Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale 

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Procol Harum : college report

Helene Heindorff Hansen


 

You’ll notice that this piece is not sub-edited in the usual way for a BtP page, but there is a good reason for that: it is the work of a 17 year-old Danish girl as a college assignment. Denmark is of course the hottest hotbed of Procol fervour in the world, so perhaps this should mot be too much of a surprise! Helene reports that Gary got her article in March and that two days later (in Aarhus) she was backstage and learnt that it had been read extensively in the tour 'bus.

 

Thanks to Thomas Raa Olsen and One-Eye for recommending this piece for ‘Beyond the Pale’.  A couple of points where 'some might not agree' have been printed in green.

 


  

Handelsgymnasiet Mariager Fjord

Helene Heindorff Hansen

HH2H

Engelsk rapport

 

Introduction
I have chosen to write about the English band Procol Harum, because it has a big meaning in my life, and because I think everybody should open their hearts to the music that Procol Harum plays. Since I was about 14 years old, I have listened to the band and therefore I found it a good idea to write about them. Procol Harum and their music are to me a good way to relax, but also to get in the right mood for any occasion.  Even though many of the band members are well on years now, they know their music, seeing them on a scene is an indescribable experience. I will write about Procol Harum and give a character sketch of the main character in Procol Harum; Gary Brooker. Subsequently I will give my opinion about the band, and tell about why I think that the band is not so well known. In the end I will write a conclusion, where I point out the most important things about Procol Harum, and my opinion. 

Procol Harum

Procol Harum is an English band, formed in the summer of 1967. At that time, the band consisted of five members; the piano player and singer Gary Brooker, the organist Matthew Fisher, the bass player David Knights, the drummer Barrie James Wilson, the guitar player Robin Trower and text writer Keith Ried. Lots of these members had already played together before, in fact Gary Brooker and Robin Trower met the first time seven years before they formed Procol Harum. Trower and Brooker were at a competition at the Palace Hotel Dance Hall, Trower and his band, The Raiders, was at that competition searching for a new piano player, and they saw Gary Brooker playing in his band The Coasters. Brooker was just the right man for their band, Trower thought, and therefore he contacted Brooker and asked him if he would like to play in their band. In the early sixties, Gary Brooker and Robin Trower started their own band, The Paramounts.

In the late summer of 1963, The Paramounts turned their attention to BJ Wilson, and he also became a member of their band, Matthew Fisher also became a member of the Paramounts. The Paramounts was entirely playing copy music, mostly English R&B music, in the 1963 they released their first single, a cover version of The Coasters’ “Poison Ivy”. The Paramounts never wrote a song on their own. In 1966 The Paramounts broke up. But this resulted in a new and greater band came into existence, namely Procol Harum. In 1967 Procol Harum had their first breakthrough, with the song A Whiter Shade of Pale, which was written by Gary Brooker and Keith Ried. The song; A Whiter Shade of Pale has become an evergreen, and is Procol Harum’s only still living hit.

 

Through the years Procol Harum has experienced many contrary things. Among other things, there have been lots of replacements of the band members. [1] One of the members, Matthew Fisher left the band after 2 years. He had great influence in the development of A Whiter Shade of Pale, because during the recording of the song his improvisation was used in the finished release. All over the world, it was understood, that Gary Brooker/Keith Ried was the originators of the song, and Matthew Fisher was totally forgotten. Gary Booker was furthermore the one who was credited for the song. Matthew Fisher could not deal with that fact, and therefore he left the band. In 1991 Matthew Fisher was reunited with Procol Harum and together they recorded a new album, and went on a big tour in the United States.

 

The loss of Matthew Fisher, was not the only dramatically thing that happened to Procol Harum, in 1977 the whole band had a total split up. And not until 1991 some of the members in the band decided to start a fresh. Unfortunately, Procol Harum’s drummer Barrie James Wilson had died in a road accident in1990, so he never lived to see the reunion of Procol Harum.

 

Through the years Procol Harum has made lots of publications. In the first period of their existence (1967 to 1977), they made 10 albums, which is about 1 every year. And since they reunited in 1991 they have publicised 2 albums. [2]

In spite of the fact that Procol Harum released so many albums, they never really became popular. The places where the band reached most popularity, was in the United States of America, and in Scandinavia.

