Gary Brooker, BJ Wilson and Keith Reid discuss tracks of their
Broken Barricades (Chrysalis, ILPS 9158, £2.15)
Members of the Procol Harum group discussed with me their new album, their fifth, aptly named Broken Barricades, because once again they have provided new directions in contemporary music. Procol has broken down the barricades presently surrounding rock and opened a new brand of music to young musicians and a wider spectrum of sounds for record buyers.
Despite the 5-million sales of A Whiter Shade Of Pale, the groupís first single, they have since become a minority taste, their Home album selling a mere 200,000 in the US. Unlike noisy contemporaries (Grand Funk Railroad, Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie etc) Procol play rock music which is virtually indefinable because of its paradoxical intricacy and simplicity.
If the groupís lyrics, all penned by resident poet Keith Reid, are difficult to understand, so is the group itself. Theirs is music that must be listened to carefully. They shun publicity and any explaining of what it is about. You have to listen to find that Home was about death.
Piano player-singer Gary Brooker agreed with me: 'Yeah, Keith writes the lyrics and whatever heís into the group just follows along. Last year it was death. This year itís sex ... sex and violence. Thatís Keithís current trip. Last year he was a bit gloomy.'
We talked in his hotel room, he lounging comfortably on the bed as he told me about the tracks of the new LP Ö
'Music from the 23rd Century,' Gary quipped. 'Lyrically quite simple, but thereís something very personal about it. A quick summary of a situation Keith ran into somewhere.'
BJ Wilson, drummer: 'A very personal song for the group.' Gary: 'Yeah. I agree with that. A bit strange really. Very internal. The words are the leaders and the rest of the album follows on.'
'The song we start our concerts off with,' said Gary. 'Itís good to dance to and went well in the studio. A bit of a boogie woogie number.'
Gary: 'An obscene song. The treatment of it should be banned.' BJ Wilson: 'Like a Viennese Waltz, kind of.' Gary: 'When I think of erotica, I donít think in modern-day sense, with women in cake make-up, and incredible perversions. Luskus Delph is very gentle and dated. Fragile really. It may remind you a little of Sleepers Awake, at least in the way it falls right into your head.'
'Weíre going to edit this into a single,' revealed Gary. 'I like this one. Itís all about touring on the road and the situation when electricity is somehow cut off and we leave it to BJ and his drum solo to keep things going until we get the power back on.'
SONG FOR A DREAMER
Keith Reid explained this one: 'Robin Trower, our lead guitar, wrote it. He was most responsible for it and gives an indication the way heís going as a player and everything.' Gary: 'Think it works, too, whatever it is. Itís a puzzle to me.'
PLAYMATE OF THE MOUTH
'Another obscene song, at least to some people. It was recorded live, even the vocal, during a show,' said BJ. 'When I sent a copy to my mother I damaged this track!'
Keith: 'The first track we recorded. It was our first time in the AIR, London, studios, those luxury rooms George Martin has in Oxford Street, London, and we were just finding out the sounds of the studio. We were really knocked out. Robin Trower sings on it, but he wonít do it on concerts. Says he canít sing and play guitar at the same time. He plays steel guitar on the record, recorded before he sang.'
The whole of the album was recorded in London during February Ė March and very little was ready before the group went into the studios because they had just a week between ending an American tour and starting it. The songs just came to them as they went along and took about 35 twelve-hour sessions to complete (studio diary here)
They all consider Broken Barricades very important to their future and Gary is pretty confident it will be okay. 'By the standard of the album, it should be, but if it isnít a success it will be a foul miscarriage of justice!' he says.
'We just make the records and if the listeners are ready for them, great. We donít try to cater for mass taste, itís just what we want to do at the time and not what is selling at the time.'