James Johnson in the Evening Standard, 8 August 1975
If the current nostalgia boom ever runs short in its search for meaningful kitsch and is reduced to picking up on the flower-power days of the sixties, we would no doubt see a re-release of Procol Harum's record A Whiter Shade of Pale as well as a run on kaftans and items from Indiacraft.
Probably more than any other record this Procol Harum single caught the hazy looniness of the moment when a large section of London's youth were dreaming of San Francisco and experimenting with psychedelia.
At the time Procol Harum fell into place quite well. They dressed in a suitably oriental style, mouthed suitably obscure bon mots and were constantly [sic] photographed in fields presumably to prove they were at one with nature!
It was only recently that pianist Gary Brooker – just out of a Southend group called The Paramounts at that time – said that he didn't know whether San Francisco was on the East or West coast of the United States.
Says Brooker: When people asked me about going to the coast I thought they were talking about Eastbourne.
However, Procol Harum have continued to survive gently ever since, never achieving the same commercial success that accompanied A Whiter Shade of pale though they have continued to play concerts to sizeable and earnest groups of fans in various places around the world.
This week, as if to prove they are as strong as ever, they release their ninth album and appear in a concert on Sunday at the Palladium.
Backbone of the group remains as always lyric-writer Keith Reid and pianist and composer Gary Brooker, a partnership in which they provide the perfect foil for each other. Reid is wordy and theorises at length. Brooker is gruff, the kind of man who can be relied upon to make the correct down-to-earth remark to bring anything into perspective.
Reid still provides all the scholarly words for Brooker's music and travels with the group to every concert despite never appearing on stage.
'I can't conceive of not being with them,' he says. 'It would never work if I was just to write the words and send them to Gary and never show up anywhere.'
Also, perhaps rather surprisingly, he has never had any desire to work in other form [sic] or even for other artists.
'I find writing for Procol Harum hard enough. I never think I want to dash off a few songs and then get down to writing the Great American Novel or something.
'I just always liked music, tried once to write something for it and found I could do it.'
Looking back over the nine years the group has now been together, Reid says, 'We've never felt like breaking up or stopping. We’ve always enjoyed it, and gained satisfaction from it. With A Whiter Shade of Pale we thought it would be a hit but of course we never expected it to be a song that people play at their weddings and remember in ten years' time.'