Britain’s conservative newspaper ran a feature on ‘The Summer of Love’ shortly after Procol Harum played Redhill.
Defining celebrity survivors of the era were interviewed: Felix Dennis (co-founder of ‘Oz’ magazine), Tariq Ali (student activist), Caroline Coon (artist and founder of ‘Release’), Zandra Rhodes (fashion designer) ... and of course the ‘keyboards player with Procul Harum’ (sic!).
There’s not much new here for Brooker fans ... except the last sentence!
Then it was all peace and love. Now it’s just work and money
The summer of 1967 was going to change everything: authority and materialism were to be overthrown by a youth revolution. Olga Craig talks to survivors to see if their lives still mirror those youthful ideals.
For others, maturity may have brought the trappings of wealth, but with it a firm denial that they have joined the mainstream. "To say we’ve become much more conservative with age is slightly unfair," says Gary Brooker, the singer and keyboards player with Procul Harum, the group that made the defining song of 1967, A Whiter Shade of Pale. "There are certain -things that have lasted from our beliefs then," he insists.
In those heady summer months, Brooker was 22 and riding high. The single was number one for five weeks; the meaning of the enigmatic lyrics a subject for constant discussion. Though he eschews nostalgia, he didn’t want the song’s 30th anniversary to slip by unmarked.
Last weekend he and Matthew Fisher from the original line-up played the Harlequin Theatre at Redhill to still adoring - if greying - fans. It was the only live performance this year, though Brooker has just returned from America, where he toured with Ringo Starr.
"Love and peace, I’m still into that," says Brooker, who lives in Surrey with wife Franky and several goats, chickens and dogs. "There was much good - young people didn’t bash or rape a 90-year-old for a fiver - and too few remember that. We were the forerunners of the Green movement; awareness of the planet is something that has its roots in the Sixties’ generation."
Brooker smiles in slight embarrassment at the reminder that his best known song is still an anthem for a generation. "We didn’t write it for the summer of love," he says. "For a start it was written in January and it was freezing cold. I was playing some Bach-like music and happened to glance at some lyrics Keith Reid had given me. We skipped the light fandango ... they sort of went together."
Brooker regrets the passing of the era. "We were experimental, our songs made you think. Students were protesting, we reflected all that." His nostalgic reverie was cut short. "I have to go. Jack Bruce and Peter Frampton are walking up the drive, we’re going to write a few songs."