’t even expecting anything from it; when you are waiting for something without even realising you are (which possibly best describes where I was at age ten). Both artists possess that quality of “haunting” your life and opening your own inner portals like a door held open for you to step through. Then, somewhere between “One of those days in England” (Roy) and “Oh England, my lionheart” (Kate) a deep and defining love of place was (re)born in me; one which connected me to the very soil that I had come here to be with again and to be voice for, as any delve into my writing will surely lay proof to.
I won’t turn this into a grand tour of Roy’s work and what it all means to me; this was an unexpected, knee-jerk impulse to write a post about it, triggered by the up-rising of my usual Spring Roy-urge this sunny March equinox (as has occurred every single year out of thirty-seven) by the fact that he, quite simply, woke me up – again – this morning. When Roy lyrics wake me from a night’s worth of playing in my head and tell me, in no uncertain terms, that there’s a track I need to urgently rehear and pay-attention to this morning, it feels well-worth the mention.
That long-familiar track, “Rushing Camelot”, that I was suddenly called back to never seemed more appropriate than it is on this morning’s revisit, its chorus “spinning round the world” harking straight back to last week’s post “Out of the shadows” in which I talk about that very spin around in endless circles that has held us down in the shadows of our humanity and the opportunity for us to now spiral out of them….or to get back to Camelot, as Roy would say. Newly, I am appreciating how on theme he is with my own preoccupation with the need to return to the gentle flowing waters of the Divine Feminine aspect that we have lost touch with as a culture as we have “rushed” our way towards that thing we, perhaps, all know we have lost and yet misguidedly go about trying to get back in ways that insist its OK to simply bury all that we once knew, as though all that ancient wisdom is of no consequence to the way that we get back there. There can be no Camelot without bringing things back into balance first and there are simply no modern shortcuts, no bypasses we can take through our convenient tweaking and manipulation of nature because we have to remain in touch with the earth as a first priority.
In another track on that same album (“The Green Man”), Roy personifies himself as meeting “the goddess of the wishing well…the sweetest mystery I ever saw wandering the paradise that was the day before” but then “I became a god of thieves and sold the sunlight, burned the leaves, I killed for fun, shattering a paradise, living on the run. So came the storm and we were blown another age from hearth and thrown upon a whim, I threw my only chance away, tore her limb from limb”. He doesn’t mince his words when he talks about the thrashing, bashing and banishing of the divine famine…
Back to “Rushing Camelot”, you could surmise that what Roy is saying here is that until we reconnect with the “lost” female aspect, we will just continue going round and and around in pointless circles, with our feet not even in contact with the earth that we rely upon for our human existence; we simply can’t do this without being in touch with the planet. Here’s those “Rushing Camelot” lyrics in full
There is no one on this earth who can persuade me that its best
Having seed born in the test-tube of the quantum TV quest
I am hard and I am needy and I need it to be real
Right for her and right for me to feel
The world spinning round
With our bare feet floating somewhere near the ground
Spinning round the world
There is no one on this earth who could persuade me thats it’s not
been raining cats and dogs since we been rushing Camelot
Hiding ancient memory of emotion we expect we’ve lost in the effect of the effect
Of the world spinning round
and our hobnails crashing straight into the ground
Spinning around the world
There is someone on this earth who will now say we’re out of trees
For wanting food that grew from seed that blew in on a breeze
Gengis Chan has just been born, he’s on his way to you
With cash to help you modify your view
Of the world spinning round
And our bare feet floating just above the ground
Spinning round the world
I love your hair so long and full of lilies in my dream
Waking ancient mysteries of peaceful summer stream
More I couldn’t wish for you than to lead you to my door
To be the one I thought I waited for
With the world spinning round
And my bare feet floating fast across the ground
Spinning round the world
I want to live forever but I know I must relent
Give my place up to my kids, no longer dodge the rent
Passing on just what its is to be over the moon
Make it right for Her and make it soon
For the world spinning round
And our barefoot strolling slowly cross the ground
Spinning round the world
