Procol Harum

the Pale

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A Foolish Day / The End of an Era

Anthony 'Head in the Sand' Rowat

Elsewhere at BtP we published the tour dates for Procol's last US showing of the 'Old Testament', and asked Palers whether the final few dates, in Canada, had ever been actually played. Such is the responsiveness and knowledgeability of the BtP constituency, that this (poignant) memorandum was with us the very next day!

770519 Ontario, Hamilton, Hamilton Place
770520 Ontario, Ottawa, National Arts Center
770521 Ontario, Sudbury Arena
770522 Toronto, Convocation Hall

I can say with absolute confidence that Procol did not play the 22 May 1977 concert in the Convocation Hall (at the University of Toronto).

How do I know? I was there! I (along with my girlfriend at the time) went with our PH tickets and waited outside the hall, and nobody showed up: no band, and no audience. Feeling very foolish, I bought a newspaper from a box nearby - The Toronto Sun. This is / was a very rude "tabloid" style rag, and on that day they printed a small column which gloated about the fact that a tired old "dinosaur" band like Procol Harum had crawled home with its tail between its legs after the Canadian leg of its tour had been cancelled due to lack of ticket sales.

Boy, was I embarrassed! I apparently was the only person in Toronto who had bought a ticket and had not heard about the cancellation - not another soul showed up. This, of course, deeply impressed my girlfriend; the place was literally deserted (I think it was a Sunday).

On the following Monday, I phoned the ticket agency (Ticketmaster, I believe) to inquire about getting my money back, and in the course of the conversation I asked about the sales - had they really been disastrous? The agent I spoke to claimed that the Toronto tickets had sold very well, and that he didn't know why the concert had been cancelled. And it wasn't until I saw the other Canadian dates at BtP today (above) that I think I may understand what happened.

You see, Convocation Hall seats about 2,500 people (tops) whereas Hamilton Place seats I think about 15 to 20,000 people. The National Arts Centre probably seats a few more than Convocation Hall and God knows how many people the Sudbury Arena seats (it's a mining town quite a bit north of Toronto); probably about 5 to 10,000. All four gigs were to be in the province of Ontario, and my guess is that the bigger gigs sold 2 to 3,000 seats and therefore the mini-tour of Ontario was cancelled.

Of course I am saddened to read the tour schedule - if PH had played Toronto, it would have been their last gig. Just before these planned gigs I recall reading an interview with Keith Reid in Crawdaddy Magazine; in it he spoke about the fact that the band now considered the Ninth album a mistake (even though it had gotten a rave from Crawdaddy!) and that they had made a conscious return to their original style on Something Magic (I think he used the expression "It's completely us"). When the interviewer asked what would happen if Magic failed to sell, Keith gave some enigmatic answer which implied that that would be the end of the band.

Well, I did my best - I was the only person in Toronto to show up for Procol Harum's last-ever show (along with my poor girlfriend); I believe it was just a matter of months before I bought Never mind the Bollocks and began the nihilistic rocking of the dark, new era.

Anthony "head in the sand" Rowat

The tour schedule in question

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