 

Procol Harum has had lots of tours in the world, I will concentrate on the tours from their reunion to this day. From 1991 to 2003 Procol Harum toured a little mostly in Europe. Procol Harum released the album The Wells on Fire, and in that connection went on a big tour worldwide, 63 concerts during a period of 6 months in 2003. In the year 2004 Procol Harum gave only three or four concerts, but this year it looks like they will be playing a lot more. 

Gary Brooker

Besides telling the history about Procol Harum, I will also tell about a very important man in Procol Harum. The lead singer, songwriter and piano player Gary Brooker, without him, Procol Harum would not be the same as it is today. In lots of fans eyes, Gary Brooker is “the commander” of Procol Harum.

 

Gary Brooker was born 29 May 1945 in Hackney, London. Gary Brookers father Harry was like Gary himself a musician. Harry played in a Hawaiian group; the Hawaiian Serenaders. Therefore music has always been a natural thing in Gary’s life, and naturally he started playing the piano at an early age. Right from the start Gary knew, that piano was the right instrument for him, and it was his highly preferred instrument to play. Unluckily to Gary, his father died when Gary was only 11 years old. Gary Brooker started playing in bands at a young age, when he was only 12 years old; he started his first band, consisting of him self and some of his school friends. Gary’s first band was called The Electrics.

 

When we listen to Gary Brooker singing, it seems like he has always been singing, but that is far from the truth. Of course Gary had been singing in shower like every other human being, but he had never appeared singing on stage before The Paramounts in 1963. One night when The Paramounts had a gig, their lead singer failed to turn up, in panic the band suggested that Gary Brooker should take over the singing. Later the band realised that their lead singer never would show up, and from that day Gary had become a permanent singer in The Paramounts.   

 

Besides playing in Procol Harum and The Paramounts, Gary has been playing solo, in fact, he has published 3 solo albums[3], which are; No More Fear Of Flying, Lead Me To The Water and Echoes In The Night. The 3 solo albums Gary have published, were of course published in the years when Procol Harum was split up.

 

Gary Brooker is a beloved man among many other artists. In Gary’s leisure time, he plays together with Eric Clapton in their quite unknown band No Stiletto Shoes. He has also played together with Ringo Star from The Beatles. In December 2003 Gary received the British Order MBE, for his great efforts in charity work.

 

When you meet Gary Brooker in person, he seems to be a quiet and amiable person. Remarkable to most musicians, Gary Brooker has been married to his wife Frankie Brooker for over 30 years. 

My opinion about Procol Harum

1.      Why do I like Procol Harum?

I like Procol Harum, because their music is widely varied, symphonic music where all the instruments are in harmony with each other, and you are able to separate one instrument from the other. The texts in Procol Harum’s songs are very mysterious as the music sometimes. When I listen to Procol Harum, I step into my own universe, reach a lot of happiness, and float in time with the music. To me Procol Harum is a band of professional musicians, both on stage and in their releases. I think that even though Procol Harum has only had one song placed as a hit, all of their songs are hits to me.

My attitude to Procol Harum and their music has increased in a positive manner through a very short time. From I started listening to them when I was about 14 years old till now I have changed my opinion about Procol Harum’s music. In the beginning I only liked 3-4 songs, this attitude has now changed radically, now I have about 3-4 songs I do not like. The radical change in my opinion to Procol Harum could be caused by the year 2003. That year Procol Harum was on a tour in Europe and the United States of America. In the beginning of March, Procol Harum paid a visit to Denmark; this was where I met the band for the first time. Later that year I met the band again the second and third time. At these concerts I was caught by more and more of their music.

This year in March (Friday 18 and Sunday 20) I am going to meet them live in Copenhagen and Aarhus. Possibly I am going backstage on the two days, and are hopefully able to get a little chat with them.

2.      Why aren’t there more people listening to Procol Harum

I think many people have forgotten the sound of Procol Harum, and the fact that the band exists. Since their breakthrough in 1967, Procol Harum has not produced more hits. It means that even though people loved A Whiter Shade of Pale, they have forgotten all about Procol Harum, and some may think that the band does not exist today. Another thing with great influence on people’s attitude to music is the radio stations. By playing songs lots of times, the radio stations manipulates with the listeners mind and opinion about music. And Procol Harum is rarely played on the radios, and if Procol Harum for an exception should be played, it will only be A Whiter Shade of Pale.

