Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum's NME coverage ...

21 + 28 September, 2 + 9 November 1974

These excerpts from New Musical Express, kindly selected for 'Beyond the Pale' by Yan Friis, show desolation in the pop charts ... but Procol Harum received rapturously on their UK tour.

NME, September 21, 1974

Front page headlines:
Pete Townshend reviews new Who album (big pic)
Ronson to join Mott? Will he replace Bender?
G. Dead
M. Oldfield

NME Top 5:
1. ( 2) Kung Fu Fighting, Carl Douglas
2. ( 1) Love Me For A Reason, Osmonds
3. ( 5) Annie’s Song, John Denver
4. ( 4) Y Viva Espana, Sylvia
5. ( 3) I’m Leaving It All Up To You, Donny & Marie Osmond

NME albums:
1. ( 6) Hergest Ridge, Mike Oldfield
2. ( 2) Tubular Bells, Mike Oldfield
3. ( 1) Band On The Run, Paul McCartney & Wings
4. ( 7) Another Time Another Place, Bryan Ferry
5. ( 9) Back Home Again, John Denver

Main single reviews by Pete Erskine:
Guess Who, Clap For The Wolfman
Eddie Floyd, The Highway Man
Joni Mitchell, Free Man In Paris
Harry Nilsson, Many Rivers To Cross
The Move, Do ya

Main album reviews:
The Who, Odds’n’Sods
Isley Brothers, Live It Up
Leonard Cohen, New Skin For The Old Ceremony
Carole King, Wrap Around Joy
Vivian Stanshall, Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead
Trapeze, Hot Wire
Scott Walker, We Had It All 

Front row reviews

Procol Harum / Birmingham
For Procol Harum, A Whiter Shade Of Pale was unfortunately a chart success that became a nagging mythos. When they kicked off their present tour at Birmingham Town Hall last Thursday thankfully there were none of the usual raucous demands for the song’s resurrection. Nevertheless Procol decided to encore with it (along with Lennon and McCartney’s Eight Days A Week), but gone are its ball and chain associations, and the band performed Pale in the spirit of a fondly remembered Golden Oldie.

They began with Bringing Home All The Bacon and you knew you were in for a treat.

Following on, Gary Brooker introduced Grand Hotel as a remembrance of better days. Material from their recent album was greeted enthusiastically and highpoints were As Strong As Samson, Nothing But The Truth and The Idol – all tinged with that familiar polished melancholy.

Next came a new number, The Poet, which owes much to Paperback Writer; catchy tho’, and there aren’t many in the same vocal league as Brooker.

It was then pointed out that there’s no place on this sceptred isle further from the brine than Brum. But we still got the gulls care of Brooker FX. The doom laden chords of A Salty Dog with the dramatic narrative soaring over Chris Copping’s atmospheric organ was rapturously received.

A lenthy Power Failure from Broken Barricades was a vehicle for Mick Grabham’s searing guitar to put Trower’s recorded contribution of old in the shade. BJ Wilson also let fly on drums and only ceased to express his amazement at the fact that such a large audience had turned out when Tommy Cooper was that very moment looning on the box!

The support band – Strife – consisted of three lads from Liverpool who have been "toiling for seven years."

They did a poor imitation of Cream circa ’67, complete with frizzed hair, pounding bass, frenetic drumming and the obligatory 25 minute… er… axe stretch-outs, which means they bored with wah-wah and then switched to an equally tiresome strobe bombandment. One member cavorted in the manner of a puppet Hendrix, and then fortunately it was all over. Boys, you’re still toiling.

Ah, but Procul [sic] … livin’ legend and all that. It was Tommy Cooper who missed out. Catch ’em if you can.

Dave Lewis

NME, September 28, 1974

Front page headlines:

Ronson says yes to Mott: Interview inside (big pic of Hunter, Ronson & Morgan Fisher)

Steeleye tour / Jethro dates / Crimso split

NME Top 5:
1. ( 1) Kung Fu Fighting, Carl Douglas
2. ( 3) Annie’s Song, John Denver
3. ( 6) Hang On In There Baby, Johnny Bristol
4. ( 7) You You You, Alvin Stardust
5. ( 2) Love Me For A Reason, Osmonds

NME albums:
1. ( 1) Hergest Ridge, Mike Oldfield
2. ( 2) Tubular Bells, Mike Oldfield
3. ( 3) Band On The Run, Paul McCartney & Wings
4. ( 5) Back Home Again, John Denver
5. ( 4) Another Time Another Place, Bryan Ferry

Main album reviews:
Lou Reed, Sally Can’t Dance
Sailor, Sailor
Staples Singers, City In The Sky
Santana, Greatest Hits
Jess Roden, Jess Roden
Allan Clarke, Allan Clarke
Herbie Mann, Reggae
James Brown, Hell

