Procol Harum

the Pale

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Matthew Fisher's remarks re AWSoP

Nick Hasted in Uncut • February 2008

Matthew Fisher, organist, co-writerI joined Procol Harum because I wanted to be in a band that wrote their own material. They wanted me because I was the answer to their prayers: an organist with his own Hammond organ. In 1967, Hammond organists were gold-dust. Since they had no money to offer, I would say they were extremely fortunate to get me.

My initial reaction when we first played A Whiter Shade of Pale together was that, since it had obvious references to Bach’s Air on a G String, it was a suitable vehicle for my unique Bach-cum-Booker T organ style. It was entirely my idea to compose a set solo, and give the last two bars a satisfying ‘shape’. What I added was the tune, of course. You don’t get to sell 10 million records without a tune.

Life after the record’s success was fun, at first. Then, in June 1967, I saw a proof of the sheet music. And the first thing I noticed was that the first eight bars were my organ solo, and yet that at the top of the page it said ‘Music by Gary Brooker’. I was dumbfounded. Suddenly, I realised that what I had contributed went way beyond the call of duty. Gary was totally unsympathetic, and I was completely devastated.

My differences with Procol all stem from the A Whiter Shade of Pale business. I've always wanted to be part of a team, but in Procol that meant being shafted. I always liked their music, but Keith and Gary interpret enthusiasm and appreciation as a sign of weakness. Since 1967, I’ve not had a particularly high opinion of them, from a moral perspective. However, since the court case began in 2004 [sic], I’ve seen sides of their characters that even took me by surprise. With what I know about them now, when I think of all the times I’ve spent being involved in their plans and schemes, I suddenly feel like I need to take a shower.

It’s a good record, but I’ve never really been allowed to regard it as mine. It’s a great shame I joined Procol when I did. I could have contributed my musical ideas to some other band, who might have been more appreciative, whom I might not have had to take to court. And would the resulting music have been as good? I don’t know. But I certainly would have had a better life.

More participants' statements from the 2008 Uncut article | More about the AWSoP lawsuit | Subscribe to the excellent Uncut magazine here



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