 

In the nineteen sixties, many musicians had their career, that decade was “the golden years” to new musicians when hits were produced every day. So Procol Harum was in keen competition with many other bands, and that competition could in some way have frozen out Procol Harum. But even though Procol Harum is pretty unknown, it is possible to turn new people in to listening to them. When I was younger I did not like their music, but it luckily changed. And it was possible for me to make my previous boyfriend like them. He likes them so much now, that he has considered going to a concert with them.

3.      When so few people listen to Procol Harum, what motivates Procol Harum to continue?

I think that one of the things that keep Procol Harum going on is Gary Brooker’s great enthusiasm and happiness of playing music, and performing on stage. Furthermore there are a larger part of “Palers” (Procol Harum fans and lovers) around the world, who will not let Procol Harum stop playing music. Among these especially two “Palers”, one from Norway Jens Ravnaas and one from England Roland Clare, do everything to keep the band existing, they take part in many of their concerts and follow them when they are touring. Roland and Jens are also the two persons responsible for the website www.procolharum.com. The members in Procol Harum may enjoy playing for their fans.

Analysis of the song “This World Is Rich”

The song is written in connection to a South African march against poverty and bad conditions of their lives. One of the marchers Stephen Maboe pronounces: “This world is rich but it is not mine. I am not angry that they have so much and we have so little, but I want people to know our position,”[4]. This quotation from Stephen Maboe has formed the title of the song “This World is Rich”, furthermore the quotation has inspired Keith Reid to the contents of the text in the song.

 

The text gives me a good picture of how the conditions of life are in the poor areas all over the world. It deals with the difference between rich and poor. The song is seen from a poor persons perspective, he tells about how children are crying in hunger, the neighbourhood is much polluted and people hardly own their houses or the ditch they are dying in. The poor try to get help from the rich, but they will not help, they are afraid of the poor because they have turned to be hostile, and the rich are afraid of becoming like the poor, therefore they build up fences.   

 

To my opinion, the melody of the song supports the text well. The melody is melancholy, the rhythmical beats of the drums make the song dramatical and you get a feeling that you are participating in a big protest march, I sense how the poor may feel. 

Conclusion

Procol Harum is a band which arose in the 1960ties. They made the hit A Whiter Shade of Pale, and had no more further hits. Procol Harum is today unknown to many people, but they have a number of fans spread all over the world, who love them, and go to concerts with them. There are so few people knowing Procol Harum, because they have had great competition from other bands in the sixties and furthermore the radio stations rarely play their songs. In spite of this, Procol Harum is still existing and producing new music, this because of Gary Brooker’s great enthusiasm and love of the music. Without Gary Brooker, Procol Harum would not exist. Gary is the commander of the band, he takes control and has got the unique voice Procol Harum is known for. I think it is a pity that so few people listen to and know about Procol Harum, both the population should allow themselves to listen to Procol Harum, and Procol Harum deserves more popularity. Their music is widely varied, symphonic music, with great harmony among the instruments, and their texts are fun and philosophically.

 

Enclosure 1

The Procol Harum story starts in Southend-on-Sea, UK, where several schoolfriends came together as The Paramounts. By the middle of 1963 they were ready to turn pro ... and their reputations spread nationally after the Rolling Stones dubbed them the best R&B group in the country. None of their singles took off, though the Leiber-Stoller cover Poison Ivy had some success.

Claes Johansen's Procol biography suggests that the Paramounts had many more incarnations, making them a fit subject for a pedigree of their own at some later date!

Brooker's transition from blues disciple to psychedelic seer was symptomatic of the times. It was a fascinating and fertile period which saw the creation of Traffic, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, The Move...

In 1966, Brooker met lyricist Keith Reid. They intended to be songwriters but could find noone willing to record their work ... a group, then, was formed out of necessity. Brooker and Reid advertised for players for a "project with Young Rascals / Dylan-type sound"...

