I first saw Mike Hart perform as part of the Liverpool Scene, the bohemian collective of poets and musicians, in the basement of the Liverpool Everyman. The members were Adrian Henri (poet), Andy Roberts (guitar), Mike Evans (sax), Percy Jones (bass), Brian Dodson (drums) and Mike Hart (guitar and vocals). Each brought with them their own divergent musical background, Hart being an exciting rhythm and blues performer with a previous band, the Roadrunners.
The set would consist of a few poems by Henri spoken with a punchy blast from the musicians behind him, almost jazz in its form. Then, each of the band would front up with their own compositions, such as a clever new folk ballad by Roberts or, what I looked forward to, a witty blues-rock number from Hart. He felt it important to lend a poetry feel to his lyrics.
During 1968-69 I saw the Scene many times, whether in the Everyman, upstairs in O’Connors Tavern or even being bussed to Granada Studios in Manchester. It was also during this time that the DJ John Peel became a fan and I eagerly signed up to see the Scene at an all-night musical festival in Buxton hosted by Peel and featuring Savoy Brown, jazz-rockers Colosseum and the Scene. But when the gig arrived, the Scene failed to appear; they had broken up following a disastrous tour of the US.
After that I occasionally bumped into Hart, invariably in the Grapes or the Blackburne Arms in Liverpool 8, with a pint in his hand and a girl on his arm. He had gone solo and released an album produced by Peel on his Dandelion label. Even with the DJ’s backing, Mike Hart Bleeds did not sell well, as it should have done. It was if John Lennon was singing Bob Dylan’s words with Donovan strumming – a very niche market.
Hart was definitely overlooked; his talent lay in his use of words and how he expressed them – with an inner rage. The song Almost Liverpool 8 is his answer to the usual pop theme of the break-up with a girl friend. The acerbic wit builds the background story and leaves the listener wondering who is at fault:
Guess I shouldn’t have told you I loved you girl
After all these years as friends,
‘Cos you don’t know what it means girl
You don’t just say that thing in bed.
Yes, I guess you better be gone
Then comes the bitterness of rejection:
But I’ve just got one last thing to say to you girl
Before you take that journey home.
When you’re all nice and secure in your new little world,
I’ll still be far from alone
This echoes the teenage angst-ridden frustration of relationships that we all went through, words we would have liked to have said if we had had the courage to do so.
Peel played the track on his show as a 40th birthday treat. Hart, who died in June 2016 at the age of 72, deserved more than dedications.