Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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Brooker on Wilson

'... the greatest contributor of all.'


Gary Brooker, from Danish Press Conference re Delta ballet, 1990.
"... He [BJ Wilson] was a great drummer, although we always used to call him a percussionist, actually, perhaps a bit twee, but wherever you look on record, it always says, "BJ Wilson, percussion", because he wasn't just a steady time-keeper, he would play quite intricate rhythms and had lots of dynamics ... sadly missed. He was the original drummer on Joe Cocker's With a Little Help from my Friends. You know, there's no drums in it, but suddenly, there's a whacking great fill-in there, that's BJ ... I think that Procol Harum songs without some flamboyant drumming would seem to be missing something. " [read the whole press conference]


In the August 1997 issue of Shine On, which printed a May 1997 Gary Brooker interview, Gary is asked what keeps the continuity of PH through all the personnel changes. Here's his answer:

Gary Brooker:  Well, the songs and the singing. But everybody has always contributed an enormous amount. And the greatest contributor of all was BJ Wilson.  And I miss him.  Nobody's replaceable, ever. That is the hardest thing.  He was very much Procol.  You can't play a Procol Harum song and tap along in four-four, keeping the tempo correct and hitting an off-beat.  You've got to play the tune.

Joan May adds:
I think by 'play the tune', Gary is referring to something he said about BJ in a 1991 radio interview that BJ played the drums as a Musical Instrument, not solely or even primarily as a rhythm keeper. Of course I agree.

BJ's drums were a big part of PH songs not just a backdrop. In fact, the piano is also a percussion instrument, and Gary actually did a lot of the timekeeping,  allowing BJ to make those wonderful Dramatic Entrances of his, and to 'play the tunes'.

Thanks to Gary Brooker for his brilliant words in praise of this great artist!


The Psychedelic News, December 2000

Interviewer
Speaking of BJ Wilson, in January classicrockpage.com along with the help of the BtP website, put together a mini tribute to
BJ Wilson (BJ WILSON Tribute). I'd like to add your recollections of him to the piece. What are some of your lasting memories of BJ as a drummer, band mate and friend?"

Gary Brooker
Well, I'd always thought he was very much younger than me but.it'd be a couple of years younger than me, no more than that. But, when we first met him he was about fifteen and was very accomplished. He was a total drummer, totally dedicated to his instrument and knew so much about it.

I just used to look at him on stage and I used to know exactly what he was going to play, not because he played it before, because he very rarely repeated himself, but I just knew what was coming and of course he also knew at the same time what I was going to do. He had about three things going with his kit all the time, he would add bits that went with the vocals, or went when there wasn't the vocal and he would have bits that were going on with my piano.

He wasn't so much a drummer that just sat down and played with the bass player. He sort of played more with the lead and interest that was going on. He was totally into it every time he played and that came out. Anybody that ever saw him would know that, he was totally absorbed and almost in another world. All he was doing was drumming, every little ting on the top of the cymbal was very involved. And he had a great background, he had played as a young lad, that was probably in the story of him, he was in boys bands and that so he knew that military style and he used that to great effect at times. He also took drum lessons with Joe Morello the Jazz drummer for some time, I think he went one day actually, though he learned a lot, he took it all in.

He used a different grip to what most drummers do, with his sticks, and he got terrific power. You don't have to wield a great stick from great heights as if it was a club, he had it gently resting between his fingers but when he whacked it, it was just as loud as anybody else.

He was a good man and sadly missed and he was a good friend and anybody that met him, you know, BJ was the one out of the band that they always remembered. He was the one that would be talking to the other bands always, very friendly.


Gary Brooker on other fellow-Procolers
BJ's page at BtP


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