Each year, Procol Harum founder-member Gary Brooker organises a charity Christmas concert at the Chiddingfold Club in Surrey, writes Henry Scott-Irvine – a largely word-of-mouth affair which usually attracts its fair share of star guests both on and off stage.
Kick-started into action after Brooker bought the Parrot pub in Fortune Green in the late 70s, the annual affair moved to Dunsfold Village Hall in the early 80s, before settling for Chiddingfold by the middle of the decade.
This year’s event, a two-nighter which was boosted by the news that Procol would again be active in '95, largely celebrated the music of the band’s (and much of its audience’s) youth. But there was one priceless moment, when Brooker publicly unveiled the three- verse version of "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" for the first time.
The 1992 Procol line-up, featuring Brooker and Matthew Fisher, supported by Andy Fairweather-Low on rhythm guitar, bassist Dave Bronze, a full horn-section and two drummers (making a 13-piece band in all!), returned to the repertoire of the pre-Procol Paramounts, turning in unbelievably high energy versions of James Brown, Chuck Berry and Little Richard songs.
Fairweather-Low took the spotlight for his old Amen Corner hit, "(If Paradise Is) Half As Nice", "Wide Eyed And Legless", "Gin House Blues" and a great obscurity, Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs’"Do You Believe" (the B-side of "Stay"), while Fisher opened the second night with a tremendous version of Booker T’s "Green Onions".
Procol classics were not neglected, and "Homburg" and "Conquistador" preceded the extended "A Whiter Shade of Pale". Brooker also threw in some of his solo work, including the under-rated "Homeloving", which he used to perform in the early 80s with Eric Clapton.
The capacity crowd, which included Queen’s Roger Taylor and Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour, brought the band back for encores consisting of Ray Charles’s "Hit The Road Jack" and Wilson Pickett’s "in The Midnight Hour".
Rumour has it that Procol Harum will appear, alongside Jethro Tull and Fairport Convention, at Cropredy later this year.
A later gig of the same ilk