Procol Harum

the Pale

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'The Bacchanalian destruction of the Fellows’ Garden'

Britain's former Washington Ambassador books some great bands

An anonymous correspondent write to BtP (November 2005) as follows:

Wondered if you might be interested in the following extract from DC Confidential, the memoirs of Britain's former Washington Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer, recently (and controversially) serialised in the [UK] newspapers.

Besides giving Tony Blair a roasting over the Iraq war, and dismissing most of his ministers as pygmies, Meyer finds space for the following unexpected Procol memory: the passage starts as he's discussing his decision to enter the Foreign Office after his days at Peterhouse College, Cambridge:

I took the exams and tests in the spring of 1965. To my astonishment I came top. This more than compensated for having failed to get a first in my final university exams; and for the ignominy of having organized a May Ball that lost a large amount of money and led to the bacchanalian destruction of the Fellows’ Garden.

The experience had almost tempted me to get into the pop-music business. I discovered that I had a nose for talent and an ear for hits. I hired three bands, who at the time were either unknown or at the outer fringes of commercial success.

One was called the JokersWild, a local Cambridge band that played every week at the Victoria Ballroom above the cinema in the market place. Their leader was David Gilmour, who went on to create Pink Floyd.

Then there were the Paramounts, who later morphed into Procol Harum. Their Whiter Shade of Pale was a global hit, which is still widely played today.

I also hired Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band. National fame largely eluded them, but Zoot was huge on the south coast for years.

I do love the idea that Meyer seems to think that he single-handedly discovered Procol. Anyway, thought you might find it mildly diverting.

Many, many thanks for keeping BTP going and encouraging the whole Procol phenomenon. You've helped give me enormous pleasure over the last few years.

More Procol Harum history at BtP

The Paramounts

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