Procol Harum

the Pale

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And so it was that Later

GB plays 'one of the greatest songs of the century' on BBC2

7 May 2000

A smartly-suited Gary Brooker has just played A Whiter Shade of Pale on British television for the first time in … quite a while … and very impressive it was too (listen and watch here). Omitting all but the last few notes of the Fisher intro, he pitched straight into verse one on his own at the huge Yamaha grand, and was joined by Frank Mead on alto for an improvised instrumental link, after which presenter Jools Holland also played some very quiet, jazzy, unFisher organ backing on Georgie Fame's C3. It was a soulfully-sung two-verse version and it ended with the little interruptus and that 'classical' piano tag that Malène Lemoine so wanted us all to identify on the Procol list a while back. Great stuff, and very well received.

Gary got more name-checks on the show than anyone bar Bill Wyman, and AWSoP was twice described in suitably hyperbolic terms. But when it came to Holland's 'routine inquiries' only Wyman was interviewed, and nothing of great originality was said on either side. Nor was the name Procol Harum ever uttered, nor flashed on the screen, so although Palers will surely see this broadcast as part of an impressive Harum revival, it may not quite seem that way to the person in the street.

The Rhythm Kings on this occasion consisted of Gary Brooker, piano/vocals; Graham Broad, drums; Bill Wyman, bass; Georgie Fame, organ / vocals; Terry Taylor, rhythm guitar; Beverley Skeete, vocals; Janis Hoyte, vocals; Frank Mead, sax; Nick Payn, sax. Albert Lee was missing, as he had been from the recent Brian Conley show, which also lacked Georgie Fame.

As on Conley's show they played Hole in the Wall, but on this occasion it was live, of cousre, and quite a bit faster: Martin Taylor's solo was a lot more daring than Terry Taylor's had been in the earlier broadcast. GB, on the other hand, was mixed a bit lower so his vocal was not quite so exciting. He played Roland electric piano on this number, and took an early solo: Jools Holland sat in on the grand and boogied with characteristic flair … he's a superb player!

Well … is this Hole in the Wall the same song that Robin Trower mentions in his 1987 Guitar World interview: "'The main inspiration behind Procol Harum was a song titled Hole In The Wall (group unknown). It was a gospel-like piece and combined piano and organ. When Gary Brooker heard it, he fell instantly in love with the mix. Procol based its sound on this combination of organ and piano. When Trower claims, "It had never been put into rock," there is no denying the statement. But too many influences were showing up in the music and after Robin's fourth [sic] album with the band, he left."

Perhaps someone out there will be able to shed some light: or perhaps the article is simply wrong? It rightly calls Procol Harum 'one of the most delightful and musically poignant groups to emerge from the fertile soil of mid-sixties England' but it claims that Robin Trower 'wove his Les Paul lines around the haunting strains of Brooker's Hammond B-3 organ' … so perhaps a pinch of salt is called for.

Lastly the Rhythm Kings played Melody with Georgie Fame and Beverley Skeete substituting for Mick Jagger and Billy Preston, as Wyman put it. This was engaging but featured little Brooker. Still these were clips worth watching and it was one of Jools Holland's most interesting shows (Primal Scream opened with a brilliant Swastika Eyes incidentally, and to these ears they sounded a lot like Hawkwind). The whole show began with all the artists playing Hit the Road Jack, in a delightful cumulative cacophony to which GB of course contributed.

From the respectful and admiring way Jools Holland referred to Mr Brooker it would seem highly probable that Gary could get invited back on to that show: let's hope, as always, that it will be in a full-bloodedly Procol connection next time!

Rhythm Kings 2000 tour

More Brooker / Rhythm Kings information here

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