Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Remembering Dave Ball

Unsteady Freddie, from the USA

Unsteady Freddie writes (10 April 2015)

'Beyond the Pale' has invited me to pen some thoughts about Dave Ball.  So I’m gonna let The Great Spirit, my Higher Power (aka “HP”, which backwards is “PH” …. Aahhhh, there’s that elusive reason why I feel so connected to this band in such a deep spiritual way!) whisper to me and I’ll simply translate with fingers on to my computer keyboard.  And voilą!  I should have a finished product pretty quickly.  No typewriter torment for this dude!

Let me start by saying out loud for all to see/hear, I LOVE DAVE BALL!  Wait, wait.  Dave has left the Earthly Plane?  NO! NO! NO!  That isn’t fair!  This cannot be true! Can it?  Am I giving a dead man’s dream? You mean, it is true?  NO! NO! NO! So should I be saying I LOVED Dave Ball? Go to the past tense because he’s standing upon  Olympus, where by now The Heavens have opened wide, and let him come in?  Answer: NO!  I STILL LOVE DAVE BALL.  AND ALWAYS WILL! 

Have he and Barrie James Wilson been reunited by now?  How fast will those two sit down and start bashing out Procol Harum tunes?  Now that Dave has broken on through to the other side, he and BJ should try and locate Jim Morrison, IMHO.  Jim’s music had a ‘dark side’, as of course Procol have been known to have, peaking with the Home LP.  Can you imagine the music that Jim, Barrie and Dave could create? Wonder if we will be able to “download” it (and mean way way “down” from God on high).

OK, how and when did I meet Dave in person?  It was after Procol Harum performed at The Schaefer Music Festival in NYC’s Central Park.  The year was 1971.  I had met The Lads (as we called them, and they called themselves) before.  There was a show in Staten Island during the Home Tour, when Chris Copping came outside for a smoke between the early and the late shows.  I shyly introduced myself, and next thing I know Chris put us on the side of stage just feet away from my favorite band.  Chris took a smoke and I went into a dream!  At that time Robin Trower was still guitarist, and remained there through Broken Barricades as all of us Procol-A-Holics know.  I went to Syracuse University, which meant when PH came to upstate NY you’d find me at their concerts in Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, Binghamton, and colleges scattered all over that territory.

Robin left the band, and it was like, OH NO!  MAF left and now Robin?  This band is doomed!  But Lo and Behold, a lanky gawky guy named DAVE BALL was hired to follow some incredible fingers, and I, also a lanky gawky guy, waited patiently yet excitedly to see and hear him.  The Schaefer Music Festival was that moment as I said before.  My then girlfriend took a few pix which I managed to save, and they have their own page at 'Beyond the Pale' here

We hit if off instantly, after the show concluded, and the band had a few moments to gather themselves.  Keep in mind I was not yet in what I call “the inner circle” of the Procol world.  That happened in approximately 1973, when Mick Grabham and Alan Cartwright were the new members of the band.  Anyway Dave and I made a vow to “hang out and get crazy” together (I won’t define that!) the next time PH came through town.  But it was not meant to be; I assume PH toured the USA again with Dave?  Yet I never got to “get crazy” with Dave.  And during that time there is something very important to note, and that is Dave Ball’s brilliant contributions to Procol Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.  The LP as it happens was the band’s best selling in America, peaking at #5 in Billboard Magazine!  And the live version of Conquistador, recorded at that concert, made its way into the Top 20!  My fears about lanky Dave replacing Robin were put aside.  I was satisfied that Procol Harum was alive and well, similarly to when Chris Copping joined The Lads to take over from Matthew Fisher.


But then, suddenly, Dave was gone.  Mick Grabham?  Who?  How do you pronounce that?  Grab-Him?  Grab-Ham? Grab-Imm?  I asked around and was unable to find a way to communicate with Dave, who I really dug.  We had totally connected.  Remember there was no internet yet.


Finally, in 2007 at BtP's 40th Anniversary (since the release of A WHITER SHADE OF PALE) gathering in London, I got to reconnect with Dave.  The two-day celebration included a whole big show brilliantly called “PROCOL RARUM”; it was there where Dave got to be back onstage.  And I knew he had gone to band called BEDLAM after his Procol days (I still have a vinyl copy of an LP they released).  I thought Dave’s playing on there was terrific but I didn’t find the music all that attractive.  Couldn’t get into a groove over it.  So when Dave started to play, making those rock guitarist faces (the real deal!) and playing some intense stuff, I gotta  say, I was blown away. 


I was telling my then girlfriend about a lost friendship, and she encouraged me to go over to him, "see if he remembers you," etc.  The aftershow celebrations in the bowels of St John's SMith Square, where the Procol Harum shows were held, was when I got my chance to corner Dave.  I approached him gingerly, and asked if he remembered our getting together in Central Park in 1971.  Suddenly, his face lit up! He was truly shining brightly!  He blurts out, “Freddie! Right?”  And we went nuts, making way too much noise like two school kids during lunchtime in the playground!  We literally “lost it”.  Check out the photo attached!


I know we got to reunite again at in 2011 in Copenhagen when I went there to see Procol Harum for three straight nights with an orchestra and chorus.  Speaking of heaven ... we had so much fun (with Dave it was impossible NOT to!).  That’s another picture here to check out.


After those days in Copenhagen, I couldn’t help it, saying goodbye to Dave was a moment where there was no reason to hold back my tears.  (Has anyone noticed how much I cry publicly where Procol Harum is concerned?).  But I’ve become a spiritually evolved guy over the years.  I’m not the Wizard Man, by any means, but sensing and reading energies is something I can do.  It is a blessing and often a curse.  As I said goodbye to Dave, my tears were tears of joy…. But, there was a feeling in my gut that I would never ever throw my arms around one of my favorite friends on Planet Earth.  Alas that’s precisely how things evolved. 


I am providing YouTube links of videos – here,  here,  here and here I filmed in Copenhagen at a place (check out the name!) called ‘The PH Cafeen” (what the ….. ?).  They feature Dave Ball front and center performing with The Procol Harum Project.  Note, PH fans:  this is not about the music of Procol Harum here, but about Dave’s deep passion for the blues. 

So just a few days ago, when I got the news thru Facebook that we “lost” Dave, I screamed at the top of my lungs, “NO!  IT CAN’T  BE!  NOT DAVE!  GIVE HIM BACK TO US!”.  I had to leave my work desk, get some air, look up to the Heavens, and ask “WHY?” over and over and over again.  I shouted to him, “I already miss you, buddy!  And please give BJ a kiss on the forehead for me”.  I know he did.  As I type this, I am crying, sobbing, slobbering.  And thanking The Great Spirit for bringing Barrie and Dave into my life, for the music they made, and the friendships we nourished.  I am truly blessed.


DAVE, BARRIE – they still live.  In our hearts, through their musicianship.  May they rock ….. may they roll ….. (and occasionally, may they rest…..) in peace. 


Let’s raise our glasses, and sing together, shall we ……
“Shalimar, the trumpets chorused, angels wholly all shall take
Those alive will meet the prophets, those at peace shall see their wake”

Dave Ball's page at BtP  


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