Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Chris Cooke: ‘… as the Manager told his tale …’

 Reproduced from the band's Fiftieth Anniversary Tour Souvenir Programme

My adolescence – it’s been going on a while now – was an amazing time for music. My first records were 78s, though I was soon collecting Jerry Lee, Ray Charles, Little Richard and Elvis on 45s. By 1959 I’d met my first pop star (Tommy Bruce, in the Palace Ballroom’s flooded toilet). ‘The Commander’ and I were two pinball/snooker-playing teenagers, seeking out specialist records in coffee-bar jukeboxes – before Pirate Radio days – and keeping out of trouble (just) … before graduating to Southend’s pubs.

By sixteen, riding my BSA C12, I’d visit the Shades Café to hear The Paramounts perform. I’m proud to be a non-musician, not a frustrated performer: the excitement of music’s presentation is my thing. Most of what you hear today is second-hand; I was lucky to hear it first time around, and it was often life-changing.

My eighteenth birthday present, a Triumph Spitfire, made me suddenly popular: car-owning was rare. I’d started work in London, and was recuperating from a football injury when suddenly life got going. A random party invitation … a lift home for an NME journalist … and I was drinking at De Hems in Soho among record producers, road crews, backroom celebrities. Soon I was partying with The Stones at The Pretty Things’ flat, and hanging out backstage … the day job had to go.

My first professional gig was Leicester, November 1964: as a ‘roadie’ I accompanied the gear, Gene Vincent, Lulu, and four other artists, all in one bus. And I’ve stayed in the music business – apart from a three-year motor-racing sabbatical, designing/building my own engine in the Williams F1 shop – working with many of my idols, meeting most. Among my memories: onstage at the Bellevue, Manchester, with Jerry Lee Lewis: him, me and fifty leather-clad rockers. Security have fled, the band too, and my job is keeping fans’ hands off the piano-strings so Jerry Lee can finish his song.

I haven’t owned a car for decades now, and live happily without TV: I like life experiences direct. I’m a bad bird-watcher, a hiker, an Egyptology fan and a motorcyclist (foreign travel, riding race-tracks). Most of all, though, it’s music I still love.

More from the Souvenir Programme|

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