Procol Harum

the Pale

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Darryl Way on Gary Brooker, 1980

An (authorised) excerpt from the (unpublished) autobiography of Curved Air's violinist

After that, things went a little quiet regarding the Concerto [for Electric Violin and Orchestra] and I began to wonder if that was going to be that, until I received a call from a friend of Stewart Copeland’s called Eberhard Schoener. Eberhard hosted and conducted a concert on German TV called Classic Rock Night, which included classical music and classical rock. He asked if I would like to perform the first movement of the concerto on this show, which would be broadcast live on German television and sixteen other European countries in front of a concert audience. This time I hesitated before I replied. Recording a television performance to be broadcast later, where you can retake anything that perhaps didn’t go so well, is one thing; performing live on television, where there are no second chances and your mistakes are recorded for posterity and for all to see, is another thing altogether. For me, this would be like walking on a very thin tightrope across a very big ravine. But the opportunity of reaching a wider audience with my piece was an opportunity not to be missed, so I took the gamble and accepted.  

The concert was scheduled for 12 November 1980, with three or four days of rehearsal leading up to it. The concert was in Munich and the rehearsals for the show were held in the Lowenbrau beer cellars. We stayed at a rather swish hotel, which had a circular bar that was completely surrounded by an aquarium full of sharks. On the same bill were Procol Harum [ie Gary Brooker, John Giblin, bass; BJ Wilson, drums; Ian Bairnson / Paul Vincent, guitar; Morris Pert, percussion; Hermann Weindorf, organ]], who were doing A Whiter Shade of Pale with the orchestra, plus a couple of other numbers [full details here]. As the rehearsals took place over a few days, I was able to get to know and become friends with Gary Brooker. It was a great honour for me to meet the person who had created such an iconic piece of music, a piece that had also been an inspiration to me in my formative years. Gary was very laid-back and always seemed to have a positive spin on things. While I would be taking everything incredibly seriously and fretting away like mad, he’d be calmly quipping away and making up jokes in an attempt to make me feel more at ease about the whole situation.

BJ Wilson, Gary Brooker on Darryl Way's knee, Mel Collins




Representatatives of Procol Harum, Curved Air and King Crimson

Do we know of any picture of Gary and BJ together later than this one from 1980?

Every evening after rehearsals, we would meet up in the ‘shark’ bar for a few drinks. Mel Collins, the sax player from King Crimson, was also taking part in the concert. Mel was a practical joker and like Gary seemed to take everything in his stride with more than a pinch of good humour. One night he turned up in the shark bar dressed as a clown, with a shower cap on his head and shaving foam liberally applied over his face. When asked whether there was any reason for wearing this get-up, he answered, “Just felt like doing it.”

Mel Collins dressed as a clown in the ‘shark’ bar; Gary Brooker on right

Gary Brooker's page at 'Beyond the Pale' | More from Darryl Way's autobiography

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