Paramounts 1

1961
to 1963

 


|
Gary
Brooker

piano/voc

|
Bob
Scott

vocals
quit music

|
Mick
Brownlee

drums
bricklaying

|
Robin
Trower

guitar

|
Chris
Copping

bass
university

 

Paramounts 2

Aug 1963
to Oct 1966

 


|
Gary
Brooker

keybd/voc

|
Diz
Derrick

bass
reverted to studies

|
BJ
Wilson

drums

|
Robin
Trower

guitar

 

 

Reid and Brooker held auditions for the new band, probably already called Procol Harum ...

Proto-Harum

Very early
1967

Claes Johansen's research names the players he considers the first generation assembled by Brooker and Reid, but exact details are debatable. Whoever they were, they probably rehearsed material that would end up on the first album, plus Alpha, Homburg, and In the Wee Small Hours ... , but seems to have left no recorded traces. It was managed by the legendary Guy Stevens


|
?
guitar

|
?
organ

|
?  
bass

|
Gary
Brooker

piano/voc

|
Keith
Reid

words

|
?  
drums

 

Procol Harum 1

April to
July 1967

Procol Harum 1 was only the start - but what a start! Hammond player Matthew Fisher replaced Alan Morris and made his definitive mark on the first
single:
A Whiter Shade of Pale went to No 1 in Britain, staying there six weeks.

PH1 managed only a dozen gigs - then Royer and Harrison left to form Freedom. (It transpired that jazzer Bill Eyden drummed on the hit 'A'-side anyway.) Brooker called up his old mates ... Wilson was drummer of choice anyway, and now he was willing!


|
Ray
Royer

guitar

|
Bobby
Harrison

drums

|
Matthew
Fisher

organ

|
David
Knights

bass

|
Gary
Brooker

piano/voc

|
Keith
Reid

words

 

formed own groups: Freedom, then SNAFU

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did good business in America, where there was a circuit of rock theatres suitable for the sort of concerts they were doing. Not so in Britain. Consequently, their UK following dwindled.

 

 

 

 

Procol Harum 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 1967
to Sep 1969

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Line-up 2 cut three albums: Procol Harum, Shine On Brightly and A Salty Dog. Single Homburg was their only hit for years. However, their influence was seen in new rock'n'art groups like King Crimson, Nice, Yes, Genesis ...


|
Matthew
Fisher

organ
into producing

|
David
Knights

bass
into management

|
Gary
Brooker

piano/voc

|
Keith
Reid

words

|
BJ
Wilson

drums

|
Robin
Trower

guitar

 

 

With the exception of Keith Reid, line-up #3 were all ex-Paramounts. Recorded a final Regal Zonophone album, Home, moved to Chrysalis and recorded Broken Barricades. In 1971, four years after their sensational start, they embarked on their very first tour of Britain - as support act to Jethro Tull. Robin Trower then left to form his own band. Matthew Fisher produced three very successful albums for him, two of which made the US top ten during the mid 70s.

Procol Harum 3

Sep 1969
to Jul 1971

 


|
Gary
Brooker

piano/voc

|
Keith
Reid

words (organ)

|
BJ
Wilson

drums

|
Chris
Copping

bass, organ

|
Robin
Trower

guitar, bass
went solo

 

 

Enter Brummie guitarist Dave Ball and bass-player Alan Cartwright, BJ's former school-friend ... Procol Harum's first major London concert in Sep 1971 - by which time they'd completed eleven American tours.

Procol Harum 4

Jul 1971
to Sep 1972

Nov 1971 they play with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. The concert is released as album Live at Edmonton (#5 US, #48 UK). Conquistador became their first hit single for years. However, Ball left and joined Long John Baldry's band...


|
Dave
Ball

guitar
quit

|
Alan
Cartwright

bass

|
Gary
Brooker

piano/voc

|
Keith
Reid

words

|
BJ
Wilson

drums

|
Chris
Copping

organ

 

 

With line-up #5, they achieved unprecedented stability. New guitarist Mick Grabham (ex-Cochise) was always a great Procol fan and his style fitted admirably. Cut Grand Hotel, Exotic Birds And Fruit and Procol's Ninth which yielded an unexpected Top 20 hit, Pandora's box.

