Strange But True!
Inside The Wonderful World Of Harperism
Our first sighting of the elusive new Lowden, Manchester, November 2002
Here's some of the bits and pieces of news and opinion that were too good to pass up - well they made us laugh anyway...
- Wonder if Nick believes he was fated to be a musician... we think so after reading more about the Harper clan! The harpers, or harp players, of Scotland were and still are part of the Clan Buchanan - you can see Nick wearing his Buchanan tartan kilt here. Best quote on the Harper coat of arms page: 'In early times, the harper was often an heriditary official in the households of many great families, and Brehon law ranks the harp as "the one art of music which deserves nobility".' We couldn't have said it better ourselves...
- Nick's still scoping out new guitars - he mentioned checking out an Atkin guitar during the spring 2003 Eddi Reader tour on his web diary, and there's proof on the Atkin Guitars website. As HOHer Catherine Wightwick says, "In the June 2003 news, Nick is mentioned. Click on the link and there s a nice piccy [of him playing an Atkin guitar]."
- Since we at the HOH don't watch or claim to understand cricket, no matter how hard anyone has tried to explain it to us (!), we totally missed the following, sent in by Bob Toms on the Stormcock list. During Sky's cricket coverage on Wednesday 27 August, commentator Graeme "Foxy Fowler" was chatting to another commentator, John Morris:
JM: "Yeah, Jonty (Rhodes) and a few others went to Edinburgh last week."
GF: "Oh yeah. Perhaps he caught up with the festival while they were there."
JM: "I think that one of the reasons they went."
GF: "Oh really. A mate of mine was playing there. He won an award in fact. Nick Harper. He might even 'ave seen 'im. Roy Harper, his dad sang When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease..."
Okay, maybe we'll start watching cricket after all if the commentators have such impeccable taste!
- Fun with French: Forgotten all the French you learned in high school? Us too - but we can ask where the ladies' room is, and we can buy beer, so we're all set. So when we saw what looked like a glowing preview for Nick's Dieppe gig on the DSN website, we had to get it translated. All hail the Babel Fish translator! We suspect it may translate a bit fast and loose - see what you think, and remember this is exactly as it came out of the translator: To conclude this edition brillamment, a musician virtuoso whom it is necessary that you know all (Nick Harper) which should ignite DSN and to leave us without voice? and it is a first Frenchwoman! Caution: unknown talent? in France! Indeed, DSN is proud to show for the first time in France a musical personality of very high level which is with its 6th disc and which does not cease turning to Great Britain and Europe with exclamations of the musical press specialized like those of the national big national dailies. Is Nick Harper an acoustic guitarist out-par (and not "out-father", precisely, because dad was large the pop one when you had the long hair, you Messrs, and of the mauve Indian tunics, you Mesdames? then, you find?), who makes us plunge in an ocean of sounds - it is really a virtuoso - and songs intelligently written and sung well thanks to his hot and enveloping voice. The true pop one like one makes some more and you do not imagine all that one can do with a single acoustic guitar. Let us be clear: it is an event! ... Ummm, we couldn't have said it better ourselves...
- Nick and Roy's autumn 2002 tour was recorded for a possible live album in 2003, which may also see the release of live tracks Nick recorded at the 2002 Edinburgh Fringe - please Nick, fit in a new studio record somewhere in 2003! [and lo, he did ;)]
- Roy's "autobiographical" song McGoohan's Blues from his 1969 album Folkjokeopus starts with the following lines: "Nicky my child he stands there with the wind in his hair / Wondering whether the water the wind or the where / I fear that someday he might ask me if mine is the blame / And I've got no reply save to tell him its all just a game". Nick's first appearance in song, we're guessing...
- Speaking of early appearances, to complement Nick's "solo" at the 1968 Cambridge Folk Festival shown here, HOH stalwarts Dave and Sue Burnham have sent us the following 1968 CBS ad for Midspring Dithering... very impressive, most of us only had our baby pictures handed around to relatives, Nick probably got his in the NME!
- In addition, eagle-eyed HHOHer Catherine Wightwick is sure she spotted Nick in the video of Roy's appearance at Stonehenge 1984 - as she said, "not playing, just there". More as she rewatches the video... for documentation purposes, of course.
- Thanks to HOH right-hand woman Philippa Lord, who pointed out that when Nick played the Stourport's Galleon Acoustic Club in 2002, an article appeared in the Kidderminster local newspaper titled Legend plays acoustic club (!). The writer Alex Day went on to call Nick "a musician at the forefront of a new generation of British acoustic performers". Now, not that the HOH doesn't actively encourage this type of behaviour, but we must say that even we were bemused by this effusive praise! We think Nick is warming up to the eventual legend status - right now, he's at "rock god" and climbing... we'll keep you posted.
- Still, it's better than what Manchester's listings magazine City Life called our man when previewing his gig at the Academy 3 in November 2002: "folk/alt-country titan". Titan we like, but ALT-COUNTRY? How far "alt" are we talking here?!? Answers on a postcard to City Life, please...
- Philippa also pointed us to the fun Join Me website (it's not a cult, it's a collective). Check the site out to find out more about it - we could be here all day explaining it! But for our purposes at the HOH, we wonder if Nick will be getting royalties for their London gathering... Karmageddon 2002...
- HOH reader Andrew "Stealth Munchkin" Hickey told us that one of his favourite gig moments ever was "...the first time I saw Roy and Nick, and Nick did the theme from Rainbow as his solo in the middle of [Roy's song] Watford Gap - it fit a *lot* better than I would have expected!"
