For a while, though, it did seem that we might really have heard the last of the band. Gary Brooker's injury, when he was assaulted on his 67th birthday by a would-be thief in Cape Town, sounded catastrophic. Procol were very disappointed to have to cancel the two South African gigs – they had not pulled out of a show since 1974 – and it was by a triumph of medical care and professional determination that the band was able to set out for Denmark, and then for over two-dozen very successful gigs in the USA, so soon after Gary's discharge from hospital. The band had a very good experience touring with Yes, and – not surprisingly – got an excellent reception from the other band’s followers..
For those of us who were unable to witness these shows, the third live album from the current line-up – MMX – was a very nice compensation. Produced by no less a figure than Dennis Weinreich, it sounds predictably fantastic and contains three hitherto-unreleased Brooker/Reid songs and some fine, extended soloing on a selection of the more canonical items.
In late summer the band was briefly in the studio – Abbey Road, in fact – recording a new version of A Whiter Shade of Pale (three verses, plus guitar solo!) with one of their highest-profile musician-fans, Yumi Matsutoya, sharing the vocal. Delightfully, the album containing this unusual item went to No 1 in Japan while Procol were playing over there in late November/December. As well as sharing the stage with Yumi they played four solo sets in two cities. Judging by conversational report and by the hundreds of vivid personal photographs seen by their fans on Facebook, they had an excellent time onstage and off, and enjoyed warm relations with their musician-host(ess). They also got to drink in a Tokyo bar whose sound-system played Procol music from all eras, and where their pictures and memorabilia were posted on the walls! Cover versions of AWSoP were also to be heard. Some excellent merchandise from the tour was kindly signed by the band and donated as prizes for fans to win in the ‘Beyond the Pale’ Christmas competition – many thanks to manager Chris Cooke for organising these prizes, and so much more.
Another competition, earlier in the year,
introduced fans to the new solo album from Procol guitarist Dave
Ball: Don't Forget Your Alligator was full of good tunes,
excellent guitar-playing and characteristic Ball bonhomie:
thoroughly recommended, as is Dave’s
downloadable autobiography, Half Hippie
There was also intense competition, during the year, to own various stage-items and costumes put up for auction at eBay by the website on behalf of Gary Brooker. Proceeds from these sales have been shared between the BJ Wilson fund, through which Gary is able to help the descendants of the great percussionist, and ‘Beyond the Pale’ itself. This has been a very great help in the funding of our forthcoming convention (more details below) and there is more in the pipeline.
The website itself has now completed a full year's-worth of our new-style compiled updates, which we publish every Wednesday night. The statistics show that this is every bit as popular as the former diet of daily bulletins, with which we started in 1997. We now have about 90,000 monthly visitors typically viewing about 500,000 pages of Procol Harum-related material. About a hundred different nationalities read our pages; 3,193 fans read our opt-in occasional newsletter, and 1,738 members have signed up to our lively Procol Facebook group.
Throughout the autumn this Facebook group
carried ‘constant reminders’ of a very welcome addition to the
published lore of Procol Harum, a biography –
The Ghosts of A
Whiter Shade of Pale – by long-standing fan Henry Scott-Irvine.
Drawing on interviews with large numbers of musicians who have
played in Procol Harum, and with contributions from Jimmy Page,
Martin Scorsese, Sir Alan Parker and Sebastian Faulks among many
others, the book is beautifully produced and has been
enthusiastically reviewed. Henry's signed copies have sold well all
over the world
from the ‘Beyond the Pale’ online shop, and regular
copies are available from the usual outlets: see
Gary Brooker and Geoff Whitehorn were among the 200 or so who enjoyed a choice selection of Procol Harum film clips hosted by Henry and Dick Fiddy at the British Film Institute in London in November … the closest we have got to a live UK sighting of the band in quite a while! (GB and EC are sound-checking for tonight’s unannounced gig as we write these lines, but that’s another story).
European fans are of course looking forward to the five orchestral/choral gigs in Denmark – the world's prime Procol hotspot, it seems – in March 2013.
And fans from all over the world – USA, Denmark, France, the UK, Italy, Austria, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland, Poland, Spain – will be converging on Wuppertal, Germany, in the early days of April for Procol Harum's two sold-out rock-meets-classic concerts there. Though only a modest-sized post-industrial town, Wuppertal has an extraordinarily vibrant cultural life: a world-class concert-hall, a significant reputation in the fine arts and an internationally-regarded dance tradition. Artists of all kinds are contributing their skills and reputation to what promises to be an outstanding weekend of music. visit the picture-page here.
‘Beyond the Pale’
is collaborating with ‘Whaling Stories’, the Gary Brooker Fan Club (which is
based in Wuppertal), to host a grand international convention over two days; you
can still book tickets for three
events: the post-show buffet, the afternoon party (new
merchandise, strange rarities, live music from the
Palers’ Band, food and drink,
mystery guest, European book-launch, and much more), and the end-of-tour
party in the evening. As ever, Procol Harum themselves head the guest-list!
We look forward to seeing you there, and, whether you can join us or not, we wish everyone who reads these pages a very safe and happy 2013.
Jens + Roland
'Beyond the Pale'
Procol dates in 2013 | Wuppertal booking-index