Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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From 'Crossroads: the Life and Music of Eric Clapton'

Brooker : part one


From Crossroads The Life and Music of Eric Clapton by Michael Schumacher, NY, Hyperion Books, 1995

Page 212
"He [Clapton] was by no means alone in the pleasure he derived from playing small, unannounced gigs. In the era of big-buck recording and touring, most high-profile artists fantasized about returning to the days of their youth, when expectations weren't as high and they could play for the pure joy of it. Gary Brooker, keyboard player for Procol Harem [sic], was one such musician, and he addressed the issue by opening the Parrot Inn ... Brooker held regular blues jams at the pub and turned the profits over to charity. When Clapton heard about these gigs, he became a regular in the group of musicians calling themselves the Parrot Band. As pleasurable as these informal performances were, they had a practical side as well, leading to professional contacts that spilled over into other projects. Saxophonist Mel Collins, a pub regular, would be invited to play on Clapton's next album, Slowhand, and Brooker would become Clapton's keyboardist within a couple of years ... "

Page 238-39:
" ... His two shows in the Budokan Theater in Tokyo were recorded in their entirety, with the December 3, 1979, performance being issued in May 1980 as Just One Night ... Just One Night revealed Clapton's all-English band to be a talented, technically refined unit, adept at handling the framework of Clapton's music but not especially creative when it came to improvising or breaking new ground. This was all the more evident when Clapton, with Glyn Johns at the production helm, tried to put together his first studio album with the group. By all rights the situation should have been ideal. To beef up his sound and add another creative force to the band, Clapton had invited the prodigiously talented Procol Harem [sic] keyboardist and songwriter Gary Brooker into his group, giving him a two- keyboard configuration similar to what had been successful in The Band.

Still, for reasons no one could quite understand, Clapton and his band couldn't jell in the studio. For a change, Clapton had a wealth of new material to consider, including a number of Brooker originals to complement what Clapton himself had written, but the songs, when recorded, sounded languid even by Clapton's laid-back standards. To a large extent, Clapton had only himself to blame. He was the band's leader, but he was reluctant to push his musicians in the studio. If anything, he needed motivation to rise above his own natural tendencies toward laziness. Yet, as he would later lament, his band took its cues from him, and the more he laid back, the more they followed suit. In all, the group recorded thirteen songs over a two-month period, including numbers with Gary Brooker and Albert Lee on lead vocals, but the album, when played to RSO executives, was rejected outright as being too eclectic. RSO wanted a hit and something with the Clapton stamp on it. As it stood, the proposed album had far too much of Brooker's influence for the record executives' tastes.

The rejection was painful to Clapton, who was already suffering from an extended period of self- doubt. His heavy use of alcohol now a bottle of brandy a day often dumped him in a state of moody introspection, where he would become tearful about what he considered his failures or
inadequacies ... For diversion he attended soccer games or hung out with Gary Brooker and other friends, but the inner demons always managed to return. The rejection of his latest studio effort seemed to confirm his suspicions ...

... Temporary relief arrived from an unexpected source. Tom Dowd, Clapton's former producer and mentor, was presently available to work with Clapton, and he invited Eric and his band to join him for recording sessions at the Compass Point Studios in Nassau. The change of recording venues, along with Dowd's patience and guidance, helped a great deal. ... The resulting album, Another Ticket, was an honest, admirable effort, even if it wasn't another Layla or 461 Ocean Boulevard ... "

[While on the road in the US, Clapton was diagnosed with life threatening ulcers and hospitalized for a month]

" ... Upon his April 17 release from the hospital, he decided to take a brief vacation in Seattle. One of his passions, cultivated as a result of his
friendship with Gary Brooker, was fly fishing, and Clapton reasoned that a restful fishing trip would be good therapy. This might have been true, had his luck been running better, but as it was, he had no sooner set foot in Seattle than he was on his way back to the hospital, this time to recover from injuries sustained in an automobile accident ... During their examination of Clapton, doctors also determined that Eric was suffering from pleurisy, and that one of his lungs was partially closed ... He would be out of circulation for five months.."

[But even without a tour to support it, Another Ticket was a hit especially the single I Can't Stand It. Afterwards, Clapton changed labels, and entered Hazelden Clinic for his alcoholism].

 

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More Clapton and Brooker excerpts


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