Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum's NME coverage ...

16 July - 31 December 1977

These excerpts from New Musical Express, kindly selected for 'Beyond the Pale' by Yan Friis, show Procol Harum existing only in the mind of Keith Reid, while Brooker, Copping (fleetingly) and Wilson (biggest disappointment of the evening) are heard only in the context of Reid's fine protegé, Frankie Miller.

NME, July 16, 1977

Front page headlines:
The Miller's Tale, Glasgow burning across the USA (full page pic of Frankie Miller)
Johnny Thunders goes home
Stones, Lizzy LP previews
Gabriel autumn concerts
Hot Rods; Too much too soon
T. Dream: But can you pogo to it?
The Clash are coming to town
Rainbow: Old Wave does its thing

NME Top 5:
1. ( 5) Ma Baker, Boney M
2. ( 1) So You Win Again, Hot Chocolate
3. ( 2) Fanfare For The Common Man, Emerson Lake & Palmer
4. ( -) I Feel Love, Donna Summer
5. ( 3) Show You The Way To Go, The Jacksons

NME albums:
1. ( 2) A Star Is Born, Soundtrack
2. ( 6) The Johnny Mathis Collection, Johnny Mathis
3. ( 4) Arrival, ABBA
4. ( 2) The Muppet Show
5. ( 3) Hotel California, The Eagles

Main single reviews by Steve Clarke
The Rumour, Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Jackson Browne, The Pretender
Carly Simon, Nobody Does It Better
Little Bob Story, All or Nothing
10 CC, People In Love

Excerpts from interview with Frankie Miller (and Keith Reid):

The everything's-coming-up-roses-for-Frankie Miller headline.

(by Bob Woffinden)

...The new recruit is in fact the only seasoned performer of them all, Chris Copping (keyboards), who recently left Procol Harum (a line-up change which means that Procol, now down to half a group, are currently undergoing a "period of reassessment"). He'd had little time to rehearse with the others prior to the US tour - the Bottom Line gig was only their second together ...

... One of the reasons for Miller's newly-discovered self-control is that, as an intelligent guy, he realized what was necessary. The second is that for the past year he's had a new manager, Procol Harum's lyricist, Keith Reid.

Reid, with his shuffling gait and slightly hunched shoulders, is reminiscent of several things, among which Mole in Wind In The Willows comes first to mind. A manager of a rock band is just about the last thing; he's always the first of the entourage to bed, and phones his wife every night during a US tour. But there is no doubt that his influence has been a salutary one.

Reid had become acquainted with Miller, who had once or twice been on the same bill as Procol, through the Chrysalis connection. He says he was so much in awe of Miller's talent, and so solicitous of his welfare, that he found himself continually offering advice, and even lying awake of nights mentally moulding Miller's modus operandi.

In Spring last year he finally decided that while it was easy to offer advice, it was difficult to take the responsibility of that advice; so he decided it was time he had the courage of his convictions.

"Frankie's career was in terrible shape, because it had no direction and continuity to it. He's an artist and he needs someone to sort things out for him. He's got this great talent which everyone is aware of - so to spend a period of time when you know you're very good, but you're not getting anywhere is very demoralising.

"He is a person who really needs a manager; not having one probably messed him up."

Miller himself found this arrangement equally felicitous.

"I've always liked Procol. I used t'be in a band in Scotland called The Stoics, and we used t'play A Salty Dog, the album, all the time. I've always liked Keith's words.

"When I came back from America at the end of '75, I was looking for a manager, so when Keith came along that was great - because he's an honest person"

Reid's first steps were logical ones.

"I got a band together for him and I got him out on the road. The guy had never performed - he'd just made records sporadically, done a couple of dates and that was it. He was such a great performer, people had to see him."

The result was a year of hard graft for Miller, the first he'd experienced for some time. "Keith's a bit of a slave-driver. We've been doin' some fuckin' tourin' in Britain and Europe. We've not had chance for a holiday - I'm not complainin', it's been great."...

... The next morning I spoke at length to Reid in the hotel's coffee-shop, where they have the distinction of serving genuinely inedible three-egg omelettes.

