There are three lovely videos of Jimmy Page and Roy Harper singing and playing Same Old Rock and Hangman, along with an interview by baby-faced Old Grey Whistle Test cutie Mark Ellen. Mark gets short shrift from our musical friends who seem alternately irritated and amused by him. The OGWT was originally broadcast November 1984.
The group is walking on the border of Langdale, where it goes into Blea Tarn. This is near Scafell Pike, England's highest mountain.
These photos are reputed to be from this shoot, but having found them on the internet I can't either vouch for them or credit them. They certainly look right.
The first video is Same Old Rock
And the third video is Hangman
Got it? The details will become important later. There will be questions.
In a recent (January 2009) web supplement to Uncut magazine, Roy Harper said this about that day:
For a change of narrative pace, here is Jon Holmes, extracted from his book Rock Star Babylon - Outrageous Rumors, Legends & Raucous TRUE TALES of Rock & Roll Icons.
I was down at Jimmy’s place in Windsor and I’d got naked for Sundays. I’d got my girl with me, you know, we were enjoying it. Then suddenly I’m getting bitten by gnats, as we were by the water. I didn’t think much of it, so we got dressed and everything. Two days later, Jimmy and I are doing TV up in the Lakes, for Whistle Test. By then, I’d come up in eggs all over my arms and legs. It was my first allergic reaction to some pathogen I hadn’t come across before. So at lunchtime, I went into Jimmy’s room. The previous night, we’d been pissing around with the TV crew. We had some white snuff, which they thought was cocaine. It was comical.
So when I went into Jimmy’s room on the day of the shoot, I showed him these eggs and he said “Ah, I’ve got something for that”, and he gave me some antihistamines. We were due to film a couple of hours later, but just as we get up there, I decided to drink a can of Holsten. But it reacted with the antihistamine and I couldn’t play. I realized really quickly what was happening, so asked my girlfriend to run down to the stream with an empty water bottle and fill it up for me, so I could wash it all out of my system. But it didn’t wash out in time, so the TV people, of course, thought that Jimmy and I were both completely stoned. That we were being rock’n’roll crazies and were totally out of it. And they decided they weren’t going to have anything to do with us. It was a virtual write-off. I tried to say tell producer Trevor Dann that we should give it an hour, because then I’d be able to play again. It was just the antihistamines, but they didn’t believe us. They told Jimmy and I they had a dinner party to go to in London. And the dinner party won.
But it was a terrible thing, a real catalogue of errors. Talk about bad luck. It’s a strange memory, but a really good memory.
Time now for a recipe for disaster. In the very early morning, take one out-of-it and not-slept-all-night Roy Harper and Jimmy Page and add one mountain. Then take a small film crew and drop in a plan to record the hairy legends playing an acoustic version Harper's `Me and My Woman', on a hillside, for broadcast on BBC2's whispery show The Old Grey Whistle Test. Stir until thoroughly mixed up.He goes on to say that eventually Jimmy was persuaded away from his young woman's arms, and the pair of them were marched up the mountain by the film crew. The young lady accompanied them on their climb. Since the film rolls were ten minutes long, the song should be ten minutes long also. This was explained to them.
[...]The plan is to climb England's highest peak, Scafell Pike, early in the misty morn and shoot the piece against a background of a mysterious mountain. The first thing then is that Jimmy ignores the 5 a.m. wake-up call to his hotel room. This is because he hasn't been to bed yet and thus doesn't technically need to wake up. Instead of getting slumberous respite from the tribulations of being a Rock God, Mr. Page has chosen to stay up all night imbibing a cocktail of hotel minibar miniatures, a somewhat powdery `sharpener' and a young female acquaintance of unknown origin.
They were handed their guitars and the camera began to roll. Nine minutes and 30 seconds later they still hadn't reached the chorus. The director called, `Cut,' explained to the boys that the ten-minute rule wasn't a joke but a fact and could they please try to concentrate because they needed the song, start to finish, to fit exactly on one roll of film. Roy and Jimmy continued staring at the grass.
The camera rolled again. It was then that Jimmy got up, mumbling something about `going for a piss.' The camera stopped. Jimmy wandered over to a nearby drystone wall with some sheep on the other side, taking his hitherto spectating young female acquaintance with him. Without words he indicated that she should help him with his ablutions. The camera began to roll again. She then undid his trousers and took out his penis. There then followed a fantastic few moments where she, with the practiced skill of a veteran, directed the piss of Page, hoselike, wherever and at whatever he indicated, including the wall, the sheep, a bush, herself and finally his shoes. When he was sated, she shook him dry and tucked it back inside his leather trousers. They wandered back, Jimmy picked up his guitar and he and Roy performed an awesome version of `Me and My Woman' start to finish, note-perfect, within the allotted time.
One wonders where Mr. Holmes got his information – presumably from one of the camera crew. It doesn't quite match Roy Harper's recollections - or the video's songs, or Jimmy's footwear on the video - but it sure makes a helluva story. Do film crews really only run one camera at once without a covering shot? Do they really forget to film untoward incidents like sheep-soaking? Oh well, it could be true.
But the Scafell Story is marvelous, isn't it? Do you think it's true? I've read a few tales in this book and I have to say they go from the hackneyed (The Spaghetti Incident; The Shark Incident) to the not-very-outrageous. If you like this sort of thing it's the sort of thing you'll like.
For those wanting to hear more, there's an audio file of the studio version song mentioned above, Me and My Woman at YouTube. And Roy Harper's records are available from Roy himself at http://www.royharper.com/