'Procol Harum ... was a great group, man,
and you are fabulous'
Gary Brooker in a raucous pub-broadcast
Joan May sends BtP an off-air curiosity in which Gary Brooker and many others
perform A Whiter Shade of Pale in a London public house – and it gets
broadcast! Joan made an unsuccessful attempt to share this with the group
who use Yahoo's Procol Harum forum: let's hope it will entertain the global
constituency of PH fans here.
One of the Yahoos
speculated, "I wonder if AWSoP
worked in a pub?" to which another correspondent had replied "Oh, I'm
sure it did – with everyone in the place rearing back and singing out: "And
- so - it - waaaaas. Lay-ay-ay-ay-ayter, as the miller told his tale...."
that this is the 'hook' of the song, of course). This had been
followed by "Oh? and how do you know they didn't quietly lean forward and
(this is an attempt to invoke the crowd singing the Hammond melody, in
addition to the vocal tune).
The redoubtable Ms May writes to BtP: 'Actually they did just that – in June
of 1988 [that's the date on the tape a fan gave me; I don't know how
accurate it is] when the Howard Stern Group (with Robin Quivers, Fred
Norris, Gary Dell'Abate, maybe others) broadcast some shows from a London
pub. Gary B played a cheesy sounding keyboard and they all sang and shouted
along. Through the cacophony, you can still hear Gary's voice sounding
It seems that Howard Stern
is a "shock jock"
in America. Fans may be
astonished to learn that this performance was ever considered to be of
broadcast quality, since Gary Brooker
is all-but swamped in places by the
spotlight-chasing cacophony of non-musicians. Yet if you
click here to play the mp3
- the ending of a very slow Shine on Brightly
- someone talking about a guitar solo as Bob Geldof KBE peremptorily
requests A Whiter Shade of Pale (read his comments on the song
- Brooker instantly obliging, using a DX7 or similar keyboard split to
provide right-hand electric-piano and a bass-guitar effect from his left
- Gary jokingly demanding 'How come Bob's mic is louder than mine?'
- multiple voices tackling the chorus
- Brooker going for a conclusion until Geldof ('It's good, isn't it?)
asks to hear the second verse
- the second verse duly played, to some attempts at rhythmical
- 'All together' shouted out before the vocal hook
- the Fisher organ solo, started by Gary and taken up by the raucous
ensemble. (Joan May writes, perhaps needlessly, "Of course they sang
Matthew's melody – it's part of the song").
- Geldof back-announcing the song, someone alleging that it's 'one of
the greatest songs ever', and 'Sir Bob' name-checking the singer and
saying 'What a voice'.
- the station ID, incorporating a bit of the British National Anthem,
and a snatch of Geldof talking about Paula Yates
- an American voice saying 'Procol Harum of course was a great group, man, and
you are fabulous,' to which Brooker modestly responds, 'Thanks, Howard'.
- a fade as Brooker begins the No Stiletto Shoes perennial, Good
This may have been one of those experiences in pubs in the late
80s, Joan May suggests, that Gary mentions when explaining how he was
encouraged to reform Procol Harum, as follows:
Why did you reunite for The
Prodigal Stranger album?
I'd been playing with other things in the '80s, a bit with
Clapton, done some solo albums, and
then about '87 I'd been playing with Andy Fairweather-Low and
getting back to R&B roots with that band, playing in pubs.
But we stopped in about '89 ... going up to Bill Wyman's café where they had an American radio
station day. They had live radio going to America ... I met lots of people and they were all
talking about the band as if it still existed and with a lot of
respect ... DJs are talking as if Procol Harum had just played last
night down the road ... asking: "When are we going to see the band again"
.... so afterwards I thought, well, people still like us and we haven't
played for fifteen years or however long it was. People still respect the
band. [read the whole interview here]