Tony Hall ... an early assessment of AWSoP
Record Mirror, 13 May 1967
This fascinating article – printed beforeA Whiter Shade of Pale hit the charts – came to BtP in two separate, yellowing pieces. The piece appears ingenuously prophetic and admiring about the first Procol single ... but what was the author's actual connection with Procol Harum?
Sounds strange, I know. But believe me, it's true, that a record often sounds much better on the air than on a record player. And if you're a producer, it's absolutely essential that you know how your latest effort will sound on the radio. Because that's how the public will hear it. And if they dig it, they will buy it. And you've got a hit. If they don't, they won't. It's as simple as that.
I only wish it were possible for every producer to have access to experimental airtime. In fact, it'd be great if every reduction or 'mix' could be tried out on the air. To see whether all points are effective. I believe this does happen – up to a point – in certain parts of the States. In California possibly more than anywhere else. The first time I ever heard of it happening here was the week before last. When a certain independent producer persuaded Radio London to let him try out his latest creation on the air. And the station asked for listener reaction.
The producer was Denny Cordell. The record: A Whiter Shade of Pale. The group: Procol Harum (fantastic name!). The label: Deram. Denny was concerned how it would sound on the air. For one thing, the side is 4 minutes 8 seconds long. He showed me the mail Big L programme director Alan Keen had sent him. I found it fascinating.
First, though, let me give you my impressions of the record. I heard it originally at Denny's flat. Found it amongst a big pile of demos. The title and the group name intrigued me. I put it on the player. And play it practically non-stop until two in the morning. It had that absolutely essential 'little bit of magic'. The lead voice is a sort of cross between Stevie Winwood and Percy Sledge. The lyric (by the lead singer who used to be with the very under-rated Paramounts, Gary and group manager Keith Reid) is, for want of a more accurate description, vaguely in the Dylan bag. The general feel of the record is also a little Dylanesque. But the most arresting thing about it is the organ figure. It's loosely based on an adaptation of Bach's Air on a G string. Personally, I find the whole thing completely enthralling. If dee-jays have the courage and patience to plug an over-4 minute side, it could be a world-wide hit. 'Even me mum likes it so it must be good', wrote one enthusiastic listener. I think Big L deserves a bouquet for extending a helping hand to a progressively-minded producer. Only wish every radio station would follow suit.