Procol Harum

the Pale

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Gary Brooker and the Hollies

(What if he'd joined them?)

James Towill sends us this note The Hollies' 40th Anniversary Box Set The Long Road Home 1963 - 2003. The sleevenote is by Peter Doggett of Record Collector fame.

Away from the stage, morale drooped during the 1977 sessions for A Crazy Steal. "I was discontented with what was happening from 1975 onwards, for several years," Allan [Clarke] reveals. "There were lots of internal things wrong, though nothing that the public saw, because there was always work there, and we were still touring and recording." Yet A Crazy Steal included several classic Hollies originals, such as the Bruce Springsteen-inspired Burn Out, the elegant Writing On The Wallí, and arguably the bandís least deserved flop of all time, Clarke, Hicks & Sylvesterís Hello To Romance. "That is a brilliant song, so well crafted," Terry says today. "Anybody with any sense of music or romance must appreciate that, surely. If one of the boy bands of today covered it, it would be a guaranteed hit single."

Also on the album was (Love Is The Sweetest) Amnesty, previously recorded by ex-Byrd Chris Hillman, but given its definitive treatment by The Hollies, complete with a devastating acapella [sic] opening. "I think I remember Brian May of Queen coming in to listen to it," Tony says. "It has a little of that vocal sound that they were using around the same time."

Under the circumstances, Amnesty was perhaps not the ideal theme song for that period. At the start of a German tour, Allan Clarke walked away from the band for the second time. "We were left in limbo," says Terry Sylvester. "We had a meeting, and I said, OK, Iíll sing lead and harmony. Iíve got a German TV show of me singing [Brooker and Reid's] Harlequin, with Tony, Bobby, Bernie and Paul Bliss on piano. We put a sign in the front of the theatres, saying Allan Clarke will not be appearing with The Hollies tonight, and I think that in the whole three weeks, maybe nine people decided they wanted their money back. We did a rip-roaring show."

Fearing that the circumstances of the early 70s might be repeating themselves, the band made tentative steps towards replacing Allan with an old friend: former Procol Harum singer Gary Brooker, who had played organ on their hit Long Dark Road back in 1971. "We considered that," Tony remembers, "but I think Gary had moved on, and was probably not ready to go back on the road. I remember visiting him around that time, and he took me to quite a flourishing public house nearby, which he either owned outright or part-owned. I think he was quite happy to be doing that and the odd gig here and there, as opposed to being a professional touring musician."

"He seemed very comfortable, smoking a big pipe, and wearing an old jumper, so I think it was just the wrong time," Terry agrees. "But he did come in and sing Harlequin with us." "I thought it was an outstanding record," says Bernie, "with Gary doing the vocals." Within a few weeks, however, Allan had rejoined the band, and first Terry and then Allan himself overdubbed vocals onto the track. The only evidence of Gary Brookerís presence was his impassioned wailing over the closing bars.

Besides Allan Clarke, the late 1978 sessions also reunited The Hollies with Ron Richards, for an album entitled Five Three One Double Seven O Four. The title only made sense when viewed upside down on a pocket calculator! "It was good to have Ron back for the Five Three OneÖ album," Bernie remembers, and the sessions were eased by a bumper choice of material, which led this LP to become known as Ďthe ballads albumí. It was so strong that there was no room for the excellent Sanctuary, which was relegated to the vaults for another decade. Highlights included Something To Live For, When Iím Yours and Itís In Every One Of Us Ė a hit single, but for Cliff Richard, not The Hollies, in 1985. But the song has survived in acapella [sic] form during recent Hollies shows ...

Thanks, Jill, for the typing

More about Harlequin

Harlequin theories

Known Brooker sessions

More about Procol / Hollies

Procol Harum début
Harlequin live

A great cover of Harlequin

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