Main single reviews by Charlie Gillett:
Rod Stewart, Farewell
Sweet Sensation, Sad Sweet Dreamer
Johnnie Taylor, I’ve Been Born Again
Ohio Players, Skin Tight
Dave Edmunds, Need A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues
Georgie Fame, Everlovin’ Woman
Hall & Oates, She’s Gone
Ace, How Long
Sutherland Brothers & Quiver, Saviour In The Rain
Gallagher & Lyle, Song And Dance Man
David Essex, Gonna Make You A Star
The Drifters, Down On The Beach Tonight

Front row reviews

Procol Harum / Brighton
Procol Harum really are in a very enviable position; they’ve been around at least seven years (a long time for a rock band) and have tasted large scale success only a few times in that long career, but haven’t split up, compromised or become bitter about their status.

At Saturday night in Brighton, Procol Harum came across as a warm band with nothing to prove and with no excessive ambition; they’re growing old gracefully, if you like, and accepting it all.

In the past couple of months I’ve been to three Procol Harum gigs. Each time they have varied their set and, according to their publicist, they never play the same set twice.

The first time I saw them, at Croydon, their music was cold and a little inaccessible for me. At Reading they almost stole the show. On Saturday they had a warmth and a looseness – without any loss to the music, in fact the reverse can be said – which was missing from the previous gigs.

They really seemed to be into what they were doing and actually included a bona fide piece of rock’n’roll for an encore – a Berryied-up version of a Thirties [sic!] jazz-tune Old Black Joe.

And the audience loved it, getting up there right at the front of the stage – hardly the sort of reception one expects Procol Harum to receive.

Polite, cordial applause would have been easier to explain.

Procol Harum, especially the affluent white-suited Gary Brooker, are just that sort of band; but here was a reaction that bordered on hysteria.

Opening with Bringing Home The Bacon and including their "Greatest Hits" Conquistador, Salty Dog and leaving the crowd predictably with Whiter Shade Of Pale, which never fails to get a crowd excited (some of the audience must have been too young to remember its initial impact), Procol never appear anxious or out of control.

BJ Wilson was his usual outstanding self throughout the set, and played with greater emphasis on cymbal-work than is customary for him. Sometimes you think his expansive flourishes just aren’t going to fit the time, but they always do.

A great drummer and there’ll be lots more who say so, just like there’ve been many who’ve said it before.

Mick Grabham’s guitar technique was particularly fine in Cedes [sic] from the first Harum album, on which Robin Trower played so well.

Perhaps their best number, however, was the lazy As Strong As Samson which was just so mellow.

The only number which doesn’t quite make it musically is The Beatles’ Eight Days A Week. It just doesn’t have the buoyancy of the original, even if there is a lot of fun in the way Procol play it.

One new number The Poet was included and, like most of their material, it was finely constructed. A grower. Lyrically it seemed to take the pee outa songwriters, and it’s good that the group can laugh at themselves.

Procol Harum now have as much going for them as they ever had; if not more. Go and see them; you’ll find yourselves coming out a lot more satisfied than from those gigs of a great many other rock bands.
Steve Clarke

NME, November 2, 1974:

News pages:


Procol Harum, who recently completed a British tour, are to play four more concerts in November – including two in London. These extra gigs are at London Imperial College (November 9), London Wimbledon Theatre (10), Dunstable Queensway Hall (13) and Guildford Surrey University (15).

NME, November 9, 1974:



Procol Harum completed a British tour relatively recently, but they are playing four extra gigs this month – including two dates in London (Saturday and Sunday) which they omitted from their previous date sheet. Their other concert this week is at Dunstable on Wednesday.

My comment:

And that’s all then, from the NME in 1974. Quite a lot, indeed. Never did Procol Harum gig so heavily in Britain. Strange, though, that they chose to do their first concerts just after the release of the single, but before the release of the album. No rock band toured promoting singles in 1974. And then they waited until the album had died its commercial death before they started touring again. I don’t think I can remember a more clumsy timing from any major band.

And what happened to their US-tour, the one that would keep them out of Britain for most of the year? The selling point for their first British concerts in 1974 was, if you remember, that they would be the only concerts in Britain that year.

Something wrong here. They had a great album for 1974. And somehow it failed to sell both in the US and in Britain. Procol Harum had probably never been better live, but they should have timed their concerts with the album release. By not doing so, they blew it, in spite of rave concert reviews.

They would never get this opportunity again. 

The Mammoth Task: Yan's extracts from the first 52 weeks of Procol press in the NME

Swimming Against the Tide: Yan's extracts from the remaining ten years of Procol press in the NME

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