Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Procol Harum • 20 July 2007, London

Fortieth birthday song-introductions

Question: does Gary Brooker preface so many songs with these streams of sometimes-bewildering, seemingly-focusless buffoonery in order most sharply to offset the gravitas with which the band delivers the hallowed material? Is it a disarming tactic to pre-empt the sort of sharp-eared criticism – of the chancier moments in a marvellously risk-taking set – that he might expect from an audience containing a fair number of musicians who, he occasionally claims, 'know the songs better than we do'? Is it intended to puncture the misapprehension of those still locked in the belief that Procol Harum are a band with pretensions? Is it conceivably a distraction that contributes to his occasional lyric mix-ups while singing?  Is it a welling-up of his naturally surreal humour in the presence of a crowd that he probably knows 50% of by sight, and many a good deal better than that, and who respond so warmly to this very British brand of post-Goonery? Maybe it's a mixture of all the above? It's certainly unique in rock and roll, and it makes for a very memorable atmosphere.

In any event, if you couldn't get to London (or if you could, and couldn't distinguish all the banter) this is what was said on the night of the Procol 40th party, with Geoff Whitehorn very much in the straight-man rôle. You will search in vain for much in the way of backward-looking or sentimentality, for past-alumni name-checks or laurel-resting: Procol Harum is a band that is moving forward, albeit not as rapidly as some would like! Yet the tone here is unmistakably one of great reverence for the repertoire and love for the fans, the crew, and fellow performers: and quite rightly so, on such a significant occasion.

(In sepulchral tones) Thank you, and good evening! (a little child calls out: laughter)

Procol Harum play
The VIP Room

(Mouths to GD 'Homburg'). Three, four ...

Procol Harum play

Thank you very much indeed, and welcome to St John’s Smith Square, that we’ve been invited to by ... er ... 'Beyond the Pale’, I think, which is very nice of them.

That first song was called The VIP Room, which is where we all want to die, not out in the cold, doing nothing, fishing or something, where nobody sees you. If you’re going to flop down dead, let it be in front of everybody. Get your name on the papers.

The second song was called Homburg. I don’t know what that is in Italian, but I know it was recorded by a group called Dik Dik ... (laughter) ... (cries from audience ‘Camaleonti’) Pardon. Oh! Camolios! Sorry. Well they called it Dik Dik, that was the name of Homburg in Italian.

A young man who has always written with me, a young man called Keith Reid, a very fine lyricist, one of the best (long applause) ... thank you ... and like all of us he has his bad days as well. He must have been going through a particular torment with this one.

E? E is my first chord.

Procol Harum play
Typewriter Torment

We are ... not quite used to playing in this heat. Quite warm in ... I think it's probably because this ... it was a lot colder in 1967 when I bought this shirt (laughter). (Giggle) Still fits! Comes out once every ... sort of ... ten years, on a big anniversary. And I do understand that in fact ... if it's 2007, then that's forty years since ... this band first started ... which I'm sure you wouldn't have thought we'd go that long (whistles, applause: cry of 'Still sounds great'). We sort of had nothing else to do really. (laughter)

Piano's out of tune, but that's the way it is. This one always reminds me of Poland, which we visited when it was under ... um ... The Pope, when he owned it. It's called 'Beyond the Pale'.

Procol Harum play
Beyond the Pale

(ends with huge 'Oy' from audience)

What does anybody fancy? (Geoff Whitehorn: Grand Hotel). Cries from audience include Ghost Train, Whaling Stories, Piggy Pig Pig, The Idol, The Worm, Dead Man's Dream. A flat. It's on there (meaning the setlist) ... it's on there as a possible, Geoff. (GW: Not in A flat, it's not!) My way of looking at keys is (GW: Oh, I see) what's the first chord: and that's the key it's in. (GW: take your point, Gaz, sorry, I stand corrected!). The rest will follow (GW: hopefully!). With any luck

This is actually one we haven't played very much, 'cos it was on a particularly ... one of our 1977 albums. In fact we only had one album in 1977, it's called Something Magic.

A flat then.  (GW: Is it A flat?) Yes I think so. (Laughter). Well I think it's A f lat. (GW: I'll take your word for it Gaz.)  One, two, three, four ...

