Jose Antonio Rios writes: 'This appeared in the Argentinian magazine Pelo ('Hair') in issue 39 (they never indicate the dates but I guess it's March 1972). I do not know if this article was bootlegged from another American or English magazine and I have tried to translate in the best possible way (with my limited ability for the English language) but, anyhow, I hope you will find it interesting.'
Who wants Procol Harum ? Not England, apparently. And not only that the English don't want them but many of them resist to believe that they still exist. Gary Brooker, considered to be the spokesman of PH, drinks a coffee with cognac in the Midland hotel in Birmingham and says, almost without excitement, like if the subject was of no interest for him:
'Here the main interest is to read the Daily Mirror and drink beer'.
But afterwards he explains more clearly this statement.
'The problem with English audiences is that they are not kids like the ones in other countries. In other places kids are kids and what they like most is go to concerts, sing, and hear music. For them, music is the most important thing and that does not happen with English kids. I won't tell you that they don't like it but they are into other things'.
Brooker grins. He is accepting facts and trying to build a line of reasoning but he is not complaining. There are two facts for this case. It's been a long time since Broken Barricades was put out, their last album, and it was not received with much enthusiasm. And, of course, it was a long pause between this album and Live in Edmonton, the last live LP, and the appearance of the single Conquistador. When we ask him if Grand Hotel will change this situation he replies:
'I have no faith at all in people that buy records this time. What you ask me is what we have been asking ourselves since Salty Dog was issued. We thought that we were going to make something here but nothing happened, not with Salty Dog, not with Home, not even with Broken Barricades, or with Edmonton so I have no idea of what prophecy I can make with Grand Hotel.'
Brooker states that despite that they have been an established group for years, the radio stations very seldom broadcast their tunes compared with the huge coverage of material from eg Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin. Talking again about the album Brooker says,
'We worked very hard in making Grand Hotel but it is not something that left us exhausted . We put a lot of ourselves in that record but this is not the only thing we have to say'. Brooker continues saying that this album is a technical improvement in the recording quality. But most important, it is structured over the pianist's compositions and the words of Keith Reid. Both of them have always shown a contrast with the tunes of other members of the band.
'In fact,' explains Gary, 'this is the first of the albums which is composed only with mine and Keith's themes which gives a continuity and from that point of view the album is good. Furthermore, according to what people say, it seems that this is the our first LP that does not have one or two tunes that don't fit with the others and there are no recording failures. And that is what any group just want to achieve, make the best album that have been ever put out. You might not succeed, which is what happens most of the times, but it is what you try to make from the beginning through the end.'
But the new direction settled by the Brooker-Reid team leads the group in to a more conspicuous, almost dictatorial, situation which makes them more dependent than before. Gary agrees:
'Well it was always in that way but 'dependence' is not the word. This time the songs are written by Keith and me, and before it was Robin and Matthew (Fisher) and we never had problems because of that. Each one writes the songs that he wants and when we make the album we include the ones we find more adequate'.
But the apparent indifference shows that Brooker has very defined concepts about the group. If one listens to Live at Edmonton and Grand Hotel as reference, Broken Barricades don't fit at all.
And there are other points to consider, ie that Mick Grabham was selected not only for his ability with the guitar but also for his style. Brooker simply says,
'What we most enjoy of Procol Harum are the moments in which we are using the five instruments in addition to singing. And I think that the same thing happen to those who listen to us. In Broken Barricades we did not use the organ, we got used not to use it and that was the result.'
Grand Hotel is closer to the ideas we have specially to the concept we have about Procol Harum. Of course this does not mean that we have a determined image in mind. It is only a matter of playing the songs together in the best possible manner and to record them properly'.
'But despite of the good critiques that we have received for Grand Hotel I think that the determination of the group is reflected in this record, in the songs and even in the recording. And I think that the people feels the same'