Cambridge Folk Festival 1984 (Black Swan 001)
Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge, UK – July 28th, 1984
Disc 1 (67:53) “Afternoon Set”: Intro, Short And Sweet, Referendum (Legend), Elizabeth, Advertisement, Highway Blues, The Flycatcher, True Story, The Game
Disc 2 (44:07) “Evening Set”: One Of Those Days In England, Hangman, Same Old Rock
The Cambridge Folk Festival started in 1964 when the Cambridge City Council approached local firefighter and political activist Ken Woollard, a member of the Cambridge Folk Club, to organize a festival for the next summer. Inspired by the film Jazz On A Summer’s Day, a documentary about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, Woollard wanted to promote a communal feeling among the audience and artists. The first festival, which featured Paul Simon, was a success and the festival has become one of the most influential in Europe.
Roy Harper’s appearance in 1984 was his second, following his first in July 1968. (In 2012 Ray Harper will perform for the third time). Harper and his band were joined by Jimmy Page, who played several dates with Harper that month including the day following this appearance in London (and captured on Hat Off To Jimmy Page (Fire Power FP-005)).
The source for both afternoon and evening sets are very good audience tapes. There are several comments by people around the recording between songs (mostly focusing upon Page). They don’t really detract from the enjoyment of the sets but they do confirm Peter Cunliffe’s observations about the sets (posted on the excellent LedZepConcerts website) that “the audience was uncomfortably full of Led Zeppelin fans awaiting the arrival of Jimmy Page. (‘I wish all those idiots shouting ‘Jimmy’ would—- off back to Scotland and find him’ quipped the compere).” Page himself posted on his website last summer that “I played with Roy an afternoon acoustic set and evening electric set at the Cambridge folk festival. Both sets were received with rapturous applause.” There are several cuts between numbers and a small one 11:36 in “The Game.”
The tape starts off with the compere saying, “he’s changed his mind again, which he’s done over the years and he has every right to do so” before they band come onstage and start with “Short & Sweet.” Harper plays this tune in his other shows that summer, and even joined David Gilmour onstage to sing the song when Gilmour toured the UK in April that year.
In contrast to the more polished Gilmour version which features significant contributions from the keyboard, Page offers a short solo sounding much like “Darlene” from Coda. It is followed closely by “Referendum” and “Elizabeth,” a song that would be featured on the next album, according to Harper.
“A song I wrote because I wanted to pay a few dues” he says before “Advertisement.” It’s a bizarre tune with many breaks in the narrative and interesting keyboard effects. The audience laugh at certain points, but the humor is lost without the visual cues.
On ‘True Story” Harper sheds his guitar and, according to Cunliffe, “animates the dramatic lyrics – particularly lines like ‘He rose in the saddle and split the fool’s head down the middle’, where Roy can really go to town.”
The first set closes with a full fifteen minute version of “The Game.” Taken from Harper’s 1975 HQ LP, the opening pile driver riff is one of the heaviest of the night. Originally recorded with Gilmour on guitar and John Paul Jones on bass, Page infuses his own discordant riffs in the melody, following the ebbs and flows of the long piece.
Harper’s evening set is found on disc two. It starts with Harper alone onstage with keyboardist Nik Green for a full twenty-minute rendition of “One Of Those Days In England.” Green’s piano offer’s a magical sheen to compliment Harper’s troubadour vocal style.
Afterwards Page returns to the stage for “Hangman.” Harper explains they recorded the song with the full band, but will play as a duet with Harper on acoustic guitar and Page on electric. The final song of the long day is “Same Old Rock.” Page breaks a string about three minutes in and they have to start over again.
Cambridge Folk Festival 1984 is certainly an intriguing debut for the Black Swan label. Not since the nineties, when Fire Power released the Battersea Park tape and Tarantura pressed the Valentine’s Day 1974 show, has there been such and excursion to the outer limits of Zeppelin related tapes. Besides that, it is an excellent document for Harper illustrating the range of British folk music from the early eighties.