Barclay James Harvest this weekend. A band far better known in the UK and Europe than in the U.S., who had been around since 1966 and would classify as one of that first wave of bands going under the heading of Prog-Rock. Why they didn’t achieve the huge following in the U.S. that other bands, such as Yes were getting, is a mystery. It’s very possible the problem may have been with their labels at the time. Their first singles were released in the UK on EMI/Columbia, but wound up on Sire/London in the U.S., and went nowhere. They then moved to EMI Harvest which didn’t fare much better over here via Capitol. By 1974, the time of this concert, they had signed to another label, Polydor in both the UK and the U.S. and even though this was a breakthrough point for the band in Europe, they barely scratched the FM Underground over here.
Timing may have had something to do with it – by 1974 most fans of Progrock were delving into German bands like Can and Italian bands like PFM; getting further and further away from the spacious soundscape they enveloped themselves in, favoring more complex music and experimenting. Barclay James Harvest seemed to many, to be out of date.
That’s not to say Barclay James Harvest weren’t a good band. The audience was changing – and were splintering in many different directions. And also bear in mind, that Punk was just around the corner, and the enormous backlash from what was characterized by the press as “insufferably Pretentious” Prog bands at the time didn’t help those bands still trying to reach an audience.
But whereas America seemed to be unwilling to absorb more than one musical genre at a time, there was room in Europe for a lot. And Barclay James Harvest, while on Polydor, also shared the label with The Jam and Sham ’69. It was a healthier attitude that went on the assumption the audience was willing to give it all a listen and there was room for support for all of it. Evidence of that came from Radio Caroline, who declared their 1974 Everyone Is Everybody Else album, one of the top 100 albums of all time. They also had a fan in John Peel, who invited them to record some 5 sessions for BBC Radio 1, from 1968-1974.
This concert comes from the 1974 period. It was recorded for the In Concert series on Radio 1.
Through many changes as well as deaths of two founding members, Barclay James Harvest have continued and are still performing and recording. They have gone into more pop territory, and have even become two separate bands, owing to differences in musical direction. Still popular in Europe and most of their albums are still in print, they are still finding their audience, a newer one.