Procol Harum

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Melody Maker's 'Band Breakdown'

Mick Grabham

This is the section on Mick Grabham from the Melody Maker's two-page Procol Harum spread from March 1973

Until he joined Procol Harum, Mick Grabham had been a member of that select coterie of young session musicians whose prolific endeavours could be heard mostly on records from the United Artists label.

Having made his name with Cochise a couple of years ago, Mick left the band in order to form a 'guitar orchestra' with Ray Fenwick: 'We'd been working on sessions together for a while, and we had a things going ... guitar harmonies and so on.

"So we had the idea for a band with four guitarists, and we made an album – which should be out on Decca soon – with the two of us doing all the parts. We did Pomp and Circumstance with a full arrangement – in some places there are 32 simultaneous guitar parts, until it doesn't sound like guitars any more!

"We were going to have Tony Newman on drums and John Perry from Grapefruit on bass, but we couldn't find two other guitarists who knew all the different kinds of music that we wanted to play.

"Eventually we knocked it on the head for that reason and partly because we realised that, with four guitars, it wasn't exactly the easiest thing to do on stage. We'd all have been playing exactly the same parts every night."

During his time with Cochise Mick had become very much in demand for sessions, and that's what he went back to. He remember a couple of sessions with particular enjoyment, the recording of David Ackles' marvellous American Gothic album and the sessions for the Muddy Waters in London album. [NB read the Grabham interview where he says ' I don't ever remember playing on a David Ackles record.']

He came by a more lucrative means of employment when he was contacted to play on the session for the current Kellogg's Cornflakes TV ad, which led to further such work.

"It's not much fun, but was very good money. For a jingle session, you get paid the same rate for an hour's work that you do for three hours of ordinary work.

"I was getting a bit cheesed off with all that silly stuff, though, and just at the time when I was thinking about getting my own band together I got a call to go and have a blow with Procol.

"I was pretty flabbergasted, I can tell you. I'd never had an offer to play with a 'name' band before – although quite ironically, just as I was leaving the house to have my second blow with Procol, Andy Fraser rang and asked me to join his band. That was a bit of a dilemma, after having done practically nothing for a year!

"But I'd been buying Procol's albums since the very first one, and I've always rated them very highly. So it was a pleasure to join them."

That was six months ago, and he made his début at the Rainbow gig, backed by the full orchestra and choir, before going on to work on the already half-completed Grand Hotel album.

"Lots of people ask me if playing in this band is a bit limited," he says. "Well, that was certainly the reason that Dave (Ball) and Robin (Trower) left. But I find it easy enough – it's all rock and roll!. Anyway, I've always enjoyed playing songs rather than just doing a number, if you know what I mean.

"We often blow on stage, and sometimes during the sound-checks, but on most of the songs I get a chance to turn up a bit. I enjoy playing all different types of music."

He's a firm admirer of Procol's bass / drums team: "Alan and Barry [sic] are a very different kind of rhythm section – I've never played with anyone like them. They're not funky in the soul sense, but Barry is definitely one of the best drummers on the rock scene. And there aren't many bass players who can get away from the root note of each chords, but Alan really knows the chord structures and adds to the melody.

Does he see a time-limit to his stay in the group? "No ... well, you never know, I suppose. But I've always enjoyed their music."

More from the Melody Maker's two-page Procol Harum spread from March 1973

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