After many years of listening to music it’s natural to hear familiarities in riffs and chord progressions. Roy Harper’s HQ from 1975 begins with one of those familiar—but different—riffs. The first chords of the opening track (“The Game”) are reminiscent of “You Really Got Me.” That’s where the similarities end, however. From then on it’s all Harper. And from then on his tunes clearly influenced others, from Led Zeppelin through Pink Floyd to Be-Bop Deluxe to today. This is the album that Harper felt was “probably the best” and it’s very good, perhaps only secondary to Man & Myth or Stormcock.
So What’s So Great About HQ?
There’s a peculiar similarity between “The Spirit Lives” and some of those early tunes by Be-Bop Deluxe, no doubt some Harper influence there. The next is a good old rocker with “Grown Ups are Just Silly Children” and the amazing “Referendum” follows—both of which are heritage Harper tunes. It’s an album that reminds us how much influence he had upon music in the 70s and after. “Forget Me Not” has that Zeppelin feel to it and “Hallucinating Light,” perhaps the only tune on the album that could sound out of place on stage in 2014 if Harper were to tour his work beyond his few gigs earlier this year; truth is, it would be fine, mentions of goblins aside of course.
A Song Out of Time, Though It's Temporary
The most famous tune from HQ is out of time and sounds like a late-in-life song, like Shakespeare’s “That time of year....” Surely 1975 is way too early for Harper to be having such thoughts. Of course we are talking about Harper’s “When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease.” It’s a sombre, elegiac song—and yet it works for those of us who are bewildered by cricket, for those of us who view cricket as one might a rather slow amoeba brawl on a cooled microscope slide, spread over hours. Love the song, though.
With musicians like John Paul Jones, David Gilmour, Chris Spedding, Bill Bruford, and the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, this had to be a great album—and it is. It should be five stars but for the fact that would make his Man & Myth go off the scale. Any album that managed to mention a “Pre-Raphaelite dream” beautifully in 2013 has to get top honour. Harper is still grand and HQ is part of that thread.