Procol Harum

the Pale

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... as the drummer told his tale ...

Bill Eyden and 'AWSoP'

From 'Questions and Answers' by Mat Snow (The Man In The Know), February 1992
Q Magazine, 42 Great Portland Street, London Wl N 5AH

Question: I recently bumped into a guy who claims that he was the session drummer on A Whiter Shade of Pale. His name is Mario Ostacchini. True, or a little porky? Bob Carter, Sandton, South Africa

Answer: The early line-up of Procol Harum whose debut single, A Whiter Shade of Pale, went on to be a global Number 1 in 1967, selling some 10 million copies, was thus: singer / keyboardist Gary Brooker, non-performing lyricist Keith Reid, organist Matthew Fisher, bassist David Knights, guitarist Ray Royer and drummer Bobby Harrison. But Harrison did not drum on A Whiter Shade of Pale.

Instead, the call went out by Denny Cordell, regular producer for the Deram label, to Bill Eyden. 'Basically a jazz drummer,' as he describes himself, Eyden had cut his teeth with Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes, and had already played on a Number 1 hit single Georgie Fame And The Blue Flames' 1964 cover of Mongo Santamaria's Yeh Yeh. Upon arriving at the studio for the Procol Harum session, Eyden discovered Harrison present but non-combatant; the whole recording, he recalls, took about three hours.

For his trouble, he received the Musicians' Union rate of 15 pounds and 15 shillings. When the single zoomed straight into sales orbit, it was revealed that Harrison would receive, like all the other members of the band, a 10,000 pound share of the cake, despite admitting he had taken no part in the recording, being 'off-colour' at the time. Eyden put in a moral claim for more money, and received 'about 100 pounds' in fees for the TV plays of the recording to which the band, including Bobby Harrison would mime.

Harrison departed Procol Harum shortly afterwards, to be replaced by BJ Wilson. As for Bill Eyden, he returned to steadier gigs in Ronnie Scott's house band, in West End shows and, recently, on tour in America, Italy and Germany with Charlie Watts's Big Band. He has never heard of Mario Ostacchini.

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