'Watch the book - the page is turning - how the tale unfolds'
A great pleasure this – to be asked to review this labour of love by my fellow Scot George Lovell, first released in the summer and now in its second edition, with an added ‘epilogue’ telling the tale of Procol’s London weekend.
It is a joyous read for any Procol Harum fan, as he’s really writing for all of us who have travelled together over the past forty years, albeit separately on our own life journeys.
As well as our nationality, and time spent in Canada (now his home), George Lovell and I have occupied parallel Procol pathways – we were both turned on to the band in 1967, bought the first four albums, then saw the band live for the first time in October 1970.
I actually attended their Jethro Tull date in Dundee (1 October – review here) one day ahead of George in Glasgow. But whereas all I can remember is that the band was a four-piece and they finished with some mean rock'n'roll (and I couldn’t take my eyes off BJ Wilson’s drumming!), George has remembered the set-list and other aspects of that gig. A detailed memory is just one of George’s gifts – he also writes a most engaging narrative.
We follow George’s progress out of adolescence in his own memorable summer of love with a now-lost German girl Marianne, to which the music, particularly A Salty Dog, provided a poignant accompaniment – so full of longing (or Sehnsucht, as she described it to ‘Georgi’). The rest of this first incarnation is just covered by a list of gigs he attended – I’m sure there’s a lot more of George’s life that could have been included.
We resume in 1991 with George now based in Canada and an academic majoring in Central American history and geography – perhaps, by his own admission, inspired by Procol Harum to learn more about the Conquistadores.
George met up with the band during their 1991 North American tour, and was obviously trusted and allowed into the inner circle. He found all the band members relaxed, easy company and they seemed to take to his educated Scottish warmth. George’s thrill at being regarded as a ‘song recognition groupie’ and identified by GB at a gig as a historical source are modestly expressed. We are pleased for him and share, not envy, these precious moments which elevate this book to higher heights.
We hear of big events – the LA thunderstorm, the BB King Club, the Guildford fireworks, Ledreborg. We learn of George’s embryonic singing career at Palers' events – culminating in his Rambling On at Lejre and his camp ‘Odd Couple’ thrusting (with Al) in London which was so enjoyed by Geoff Whitehorn (who often takes off his Jock accent).
George, who acknowledges that he ‘can’t carry a tune in a bucket’, revels in the company of these gifted ‘amateur’ Paler musicians exploring new renditions of the Procol repertoire, particularly those rare occasions when they are joined by the real band.
The narrative is full of references to Keith Reid’s lyrics, but these enhance our pleasure in reading the book. They are never corny plagiarism, but appear clever and appropriate in every circumstance. Maybe this is one reason why Keith was caught chuckling at it. Just like when Gary is described as enjoying his music in an alternate Palers' Band setting.
All we need now of course is further Procol Harum activity for George to document, and for that other well-travelled Paler 'One-Eye' to commit his unrivalled travels to print.
As someone wrote, many years ago – Write it down, it might be read. Nothing’s better left unsaid . . .
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