Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum star looks back with regret

Duncan Campbell, 15 November 2006, The Guardian

Band's former organist rues his membership
Legal bill for royalties case 'deterred earlier suit'

The musician who played the opening bars of the Procol Harum hit A Whiter Shade of Pale said yesterday that if he could "go back in a time machine" to 1967 he would have joined a different band.

"Here is a song which is going to go down in history which ought to have my name on it and it doesn't," Matthew Fisher, 60, who played the organ with Procol Harum from 1967 to 1969, told the high court on the second day of a hearing into his claim to be credited as a co-author of the song.

He alleges that the organ solo and melody on the record was his own composition and that he should be entitled to a share of future royalties and those paid out over the past six years.

"Nobody in 1967 believed that in 2006 we would be conducting a lawsuit on the matter," Mr Fisher told Andrew Sutcliffe QC, representing the singer Gary Brooker and the lyricist Keith Reid, who are credited with the authorship. Mr Fisher had not taken legal action at the time, he said, because he did not want "to dive into some multimillion-pound legal bill".

Mr Fisher, who was a solo artist and producer before studying computer programming at Wolfson College, Cambridge, agreed that Mr Brooker had wanted to use a bass line based on JS Bach's Air on a G-string and had also been influenced by a recording of Jacques Loussier but said that this played little part in the final recording. He said Mr Brooker's decision to have an organ and piano on the recording had been influenced by Bob Dylan using this combination. "I reject the suggestion that there was any kind of memorable tune being played by Mr Brooker," he said, saying that the singer's field of musical expertise lay in black American musicians.

He added: "I'd been listening to Bach for eight years, I was an expert when it came to Bach ... He would have been playing something that he thought sounded like Bach but I honestly don't remember him playing anything that impressed me in the least." At the time he could have chosen from many bands who wanted him and his Hammond organ because he was a talented musician. "The world was my oyster," he said.

He accepted that he had been given sole credit on Repent Walpurgis, a track on the band's first album, and had also been given joint credits on other band numbers such as Long Gone Geek, Boredom, and In Held 'Twas in I.

Mr Fisher said that he had initially taken legal advice in the 1980s but had not been able to get legal aid to continue.

Mr Brooker, who was also in court and still tours with Procol Harum, says Mr Fisher only provided an accompaniment to a song that had already been written.

The case is due to last all week.

More about the AWSoP lawsuit



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