These excerpts from New Musical Express, kindly selected for 'Beyond the Pale' by Yan Friis, feature talk of Gary Brooker 'of vestal virgins fame' who might be 'spinning in his grave' as various artists rehash the 'nonsensical lyrics' he made famous in a forgotten epoch.
1978 is rolling, and new wave is occupying every little inch of the NME pages. Elvis Costello is king, he got the full front page on two successive weeks, something that never had happened before in the history of the NME.
So is there any room for Procol Harum? Probably not. They are definitely not missed by the NME staff. Seems they don't even remember that the group existed. Until April 8.
NME, April 8, 1978
Album reviews: PROCOL HARUM
A Whiter Shade Of Pale / A Salty
Shine on Brightly / Home (Cube).
A well deserved re-packaging of the first four Procol Harum albums. The combination of Keith Reid's elusive lyrics, Barrie Wilson's powerhouse drumming and Gary Brooker's music and arrangements marked them as a band of calibre. They were often stigmatised as a band with a peculiar line in 'Gothic' rock, enigmatic and epic (as amply demonstrated in the marathon In Held 'Twas In I from Shine On Brightly) but when necessary Procol could rock like a bitch.
It was the potent blend of Brooker's voice and piano and Matthew Fisher's grave organ tone which gave Procol their distinctive sound, a sound particularly eminent on their déebut album. However as various members came and went, the music changed -y from the good natured ragtime of Good Captain Clack to the sepulchral and majestic Wreck Of The Hesperus, the folk-influenced Too Much Between Us and the hardcore rock of Devil Came From Kansas.
Of the four Home is the weakest [Rubbish - Homebound Ed]. It was the band's first without influential founder-member [sic] Fisher and highlighted Trower's evergrowing, intrusive presence within the group.
NME, April 15, 1978
Single reviews by Angus MacKinnon:
PROCOL HARUM: A Whiter Shade Of Pale (Cube).
These we have loved, part 459. Never did trace the Bach fugue this was supposedly based on, though I doubt Johann Sebastian would have been overly offended at this hallowing adaption of his musical maths. You lose Lime Street, the original flip, for Homburg, the second and possibly superior single.
NME, June 10, 1978:
... Still with Stiff, Gary Brooker of Procol Harum is to produce the new album by Southend's Mickey Jupp Band ...
NME, June 17, 1978:
MICKEY JUPP, Mickey Jupp's Legend (Stiff) by Kim Davis
... Names like Robin Trower, Gary Brooker, Chris Copping and BJ Thomas [sic] appearing on the sleeve are a reminder that Jupp once played with The Paramounts before they became Procol Harum ...
NME, September 30, 1978:
Main singles reviewed by Danny Baker:
MUNICH MACHINE: White (sic) Shade Of Pale (Oasis):
The Munich Machine are delightful, but it's a pity they didn't have a more substantial song to muck around with than the dreadful old Procul [sic] Harum standard. But of course they do improve on it, and there is a glorious break which allows just the double bubble electronics to bounce around like a bus full of fat men. Should have Gary Brooker spinning in his grave.
NME, October 7, 1978:
Album review by Max Bell
MICKEY JUPP, Juppanese (Stiff)
...Side two is not as consistently attractive. Production shifts (from Nick Lowe) to Gary Brooker (of vestal virgins fame) and a band comprising Chris Spedding, Bruce Lynch, Dave Mattacks and Brooker on keyboards. No doubt that it's a fine combination, but the material is slightly weaker...
NME. October 28, 1978:
Album review by Bob Edmands:
JOE COCKER, Luxury You Can Afford (Asylum)
... He even lends meaning to the nonsensical lyrics of A Whiter Shade Of Pale, a song that would previously have seemed impossible to cover successfully ...
End of 1978. Seems the NME simply forgot that there ever was a band called Procol Harum. Not missed, that's for sure!
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