Procol Harum

the Pale

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A loud cacophony of wombats' doos

Until PH came on, writes Richard Solly

1975 had been a good year for Procol Harum so I approached 1976 with a feeling of optimism. The year started with the second day of the Great British Music Festival at Olympia.

Day one had seen The Doctors of Madness / Climax Blues Band / Thin Lizzy / Steve Marriott's All Stars and Status Quo. Day two had been hyped down by the media as being the 'weakest' of the three days with advertised acts Snafu / Jack The Lad / John Miles / Baker Gurvitz Army / Man and Procol Harum headlining.

And so it was that later that Procol, as headliners, elected not to be the last band on. That position was filled by Barclay James Harvest.

Of the lower acts Jack The Lad and John Miles impressed. Baker Gurvitz were awful. I was interested in seeing the great Ginger Baker, but it was a loud cacophony of wombats' doos.

One criticism was that the tickets were restricted. Procol came out into this barn and turned the sound down. It was obvious they were there to rock, steaming in to Butterfly Boys and Bringing Home The Bacon. They decided to play it straight, not performing in front of a 'home' audience as it were, and it seemed to work. Hernando's Hideaway punctuated Grand Hotel. Conquistador, The Devil Came From Kansas, I Keep Forgetting kept up the pace. The audience even swayed to The Blue Danube ... brave move that was. Simple Sister closed the set as I recall.

An encore ensued. I Can't Help Myself steamroller straight into Nothing But the Truth. What a cracking number that is. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town got everyone in party mood before A Whiter Shade of Pale. Heh! I don't remember it with three verses. This was the first time I heard it and the last time until Shepherd's Bush in 1995.

1976 turned out to be a quiet year for Procol with no new album ... but what a start!

Thanks, Richard

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