Procol Harum

the Pale

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The Alpha Days, Part 4

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

What do we know about that original track?

Roland Clare in his notes to the 2009 Salvo All This and More compilation refers to the ‘weighty grand’ piano at Lansdowne Road studios. Matthew Fisher also recalls here that it was originally recorded at Lansdowne Studios. He describes Harrison’s drumming as a ‘steady, relentless beat.’ without any fills,  ie just like Track 14, credited to Procol Harum 1 on its release in the Thirtieth Anniversary Anthology!!.

‘Later BJ was asked to ‘overdub a few fills on top of it. They kept Bobby’s take, but embellished it.’

In discussion with BtP, here, Harrison himself claims

‘I was on Homburg. Never saw a penny from that. He (BJ) overdubbed the snare drum, the offbeat, that’s all.’

Claes Johansen in his book Procol Harum: Beyond the Pale in 2001 quotes BJ himself as saying that he had played over a ‘finished’ track as the drums were really strange. ‘There wasn’t anything wrong, it just wasn’t right.’. Although Claes goes on to say that the common perception still seems to be that Homburg is a straightforward Procol Harum 2 recording which ‘has nothing to do with the early line-up.’

Art Dudley writing in 2003 states here that BJ Wilson recalled going into the studio with Procol not long after Homburg was recorded and re-doing the drum part using the original four-track tapes. This resulted in a new stereo mix found on a number of compilations (ie Track 13) which was possibly used to master the single version (ie Track 3). Art concludes that ‘apart from the better drumming – and less reverb added to the vocals during mixing – it’s the same performance as the original.’

This stereo version was first released in 1971 in a Flyback compilation here , and again here in a 'Music for Pleasure' A Salty Dog MFP5277. This also included the true stereo versions of Conquistador and She Wandered Through The Garden Fence’ – each one being slightly different from the mono version on the début album. All three featured in the Thirtieth Anniversary Anthology – the latter two as an ‘alternative 1967 stereo take’, and Homburg as an ‘alternative 1967 re-recording’.

How do these stories relate to the subsequent versions of Homburg that have appeared?

There is no doubt that the drumming on Track 14 is very different. Indeed, ‘a steady, relentless beat’ as Matthew described Harrison’s drumming on Homburg.

If so, how might Track 14 have become confused as a Procol Harum 2 take, as suggested by Joan May? This is also supported by the BtP description of the 2015 Esoteric Release here  ie Advision, August 1967 – although this date was not included on the box set itself.

Could this be the date the original was overdubbed to create the four-track Track 13 and eventually the Homburg single? It would make sense given the release date, of 22 September, for the single.

However, the drumming is not the only difference between Track 14 and the other two versions.

Both the stereo and single have the same organ – a much more subdued organ from three minutes – compared to Track 14; so maintaining the piano dominance of Homburg, in contrast to the organ dominance on the preceding AWSoP single.

I can hear no difference in the vocal comparing Track 14 to the stereo version. However, the mono single in the fade at the end ‘your trouser cuffs are dirty’ is not preceded with an 'ah your trouser ...’ heard on Track 14. The stereo take is faded just before this point.

So to get from the Track 14 original to the mono single there’s evidence of different drums, different organ ending and different vocal. Perhaps there was a shorter original that did only require overdubbing by BJ; or perhaps Track 14 was the original take. It was worked on by Procol Harum 2 ending up with a pretty genuine Procol Harum 2 four-track tape.

So. re the three tracks on the Thirtieth Anniversary Anthology the evidence could suggest: ...

Disc 3, Track 3
Homburg the mono single – based on a take by the Royer/Harrison line-up but reworked by the Procol Harum 2 line-up – not just BJ Wilson’s drums. So effectively the new line-up.

Disc 3, Track 13
Four-track mix created during the process of transforming the original into the mono single. Clearer evidence of Royer’s guitar in the mix.

Disc 3, Track 14
As originally claimed in the Thirtieth Anniversary Anthology, a Procol Harum 1 line up track. Its survival suggests it was the one used as the four-track base used to create the mono single in August 1967. When mixed down and mastered by Tom Moulton in 1997 he once again chose to remove Royer’s guitar, as traces of it survive, especially on the earlier 1971 stereo mix! (as we have seen Royer’s guitar is also lacking on Tom’s stereo mix of AWSoP, Alpha and Salad Days!)

In May 2017 an interesting Homburg appeared on YouTube here entitled Procol Harum - Homburg - two version mix

It was described as follows :

‘Edit for headphones. This is a mix of the "regular" stereo version and the extended stereo version of their 1967 album Procol Harum 2015 deluxe expanded remaster (Eclec 22497). I managed to get both versions' drums synchronised, vocals and all other instruments vary (as these are two different studio takes), which makes this - to me - an interesting edit. Hope you like it. I do. At 3.25 the "regular" version fades out and the extended stereo version goes on for another two minutes and ten seconds.

Assuming the extended stereo take is the Harrison take, this two version mix makes it easy to assess the extent of BJ's drumming input – and indeed the extent to which Harrison was right to feel aggrieved!

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

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