Barclay James Harvest Album Portfolio

Barclay James Harvest Album Portfolio

Octoberon

Octoberon album cover

LP: Polydor 2442 144, 1st October, 1976
MC: Polydor, October, 1976
LP: Reissue, Polydor SPELP 13, August 1983
MC: Reissue, Polydor SPEMC 13, August 1983
CD: Polydor 821 930-2, 18th July, 1984
CD: Remaster with 5 bonus tracks, Polydor/Universal 065 399-2, 2nd June, 2003
2CD/DVD: Deluxe 3-disc edition, Esoteric ECLEC 32570, 15th July, 2017


Red Side:
The World Goes On (Les Holroyd)
May Day (John Lees)
Ra (Woolly Wolstenholme)

Blue Side:
Rock 'N' Roll Star (Les Holroyd)
Polk Street Rag (John Lees)
Believe In Me (Les Holroyd)
Suicide? (John Lees)


Bonus tracks on remastered CD:

Rock 'N' Roll Star (Les Holroyd) [Early mix]
Polk Street Rag (John Lees) [First mix]
Ra (Woolly Wolstenholme) [First mix]
Rock 'N' Roll Star (Les Holroyd) [Recorded at Marquee Studios]
Suicide? (John Lees) [First mix]


Tracks on deluxe edition:

CD 1   (24-bit remastered original stereo mix):
The World Goes On (Les Holroyd)
May Day (John Lees)
Ra (Stuart Wolstenholme)
Rock n’ Roll Star (Les Holroyd)
Polk Street Rag (John Lees)
Believe in Me (Les Holroyd)
Suicide? (John Lees)

Bonus tracks: Rock n’ Roll Star (first mix) (Les Holroyd)
Polk Street Rag (early mix) (John Lees)
Ra (early mix) (Stuart Wolstenholme)
Suicide? (early mix) (John Lees)


CD 2   (new stereo mix):
The World Goes On (Les Holroyd)
May Day (John Lees)
Ra (Stuart Wolstenholme)
Rock n’ Roll Star (Les Holroyd)
Polk Street Rag (John Lees)
Believe in Me (Les Holroyd)
Suicide? (John Lees)

Bonus tracks:
Rock 'N' Roll Star (Marquee studios version – for Top Of The Pops) (Les Holroyd)
May Day (alternate intro version) (John Lees)


DVD   (new 5.1 surround sound mix, 96 kHz /24-bit new stereo mix, 96 kHz /24-bit original album mix)
The World Goes On (Les Holroyd)
May Day (John Lees)
Ra (Stuart Wolstenholme)
Rock n’ Roll Star (Les Holroyd)
Polk Street Rag (John Lees)
Believe in Me (Les Holroyd)
Suicide? (John Lees)

Bonus track:
May Day (alternate intro version) (John Lees)

Video Content:
Rock n’ Roll Star (Polydor promotional film) (Les Holroyd)
The World Goes On (Polydor promotional film) (Les Holroyd)



Recording Details

Recording Studios:
Strawberry Studios, Stockport

Recording Dates:
Ten weeks in the summer of 1976 (on a budget of around £20,000)

Producer:
Barclay James Harvest

Engineers:
David Rohl, Steve C.Smith

Additional Personnel:

Orchestra and choir conducted and arranged by the late Ritchie Close.
Choir: The Capriol Singers, director Gerald E. Brown


Title

A pun on Shakespeare's character Oberon from A Midsummer Night's Dream, as well as symbolising the fact that it was the band's eighth album (excluding the compilation Early Morning Onwards) and that the album was released in October.


Sleeve

Based on a decorative panel of Oberon, king of the fairies, created by the artist Frederick Marriott in 1901, in gilt gesso, painted and set with mother of pearl. The panel is shown below, together with a detail from the companion piece panel of Titania. Original LP copies had the Oberon design embossed on the front of the cover, and an inner sleeve with lyrics and a photo of a male torso wearing a pendant of Oberon's head.


Oberon by Frederick MarriottTitania by Frederick Marriott


David Rohl

David's musical career encompasses writing and performing with his own bands (The Sign Of Life, Ankh, Mandalaband), studio engineering (Marc Bolan, Thin Lizzy) and production (BJH, Maddy Prior and others). His work on Octoberon and Gone To Earth led to BJH performing on Rohl's second Mandalaband project, The Eye Of Wendor: Prophecies, a concept album which also featured 10cc, Justin Hayward and others.



The World Goes On

The album opens with a neglected BJH classic from the pen of Les Holroyd, with a simple but highly effective acoustic opening complemented by John's eloquent lead guitar work. Lyrically, the song tackles the subject of life and luck, finishing on an optimistic note with a favourite leitmotiv of Les's - flying as an escape (c.f. "Jonathan", "On The Wings Of Love", "The Life You Lead" etc).