Has Roy been waiting his whole life for the return of the divine feminine, was this the reason I chose him as my wake-up call, the reason why we clicked so early? And are our feet getting any closer to that ground now; perhaps, he is saying (note the subtle progress through the refrain) that we can at least stroll now towards that peaceful summer stream of our deepest remembering – and, I suspect, remembering that thing is what we share in common, the reason his lyrics cut through my slumbers and set me off on this route. I have long regarded Easter ’79 as my first “awakening” as there was a distinct “before” and “after” for me; no comparison between those two, actually, except I had the same parents and the same name, as everything seemed to alter in a brief moment, like all the colours were turned up and something I had misplaced came back into crystal view. It was also a time of very golden sunlight, of sparkling waters juxtaposed with the craggy hills of Derbyshire, of expansive views (I had never seen such places before) and such happy feelings that left their impression very deeply within my ten-year-old self, like a yard-stick I could refer back to (and I often did over the next years, through thick and thin). It was all set up like a time I was meant to remember and crystallise as the essence of something recognisably close to my own personal “home”; a wide-open, simplistically joyful time brushed with colours that held new depth and hinted at a legacy of understanding that I suddenly realised I had access to; and all with Roy and Kate’s music weaving through my head on car journey’s with my much older siblings who, I doubt, would even remember what I am talking about as this was my personal epiphany, my big shake-awake. Brief though it was, it has always been regarded as my golden time, like a handle I have held onto to, a reference point on a map and all I need to do to get back to the essence of it (I have no desire or need to go back to that actual time/space) is to play certain music…
With a nod to the infamous Led Zeppelin track, its “Hats off to (Roy) Harper” from me because the associations I set up during that time worked like a treat. Every time I have had the merest inkling of those same golden Spring feelings coming in on the air and the longing for vivid hillsides with silver ribbons of water streaming out of them, a deeply nostalgic part of me has reached for his music once again until the two have become synonymous across the course of almost a whole lifetime to date; a gently flowing river, in its own right, weaving through the landscape of me. Looking back to that first time, it was like he shook me on the shoulder and said “remember this, remember this, its so important” and, each year, when I’ve felt that urge to revisit, he has taken me back there and shown me again and again – this morning as point in case. I don’t profess to agree with every word he has ever said or to share all his views but he certainly lit a match to me at a time when my straw was dying to garner a flame to launch me out of a sense of disorientation and a misplaced sense of belonging here (I had not been fitting in at all to that point; had been the misfit at school…bullied, scared and a bit lost) and for that I am eternally grateful.
Some people I have introduced him to really don’t get on with Roy, find him too morose, too pissed-off with things (and he can be; maybe he has had to be…and then life has thrown some serious rocks at him…recently too…) but there is an unfailing optimism, a holding on to a vision of something that he recollects every bit as clearly as any woman in touch with her sacred female and he has championed this through a difficult, transitional era and so yes, Roy, I would say it is being made right now (if you can allow yourself to believe that, whatever it still looks like out there…); with your help, the next generation have it in hand and we will all be back there by that stream sooner than we know.
This post isn’t for everyone; I still wonder how many people have even heard of Roy Harper, even now well over fifty years into a most auspicious career, or how many have still only vaguely heard of him because of the crap that has been thrown by the media (I think that will all change when he’s gone and newly appreciated; I hope so). Yet this felt important to me to share; I hadn’t written a music post for such a long time and I am ever more determined to indulge my spontaneous writing urges as they arise, without worry or care for who the audience is. I might be pleasantly surprised by the reception it receives or it may disappear into the unread, not even understood corner and yet…if there’s one thing Roy has taught me, time and time again, its to put it all out there for myself and not to worry about how other people react, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the natural flow of creativity. That, in itself, feels like getting back to the banks of those gently flowing waters in the sunshine of a March afternoon…and it feels so very good.
Link to “The Green Man” download page on the Roy Harper website – RoyHarper.com