Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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Whatever happened to PH ...

Howard Elson and John Brunton


Tormod Ringvold writes to BtP:
I have a book Whatever Happened To ... The Great Rock And Pop Nostalgia Book by Howard Elson and John Brunton (Proteus Books 1981), where Procol Harum gets an entry. The authors have written 'Procul' throughout, and I have corrected this. Otherwise, we get the following story:

Procol Harum: British, Male, Vocal / Instrumental Group

Original line-up: Gary Brooker (piano), Matthew Fisher (organ), Dave Knights (bass), Bobby Harrison (drums), Ray Royer (guitar).

Formed by Gary Brooker, an ex-member of the British R & B group The Paramounts who featured Brooker, Barry [sic] Wilson, Robin Trower and Chris Copping and enjoyed chart success in 1964 with Poison Ivy. Procol Harum came together in 1966 to record the Gary Brooker / Keith Reid composition A Whiter Shade Of Pale. The band had been assembled from would-be applicants answering a musical trade newspaper advertisement, and the record was independently produced for a few hundred dollars. However, when it was released by Deram in May '67, it became one of the fastest selling singles in history topping the British chart for six weeks and clocking up Gold Disc sales in America.

It proved the start of an interesting, if not spectacular career for the group, named after a breed of Burmese Cats. But they never really consolidated their early promise, due in the main to a fluctuating line-up. Indeed, Harrison and Knights [sic] only played on the one hit record [sic], before being replaced by former Paramount members Barry [sic] Wilson and Robin Trower.

The group followed up their single success with Homburg in October 1967, reaching the British Top Ten, and later made two outstanding albums Procol Harum and Shine on Brightly. But they rarely appeared 'live' together in the early days, apart from a series of lengthy American tours. And indeed, it was in the States that they amassed a large fan following which necessitated regular visits for concerts. But these tours were interspersed with long periods of inactivity.

After producing their third album A Salty Dog in 1969, Matthew Fisher left the group to go solo, and he was followed by Dave Knights. The fourth Paramount Chris Copping (bass) replaced them both, and Procol Harum continued to work as a four-piece. In this capacity, they made two more best-selling albums Home (1970) and Broken Barricades a year later.

The line-up changed yet again in 1971 when Robin Trower quit and with Frankie Miller formed the short-lived group Jude, before breaking out on his own once more with the outstanding Robin Trower Group. He was replaced by Dave Ball on guitar, and bassman Alan Cartwright with Copping changing to organ. And together, they recorded their successful Procol Harum In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and toured America once more. From the Edmonton album, the single Conquistador was taken which gained moderate sales and a chart position in Britain of 22 in 1972. For their Grand Hotel album in 1973, Mick Grabham came in on guitar.

Alan Cartwright left the group in 1976 to be replaced by Pete Sollie [sic] which allowed Chris Copping to double on bass once more. The revised line-up recorded several more albums including Exotic Birds And Fruit and Procol Harum's Ninth [sic] and enjoyed a final hit single with Pandora's Box (16 in the British chart) before splitting up completely in 1977, never quite having realized their full potential. It was a sad fact of life that the group were acclaimed in America throughout their career, but couldn't repeat that success at home in Britain.

Gary Brooker the mainstay of the band who with Keith Reid penned much of their outstandingly original material went solo, and (with Reid) continued to write and produce songs.

A few silly mistakes here, such as Knights leaving the group twice, and Pete 'Sollie' playing on Exotic Birds And Fruit and Procol Harum's Ninth. But that's the way it is. It may be of some interest.


More History of the band


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