After Lichfield

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 9:00 | Filled in Uncategorized
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One of many lovely emails relating to my retirement from full-time gigging that seems to sum up what they all say:

Hi Harvey,

Thank you for a wonderful show in Lichfield last night. Most importantly thank you, thank you, thank you, for all the wonderful shows we have attended over the years.

We have both been fans since we discovered Writer of Songs – we had just met at university when it came out. We were both a little choked up when we left the Guildhall last night, knowing we will never see you do a show like that again. The end of an era. We will miss your humanity, sense of justice, wit and of course the often moving performances of your story songs. You were always a good battery recharger when we were a little run down by life.

Our sincere thanks for some very happy memories Harvey and our very best wishes for a well-deserved, long and happy retirement.

Also, this review was posted by Lichfield Arts.

Colin Scot

Friday, August 17, 2012 9:11 | Filled in Uncategorized
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Those of you who remember the late Colin Scot (Scottie) will be as amazed as me to view these videos and discover a Scottie hinterland I certainly knew nothing about.

Those of you who never saw Scottie perform don’t know what you missed. He was instrumental in really launching me on the British folk scene when he picked up “Hey Sandy” and popularised it in the folk clubs, eventually releasing it as a single record from his LP “Colin Scot” on United Artists.

Hey Sandy revisited

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 11:47 | Filled in Blog

Hayden Dingman of Chapman University, California, has written an interesting modern examination of the songs written about the Kent State shootings, with a section focusing on “Hey Sandy”:

“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming”: musical framing and the Kent State shootings [PDF]

(One minor error, however, is saying I wrote it a few weeks after Young’s “Ohio”. I actually wrote it within a day or two of the shootings and had not heard Young’s song.)

Meanwhile Soulraven has posted a nice appreciation of the song. I don’t know when it was posted or who Soulraven is, but all I can say is their description of the time and their conclusion is spot on.


Folk man’s comedy and cutting comment

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 15:12 | Filled in Uncategorized

Harvey Andrews at Sheringham Little Theatre

A near capacity crowd had a rare treat on Friday as the ‘legendary” Harvey Andrews gave a faultless performance as part of his final UK tour of his own personal favourite venues and folk clubs from his 50 years on the road.

As he explained in his own relaxed, cheerful style “I am the last of my generation of singer/songwriters, largely because I have outlived the rest!”

At 68 he has lost none of his laid-back style as he held the audience spellbound with a set of old and loved songs mixed with new ones which were so well-crafted that we all knew them and sung along before the second chorus.

As always his effortless stories and anecdotes between the beautiful songs where hugely entertaining, amusing, (the kitten had us in fits) thoughtful and even deeply philosophical at times.

We were transported back on waves of nostalgia to a simpler age of push button telephone boxes, Saturday morning pictures, radio programmes the whole family, 10% house deposits or when all men whistled in the street, the milkman, the paper boy the dustman.

However among all this Harvey is still capable of deep social and political comment which formed so much of his formative years, about politicians. selfish motorway drivers, modern poetry, TV fame shows and the use of social media.

In fact when he asked us “is it me or is the world out there just Bonkers” we all voiced our agreement! As Harvey said “most people retire to travel – not me – I am retiring BECAUSE of the travel!”

One great piece of news which was announced by organiser Scott Butler of Deckchair Productions is that he has persuaded Harvey back to Norfolk to perform at next years Folk On The Pier Festival.

Richard Tree


Phil Ochs: a personal recollection

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 13:03 | Filled in Blog
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It seems that Phil Ochs is finally being given the place he has long deserved in the history of 20th century song writing.

This film will make him accessible to a generation that in many ways is still facing the same problems and wars that Phil wrote about.

He was an inspiration to me as the following extract from my second book, currently in progress, relates.



Bob Dylan may well have got the ball rolling for me and many others but when I first listened to the songs of Tom Paxton I knew this was the road I was going to follow. His songs, and those of Phil Ochs, chronicled the times we were living through. In many ways these songwriters of the 60’s were cultural historians, dealing with issues like the Vietnam War, civil rights and societal problems. Both Paxton and Ochs could tell stories with searingly truthful lyrics or with satire and humour. They also wrote understated love songs. To me they were just an extension into my own times of the traditional songs I was hearing in the folk clubs that told the stories of the extraordinary lives of ordinary people; their struggles, their wars, their loves, their dreams.

I began learning Tom’s songs immediately. He had a facility for writing simple, and most importantly, playable melodies. “Last thing on my mind”, “Ramblin’ Boy”, “Natural Girl For Me”, and “What Did You Learn in School Today” became fixtures in my performances, and audiences loved to sing the choruses.

Ochs’s songs were more problematic. They too dealt with political and social issues but in a more direct and journalistic way. They were less accessible for performance and very specifically about America and its problems, although I was hooked on them all. However, his more gentle songs “When I’m Gone”, and “Changes” entered my repertoire.

Because I now had transport, still a sought after thing on the folk scene at the time, an opportunity was offered to me that I couldn’t possibly refuse. Ioan Allen told me that Phil Ochs was appearing in concert at, I think, Nottingham; that he had a couple of days free afterwards and that hotel and finance problems meant he had nowhere to stay. Would I like to drive over, see the concert, pick him up and bring him back to my flat to stay for a couple of nights?

