Procol Harum

the Pale

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The Alpha Days

David Evans, for BtP

This is the author's own, fascinating research ... it's not been endorsed or validated by the band ... so read, mark, inwardly digest, and draw your own conclusions! There will be more, here

Procol Harum 1 - The Alpha Days

Procol Harum 1 here lasted only from March to 15 July 1967 but their contribution to contemporary releases and later ‘bonus tracks’ has been the focus of confusion and controversy over the years.

Some twenty years ago BtP here asked

‘What musical traces did Royer and Harrison leave in the Procol Harum catalogue? Ostensibly, they are present on the first single, though A Whiter Shade of Pale has scarcely any audible guitar, and the drums on the famous A-side were in fact played by Bill Eyden.

To make sense of the often contradictory information regarding recordings of this first incarnation is not easy. It is confused, not only by the mists of time, but also by the nature of its demise with the sacking of Royer and Harrison described here. As a long time Procoholic I have no wish to open up old wounds but simply a desire to make sense of the recordings that may now have emerged from this rather tumultuous time.

Bill Eyden was the drummer on the early version of Salad Days!! That was the claim that triggered my curiosity while listening to, and reading the liner notes of, the ‘AWSoP ‘Record Store Day’ Fiftieth Anniversary EP’. Hadn’t I always assumed it was Bobby Harrison!?

What followed became a general investigation into the recordings of that era; posing even more questions, and potentially some unexpected conclusions!.

 Procol Harum 1 Recordings

Part One  March/April 1967 Recording Sessions

The 2017 ‘AWSoP ‘Record Store Day’ Fiftieth Anniversary EP as described here includes the original mono AWSoP single A and B sides, stereo mixes of the A and B tracks, plus a take of the other tracks recorded on those days. There is also a mystery ‘Easter egg track’ - a never before heard or released track the band made in 1967!!.

The EP is, therefore, (with the possible exception of the ‘Easter egg track’) a Procol Harum 1 release. As such it proved a very interesting listen. and read. Liner notes here and BtP review by Peter Bourne here.

How much do we know/still don’t know about each track on this EP?

1. A Whiter Shade Of Pale

Olympic Studios, London 29 March 1967

This session is credited to Gary Brooker, Matthew Fisher, David Knights, Ray Royer, and Bill Eyden (Procol Harum 1a!)

The EP includes two mono versions of the track recorded at this session:- the famous single and an instrumental AWSoP. .

The story of the recording of the single and the role of Bill Eyden is well documented here.

The instrumental AWSoP was first released in 1997 on the Westside 30th Anniversary Anthology.

True stereo mixes of these AWSoP recordings have never been included on official Procol Harum releases. The US version of the first album on Deram (DES-18008), which actually pre-dated the UK release (see here), used electronically re-processed stereo and included the ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ single as track 1.

Of greater interest are the claims discussed in 2009 by Charlie Allison here . In 1997 Tom Moulton had produced a stereo sync-up mix of the single by putting the 3 track backing track onto the mono mix. The result can be found on YouTube here . An interesting experiment but understandably it was not deemed suitable for inclusion in the 1997 Westside’s 30th Anniversary Anthology or Procol Harum Plus on which Tom Moulton also worked.


Soon afterwards, as Charlie Allison reports, it is claimed the vocal track was located; allowing a true stereo version of the single to be "re-assembled" from the 3 track backing track and this newly discovered one track vocal tape.

The result appeared on a US compilation album called Dick Bartley Presents: Classic Oldies 1965-1969; and a version has now turned up on YouTube here as Procal Harum - Whiter Shade Of Pale [Stereo Remaster from 4 track] !!!!!! but apart from that it does appear to be an excellent stereo version of the original single.

As Charlie Allison suggested “It needs to be communicated to the management so that a stereo AWSoP can be included on an official Procol release.” For whatever reason that has still yet to happen.

The existence of a three track backing track also begs the question why the instrumental AWSoP is only mono. This mono take contains none of the, admittedly very sparse, contribution of Royer’s guitar to the single. On the single a guitar ‘sound’ is discernible at 1 min 40, between the words whiter and shade, and several more after the final verse. As the stereo versions of the single retain these guitar elements it suggests the guitar was removed from the mix if this mono take was created from a three track backing track.

As we will see the lack of Royer’s guitar on bonus track mixes, produced by both Tom Moulton and Rob Keyloch, is a recurring theme.

More Procol Features at this website | More of this fascinating feature

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