Procol Harum play
Something Magic

Whew! Cor! (GW: Fancy one we know?) Yes ... something with only four chords, preferably. (GW: would be nice). Not forty-four. (GW: All of them!) Apparently that song has all of the chords in it, both majors and minor. Every note in the scale. Somebody pointed that out once, whose name shan't be mentioned. Well all right it was Geoff Whitehorn. Geoff Whitehorn's on the guitar, ladies and gentlemen. (GW plays little clip, which Josh finishes off). Ah, comedian on the organ, as well, that's marvellous! We'll get your name later. Phillips, J.

What are we doing, Geoff? (GW:  it's entirely up to you, it's your show.) No, you're the ... (We could do the one we were going to do ... ) That's what we're waiting for ... (GW: shall we do the one we were going to do?) No, we'll do the one that we were going to do after the one, 'Here he is, Geoff Whitehorn' (GW: Ahhhhhh!). It's where you go ... duh duh duh (plays air guitar) (GW's real guitar cuts in)

Procol Harum play
Simple Sister

Geoff Whitehorn on the guitar, Geoff Dunn on the drums. We'll take it easy in a minute (unintelligible ... 'had a heart-attack'). I know. Bob's Box (cheers). How do you know what we mean? That's code. We've got lots of songs with 'box' on the end: and you see we have to decide which box it is; we can't just say (US accent) 'Baax'. 'Cos we might do Shadow Boxed or Pandora's Box. But this one is called Bob's Box. (Taps feet to get rhythm right)

Procol Harum play
Robert’s Box

'Scuse me, just have a ... 'scuse me, will you mind if I just have a drink of water? Thirsty, you see. (Sinister voice calls out: If you play The Final Thrust ... ) Right, who's that? Out! Hey ... out! Out! (GW: Security!) (GB starts to play The Final Thrust (in C!) but it peters out.) No, don't know that one.

In fact we probably don't know this one either. (laughter) (GW: Oh now ... when do we get to relax, Gary?) (M Pegg: Monday). Monday. (GW: Monday, fine). Well you do, anyway. I've got to go to the dentist. Dentist or the doctor's, it's usually one or the other.

No actually, luckily my friend Keith ... my mate Keith ... he was around earlier. Because I suddenly had a blank about this one,. because we haven't  done it an awful lot. We only do these ones because ... you know ... the same old ones, you know ... flipping Whiter Shade of Pale, Grand Hotel, we don't want that ... we go for the old, the ones you don't know. It's our little secret, see. What do you do? You play the ones they don't know! This is our sort of ... way of doing things. (shout from crowd: Mabel!) Right! You obviously know that one.

This one is about people in fast cars ... ah, see, got your attention, didn't it ? And it's called Fat Cats. (Cheers!) Got any Fat Cats here? Course we have, you're all Fat Cats, couldn't afford this ticket price here ... how much is it? I hope it's not more than ten pounds. If it's more than ten ... (GW: I wouldn't ... ) I wouldn't come. (Laughter)

Now, we've got a very hard beginning, as we know ... one of the hardest beginnings we've ever had (GW: Ever) ... ever. It starts off with me having to get the right tempo. Which is very hard. 'Cos I tend to tap-dance and that gives me the rhythm. (a few steps). Yes, that's about it.

Procol Harum play
Fat Cats

Cor, you could hear a pin drop. Yeah, I'm all right. How are you all, any way? You all right? Might seem quite light-hearted and things, but in fact it's very worrying, on this, very worrying. I mean ... absolutely completely knackered and we're not even half-way through. We'll put in some ballads. Or what we call ballads. That one for Dave Mundy. (muttering and miming on stage ... whispers of 'Liquorice', 'John', 'F minor')

Procol Harum play
For Liqu
orice John

I think you start ... (indicating sheet of paper to GW) where ... you start there? Start then! (GW: I forgot to bring me glasses) Ah Gawd. Well ... you got a pen? (GW: Hard to see ... (mimes large banner)) Write it out bigger. Got any glasses? Got any glasses? (laughter). (GW: [unintelligible ... Worrin hudzpad]) What (GW: What, sorry) Bravely spoken.

We'd like to er ... it's just ... sorry to be a bit vague about this but ... we're gonna er ... (plays spread chord) ... try one we haven't played before. Starts off on E minor. I'll do the first bit ...

Procol Harum play
Sister Mary

No spoken introduction

Procol Harum play
Pandora’s Box

(Plays some blues piano). It's come to the part of the evening where we play the blues. Most English boys are not happy unless they're playing the blues. This one's [stumbles] ... called ... 'killed'? ... Killed, will be in a minute; one of the longest blues titles that certainly Geoff Dunn has ever heard ... takes up the best part of a line across an A4, in about three point. It's called  ... I Seem to Have the Blues (Most all of the Time).

