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Whatever Happened to Jugula?

Whatever Happened to Jugula?
[Click above for album images]



Idiosyncratic folk-rocker Roy Harper never became a household name in his native Britain, despite the efforts of high-profile backers including Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page. The former has invited Harper to join him onstage many times over the years, and even asked him to sing lead on Floyd's "Have a Cigar," bringing his voice to millions of listeners who probably had no idea it wasn't Roger Waters. Page, for his part, lent his fretwork to several Harper albums, and named a Zeppelin ditty, "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper," in his honor.

Following several commercially soft albums (including an electric set with Zep's John Paul Jones and Yes/King Crimson sticksman Bill Bruford), Harper found himself in a rut. "There is no doubt in my own mind that the early '80s were the nadir of my life in music," he later said. To alleviate his creative malaise, he teamed up with his old pal Page for a series of folk festival appearances throughout 1984. Liberating for both men, the gigs ultimately led to a studio effort, Whatever Happened to Jugula?, which was released the following year.

At the time, Jugula fostered a renewed, if temporary, interest in Harper, whose '70s work rates among the most interesting, song-based music of the era. By giving Page equal billing, Harper ensured the attention of Zep heads, although there isn't much on Jugula to satisfy those craving the cock-rock wizardry of Page's early daze.

Instead, Jugula offers eight mid-tempo folk-rock numbers, performed on tinny plastic Ovation guitars and ornamented by Page's wiry Telecaster (the one with the G-string bender) and sundry synthesizers. Harper's once bracing tenor had by then become a reedy whine, giving extra acidity to his customary remonstrations of hypocritical society.

Opener "Nineteen Forty-Eightish" is classic Harper, filled with paranoid depictions of "lemmings" who "push their pens and rush in hordes of crashing stupor," and the "unrelenting drudgery" of "cops and bureaucrats." Page pierces the chintzy acoustics with irritable electric, proving that, despite a heroin addiction that robbed him of crucial motor reflexes, he was still the hippest axeman to emerge from the 1960s Brit-blues academy.

The Gilmour-penned "Hope" would've sounded better performed by faux-Floyd, while "Hangman" benefits from some crafty Page trills and irresistibly morbid lyrics. "Hangman oh hangman / How sleepless is your bed I can't believe my own ears / My heart is full of lead That you'd apply and get the job / Of pulling off my head / And leave me kicking in the darkness / Splattering the walls with blood," Harper cruelly croons.

"Advertisement (Another Intentional Irrelevant Suicide)" is a revved-up groove-rocker that features the repeating refrain, "I'm really stoned" – a declaration requiring zero suspension of disbelief. Page turns in a rousing solo, with country-inspired bends and the wafer-thin electric tone that marked many a Zep LP. If only he were backed by John Bonham's bricklayer beats, and they might've been onto something.

Comparable in sound to Harper's finest work from the previous decade, "Frozen Moment" is the record's strongest cut. Chiming, finger-picked acoustics are met a mournful vocal from Harper and tasteful embellishments by Page.

Although it may have helped Harper regain some commercial footing in a particularly avaricious era, Jugula hasn't aged well. The re-issue is a welcome goody for collectors, but neophytes would be advised to start elsewhere (see Stormcock). -Dusted Magazine
Statistics

Released:
Mar. 4, 1985

Chart Position:
#60 (US) #44 (UK)

Tracks

1. Nineteen Forty-Eightish
2. Bad Speech
3. Hope
4. Hangman
5. Elizabeth
6. Frozen Moment
7. Twentieth Century Man
8. Advertisement (Another Intentional Irrelevant Suicide)
Quick Fact

"The title for 'Jugula' came from playing Trivial Pursuit, in order to explain to everyone how they should go about answering the questions as straight and honestly as possible I'd say, 'Go for the jugula'. It was going to be 'Harper & Page' for a while, but that's like selling Jimmy's name, then it went to '1214' which is the year that the Magna Carta was signed... but that was a bit esoteric. So one day we were talking and 'jugula' came up, so I phoned the artist and they'd designed up to the 'Whatever happened to...' bit so I said leave it there and put Jugula at the end."
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This Month in
Led Zeppelin History

February 7, 1962 - Deborah Bonham, sister to John, was born in Redditch, Worcestershire, England
February 23, 1966 - Warren Grant, son of Peter, was born.
February xx, 1969 - Led Zeppelin enters the Billboard Top 40
February 16, 1969 - Led Zeppelin wrap up their first American tour in Baltimore, MD.
February 07, 1970 - Edinburgh gig cancelled after Plant receives facial injuries in a car accident
February 28, 1970 - The band performs as "The Nobs" in Copenhagen after threat of legal action from Countess Von Zeppelin
February xx, 1971 - John Paul Jones involved in legal issues regarding a musician who shares the same name
February xx, 1971 - Overdubs for the fourth album are recorded at Island Studios
February 14, 1972 - The band is refused admission into Singapore due to their long hair
February 16, 1972 - The Australian tour begins in Perth
February 21, 1972 - Led Zeppelin: Rock and Roll b/w Four Sticks (Atlantic 45-2865) 45 single is released in the US.
February xx, 1973 - The band makes final preparations for the European tour
February 16, 1973 - The release date for Houses Of The Holy is pushed back due to some sleeve problems
February xx, 1974 - Sessions for Physical Graffiti continue
February 14, 1974 - Page, Plant and Bonham attend a Roy Harper concert
February 04, 1975 - Zeppelin perform a last minute show at Nassau Coliseum to accomodate fans after being banned in Boston
February 24, 1975 - Physical Graffiti finally issued worldwide to phenomenal sales
February xx, 1976 - Media reports that Zeppelin are due to release an album entitled Obelisk
February xx, 1977 - Robert contracts a bout of tonsillitis postponing the American tour
February xx, 1978 - Robert Plant helps produce a record for punk band Dansette Damage
February 16, 1978 - The cases against Bonham, Cole & Grant stemming from the Oakland incident are heard and all receive suspended prison sentences and fines
February xx, 1979 - Although absent from the US stage or market, Led Zeppelin rank best in many music magazine categories
February xx, 1979 - Mixing sessions for In Through The Out Door take place at Polar Studios. Rumors fly of a European tour
February 03, 1980 - Robert joins Dave Edmund’s Rockpile at the Birmingham Top Rank
February 13, 2005 - Led Zeppelin receives a Grammy for Lifetime Achievment.
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