Tolkien and folk-rock and us

Does anybody listen to British folk-rock? Stuff that flourished, really, in the late 1960s on the back of the counter-culture and some of which floated away on a cloud of Tolkien influences into the 1970s.

The Hill and Bag End, complete with a chintzy artificial oak tree.
The Hill and Bag End on the Hobbiton Movie Set, complete with a chintzy artificial oak tree.

That wasn’t surprising. In its British incarnation the counter-culture took on overtones of ‘Merrie England’, the nineteenth century sense of nostalgia for a supposedly perfect pre-industrial world. That keyed the movement directly into J R R Tolkien’s Shire and the world of his hobbits, which referenced the same thing from his perspective of two generations earlier.

The outcome was a lot of stoned twenty-somethings wandering around at Glastonbury and other places communing with nature and talking in fillers: ‘Wow, like, you know, heavy heavy, wow, man, LENTILS, like, wow, like, groovy, like, man’, all the while reading dog-eared copies of The Lord Of The Rings, which played out in their minds to a soundtrack of bands such as Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull, The Strawbs, Steeleye Span and Led Zeppelin (whose music directly referenced Tolkien, repeatedly).

When it came to Tolkien, of course, the whole lot were trumped by a Swedish virtuoso keyboardist named Bo Hansson (1943-2010) who – inspired by the great fantasy master – invented the prog-concept album in 1969, which was released in Sweden the following year. The album? Music Inspired by The Lord Of The Rings. Everybody else got to hear it via the Charisma release in 1972.

Anybody heard it? And if you have, do you remember the cover?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016


5 thoughts on “Tolkien and folk-rock and us

  1. I’m a big fan of JT and Ian Anderson, all the way through to _Homo erraticus_. I never really picked up on a Tolkien connection though. I enjoyed the recent Steeley Span retrospective, which I bought on the etrength of the excellent _Wintersmith_ (Pratchett, not Tolkien!). Tolkien’s influence on Led Zep is clear, but limited, I think. Especially in comparison with, say Battlelore (Finnish folk metal with, iirc, an Indonesian female lead singer) or early Glass Hammer (prog).

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  2. I have not heard of it! I always immediately think of Led Zeppelin when it comes to Lord of the Rings. The Song Remains the Same (as in the film, not the song) seems to riff off the books a lot with Robert Plant running around in a mystical landscape.

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