After a 'one'? (GW nods) One!

Procol Harum play
Seem to Have the Blues (Most all of the Time)

No spoken introduction

Procol Harum play
Whisky Train

Thank you ... Robin's Trower's Whisky Train. Geoff Dunn, drums. Once again, Geoff Dunn, drums. Geoff Whitehorn, guitar. Mark Phillips, organ. Eh? Sorry ... Josh Phillips, not Mark Phillips. Captain Josh Phillips. And Matt Pegg, bass. The baby. (GW: ladies and gentlemen, the reason we're all here, of course, Commander, MBE, Lord of ... (GB: Mud) ... the Rings ... Gary Brooker).

That's not the reason we're here, Geoff, you know that, it's because it's cheap. You get your money's-worth, Visa. Well we've only got seventeen songs to go, can anyone stand that? No seriously, this'll be the last one, probably. (Cries of dismay). Oh, got to check watches. (Cry: 'You got all night!'). No we haven't, they close! We got the 'bus to get.

No, well, no, you know how it is. I love this song, and I didn't even write it. Keith wrote it. But what I like about it is that ... um ... I just kinda like it. Well I like the words, that were written originally from a statement by Stephen Maboe, who was a ... what was he? Oh Gawd, fancy asking ... he's from Gravesend, know what I mean, there's no point in asking you. Polkahontas [sic] is all you know. A South African man that cares about the world. And he knows that his people don't have anything, and all you Fat Cats here have got it all. Eh? Otherwise you wouldn't be a able to afford this ticket! You know that. You de baad people. The rich people.

Procol Harum play
This World is Rich (for Stephen Maboe)

This World is Rich, thank you.

Procol Harum play
A Salty Dog

Thank you for having us, thank you. A man it's such a pleasure to be playing with, and such a pleasure to have in the band as well, Josh Phillips, over on the new B3! The new B3. Completely powerful [?], goes in a suitcase. On the bass ... drinking beer ... Matt Pegg. And once again, back on the drums there, for sure he'll stand up ... or are you standing up? Oh! Geoff Dunn (huge cheer). [Soundboard?] Only the second time he's played, Geoff Dunn has played in England. Second time ever he's played the drums, he says. And on guitar, from Gravesend, Geoff Whitehorn. Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. And thank you very much to Roland and Jens and all the people at 'Beyond the Pale' for bringing us over here ... from Norway.

Thank you very much. We'll  ... er ... [pondering to do ... one that was writ Wednesday but changed] We could either do one you know  ... I tell you what, if we do one you do know, then we do one you don't know, then we can run half-way through, and get out before you do. Beat us up. So I think we'll play it that way round. Go out on a bad note. Always our way. Never to be invited back. Do you think that's true? (shouts of 'No')

Actually, I just got to check something on my piano here 'cos (plays notes). Where is he? yes, come on ... Baldrick ... (laughter) ... aren't they sort of ... this chap here ... thank you, you can go now. Come ... get off! The animals, this road-crew. Animals! They really are 'orrible, they smell, they eat turnips (plays notes). Ah, now I feel better. (GW plays theme from Blackadder, to which these various turnip allusions refer). In truth, we couldn't live without them. In truth ... we er ... in fact I made a joke of that ... I'm sure we've played a hundred times and never thanked them once. So after giving them that bit of stick I'm going to say thank you very much (great applause) [unintelligible] John Magner, Ron Manigley and Graham Ewins. (Clapping continues) That's enough!

We played with an orchestra in Sweden the other week and we did this intro to this song, because this is where it actually started, once upon a time, with the inspiration. So we'll try it in front of you people 'cos you seem rather tolerant. Do you know what we're doing (laughter!) Haven't said, have I? (JP: I guessed!). You guessed! (GW: could be wrong!) That's why ... I was checking. Is your Leslie switched on? It wasn't. (JP: There's two switches ... ) Yes, well we don't have to go into the whole thing. Is it switched on?

The worst thing could happen. I mean, forty years' experience ... and things still go wrong, don't they. It's in C. The tempo. now? Gawd there's so much to do up here. (taps foot). It's going well.

Procol Harum play
A Whiter Shade of Pale

Thank you. Thank you.

Procol Harum play
Missing Persons

Just making it up ... Oomasta galli fammon (or something similar) ... and have a safe journey. God bless you!

Procol dates in 2007 | More about the 40th Anniversary celebrations | More song-introductions

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home