Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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AWSoP in the 'Mojo' poll

The August 1997 issue of the UK's Mojo Magazine features the Hundred Greatest Singles of all time, as voted by a panel of about 150 prominent British and American rock musicians and producers. AWSoP came in Number 22. Here's the text of the article, by Dawn Eden: if you want to download the scanned article, click here


22. A Whiter Shade of Pale Procol Harum

Label: Deram; Composers: Gary Brooker and Keith Reid; Producer: Denny Cordell; Released: May, 1967; Chart Peak: 1(UK); 5(US); Available on: The Best of Procol Harum (A&M)]

"The first time I heard a classically-inspired rock song with a poetic lyric which took the art form to another level." Richard Perry [one of the panel]

'A Whiter Shade of Pale' attracted music industry interest before one note of music was written. Keith Reid had shown his lyrics to Essex Music publisher David Platz, who encouraged him to set them to music. Reid teamed up ex-Paramounts singer and pianist Gary Brooker, whom he'd met through impresario Guy Stevens. Placing an advertisement in Melody Maker, they spotted another 'Band Wanted' notice the same week from Matthew Fisher. Fisher had recently taken up the Hammond organ at the suggestion of The Small Faces' Ian McLagan, who'd advised him "with a Hammond you'll always get work."

Overseen by Denny Cordell, an old friend of Brooker's, the newly-formed group went into the studio to record Brooker and Reid's composition, now underpinned by Fisher's Hammond part, derived from Bach's Air On A G String. Session drummer Bill Eyden depped for new drummer Bobby Harrison, who had 'flu. Cordell who was reportedly in the toilet when the definitive take was captured took the new recording to Deram, who signed the group and test-marketed A Whiter Shade of Pale on Radio London. Audience response was so strong the disc was rush-released, and was soon enjoying a six-week stretch at Number 1.  No-one was more pleased than Fisher. "I borrowed the money to buy the Hammond from my grandmother. A Whiter Shade of Pale let me pay her back...."


Joan May, who sent this piece in, adds:

'I wonder if those Fisher quotes were obtained from Mike Ober's interview?

'When I first read this, of course I noticed that the composer credits were still one short something not within the magazine's control and the Bach reference was a little off. But then I realized that this may be the first time EVER that Matthew Fisher was even mentioned in a press article on AWSoP, let alone featured so prominently! I can't help thinking that progress is finally being made!

'To thank Dawn Eden and Mojo and / or to enlighten them a little further they can be reached at: mojo@dial.pipex.com'


In the December 1997 Mojo, AWSoP was voted No 38 by its readers.

More AWSoP lore


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