After assuring me that, despite the recent departure of Mick Grabham and Copping, Procol Harum was still in existence ("As long as I'm alive it must be") ...

... Everyone concerned was pleased with the finished album (Full House) (and correspondingly disappointed with the sales thus far), and Miller considers that producer Chris Thomas has got the best sound on his vocals so far.

It was Reid who suggested the inclusion of Love Letters, previously a hit song for both Ketty Lester and Elvis Presley. Gary Brooker came up with a fresh arrangement and, after much deliberation, it has been chosen as the next UK single, to be released at the end of the month...

Main album reviews:
New York Dolls, New York Dolls (re-release of their two albums)
Rainbow, On Stage
Donna Summer, I Remember Yesterday
Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias, Italians From Outer Space

NME, August 13, 1977:

News pages:


Ol' Frankie fires Full House men


Frankie Miller has fired two members of his band, Full House. But he will still appears at the Reading Festival later this month...

... As far as he was concerned the band was not working as it should. When they recorded their last album it was necessary to bring in session players, including Chris Spedding and Procol's Gary Brooker, and Miller would prefer to front an outfit which could record without this embellishment...

... For his Reading appearance on Sunday, August 28, Neil Hubbard, BJ Wilson, Chris Mercer and Martin Drover will join (Chrissie) Stewart. Procol's Chris Copping, who temporarily replaced Hall, will make way for Ace-member Paul Carrack.



...Procol Harum drummer B.J. Wilson looking for a new gig...

By this time NME had totally caved in to punk and new wave. Their Reading review didn't even care to mention Frankie Miller's set with one word.

NME, October 1, 1977:



...With the departure of Mick Grabham from the group, an unceremonious bust-up for Procol Harum seems assured. And this just ten years after Whiter Shade Of Pale ...

NME, October 22, 1977:

News pages:

Frankie Miller's new band on tour


Frankie Miller sets out next month on a major four-week tour, with a completely re-shaped Full House band. The new line-up is Paul Carrack (keyboards), BJ Wilson (drums), Micky Moody (guitar), Chrissie Stewart (bass) and Chris Mercer and Martin Drover (brass) ... .

NME, December 10, 1977

On The Town

Frankie's a wonderful person, but he's still got problems by Steve Clarke


...Retaining just Chrissie Stewart from the previous Full House line-up, he now has the backing of drummer BJ Wilson (formerly?) of Procol Harum, Paul Carrack (formerly?) of Ace, a two-piece horn section of Chris Mercer (tenor sax) and Martin Drover (trumpet), and guitarist Mick Moody ...

...But the biggest disappointment of the evening was BJ Wilson, one of the country's best drummers. As you probably know, he was once considered for the Led Zeppelin drum seat.

Though renowned for his power, on Thursday night he was noticeable for his lack of it.

Most of Miller's material requires the kind of beefy, straight fours Simon Kirke excels at; but strangely enough, Wilson insisted on putting in embellishments when they weren't required, and failing totally to give the band the necessary thrust...

NME, December 24-31, 1977 (double issue)

Nothing at all on Procol Harum. So that's how they ended their last year. In shambles. No one caring if they excisted or not.

And here's the last charts of that year, the year of The Sex Pistols, The Stranglers, The Jam, The Boomtown Rats, Buzzcocks etc.

NME Top 5:
1. ( 1) Mull Of Kintyre, Wings
2. ( 3) Floral Dance, Brighouse Rastrick Band
3. ( 2) How Deep is Your Love, Bee Gees
4. ( 5) I Will, Ruby Winters
5. ( 4) Egyptian Reggae, Jonathan Richman

NME albums:
1. ( 1) Disco Fever, Various Artists
2. ( 2) Sound Of Bread, Bread
3. ( 4) Never Mind The Bollocks, Sex Pistols
4. ( 5) 30 Greatest Hits, Gladys Knight & The Pips
5. ( 6) Footloose & Fancy Free, Rod Stewart

Nice headline for the Ian Dury-interview:

All I Want For Xmas Is A New Left Leg

The End ...

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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