If you happen to read page 153 of Magical Mystery Tours – My life with the Beatles, you will notice how author Tony Bramwell namechecks his former flatmate, now managing Procol Harum. In fact Gary Brooker helped Chris Cooke get his job with Lulu ... that story may be told eventually. Later in the book we find the well-known tale of Paul taking the future Linda McCartney to hear the newly formed Procol Harum. Bramwell grew up with three Beatles before their fame began, and his story is billed as a who's who of pop music in that glittering era.
As he had done with pop management, starting with one group and then moving to two, then seeing the sky as the limit, Brian [Epstein] put on A Smashing Day written by Alan Plater at the Arts Theater, starring Hywel Bennett. It was the only thing he ever directed and he only did so because the assigned director, John Fernald, was taken ill. The play itself consisted of a couple of buskers who told a little story between scenes as a kind of musical thread. Brian told me to go out and find someone to play the buskers. At his suggestion, I came up with two kids from RADA, Robert Powell and Ben Kingsley, the latter of whom played guitar. Nobody could have guessed that many years later a bald version of Ben would win an Oscar for Gandhi and Robert would play Jesus in Lew Grade’s huge TV series, Jesus of Nazareth. After the play we would go across the road to the Pickwick Club, which was owned by Harry Secombe, Lesley Bricusse and Anthony Newley, to listen to the Peddlers, or Paddy, Klaus and Gibson. It was a nice theatrical place to go. Members of our unofficial Glee Club would stay up all night with friends like Peter Noone who was “Herman” of Herman’s Hermits, Chris Cooke, who was Lulu’s roadie, Bob Farmer, editor of Disc Magazine, a whole crowd from New Musical Express – including staff writers Richard Green and Norrie Drummond – and a giggle-gaggle of young female writers from Fab.
These were great times. At dawn, someone would say, “Let’s go down to Brighton for the weekend,” and off we’d go. Herman, who could be seen on TotP looking like the kid next door, singing Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter, was a juicer. He had a great sense of humor and a serious booze problem – which many of us had at the time, though none of us realized this about ourselves. At one time he was almost as big in the States as the Beatles were. He earned a great deal of money and was fairly discreet about it; but the pop star who earned more money than anyone apart from the Beatles was Dave Clark, of the Dave Clark Five. Financially, he was very astute, far smarter than Brian, and without a doubt far smarter than the Beatles, who left it all up to Brian. Dave left it up to no one. He owned everything, from his copyrights to his production company. He paid the band wages and the rest was all his. He was one of the first artists to come up with a lease-tape deal, whereby he fully owned and leased out the product on a one-off basis to his record label. If Brian, who usually tried to think of everything first, had thought of that, the Beatles would have been richer than anyone in the universe. Again!
Clarky’s first major purchase was the entire building in Curzon Street, Mayfair, which contained the Curzon Cinema, a very valuable property. He knocked several flats together into a penthouse duplex and that’s where he still lives, with his original DC5 60s E-type Jaguar in the garage and all the toys that pop stars are supposed to have but rarely do. If there was a button or a switch that operated something automatically, Clarky had it, and what’s more, he knew how to work it. A massive TV screen years before anyone else, noise-activated lights, clap your hands and the curtains closed. His girlfriends were some of the most beautiful girls in town.
Unlike Herman, Dave rarely drank, but when we dropped in he’d fill tumblers to the brim with Scotch or vodka. After that, it was literally a matter of surviving. I’d lie back in this state-of-the-art splendor and contemplate how very different it was from the early days in Liverpool when Clarky, who had been a film extra and stuntsman, used to send Christmas cards to us as the NEMS offices, hoping to get noticed by Brian and signed up.
Linda came to London to take photographs for a book to be entitled, Rock and Other Four-Letter Words, commissioned by Bantam Books. Her modest thousand-dollar advance had largely been used up on travel expenses and film, so Linda was staying with friends she had met in New York, such as the Animals, to save money on hotels. Georgie Fame was doing a gig at the Bag O’Nails when I dropped in with Paul and a small party. Linda was seated at a table some yards away near the front. I could see that someone had taken Paul’s attention. I glanced in the direction he was looking. The girl he was looking at, Linda, wasn’t cast in the usual mold of rock chicks with their generic pert features. She was striking, like a Veronica Lake, with angular features and strawberry-blonde hair, cut to swing over one cheek. When she walked back to go to the ladies’ room, she moved like a forties star, with that kind of graceful stride. Paul “accidentally” stood up as she passed our table, blocking her path.
“Hi, I’m Paul McCartney. How’re you doing?” he said.
Linda didn’t gush, as many girls would have done when confronted by a Beatle. She introduced herself and they stood chatting. She told Paul what she was doing in London. Soon they were flirting and laughing, so it was no surprise when Paul said we were all going on to the Speakeasy to see Procol Harum, a new band – and would Linda like to tag along?
“Sure, love to,” she said. “Let me ask the others.”
Quick off the mark, Paul suggested that Linda travel with us, leaving the Animals to follow in their car. When we got to the Speakeasy we discovered that the obscurely named Procol Harum were in fact [sic] the Paramounts from Southend. Under a new name, cool new outfits and new music, they were tripping the light fandango and doing a sensational job, too. When they hit their stride with A Whiter Shade of Pale, I immediately booked them for the Saville. That night we stayed on at the Speakeasy, but Linda left with the Animals when they went.
Thanks, Jill, for the typing
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Procol connections with the Beatles