Procol Harum 5

Sep 1972
to Jun 1976

 


|
Alan
Cartwright

bass

|
Gary
Brooker

piano/voc

|
Keith
Reid

words

|
BJ
Wilson

drums

|
Chris
Copping

organ

|
Mick
Grabham

guitar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1976 Alan Cartwright left, and Chris Copping reverted to bass. Enter Pete Solley (ex-SNAFU, inter alia) who added synthesisers to the Procol sound on Something Magic, and replaced the Hammond with a Farfisa organ ...

 

 

Procol Harum 6

Jun 1976
to March 1977


|
Gary
Brooker

piano/voc

|
Keith
Reid

words

|
B.J.
Wilson

drums

|
Chris
Copping

bass

|
Mick
Grabham

guitar

|
Pete
Solley

organ, synth

 

 

After Something Magic, they slowly ground to a halt without telling anyone. Former Elton John bassist Dee Murray replaced Copping for the last US tour. In June 1977, Mick Grabham declared that he'd quit Procol Harum. Yet ...

Procol Harum 7

April to
May 1977


|
Gary
Brooker

piano/voc

|
Keith
Reid

words

|
B.J.
Wilson

drums

|
Dee
Murray

bass

|
Mick
Grabham

guitar

|
Pete
Solley

organ,synth

 

 

... there was a single, last gig, restoring Cartwright on bass, and a new guitarist, at London's Wembley Conference Centre, marking the Queen's Silver Jubilee. AWSoP was named joint winner (with Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody) as Best British Pop Single 1952-1977 at the British Record Industry's Britannia Awards. This was
the last Procol concert for a long time, and BJ's final gig with Procol. Now Brooker made
solo albums and played in Clapton's band. Reid went into publishing and management. BJ toured with Joe Cocker.

Procol Harum 8

18 Oct 1977

 


|
Alan
Cartwright

bass
quit music biz

|
Gary
Brooker

piano/voc

|
Keith
Reid

words

|
BJ
Wilson

drums

Died 8 Oct 1990

|
Chris
Copping

organ

|
Tim
Renwick

guitar

 

 

 Enclosure 2

 

Review of the publications during the years

  Name:

Year:

1.

Procol Harum

1967

2.

Shine On Brightly

1968

3.

A Salty Dog

1969

4.

Home

1970

5.

Broken Barricades

1971

6.

Live At Edmonton

1972

7.

Grand Hotel

1973

8.

Exotic Birds and Fruits

1974

9.

Procol’s Ninth

1975

10.

Something Magic

1977

11.

The Prodigal Stranger

1991

12.

The Wells On Fire

2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enclosure 3

 

 

This World is Rich (for Stephen Maboe)

Brooker / Reid

This world is rich, but it is not mine
Where I live, hungry children are crying
I am not angry, at my own condition
I just want people to know my position

This world is rich, but it is not mine
My people are starving, that must be a crime
When some have so much, and some have so little
There must be a place, we can meet in the middle

This world is rich, but it is not mine
This world is rich, but it is not mine

Our water is poisoned, poverty’s intense
We cry inequality, they just build a fence
We don’t even own, the ditch where we’re dying
This world is rich, but it is not mine

This world is rich, but it is not right
We’re asking for help, before we run out of time
We can’t live on talk, we just need a hand
We’ll walk from the slums, to the promised land

This world is rich, but it is not mine 

 

Enclosure 4

 

CD containing

 

  1. Example of Procol Harum’s symphonic music:   The Signature
  2. The song I have chosen to analyze:                    This World Is Rich
  3. One of the songs that made me like Procol Harum:        Fresh Fruit                   
  4. Another of the songs that made me like Procol Harum:  Bringing Home The Bacon

[1] Eventually look at enclosure 1

[2] Eventually look at enclosure 2, to see a review of the albums during the years.

[3] After showing the report to Gary, he told me, that he actually had produced 4 solo albums. The fourth album is: Within Our House

[4] Quotation from www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,784489,00.html

 

Bibliography

 

Books:

Claes Johansen: Procol Harum, Beyond The Pale

 

Internet pages:

www.procolharum.com/procolhist.htm
www.procolharum.com/ph_pedigree1b.htm
www.procolharum.com/procolgb.htm
www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,784489,00.html
http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/prod/dialspace/town/walk/gmw98/webspace/procolharum-opk/pdf/procol_twof_info.pdf
 

https://writemypaperhub.com/college-paper.html


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