Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol unmoved by new hit success

Says Norrie Drummond, NME 7 Oct, 1967


There are times in everyone's life when one feels it would be much nicer to be someone else. For instance when you're sitting in a dentist's chair do you ever imagine lying on a hot, sandy beach? Or if you've had a day when everything's gone wrong, don't you wish you'd stayed in bed?

I went through this experience the other day on my first meeting with Procol Harum.

I was ushered into their presence in a large office overlooking Oxford Street. The five of them - Gary Brooker, Matthew Fisher, Robin Trower, Dave Knights and BJ Wilson - sat in a circle round the table. With them was songwriter Keith Reid.

The introductions were made and I was informed that the group would be visiting America soon, and that they would also be making a concert tour of Britain.

And so the interview began. What would they be doing on the tour? I enquired.

'We'll be playing,' replied Gary, peering at me through dark glasses.

'Yes, but wouldn't they have something different to offer their audience?'

'We'll just be giving concerts,' said Keith Reid, peering at me over dark glasses. 'A concert's a concert.'

'Do you mean will we have flicking lights and lots of gimmicks, that sort of thing?' enquired Robby helpfully.

'Yes, exactly,' I replied.

'No,' said Robby, 'we'll have nothing like that.'

Who would be on the tour with them, I tried.

'I don't know,' said Gary.

I decided to talk to Keith and Gary about Homburg. What were the lyrics about? I asked.

'That's up to you. They're about what you think they are or what he thinks they are or they think they are. It's up to the individual.'

Everyone nodded solemnly in agreement. 'If you do something yourself you don't know why you do it but the other person does. Once it's done you know you've done it but the other person knows why!'

If I had left then I wonder if they'd have known why! Anyway I persevered. But what was he, himself, Keith Reid - and not the 'other person' - thinking of when he wrote the words of Homburg.

'It was an idea.'

Gary leaned forward. 'You see, we have good ideas and bad ideas.'

And what was Homburg? Good or bad?

'Oh, it was good.'

Robby suddenly perked up. 'We believe in our music. We all believe in the same thing. We are a unit and music IS our only belief.'

Didn't any of them have any beliefs as individual human beings? No response to that.

'You see,' began Gary slowly, 'we want to give the people who come to see us something great. We don't want people after they've seen us just to say 'they were very good' or 'they were great.' We want them to leave the theatre with a warm feeling down here.' He clutched at something in the region of his heart.

'We want people to have an awareness,' added Keith. 'They might regard us as the pinhead in a mighty object.'

Gary interrupted. 'We give audiences what we feel. We have never compromised with our music - anything we've done we've had absolute faith in.'

Procol Harum and Keith Reid are, I believe, sincere young men striving to widen the horizons of pop music but I question the wisdom of their negative attitude.

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