Procol Harum

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Three Early Procol Gigs

Chris Purcell


I saw Procol Harum three times in the late 60s and early 70s, all in the Washington DC area. The first was '68 or '69, in Constitution Hall. Procol Harum were the headliners; they were preceded first by an obnoxious new band from Canada, Guess Who. The second band was Seatrain, a jazzier sort of band with a flute player as well as a fine guitarist, Elliott Randall. Procol must have released A Salty Dog by then; I can't really remember many of the songs, but I do remember a kind of synthesized seagull intro to the song A Salty Dog. The members were Brooker, Trower, Fisher, Wilson; and David Knights, whom Gary B introduced (affectionately) as "a long face." BJ Wilson's bass drum head was very beautifully painted.

Procol scholar Frans Steensma elucidates:
Constitution Hall, Washington DC. Guess Who, Seatrain and Procol Harum.
On the hand bill for this concert the Salty Dog cover was partly reproduced and the date on it says 20 June 1969. I believe the concert had a heading: 'Daughters Of the American Revolution' (I don't know why). This was the first Procol concert Chris saw.

The second concert, in '71 or so, was in the new Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The audience was mixed, since the first band was the newly-formed Eagles. They were a Top 40 act at the time, so their part of the audience was all 15-year-old girls. Procol Harum's audience was a little older. I was in the balcony; the guy next to me played "air piano". Copping was in the band by then. I remember one of the Procol roadies hammering a large nail into the (still rather new) wooden stage floor in front of Barrie Wilson's bass drum, to keep it from sliding forward as BJ kicked it. A few minutes later, an irate woman who looked like a librarian tall, slender, with hair in a bun and reading glasses, wearing a cardigan stormed out of the wings with the same roadie sheepishly following her. She pointed wordlessly and very demonstratively at the nail, which the roadie pulled out of the floor. I'm not sure how they solved the bass drum problem, maybe with a stack of cinder blocks or steel weights. The concert was wonderful; they ended with Repent Walpurgis.

Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington DC. Eagles and Procol Harum: this concert was not 1971 but July 1972. Procol did a US tour with The Eagles supporting. This was actually the third Procol concert Chris saw.

The last concert (I think) was at an outdoor venue in Maryland, the Post Pavilion. There were one or two local bands before Procol Harum came out. Trower was still in the band; most of the songs were from Home. They played very well, and the crowd yelled enough at the end that they came back out for an encore. I was surprised that Brooker didn't seem to want to play much more: he said something like "All right, we'll play something for you, then we can all pack up and go home." Some rock star he was he sounded like my dad! Their encore was a 50s rock 'n' roll cover, probably from the Paramounts days. Of course I don't remember the song, but I do remember how well they played it. They should have done a whole album of older stuff!

[They did, and you can buy Ain't Nothing to Get Excited About by clicking here]

Post Pavilion, Maryland (outdoor). Procol Harum: this concert was in June 1970, shortly after the release of the Home album. During this tour Procol always closed with a rock & roll medley (Move On Down The Line, Lucille, Great Balls Of Fire, Ooh Poo Pah Doo, Matchbox), which is in accordance with Chris's memory. I'm not surprised Gary wasn't very enthusiastic: during the concert people had tried to bash down the fences to get free entrance. So I can imagine he said: 'All right, we'll play something for you, then we can all pack up and go home.' This was the second Procol concert Chris saw.


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