Lyrics:
See the gambler make a stand
Holds a lifetime in his hand
Win the game or lose control
But the world goes on forever

Life's a circle, I recall
Shadows played upon the wall
You pay the piper to call the tune
And the song goes on forever

And when all the words have gone
There's the thought to carry on
Just like a bird that sings
Leave it all behind and spread your wings
You can leave it all behind - spread your wings

Lay me down
Saw the road move on before me
Times when I was tired and lost my way
Looking at life and strangely for the first time
Thinking that I could stay here
But the world moves on forever

And when all the words have gone
There's the thought to carry on
Just like a bird that sings
Leave it all behind and spread your wings
You can leave it all behind - spread your wings

[Les Holroyd, © RAK Publishing Ltd]


May Day

John's first contribution is, as is so often the case, lyrically ambiguous, but the song seems on one level to be about political extremism of the Brave New World variety, whether from left or right. The title refers, of course, to the traditional communist country parades on May 1st, and there are allusions to "the State" and "a party man", but elsewhere the words attack simplistic black and white notions of right and wrong. The song can also be read as a description of personal confusion and uncertainty. The coda to the song offers no further clues, consisting as it does of a choir singing excerpts from six songs (all at the same time) ranging from traditional English pieces such as Elgar's paean to patriotism, "Land Of Hope And Glory" to the socialist anthem "The Red Flag"! The other songs included are "It's A Long Way To Tipperary", "We'll Meet Again", "There'll Always Be An England" and "The White Cliffs Of Dover". The idea seems to have been Woolly's, and the 'choir' included Martin Lawrence and David Rohl.

Lyrics:
The rock on which I stand is slowly sinking in the sand
The sheer realities of life are rushing by
I am looking out at life and I don't know what's wrong or right
And I can't even see the bright side of the moon

I stopped a man in the street today
And I asked him "Sir, is it night or day?"
He just stared (smiled) in disbelief
I asked again but he walked away
He said "Don't you know?"
I said "Can't you say? Is there something inbetween?
Is it something I've not seen?
Did it change so fast or was it just a dream?"

Time and time again I've tried to recreate the past few days
Evaluate the constants from the haze
But every time I think I'm right, they say I'm wrong
"This day is night and night is day -
It's there in black and white"
Night is light and dark is day
If I disagree they say I'm insane
And the treatment will begin
If I say that the day is light
They just point my eyes to the blinding night, saying
"We can't set you free if you always disagree,
So the State is going to pay your doctor's fee"

They put me out in the pouring rain
To enjoy the sun or to feel the pain
Of the nightmare life's become
I asked a man in the street today
Or was it yesterday or the day before?
"Is there something I've not seen?
Is there something inbetween?
Did it change so fast or was it just a dream?"

The rock on which I stand is now beneath the ever-flowing sand
The sheer realities are here to stay
I'm looking out at life and now I know what's wrong and right
It's what you hear and what you read and what they say

I saw a man in the street today
Ask another man "Is it night or day?"
He just stared (smiled) in disbelief
He said "Friend, it's your lucky day
I'm a party man, won't you step this way?"
I've got something you've not seen
Now I know it's not a dream
It just came so fast, that something inbetween

[John Lees, © RAK Publishing Ltd]


Ra

The only song written by Woolly on this album, but what a song! Ra was the Ancient Egyptian sun god, and Woolly was inspired by the subject to write one his most dramatic pieces. Doubtless David Rohl, with his lifelong interest in Egyptology, approved of the theme and helped to achieve the semi-classical feel of the recording. Woolly cheerfully admits to having borrowed the first four notes from Mahler's Symphony No.1, although, as he says, it's hardly a major musical theme in the song. The delicate verses lead to some suitably languid guitar work from John, before a reprise of the opening section builds up to the extremely powerful ending - one of the best arguments I've ever heard for the extended dynamic range of CD!

Lyrics:
Burning fiery furnace in the sky
Burns the ground around us where we lie
Sad old black-faced thunder will you rise
Bring your cloud and shadows to our eyes

Blazing star in heaven, mirror bright
Dry our seas and rivers with your light
Universal sentinel you are
Guide of all who look on from afar

God of old now broken and defaced
Punish all who've fallen from your grace
You whose power leaves the deepest scar
Mystic eye of heaven, Amun Ra

[Woolly Wolstenholme, © RAK Publishing Ltd]


Rock 'N' Roll Star

There's an obvious reference here to The Byrds' "So You Wanna Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star", and Les's song carries a similar view of the pitfalls of seeking stardom, although musically it is completely different. A contemporary review compared the song to The Eagles "One Of These Nights", particularly the guitar solo, and there is a slight resemblance, but in spite of that, (or perhaps because of it!), the song has become an enduring part of the BJH repertoire, even making a reappearance in the live set in recent years.

