Procol Harum

the Pale

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

The Alpha Days, Part 3

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! To get the most out of it, read the previous instalments first

Moving on from the tracks on the 2017 EP have any other Procol Harum I recordings surfaced?

Part Two Procol Harum 1: the original début album recordings May/June 1967

In his 2012 book The Ghosts of a Whiter Shade of Pale Henry Scott-Irvine provides details of the ‘aborted studio sessions’ featuring Bobby Harrison and Ray Royer that were withdrawn and sent to the vaults. These five sessions were all at the Olympic Studios 2, Barnes, London between 17 May 1967 and 26 June 1967.

Back in 1997 BtP here wrote

‘Top of many fans’ wish-list would be a chance to hear the Royer/Harrison versions of songs that were apparently recorded for the first album, Procol Harum, and then scrapped. This is not, I suspect, because we long to hear what Royer and Harrison played, but because we long to hear more magic playing from Brooker and Fisher.

The Westside 1997 30th Anniversary Anthology here and the 1998 Procol Harum Plus here both claimed to have previously unreleased recordings from Royer/Harrison sessions. With regard to Procol Harum Plus Roland was suitably ‘befuddled’ here with only Salad Days (Are Here Again) and possibly Mabel passing even a basic listening test. While it was later agreed that they were the familiar Trower/Wilson versions, it was not clear how such confusion had occurred here and here. For sure there had been a break down in communication between Henry Scott-Irvine, writer of the liner notes, and Westside over the Procol Harum ... Plus tracks. Although, with regard to the 30th Anniversary Anthology Henry stated that ‘there had been no difficulty at all with his liner note there’.

In 1998 Bobby Harrison claimed here ‘I must have been on three-quarters of the first album. She Wandered Through the Garden Fence ... (pause) ... whatever there was on there.

In his liner notes to the 2015 Esoteric Procol Harum: 2CD Deluxe Expanded Scott-Irvine states that ‘for the purposes of research’ he accessed the vaults to test Harrison’s claims. He states the takes ‘continually break down and bear no similarity in terms of guitar parts, nor percussive parts, to the wholly re-recorded versions featuring the new line-up.’

Indeed, since the 1997 Westside mix-up, no ‘alternative bonus’ tracks destined for the first album have claimed to originate from these aborted sessions.

It would appear that we can be very confident that none of the recordings from these Procol Harum 1 sessions ended up on the first album. Gary Brooker’s ‘vocal only’ take of Understandably Blue, listed in Henry Scott-Irvine’s book as recorded on 19 June 1967, did eventually escape the vaults when it was released on the Salvo 40th Anniversary Edition of the début album as a bonus track. The liner notes state it was taped ‘after eight attempts at an unsatisfactory (and unissued) ‘Outside the Gates Of Cerdes, I Drove my Ferrari’ (the title on the tape box)’!!

On 17 July 1967 at Olympic Studios – immediately prior to the re-recording of the début album with the new recruits Robin Trower and BJ Wilson – Tony Visconti ‘arranged, scored and conducted’ an orchestral backing to the take. It wasn’t until 2008 that Rob Keyloch merged the vocal-only take (now described as Gary ‘accompanying himself on piano’) with the orchestral backing. The track was originally intended for Dusty Springfield.

 Part Three Non-début album track escapees! 


Homburg, the follow up single to A Whiter Shade of Pale, did not appear on the début album. It was released as a single on 22 September 1967 (Regal Zonophone RZ3003) – two months after Royer and Harrison left the group – but the track has long been linked to a Procol Harum 1 recording .

In 2003, Classic Records produced a vinyl reissue of the début album. The president of Classic Records was quoted here as saying that the original production master for the début album had Homburg as the first track, with Conquistador relegated to the No 4 spot on side 2. While it was not clear why it was dropped, he guessed that they wanted to prevent another lawsuit by the musicians who had played on it, but were no longer part of the group.

In what way did Royer and Harrison contribute to the Homburg single?

The 1997 Westside 30th Anniversary Anthology here was the first to add bonus tracks from this time, Disc 3 being made up of A&B sides/Outtakes and Alternative Takes.

As well as the A Whiter Shade of Pale and Lime Street Blues tracks already discussed, it also contained three variants of Homburg and an ‘original 1967 version’ of Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone).

The three ‘Homburg’ versions on Disc 3 were credited as follows

Track 3 The mono single, attributed to the Royer/Harrison line-up.

Track 13 A stereo ‘re-recording’ of the single, described as the same line-up as the first three albums (ie Procol Harum 2).

Track 14 The extended stereo version, described as an earlier take with the same line-up as the alternative longer stereo version of AWSoP (ie Procol Harum 1) – both being mixed down and mastered by Tom Moulton in 1997.

However, this was questioned by Joan May in September 1999 here as follows :-

Disc 3, Track 3 (Mono Single)
Actually, BJ Wilson’s drums were added and were more prominent than Harrison’s, and Royer’s guitar was mixed down to inaudibility. Thus the line-up for the Homburg single is in effect the line-up of the first three albums (Procol Harum 2), with no guitar, and Harrison in the background on drums.

Disc 3, Track 13 (Stereo Version)
Actually this is the Royer/Harrison version of the single with Royer’s guitar fills somewhat audible and without BJ’s drum overdubs.

Disc 3, Track 14 (Extended stereo version)
It was actually recorded later than the single, after the ouster of Royer and Harrison, with Wilson and Trower. Track 13 is the earlier version.

Who is right? 

The story surrounding this track has been discussed in detail in BtP over the years here and here and elsewhere here .

There seems little doubt that the eventual single was based on a Procol Harum 1 take.

Has that basic track met the light of day ; and if so, how much was it changed before being released as the follow up to AWSoP?

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

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