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Record Collector - February 2004

THE PASSIONS OF GREAT FORTUNE The Songs Explained

This sumptuous self-published hardback includes approximately 200 of Roy Harper's song lyrics alongside photos and artwork, with the personal nature of the imagery allowing a seamless marriage with the text. the collection illuminates Harper's songs from all stages of his career, including his contacts with Jimmy Page, Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Roy's often indirect lyrics are given background and discussion pointers with notes of varying length, and the journey is enhanced with visuals varying from beautiful nature shots to sheer eroticism. His target is to engage us and seduce us into consideration and questioning the song's messages.

Harper's core following will treasure this wonderfully designed book, but it is accessible far beyond that key audience. Thoroughly recommended, and worth every penny of its cover price.

Roy harps on ...

Who is the book aimed at – converted followers or newcomers to your work?

A mix of those. Halfway through doing it I thought it was one of the most arcane autobiographies ever written! Since 1980, I've felt the need to make things more, I hate to say it, obvious. I don't want to put things on a plate – with writing what is virtually poetry there is a licence not to be precise. I paint pictures with words. This is compendium of Roy.

I am who I am emotionally. Everyday experience is involved with everything in the book. I get very sceptical these days with politicians and businesses. There is a great need to look at the big picture of humanity. In the late 40s, humanity was grateful to be out of the war, but there was a period of austerity. Those were inward-looking times. The 50s started people on a more ‘fantastic’ road towards nowadays, when we are all involved on a ‘virtual’ road where even martyrdom is a form of stardom. But what is this doing to humanity . . . to our children?

You say that people need simple messages, but that you are suspicious of them.

That’s my way – I'm different to Woody guthrie. I grew tired of bland, simple messages like ‘We Shall Overcome’ – what does that mean? Who’s ‘We’? What does ‘overcome’ actually mean? Once you start to question everything you say you’re never the same again. Simple messages aren’t real, they’re just soundbites.

Is this book an end point?

No. I’m constantly shifting sand. I’m a sandbank. If I could live to 1000, not that I'd want to, ID continue to produce things. I have to be a genuine voice. If my way of doing things was threatened, ID have to move to continue. The day I collect a pension won ’t matter at all – it will still be business as usual.

–Kingsley Abbott