Lyrics:
The higher you fly, the harder you fall
The way that it goes, so they say
No mountain's too high, no valley too low
No river too wide on the way

So you're gonna be a rock 'n' roll star
Gonna make it on your own
Write a song that everyone can sing along
So you want to take a trip to the stars
Can you find your way back home?
You'll get your break, but don't you wait too long

The harder you try, the lower you fall
The way that it seems, so they say
The mountain is high, the valley so low
You're losing your dreams on the way

So you're gonna be a rock 'n' roll star
Gonna make it on your own
Write a song that everyone can sing along
So you want to take a trip to the stars
Can you find your way back home?
You'll get your break, but don't you wait too long

Looking behind you
All the bad times that you've had
Looking before you
Only good times?

So you're gonna be a rock 'n' roll star
Gonna make it on your own
Write a song that everyone can sing along
So you want to take a trip to the stars
Can you find your way back home?
You'll get your break, but don't you wait too long
Now don't you wait too long

[Les Holroyd, © RAK Publishing Ltd]


Polk Street Rag

An X-rated song from John! The inspiration for this jokey rocker was the controversial film Deep Throat, starring Linda Lovelace. The film had pretensions to artistic content, but was basically a soft-porn movie about a woman with the unusual anatomical feature of having sexual organs in her throat! Polk Street is in San Francisco's red light district, and the band were in San Francisco at the time of the film's release, since the original plan was to record the album with Elliot Mazer at His Masters Wheels studio, where Time Honoured Ghosts was made. However, Mazer was unavailable when the band first arrived, and their visas were only valid for a limited period, so, having killed some time recording backing vocals for David Soul, they eventually decided to go back to England and record the album at Strawberry.

Lyrics:
I was down on the east side
On a block with no name
When I walked in a movie
You were blue, I was game

Tell me, did you love it, baby?
Did you think your smile looked right?
Tell me when you came together
Was it in your mind 'cause it sure wasn't out of sight

Didn't know when I entered
Second seat, second row
It was then that I saw you
But your mouth stole the show

Tell me, did you love it, baby?
Did you think your smile looked right?
Tell me when you came together
Was it in your mind 'cause it sure wasn't out of sight

Got your name, got your number
Got your form on the line
I don't know who you're under
But I know it ain't mine

Tell me, did you love it, baby?
Did you think your smile looked right?
Tell me when you came together
Was it in your mind 'cause it sure wasn't out of sight

[John Lees, © RAK Publishing Ltd]


Believe In Me

Les's delicate love song has some beautiful vocal harmonies and instrumental effects, which have been compared with the style of Steve Stills and Manassas, an early influence on Les's writing.

Lyrics:
If your world is falling 'round you
And you don't know where you are
If you need someone to be there
Baby, believe in me

When the dark night is upon you
And you're feeling very small
If you need someone around you
Baby, believe in me
Show me the need in me
Baby, believe in me
Tell me that you can see

Give me your number
Tell me come over
Anywhere
Give me a call
Whenever you're falling
I'll be there

You never give me your loving, baby
When I'm far away
It's just the same old story, baby
It's the same old play
You never give me your loving, baby
When I'm far away
It's just the same old story, baby
It's the same old play

When your world is falling 'round you
And you don't know who you are
If you need someone to be there
Baby, believe in me Show me the need in me
Baby, believe in me
Tell me that you can see

[Les Holroyd, © RAK Publishing Ltd]


Suicide?

The question mark in the title is often forgotten, missing the point of the song, which is simply "did he jump or was he pushed". The ghoulish sound effects at the end were created using a twin microphone binaural system on the head of a dummy, which was then thrown out of an upstairs window! Apparently Woolly refused the starring rôle for some reason, although his clogs created the footsteps. I'm reliably informed that the spoken line "are you a member, sir?" is the censored version - the original was "may I see your member, sir?"!!

Lyrics:
I woke up to a feeling, it was cold by my side
You had gone with the sunrise, leaving tears in my eyes
I got up with a feeling of an emptiness inside
To the noise of the sidewalk and the silence of my mind

Well I walked out this morning, down a street with no name
To a club called "The Loser", like a dog that's gone lame
Took the club elevator to the floor with a view
I took out life subscription - it's the only one they do

I stepped out on the guard rail, saw the crowds slowly part
Heard a voice shouting "Don't jump, please for God's sake let me move my car!"
Felt a hand on my shoulder, heard a voice cry "Just in time!"
Felt the quick push, felt the air rush
Felt the sidewalk, fell in line

[John Lees, © RAK Publishing Ltd]


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