I finished my set and made my way off stage taking my guitar with me, something I used to do in case I felt the need to just slip away when the Guest Singer was not to my tastes. Securing my guitar for a quick getaway, I parked it at the rear of the club and grabbed a pint from the bar before returning just in time to hear the M.C. announce “…our guest tonight – Roger Brooks!”
Under the soft glow of the stage lights stood a slight, slim figure with a guitar draped upon him, his dark stubble contrasting the light tan on his handsome face. In the shadowing light he could be mistaken for a young Rod Stewart. He was wearing his by then trade mark top hat, a stylish leather jacket and a woollen scarf, looking for all the world to me like the Artful Dodger of “Oliver” film fame. The de rigueur tight legged and flared bottoms of the fashionable loons, that we all wore with our cheesecloth shirts, clung to his legs. He made his introductory greetings, his voice cultured and pleasant, smiling and friendly, articulate and witty, inducing the audience to like him and his presentations then started with a Tim Hardin classic: “Reason To Believe.” This was a very well known song to many of us who had made our own arrangements of it but tonight, somehow, to me, the words took on a different, clearer meaning. I felt a different vibe, another way of interpreting the lyrics. As I listened to him perform I realised that he was living the song’s story and by immersing himself in it, had created this version. It simply was story-telling in song and it still is something I’ll never forget.
His next song, the self composed: “Street Riot” simply astonished me. Describing his experiences during civil unrest in Paris, where he’d been busking on and off for several years, the song brought that reality to us in vivid images. The song arrangement was complex, but absolutely captivating, his words drew pictures in the mind which took us all on a journey to witness where he’d been and what he seen. His guitar accompaniment was fascinating, full of wonderful and unexpected chord inversions, and sounds that seemed to be born right before you only to be instantly replaced– before you could identify what it was or might be – by something else – just as wonderful. He ended the song with an excerpt from the final movement of Beethoven’s 6th symphony which neatly contrasted the chaos and confusion of the rioting with the gentle peace of the aftermath. It was a magical experience, I felt him take me and the audience off with him on a thrilling adventure ride. His spell so well woven it touched everyone in the room; so impossible to refuse we succumbed willingly and were taken far from the somewhat drab reality of the blue cigarette smoke haze hovering above us. His feet encased in what we used to call Beatles boots, beat a percussive tattoo to his playing which the audience quickly picked up so the room reverberated to his captivating rhythm. In that moment I realised he was the embodiment of everything I wanted to be. A singer and songwriter with panache, charisma and with such a commanding stage presence, such a confident master of his craft, displaying such talent and uncanny ability with his songs and voice. This was my first experience of Roger Brooks in a West Country Folk Club late in 1972 or early in 1973 and I’ve been eternally glad I didn’t slip off into the bar that night.
We became pals, not in the sense of regularly meeting socially but as musical contemporaries, sinking pints, laughing and chatting about music, influences and so forth whenever our paths collided. I was a traditional ballad singer and doing quite well in my career, but always harbouring a deep desire to become a respected contemporary song writer, in the same mould as my folk heroes like Bert Jansch, Ralph McTell, Steve Tilston, Clive Palmer, and here was a man in his early twenties doing just that very thing! How I envied him.
Sadly Roger died tragically young at just 52, never having achieved his true full potential but he has left us such a wonderful legacy that after finding a rare and fairly good quality audio recording of Roger performing in Pipers Folk Club at Penzance circa 1980 and being acutely aware that other live recordings are now of such poor audio quality due to age, simple wear & tear, suffering generational distortion from multiple copying, I felt compelled to create this Audio CD so that his music, lately somewhat neglected, might reach a wider audience, and to try and relate his life’s story as far as I could.
This, with amazing contributions from many others, is my offering. Copies are £10.00 each including U.K. P&P. Payment via Paypal, or BACS, Cash or Cheque.
Further details from: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for the CD received in the post when I got home yesterday evening. I’ve only managed to listen to a few tracks so far but – top job! I don’t know, but possibly exceptional work, beautiful full bodied sound and clarity and cleaning up from old tapes – amazing! Sounds like a modern sound engineered new recording made yesterday. Very well done.
Toni Carver (St. Ives Times & Echo)
I AM KNOCKED OUT BY IT! Such a great job – excellent quality considering the age and it really puts his other products out there to shame – Roger now has a quality product to be assessed by, you should be immensely proud. Some great writing and quotes in the biog too – Do keep up the great work – your mission must continue. I am spreading the word and hopefully you should have had one or two sales via me already. Do keep up the great work – your mission must continue….