Would I!

Seeing Phil on stage was a revelation. He had some new songs that instantly appealed to me and meeting him backstage after the gig was an unforgettable moment. That night, into the early hours, Phil and I talked. We shared a love of Buddy Holly and played a few old singles. We discussed the folk scene and eventually got on to Bob Dylan. Phil mentioned that some people would happily kill Dylan and we talked about the repercussions of his assassination. I said it would be like the crucifixion of Christ to many and would give “the movement” a martyr, something all causes needed as a rallying point. Eventually he slept in my bed and I slept on the floor of my living room.

In the morning I got my tape recorder running and persuaded Phil to record his two new songs for me, “Flower Lady” and “Cannons of Christianity”.

“Two n’s or one?” he asked, before apologising for his voice; “It’s hard singing in the morning.”

After performing the two songs he went through them again to give me the chords. Within a week the songs were added to my repertoire.

In the afternoon I took him to my mother’s where he was fed a huge plateful of meat and two veg, followed by a cannonball of stodge covered in custard. He was very appreciative. Mother had no idea who he was, but admired his old fashioned manners and his courtesy towards her. Unfortunately he lost a contact lens in the front room, even though he had a towel spread over his lap as he cleaned it. He sat unmoving as mother and I carefully examined every inch of him, the settee he was sitting on, and the carpet on the floor, all without success. Eventually he got up and mother vacuumed the room and then dissected the contents of the bag. We never found the lens and it could be lying somewhere in 85 Kenilworth Road to this day. Phil, being Phil, had no replacement, and so had to wire to America for a pair to be sent out to him.

It was in England, according to his biographer Michael Schumacher, that Phil began to write his epic song “Crucifixion”. As he stayed with me on the 24th of November and, if the book is correct, began the song on the night of the 27th, I am convinced our conversation on the night of the 24th had a lot to do with his inspiration.

Before he left he signed my visitor book: “Phil Ochs… Hanoi”

There’s Got To Be More

Monday, June 13, 2011 9:21 | Filled in Video
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Mary Hopkin sings a song Harvey wrote but never recorded. From the album “Earth song/Ocean song”

The firm handshake of Henry Cooper

Thursday, May 19, 2011 13:37 | Filled in Uncategorized
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Yesterday saw the funeral of Sir Henry Cooper.

I was fortunate to meet him in 1966 as we were both to appear on ATV Today. Henry was a hero of my youth and I was thrilled that I would be able to shake his hand. I have never forgotten my first sight of him when he came into the studio. He was wearing a tailored suit of the then fashionable thin shiny silk material. It was moulded to his body and I could see the muscles of the physique beneath. He radiated power and health and a controlled sort of menace.

For once I was lost for words when we were introduced.

As we shook hands I decided to give him the firm masculine handshake he would probably not expect from the long haired folkie in front of him. Unfortunately Henry returned the firm handshake with interest and my right hand was bonecrunchingly crushed. I made my excuses and headed for the gents where I used alternate cold and hot water to restore feeling to a hand that had to play the guitar a few minutes later.

The next night he was fighting Jefferson Davies, a stetson wearing American who was also on the show. One look at him was enough for me to know the result. KO first round… ‘Enery’s ‘Ammer!

The peril of the first person

Monday, January 17, 2011 10:31 | Filled in Blog

I see that Dire Straits’ song Money for Nothing has been banned from the radio in Canada because of use of the word “faggot”.

The song tells a story from the point of view of a jealous and ignorant man and uses the sort of language that comes with that mental territory.

The writer creates a character and then sings that character in the first person. I’ve found this can lead to serious misunderstandings by listeners used to thinking that all songs using the word “I” are about the writer. Largely this is because they hear little but “me/I” songs about luuurve and relationships on mass media.

Knopfler has doubts about the device:

”I’m still in two minds as to whether it’s a good idea to write songs that aren’t in the first person, to take on other characters. The singer in ‘Money for Nothing’ is a real ignoramus, hard hat mentality – somebody who sees everything in financial terms. I mean, this guy has a grudging respect for rock stars. He sees it in terms of, well, that’s not working and yet the guys rich: that’s a good scam.”

I’ve used this technique throughout my writing life.

Wheels, for instance, is about the consequences of Thatcherite thinking on a father who educates his son to be a winner at all costs. This leads to his son’s death in a car chase challenge. It’s pure fiction to make a social point, but a couple of times I’ve had people come to me at gigs to express their horror at the death of my son in a car crash.

How these same people could listen to my other songs and think that the character I had created in Wheels was actually speaking my opinions amazes me!

Wheels is just one of many songs where I’ve used this technique to tell a story, and in the end a writer must trust his audience to be astute enough to get the message and separate reality from fiction.

Woodman Folk Club 16 July

Monday, September 20, 2010 8:48 | Filled in Blog
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Sounds Magazine 21 April 1973

Monday, June 21, 2010 15:30 | Filled in Blog

A fan sent me this by email. I’m suprised at how much of what I say I still agree with!

Sounds magazine 21/04/73

Click to enlarge