Procol Harum

the Pale 

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home

 Procol Harum out to settle score

Beth Hale, Courier Mail, Australia • 14 November 2006

WITH its haunting melody and mysterious lyrics, it was the soundtrack to the Summer of Love.

But today, almost 40 years on, there is apparently no love lost between the makers of A Whiter Shade of Pale.

For two members of the band Procol Harum are locked in a copyright battle over the 1967 hit.

The song yesterday filled Court 56 of London's Royal Courts of Justice as one of the country's top judges prepared to consider the conflicting claims of the band's original organist Matthew Fisher and its frontman, Gary Brooker.

The global smash was played through a pair of speakers sitting on top of two legal folders.

The judge, Justice William Blackburne who studied law and music at Cambridge followed with sheet music.

He must decide whether Fisher, 60, composed the striking eight-bar organ solo that is repeated three times in the track, and is therefore entitled to a chunk of the copyright and past sales, which could earn him up to 1 million ($2.4 million).

He also must decide whether the classically trained musician transformed the 24-bar organ melody from the original chord structure provided by Brooker. The lyrics were written by Keith Reid, who also helped manage the band. Brooker and music company Onward Music are disputing Fisher's claim.

Fisher, a computer programmer who lives in Croydon, south London, and 57-year-old [sic] Brooker, who lives in Surrey and still sings with the band, sat at opposite ends at the front of court yesterday as the wrangle unfolded. Reid, 59 [sic], sat at Brooker's side.

The song was Procol Harum's biggest hit, selling 10 million copies and spending five weeks at the top of the charts.

Iain Purvis, QC, representing Fisher, said: "We are dealing with one of the most successful pop songs ever written by British artists.

"In the minds of many it defines the Summer of Love of 1967."

The battle is complicated by the fact that the track was inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Brooker is said to have written the chord sequence based on Bach's Orchestral Suite No 3 in D.

Fisher, however, had his own "long-standing enthusiasm" for Bach. He was inspired by Cantata No 140, known as Sleepers Awake, which he told the court he bought a recording of in Paris in 1961. Dressed in a dark grey suit and wearing large glasses, Fisher demonstrated his creative processes in court on an electronic keyboard. The musician, who was 21 when he joined Procol Harum, said he devised the organ solo because it was the band's "one big chance to make a hit single".

He added: "I was trying to do something that sounded nice, that people would go, 'Ooh, that's a nice tune'. I didn't want to do anything too adventurous, too avant garde."

Fisher, who left the band in 1969 but played with them on occasion until 2004, said he had been haunted by being overlooked for a songwriting credit.

The case is expected to take all week.

More about the AWSoP lawsuit




PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home