Procol Harum

the Pale

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Hollywood Bowl, 21 September 1973

The Concert Programme : Alan Cartwright profile

If you were into those great British soul bands of the mid-Sixties, chances are you were aware of Alan Cartwright long before he became Procol Harum's bass-guitarist a couple of years ago.

Alan played for quite a long time with Freddie Mack's Boss Sound, a well-known outfit whose major residency was at boxer Billy Walker's Upper Cut club in London.

"I really liked that kind of music then The Impressions, early Tamla and Stax stuff, " he says. "But I always thought it would have been nice for a band like that to really get it together, get together and play good music, instead of just copying American records, which is what we did."

"Freddie Mack was really successful, simply because people wanted to hear the records they liked reproduced by a live band. But it had no class or style about it. How long was I in it? Too bloody long."

Alan is from North London, and his apprenticeship included many small groups playing early rock'n'roll including one at his school, of which Procol's drummer, BJ Wilson, was a member.

After he left Freddie Mack, he became a member of Sweetwater Canal, under the direction of Ronnie Scott's management company. For a while, the band included American jazz/R&B tuba virtuoso Ray Draper "a fantastic guy." But there were too many hassels [sic] mostly over expenses and although the band was extremely promising and enjoyable for its members, it fell apart.

Then, in 1970, he became a founder-member of drummer Brian Davison's Every Which Way, also featuring Graham Bell: "I'd known Brian vaguely for quite a while, and we got together through mutual friends when The Nice split.

"It's a shame than band didn't happen. It had something to do with Graham leaving after that, somehow the material was wrong. At the end, it was more or less an instrumental band, and it badly needed a singer, or someone up front.

"It wasn't Brian's fault. He's a happy go-lucky-guy, and I don't think he wanted the responsibility, but he took it upon himself very well."

Alan stayed for the band's entire life-span one year and just as it was falling apart he got a call from Barrie Wilson.

"It was a very opportune thing, and I'd always dug their music, so I went down to the audition. I'd seen them a couple of times when Chris (Copping) had been playing bass on a keyboard, and the sound had seemed to be wrong, so it looked like a good idea for them to get a bass-guitarist.

"We can't get a perfect sound on stage we have a lot of trouble because, for a start, we're using an amplified acoustic piano and an organ, and the difference in the sound levels makes for technical problems.

"One thing I'm very happy about, though, is that people come to hear us for the music there's certainly nothing to watch, beyond five people playing instruments. That's a great thing." 

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