Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Yorkshire TV The 100 Greatest No 1 Hits

The Brooker / Fisher interview, transcribed

UK fans voted AWSoP number 19 in this poll which was presented in consummately irritating fashion by Graham Norton on 6 January 2001 (about the recording, read here). As Charlie Allison wrote to BtP, 'Gary & Matthew were very engaging, particularly the charade of pretending not to know the explanations for long-familiar truths.' Read the full list of records here.

Matthew Fisher to the left in a white tee-shirt, Gary Brooker to the right in a red shirt. Behind them, a grand piano; in front, a Roland VK7 Hammond-substitute. Throughout the interview the pair present a charming though sometimes provokingly obscure double-act, with a hint of Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Matthew Fisher
I think it was a hit 'cos I played the organ on it! (Gary chuckles)

Gary Brooker
I think it's a hit because it's a (breaks off) ... it's a mystery. (b/w clip of man in hospital bed with one leg in traction from Hamlet cigar advertisement, with the Loussier theme).
I was trying to play, at the time, Bach's Air on a G string which was in a cigar ad by
Jacques Loussier. I got it a bit wrong- goes like (plays a bit of AWSoP, in D, with the bassline from the Air: it has a C natural where the melody ordinarily requires a C sharp). See, I got it wrong already!

Matthew shrugs in amusement. Cut to Dave Knights running in a field the well-known 1967 AWSoP clip, to which this excerpt returns frequently.

Gary Brooker
Well that's an interesting musical idea, I'll stick with that for a while

Procol Harum, A Whiter Shade of Pale, June July 1967


Gary and co outside church, cutting to 1967 monochrome clip of Gary in Chinaman's hat, Matthew in stripy jacket. Close-up. Fisher's fingers.

Matthew Fisher
What I would say generally about the organ part is the all the way through it's doing a counter-melody to the vocal part. 'I was feeling kind of seasick' (plays scalar passage)

Matthew and Gary speaking together
But the crowd called out for more

I'm doing little things where he's not doing something I do something. (Expressive, explanatory gestures: Brooker, arms folded)

Gary (sings)
As the ceiling flew away

Matthew plays organ

And the harmony under there not harmony (sings) 'Called out for another drink' (variant melody)

Gary intent on Matthew's hands; Matthew plays glissando on VK7; cut to Gary singing in the outside-church movie from 1967

Sir Bob Geldof
I was 15 or something and lying out in the fields in my school in Dublin and I was supposed to be studying for my Intermediate Certificate, which is the Irish 'O' levels. I wasn't.

Back to monochrome film

Bob Geldof
And I remember clearly hearing it for the first time, being completely mad for this [contrast this with the 'hippie bollocks' remark in his other AWSoP interview]

Whiter Shade of Pale came out on a Friday two weeks later it was Number One we didn't even have any clothes

Gary and Matthew with serious, poker faces

In fact we weren't even sure why we were called Procol Harum. (Matthew chuckles). Except a friend of our ours, it was the name of his cat and we said 'That sounds cool'; and all hell broke loose and we had to go everywhere and do TVs and people going, 'Why are you called Procol Harum?' and we just said, you know, 'It's a cat.' [evidence see Ain't gonna ride that Whiskery Train]

Cut to Gary's shoe in the 1967 colour film

It turned out to be Latin for 'Beyond these Things'

No it isn't (quizzical)

Cut to film

Well Procol is definitely 'Beyond' isn't it? (Turns smiling to Matthew)

Matthew nods pedagogically
Yes with a 'u'.

Yes (smiles)

Procol with an 'o' was a the name of proprietary um

Gary mimes using an inhaler

Stick it up your nose

It was a cold remedy

Cut to film of girl in miniskirt crossing road appreciative camera tracks her posterior

Procol Harum's evocative lyrics were penned by enigmatic non-playing band member, Keith Reid.

Keith always sent in these lyrics ah never 'Dear Gary, Dear Matthew, here are some lyrics ' um no, just the lyrics: you had to guess where they came from and what they were for.

The fact that they're I wouldn't say difficult lyrics ambiguous though has never been a problem otherwise I don't think Whiter Shade of Pale would still be popular.

The Miller's Tale (to Matthew) Was that Chaucer? Matthew has his index finger on the tip of his nose and it remains there as he replies

Sam suggests that you might like to use the two screen-shots from this page to create a nice little animated .gif ...

Aaaah I believe so.

I wandered through my playing cards

Well I always thought that was a reference to Alice in Wonderland (shrugs to camera)

You see?

Gary leans across and plays block chords on the organ, in cinema-organ / TV quiz-show style (F minor, F minor6, C6). Matthew stretches his arms high above his head, across to one side, fingers interlaced and palms outwards. Gary looks down at the floor for the volume pedal.

Matthew, sprightly and wide-eyed to camera
Well we never did talk about the organ solo, did we?

Cut to logo of One Hundred Number Ones


At the end of the show, which was capped not by Bo Rhap but by Imagine, the credits were covered by the four-chord playout from Pilgrim's Progress a delightful surprise! In a letter to Gary's office, researcher Stuart Ramsey wrote:

"'We've had some great feedback and the viewing figures were some of the best Channel 4 have ever had. Thanks again for all your help and pass my best wishes on to Matthew and Gary. As for the closing music - our producer is a bit of a Procol Harum fan and was looking for a piece to end the show with that was uplifting but not hackneyed and Pilgrim's Progress seemed to fit well."

More History of the band

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