Every Procol Harum fan will know that when Gary Brooker and Keith Reid got together to write songs, they never intended to record them themselves. Their ambition was to write songs for others to record. As documented in this 1999 interview and in this 1995 interview with Henry Scott-Irvine for Record Collector – and many more times also documented on BtP – several songs were written with certain performers in mind, and Conquistador was written for the Beach Boys. Gary claims Procol Harum was formed because they found nobody else to record their songs.
That certainly has changed, with hundreds of cover versions of Procol Harum songs.
But what every fan has always tried to figure out, and would love to hear, is how Gary Brooker meant Conquistador to be performed by The Beach Boys with their signature harmonies. Gary Brooker once told BtP that 'if you listen to Conquistador in your imagination, you can almost hear how the harmonies would flow'. Not an easy vision, but something we all would have enjoyed to hear on record.
And soon we can! When Gary and Keith wrote their first songs together, they may have been completely unknown to The Beach Boys and their musical leader Brian Wilson. But that was to change. Beach Boy Bruce Johnston praised Procol Harum's A Whiter Shade of Pale. And more important, Brian Wilson said in this 2004 interview about the un-released Smile album that 'The year I worked on it (Smile) was the heaviest in my life. I remember A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum was released. I was so sensitive for the dramatic organ sound, that I thought it was my funeral tune. '
As we all know, Brian Wilson later recorded Smile as it was meant to be, and toured the world performing it. And on 20 February 2004 this was débuted live in Royal Festival Hall, London. Apparently, in the full capacity cheering crowd was also Gary Brooker. And after the concert musical masters Gary and Brian met, and talked about their mutual inspiration. Apart from the above-mentioned AWSoP, Brian Wilson told how In Held 'Twas in I inspired The Beach Boys to record their suite California Saga, while Gary told about how a few bars of God Only Knows can be heard in Robert's Box. And the Beach Boys' song Do You Like Worms was the inspiration for Keith to write The Worm and the Tree. To our knowledge, this is also when Gary told Brian about the roots of Conquistador, something Brian Wilson never knew before, but something that really set his musical mind at work. And now, forty years after the song was written, Brian Wilson has recorded Conquistador for inclusion on his new solo album to be released this fall. The song was co-produced by Gary Brooker, who also played piano on the recording.
BtP will of course bring more information about this when Brian Wilson's new album is released, but thanks to Gary Brooker, Brian Wilson, and their publishers Bluebeard Music and Brother Records, visitors to this website can already now hear a one-minute sound clip from this recording. At this early stage it may not be the final mix, but we can get a good impression of how it will be, and how it was meant to be when Gary Brooker and Keith Reid first wrote it.
To receive an mp3 of Conquistador recorded by Brian Wilson, simply send a mail by following this link and state your name and e-mail address.
Other Features at BtP (includes further April Fools' Day hoaxes)