- A press release for the 2002 Hull Pearson Park festival gig claimed that Nick started his solo career with a gig at the Lamp in Hull in 1994. If anyone knows if this is true - or better yet, if you were there! - please drop a line to us and give us any more info you have. If you have pictures, your name will be revered in HOH lore.
- How many strings does Nick break during his gigs? This is more than a rhetorical question: in 2002 alone, we saw 5 strings go in one night, with 3 strings going during one song in Manchester, one string go which it took 15 minutes to replace (broken peg) in Derby, and 2 strings go almost simultaneously (within 5 seconds of each other) in St. Helens! Anyone else have any good string break stories? Somehow we don't think he'll be getting any guitar string company endorsement deals anytime soon...
- Embarrassing Big Jim And The Twins reference ahoy! This appeared in Heat magazine in September 2002: "Justin Timberlake has given his most revealing interview yet to a New York radio station. [Amongst other things] he admitted calling his willy 'Big Jim and the twins'." Oh the horror!
- Recently, we have heard newcomers to Harperism noting some resemblance between the vocals on the latest singles by both Robbie Williams and Darius to Nick's work. Ummm, we're going to defer on this one. Though we have ourselves noted the resemblance between Nick's promo photos and *Robin* Williams... purely coincidental we're sure.
- HOH reader Bernie Timms sent us this story he received in a forwarded email: "A newspaper asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, then supply a new definition. Some recent winners included karmageddon - 'It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious
bummer.'" I'm sure Nick would agree!
- A rabid Harperist who wishes to remain anonymous sent us this slightly sarcastic email: "I think this letter fron Womans Own must be a fake as I can't believe there are people like this... it says: 'I've become obsessed with a singer in a rock band. I'm [insert own age here] and I know I'm too old to have a silly crush, but whenever I see him my heart races. I met him after his last concert and we got on well and now I'm think about him all the time. I'm considering spending my student grant to see him in Iceland. I know I should kick this obsession but part of me doesn't want to. From Katy.' I can't relate to any of this and think she's a very sad individual!" All we say is, don't knock it 'til you've tried it. ;)
On a similar note, perhaps the HOH's campaign to rechristen our Nick as a rock god sex symbol for the new millennium is finally taking off (and about time too). We point you to a bit of a post on the Mr Kyps message board after his May 2005 gig/footie love-in there: "Re: FOOTBALL AND NICK A.K.A. BLISS: ...Here's to his next visit - I might even bring my better half, although judging by the antics of some of the ladies in the audience, I'd better not let her get to close to the stage, with him being a sort of Sean Bean look-a-like! Back girls......Back!!" Steady! Not so sure about the Sean Bean thing, but we do appreciate the sentiment. :)
- A new Harperist (who for his own good will remain anonymous!) emailed us to let us know: "I have been listening to Nick Harper to keep me sane ('That guy's madder than a cut snake... must keep sane, must keep sane' :-)". By the way, he loves it. :)
- Where does a songwriter get his inspiration? Well, Nick has said that a) the "Stephen" who sings so easily in A Hundred Things is Stephen Stills, as the sound of the song was inspired by his work, and b) Pendle's Choice was named after a particular brand of tea (see here for more information)! If anyone has heard any stories about other songs, please let us know...
- HOH reader (US division) Michelle J made a big noise for the Nick cause this year, albeit accidentally: "I was in the process of putting together a serious stereo. So I was in Best Buy (US electronics chain) looking for speakers. Surprisingly, I really got into testing them all out with the sales guy. He was trying to get me to buy an absolutely HUGE pair of speakers that seemed to have the same sound (but much more power) as the somewhat smaller speakers I was interested in. He was trying to convince me that the sound quality in the bigger ones was better than the smaller ones, but I just couldn't hear it. So he asked me if I had any music of my own, anything that I was more familiar with, that he could play through the gigantic speakers - thinking that I might hear the difference. I pulled out the CD that was currently in my Discman. It was Nick Harper's live CD, so he put the CD in and CRANKED that ghettoblaster - soon we had an audience, but I ignored them trying to figure out what the sales guy was trying to prove. There were about 5 people hanging around listening, and I thought nothing of it until somebody asked the sales guy not about the speakers, but where he could buy the CD! I stepped up and gave the guy the Quixotic URL. Then long after I'd made the decision to take the small speakers, I pretended to need to hear the CD at different levels. All in all, Nick got 10 minutes of pure exposure at decibels I never thought possible." Go Michelle!
- During a mailing list discussion of people who insist on talking during gigs, Dave Burnham (whose reviews can be read on the site) told the following funny story about his experience promoting a gig for Nick: "Seven years ago I organised a gig for Nick at the Beachcomber in Brighton. When I originally checked the venue out it had a nice stage in the corner of the room, but when we turned up it had vanished. Nick pondered this for a few moments and strolled off down the seafront. A few minutes later he whistled to attract my attention. He'd found some builders and had managed to cadge a piece of 8 x 4 feet chipboard off them, so I gave him a hand to carry it back to the Beachcomber. Nick then chatted up the bar staff and was presented with an array of beer crates which he arranged to support the chipboard... hey presto! One instant stage - what a guy! We'd also had some problems with people insisting on talking during the set and our 'Beloved Enforcer' Paul Davison told me about signs they had up around Dingwalls at the time (Please S.T.F.U. during the performance). I printed off about eight of these and stuck them to the walls and columns of the venue before the gig. Nick had clocked these earlier in the evening and when he went on, eyed them up from stage, then said, 'Hmmmm... S.T.F.U... Start Throwing Frilly Underwear then!'"
Updated 5 June 2005
© PLC 2002-5