Charlie Allison sends BtP this fascinating piece, which he acquired at a Brechin coffee-morning book stall (for 25p). As he comments, it's 'very accurate, extremely complimentary (particularly regarding Grand Hotel) and fairly prophetic of the final album (the ‘lengthy project’ must have been The Worm and the Tree) – everything except for the actual demise of the group!'
POP GROUP ANNUAL 1977
packed with info and pin-ups on top pop groups!
WORLD DISTRIBUTORS 1976
right) The Stylistics, Bay City Rollers
with articles and great photos about many acts
A three-page spread with illustrations pp 63–65 (see below)
AN ECHO FROM YESTERDAY
Late in 1975, something happened to make the blasé pop-pundits, given so often to sighing “I wonder what happened to so-in-so” sit up and be surprised. It was a return to massive air-play (the record in question was Pandora’s Box) for Procol Harum.
It was amid the R & B mania of the mid-sixties that Procol was born. Gary Brooker, BJ Wilson and Chris Copping in pre-Procol days (as the Paramounts) busied themselves with tunes like Three Cool Cats, Searching and Youngblood – the whole Coasters repertoire. As fate would have it, a decade later the mentors of The Coasters and authors of all their hits, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, have turned up at the production helm of the album Procol’s Ninth, from which Pandora’s Box was taken.
Procol’s Ninth, you note. Pop fans who hitch more to albums than to singles will know already that, in fact, Procol Harum have never really been away. They just happen to be one of the best of the 'Rock of Gibraltar' (no pun intended) groups that storm steadily on behind the ever-changing pattern of the chartbusting scene.
To return to the pre-Procol group, The Paramounts, for a moment. They called it quits in 1966 after a long and disheartening period backing solo singers. It was then that Brooker, previously entirely taken up with R & B, began to explore classical composition. His involvement in that style of music grew until it had insinuated itself into the very special blend that has come to characterise Procol Harum. The mixing of classical and R & B forms. When Brooker met lyricist Keith Reid and saw that the writer’s lyrics matched the discerning approach his melodies were taking, the personality of Procol was launched.
Came 1967 and their massive hit – A Whiter Shade of Pale – was at the top of the charts world-wide. It was new. It was big. You’ll still hear it. Often. at that time organist Matthew Fisher and bassist David Knights were with the group – but after their Salty Dog album, they left, and ex-Paramount Chris Copping took over both vacated roles. The quartet of Brooker, Copping, BJ Wilson and Robin Trower – also an ex-Paramount – soldiered on with a rugged work called Home, which produced such Procol standards as Whisky Train and Whaling Stories.
Eventually, Robin Trower found his own direction. To put it more clearly, he left. But amiably.
Bassist Alan Cartwright was next to come into the fold, releasing Copping to concentrate on organ full time. Guitarist Dave Ball stopped by for the live album where Procol were featured live in concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the De [sic] Camera Singers. It was this album that presented
(note that Mick Grabham, below, is printed in reverse)
Procol Harum with a gold record, Brooker’s lively arrangements winning over legions of new admirers.
Then came Grand Hotel – an album that was greeted ecstatically by a bigger audience still. It was their most brilliant effort yet, sporting the ultimate in refined rock plus a bedrock rawness, the latter element coming vocally and in the guitar work of Mick Grabham. For Grabham, formerly of Cochise, it was a stunning début. Keith Reid unveiled his most cleverly wrought lines yet. Many wondered if they had ever heard so many classic works on one LP.
By the time Exotic Birds and Fruit rolled out, Procol had been established as one of the more global attractions around. Not just in Britain and North America. Every country in Western Europe has welcomed the boys, and at the time of writing, they’ll be tripping off to Mexico, and possibly South America.
Procol Harum is already well-stocked for the future. Many tunes that didn’t fit the temper of the Procol Ninth album are ready and waiting, as well as a lengthy project at present under wraps. Reid, Brooker and the rest are confident that the group is contented, stabilised, looking ahead. Will they make the singles chart in the near future? In the interests of first-class popular music, we can only hope so.