The small green cassette tape recorder nestled inconspicuously on my lap, tenth row, centre, in the Jubilee Auditorium. Not inconspicuously enough, though. A gentleman in a blue suit loomed over my shoulder.
'I'm sorry sir, but you can't record in here.'
Seventy feet away in the Auditorium lounge Wally Heider, his large bulk perched on a small white stool, hunched over what is probably the most sophisticated recording apparatus in the world: six feet of the most advanced recording technology. Valued at over $100,000. (picture here)
Looming over Heider's shoulder? A freelance writer for Rolling Stone, the big American rock publication: a member of Procol Harum, England's critically-acclaimed if not always best-selling rock band: and the general manager of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
Wally Heider has permission, nay blessing, to record in the Auditorium.
And why not? In all probability Heider's recording of the Procol Harum – Edmonton Symphony Orchestra concert last [sic] night will be released on the A & M label, the third ever such recording made with a rock band and full orchestra, and the first ever recorded on a 16-track machine.
Heider peers into the closed-circuit TV screen hooked up just for this occasion. Through it he sees Procol Harum and the ESO rehearsing on the Auditorium stage.
It is the last rehearsal before the performance. Heider is having problems with one of the connections between the microphones on stage and his control panel.
On stage Procol drummer BJ Wilson complains that the Symphony is inaudible through the speakers specially placed on stage for the purpose.
A pre-recorded explosion, an integral part of one of the songs, fails to appear on cue.
It is, all things considered, a nervous afternoon. The concert has been sold out for twelve days in advance, resulting in an abortive attempt to arrange a second concert after midnight the same evening.
A woman from the Symphony reports that she was unable to acquire a ticket even for her son. Scalpers are charging between $20 and $30 a ticket.
Communication between the group and the orchestra is not easy. Procol Harum talks in terms of solos and sequences. The Symphony knows bars and lettered reference points on their sheet music, necessitating that conductor Lawrence Leonard translate between the two.
All things considered, the nervousness is understandable.
As is the apprehension of the Jubilee management at the storming of their establishment by the entourage of long-haired young – and not so young – essential to any rock performance.
Smoking on stage, drinking wine from paper cups, their conduct poses a cheerful challenge to the traditionally staid Auditorium.
Anticipation of the performance and the prospect of the recording made of it becoming a best-selling pop album infect the auditorium, itself a little uncomfortable with amount of wire and sound equipment arranged around it.
The anticipation has been building for several months now. The concert was born in a chance comment made to Symphony assistant general manager Bob Hunka by rock columnist Ritchie Yorke at a rock competition seven months ago.
Hunka, looking for a follow-up to the enormously successful Lighthouse Symphony collaboration, asked Yorke for advice.
'Procol Harum,' suggested Yorke, who then supplied Hunka with details of a previous performance Procol staged with an orchestra, an address where they might be reached, and all the resources of his position as dean of rock critics.
Procol agreed to the proposition as they planned to come to North America to record an album anyway and were then taken by the suggestion that the album be recorded at the proposed concert.
Heider, whose services are sought by such top rock acts as Crosby Stills Nash and Young and the Who for live recordings, was brought in to complete the arrangements.
Ritchie Yorke: from the Eyre / Methuen History of Rock'n'Roll
Over the past ten years it is doubtful if any writer anywhere has been so closely exposed to the nerve centers of the rock industry. Confidante of the Beatles, the first writer to predict the North American success of Led Zeppelin and Yes, the instigator of Procol Harum's concert with the Edmonton Symphony, peace envoy for John and Yoko's War is Over anti-war mission, organizer of the Maple Music Junket – Yorke has actively circulated among the upper crust of rock.
Many more pages devoted to the Edmonton concert