Hello, so I just finished this essay about Stormcock for my English degree. It contains musical analysis too. I thought people might be somewhat interested to read it - In what ways does Roy Harper’s Stormcock reflect the influence of the Beats and the Romantic poets? Made up of four epic songs, Roy Harper’s 1971 album, Stormcock, is a unique hybrid of poetry and progressive folksong in which words and music both play an interesting role. It can be argued, however, that the words are given precedence over the music in terms of the presentation of the songs. Harper sees himself predominantly as a poet, and has often described his major poetic influences as being the Romantic poets and the Beat poets, saying in one interview ‘’I’m a hybrid of the 19th-century Romantics and the Beat poets.’’ He especially admires John Keats and Percy Shelley - ‘’I knew from pretty early on all about John Keats, Percy Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Lord Byron, who I never quite liked. So, I was very influenced by them when I was younger - Keats particularly, and Shelley later on, when I had enough experience to understand what he was going on about politically.’’ Of the Beats, Harper found Jack Kerouac to be the most inspiring, ‘’Whereas I was much more attached to Jack Kerouac and the Beat poets.’’ The question we must ask is this - have Harper’s literary ambitions and influences produced a work of literary quality, or are they to be taken as a claim of little substance? The ideological influence of both kinds of poetry is easy to detect in the songs. The Beats were, arguably, predominantly a social movement that advocated non-conformity and independence through their poetry. Liberal political ideas, a dislike of injustice, and a distrust of authority can also be said to be part of their ethos. Harper expresses similar opinions throughout the album -every song can be said to have a rebellious ideological element to it. For instance, ‘The Same Old Rock’ is a fiery tirade that targets organised religion, and is constructed around the refrain ‘’And you try to tell me with consternation That you have found me a brand new lock Then you try to warn me that there's only one combination One new sling - the same old rock’’. The metaphor used here is quite sophisticated - Harper points out the primitive tribal impulses behind what he perceives as the divisive, corrupt religious institutions in the world. The use of ‘you’ and ‘me’, pronouns used to depict a confrontational exchange in which both parties stand at intellectual opposites, highlights the factious interpersonal relationships that religion can potentially create, in which communication is impossible. The ’same old rock’ is a well chosen image, reflecting the primitive brutality of the ancient tribal impulse, which Harper presents as being simply dressed up in the ‘one new sling’ of modern organised religion. The simplicity of the ABAB rhyme scheme lends accessibility to the rhetoric - Harper is aiming to convey a message, so he does not use an overly complex rhyme scheme. However, the atheistic message of the song does not reduce its expressive quality. Interestingly, Percy Shelley was also an atheist, having been expelled from Oxford University for publishing a pamphlet in 1811 called ‘The Necessity of Atheism’, although, as Sharon Ruston says, ‘’it was dangerous in those times to declare that you held such beliefs’’. The ideolgies apparent in the album are thus clearly influenced by both the Beats and the Romantics. Harper recognises throughout the album that for humanity to progress, it must move beyond the ’you’ and ’me’ of these primitive, divisive institutions, to become a united, secular ‘we’. This utopian dream of freedom, unity, and the challenging of established power structures is related to the social ideas of the subcultures of the 1960s, which Harper had been part of, and which had evolved out of the Beat Generation. However, while that decade’s ideological underground can be said to be a failure on a mass level, mostly decaying into hedonism, Roy Harper continued to express his hopes for the future of humanity in song. Though it can be broadly categorized as folk music, Stormcock features a number of progressive musical elements and is flexible in terms of genre definitions. Rob Young writes of this flexible idea of folk, ‘’British musicians and composers have drawn on an idea of folk, alongside a literary (or cinematic) sense of nostalgia and connection with the landscape, all of which feeds into an encompassing expression of Britain that Blake, at least, called ‘visionary.’’ The subgenre of Progressive folk emerged in the mid to late 1960s, and can be defined as music that rejects or de-emphasizes the conventions of traditional folk music and encourages stylistic or thematic innovation, while still maintaining some elements that identify it as ‘folk’ music. In the case of this album, some of those elements are instrumentation and harmonic structures. Acoustic guitar textures are the dominant sound of the album, and create a sound world that is immediately associated with the folk genre. However, some more unusual elements are included. ‘Me and My Woman’, for instance, prominently features string and brass arrangements, which is a progressive and artful touch that would not be expected from more traditional folk songs. ’Hors D’Oeuvres’ features electric guitar and keyboard. The social themes of the album are something that can also be linked to folk music - the anonymity of the traditional folksinger meant that they could offer biting subversive or satirical social comment without fear of persecution. This is the benefit of an oral musical tradition - it leaves no trace of the song or the singer. Harper’s social comment is in a similar vein, even if he is ultimately more influenced by the social and literary ideas of the Beats and the Romantics. Structurally, the music is progressive and unusual - each song runs to, on average, ten minutes in length, and most feature various thematically linked sections. However, the actual harmonic patterns and chord sequences of each section within the long songs is generally fairly straightforward, though some more complex chords are used. For instance, ‘Me and My Woman’ begins in B minor, and changes to A major and G major, a commonly used chord sequence in popular and folk music. However, some more unusual chords come later in the track, and the string section arrangement modules from E minor to E flat major after the intro, which has a jarring and unusual effect. What we expect from ‘folk’ music is challenged and subverted by the progressive musical palette of the album. The word Stormcock is an old English name for the Mistle Thrush, a bird that ‘delights’ in ’the storms of early spring,’ and indeed, nature and the pastoral play a significant thematic role in the album, especially in the song ’Me and My Woman’. Of course, these themes were also hugely important to the Romantic Poets. Onno Oerlemans writes, ‘’That many romantic-period writers expressed profound interest in the natural world has always been obvious. Their distinctive passion was marked by…the celebration and detailed descriptions of natural settings.’’ In ’Me and My Woman’, this appreciation and celebration of nature is tempered with an awareness of the implications of industrialisation and human progress. There is also, arguably, no more fitting musical genre to deal with pastoral or natural themes than folk music - the music of rural tradition. Harper’s progressive twist adds a rebellious, subversive twist to the folk idiom.