Beverly Peyton, dubbed 'an honorary member' of Procol Harum by BJ Wilson, here offers her thoughts on the band's most seemingly elusive, yet indispensable, component.
Whether it is proper or not to say I began this tribute thinking it was sure to be the Knotty Pine of all thus far has since given way to a whole new timbre now that it is complete. (I know Keith would appreciate my play on words there.)
So, if I may, I would like to start by saying that the enigmatic Keith Reid isn't really an enigma at all. Certainly his brilliant lyrics lend us a shroud of mystery. His overall demeanor can pose a distant mind in process or at work, but Keith is what's better known as a stand up guy who when presented with such, showed his sense of adventure throughout the years I spent getting to know him.
I regrettably don't recall our first meeting, but do remember wanting to know who this man was that caught my attention with his lyrics. At the time, everyone was talking about Dylan and the Beatles and rightfully so, but I found myself taken by this group, who had touched me in a way like no other: and at least half of that feeling was due in part to Keith.
Having said that, picture if you will the scene in The Commitments where the two blokes are at the church organ while one inquires of the other (in reference to AWSoP) and I paraphrase, "What does it all really mean anyway?" I can't help but wonder if Gary ever once asked Keith that very question. Then I think of the message Keith sent to Redhill and love how he's still at it. Only this time, I think Gary knew full well what the message meant. So, in a effort to keep the mystery attached to our favourite poet laureate alive, I will refrain from commenting. However, I would prefer to show some instances of irony that make Keith's clever wit an instrument of circumstance.
It is far too long since Keith and I last saw each other, but it is the shy smile and tilted head I remember most. When he was faced with a compliment one always got the feeling he would have preferred to run in the opposite direction, but it was my impression that his handsome style of dress and excellent taste in most everything was simply an extension of his thoughts.
The man that most claim not to know is not the man I know at all. Right from the start he would send a trail of mail informing me about the tours or current recordings and when not on tour, I would always revel in the pretty stamped cards and letters I would receive from far off places [examples on this page (Ed)]. One time a card arrived and all it said was, "Don't say I never write!" That one still makes me laugh when I think of it!
As I started to say, Keith always seemed to have these ridiculously comical and silly events surrounding him. One in particular stems from a dinner we had in London. It seems the waiter, who was familiar with Keith from prior patronage, took a shine to me being American and all.
No doubt this was Keith's doing. Further mail from them would relay messages about and from this waiter. Then one day, a letter arrived containing a rather hysterical account of one of their follow-up visits to this restaurant. It seems, while Keith and Dickinson dined, this same waiter decided to explain his recent absence by displaying the jar of gallstones removed during his surgery. One can only imagine how Keith wished to be absent himself during that very situation! All I could respond with was, "Well! Of all the gall!"
Then there was his front door. One time he arrived to find the lock jammed and had to first go and check into yet another hotel before finally settling in at home. Another time he arrived to find the door warped and had to remain up all night till someone could come and close it. I believe his construction problems are still with him from last reports.
Ah, then there was the time a bandmate (who shall remain
nameless) was for whatever reason in the custody of Keith's
passport. The story goes that this bandmate claimed that while
riding in a car, Keith's passport made its way out of his coat
pocket and proceeded on a path out the window. Poor Keith had to
run to all sorts of agencies in the middle of rehearsals,
meetings and the like to file for the mandatory papers necessary
for him to continue on with the band.
Keith took a liking to many American items, some of which he discovered through me. Many times the letters would request that if I had the time would I mind sending these items. Obviously, it was my pleasure and always a note of thanks would follow asking was there anything he might send in return from England? "Anything but a Rolls Royce!" one note stated. Actually Keith and Dickinson sent many lovely items over the years that I cherish still to this day.
I always enjoyed my time with Keith. He was ever the gentleman and always showed concern about certain circumstances in my life. Upon reflection the ultimate compliment was that he looked as forward to my haircuts as I did to his lyrics, but how dare I even try to compare the two and don't you think I know it!
Some number of years ago, I managed to get myself stranded at Heathrow Airport with several hours to spare, but afraid to wander off too far. I phoned Keith and in minutes flat he arrived at the airport to spend some time and help sort things out. He'll never how meaningful that time has been, banked in my memory. I hope I can return the favor someday.
There's an adage I keep in a frame in my mind that I would like to share in reference to Keith and it goes something like this: I once heard it said that when you meet a person you like, you're bound to meet them again.
Happy Birthday Keith!
Mate: Shiver me timbers! Bosun: What now, you nautical numskull? Mate:It's Mr Crusoe - he's dead! Bosun: DEAD? Mate: Yes. Mrs Crusoe sent him out into the garden to pick a lettuce for her tea and he just dropped dead over the lettuce patch. Bosun: You don't say! What did she do? Mate: Opened a tin of peas.