Article from “The Encyclopedia of Rock Vol 2 – The Age of Rocck’n’Roll” Published by Phanter 1975
Born Manchester, 12 June 1941. Started playing skiffle with brother Dave at age thirteen. Joined RAP as teenager, playing Big Bill Broonzy and Leadbelly material at camp concerts; also started writing poetry.Said to have faked mental illness to get out, resulting in fifteen-week spell of hospitalisation undergoing first ECT treatment, recounted in song Committed on (I).
Subsequent sessions of group therapy were followed by spell in Lancaster Moor Mental Institution and year in prison in Liverpool. Arrived London 1964 and busked for year, before making (I) and launching into Cousins/singer/writer circuit.
Hints of later characteristics are clear on his earliest work; he always seems to push ideas to the ultimate, and Some have said he Shows megalomaniac ambitions. By 1968 was regular on series of free Concerts in Hyde Park, carving own small but unique niche as Britain’s paramount stoned freak poet.
Was well-served by arranger David Bedford on (5), and by producer Peter Jenner on (5) and (6). Both minor masterworks, and both feature guitar by Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, Who also plays on all subsequent releases. (Page/Plant wrote third Zeppelin album’s Hats Off To Harper track about him.)
In 1972 Harper had made disappointing debut as actor in movie Made, and after debilitating British tour in March same year was taken gravely ill; hospitalized with circulation complaint which gave rise to rumours that he had been given limited period to live, and that the track The Lord’s Prayer on (6) was intended as some kind of final testament.
Harper recovered, filling Albert Hall on ‘come-back’ gig. (7) released Valentine’s Day, 14 February 1974. on which date he played over-publicised concert at London Rainbow with orchestra and all-star backing cast including Page, Keith Moon, Ronnie Lane. (8) was double album of flotsam and jetsam from various stages of his recording career; (9) featured guest appearance by Pink Floyd – the band reciprocating by inviting Harper to sing lead on Have A Cigar cut for their Wish you Were Here set.
In spring 1975 toured U.K. with new back-up band Trigger, including Chris Spedding and Bill Bruford, disbanding same July that year. Then made dark statements about quitting Britain due to public apathy, and in spring 1976 crossed the Atlantic to promote (9) in U.S.A;, using reorganised Trigger. (I) reissued 1970. retitled Return Of The Sophisticated Beggar (Youngblood).
(I) The Sophisticated Beggar (Strike 1966)
(2) Come Out Fighting Genges Smith (CBS 1967)
(3) FoIkjokeopus (Liberty 1969)
(4) Flat, Baroque, and Berserk (Harvest 1970)
(5) Stormcock (Harvest 1971)
(6) Lifemask (Harvest 1973)
(7) Valentine (Harvest 1974)
(8) Flashes From The Archives Of Oblivion (Harvest 1974)
(9) HQ (Chrysalis 1975).