On another page Procol scholar Frans Steensma reveals the wondrous contents of one of the rarest promotional Procol Harum items; the present page transcribes John Ned Mendelsohn's famous Procol interview, as well as an mp3 file for those who have not heard the band's eccentric performance of Maybe It's Because I'm a Londoner; finally, the promotional Broken Barricades piece, also by Mendelsohn, that was reprinted in the Procol Box.
May 1971, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Interviewer: John Ned Mendelsohn. Source: The album Procol Harum Lives.
Procol Harum (singing)
Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner that I love London town
Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner that I think of her wherever I roam
I get a funny feeling inside of me, just walking up and down
Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner that I love London town.
Jon Ned Mendelsohn
Good evening, this is John Mendelsohn speaking from an intimate recording studio in scenic Minneapolis, Minnesota. I'm with Procol Harum, English rock & roll band with whom I'll be rapping and ranting about success, image and other things that matter.
There's not a real extrovert among us. We're talking about now the side of showbusiness which none of us have any art in ... none of us have that art. It makes up the greater part of the people who had commercial success. It's no good us feeling bitter about it and saying about it: We don't have it but we should still be big. I don't believe that. People get what they want. They demand a certain kind of thing from their idols or their heroes or whatever. And we don't have it. All that we can hope for and we ever hoped for in all these years is to sell a lot of records, really.
We have achieved a great deal of commercial success. Considering. In fact there have been other people in other times that have been of great magnitude as we are and achieved practically nothing. We have achieved a lot of success.
Considering we don't have the other thing, you know.
It seems to me that you almost consciously work against it. You know what I mean. You come over here and you play a string of concerts and people go wild at every concert and then you go home and you stay at home long enough that people forget who you are.
The way we are it's not possible for us to come back before people forget what we did. It's up to somebody else to keep that going.
How you feel about playing here as musicians, as a group?
To achieve artistic success, you come here, you play well. You play the songs you've written and you get the appreciation.
It's tremendously exhilarating to do and yet you do it so little. That's what I'm trying to get at.
We don't just go home. I mean people here can't see what we do when we go home. We don't just go home and not see each other for six months or not doing anything for six months. There's a great deal of preparation. Each time we come here we probably got a new album out, probably play a lot of new songs, probably got a lot of different outlooks about things. We had a lot of rehearsals, a lot of touring in England and Europe and probably a few court cases and things. Most of the year is spent in court cases and rehearsing and records and the other time is spent coming here to play.
We give all our money to the lawyers.
If you could write it all down, from beginning to end, what has happened to this group legally and financially, people would never believe it.
It's not unique.
It's not unique.
It has happened to every group that I could think of.
Possibly the kind of commercial success that people think of as being really the thing to achieve is not something we could do.
The thing about the group that has always been. It was brought together for a specific reason that being to create some great music, something of a higher level that has never been done before by a group, a so-called rock group. The major part of the group that people never realise is that it's like unique in so far as the coming together of sort of different talents.
Keith said something the other night about people reacting negatively about you starting in the same place as the Beatles and Dylan.
I didn't say people reacted negatively. People have never been able to cope with our achievements, but people find it very easy to associate themselves with somebody who starts off and gets better. As they go along. Lots of groups the audiences have grown with the group. We came in at the level that people considered was the level that other people were very succesful achieved and reached. We came in at that level.
After such an incredible successful record as A Whiter Shade Of Pale just like a unique record I know that people just say: They never follow it up. You release a record like Homburg and people just say it's the same as A Whiter Shade Of Pale, which is just incredible.
If we had continued on that level we would have been the biggest group there has ever been. That particular record is probably more important and made more impression on more people than practically any other single record. We just continued doing the same thing with what we were creating. I don't know. I suppose there is an assumption if it wasn't meeting with the same commercial success it wasn't as good.
I think the truth is that the vast majority don't know about Procol Harum anymore.
It's the thing like when we're supposed to have broken up last year when Matthew left. It merited about two lines in Rolling Stone magazine. It was as even as if it was, it was just like Oh that group that done this and that has broken up a million times have finally broken up. That's all it was. They said we had really broken up then. That was the importance it was, for what we have done. That was the importance it meant.
Why is that though?
Why is that? I don't write the papers.
Why is it that, as BJ says, people don't know. People don't know what's going on.
We had very bad management, which has a lot to do with anybody's success. We've had many, many problems to overcome all the time. Which get in the way. Which people are not aware of. Just after we had A Whiter Shade Of Pale out. The business. The way it ended up the record had been made by a load of sessionmen as though we hadn't ever been responsible for it. In fact, we told everybody the truth of it and just said: there was a session drummer on it. But the way it ended up: it was all sessionmen. It was a ghost record. It was though we hadn't done it, really.
Let's talk about the subject of image. You said in the past that you feel uncomfortable about consciously going after an image.
I think we have got an image although it's hard to see. Let's say with a very commercial rock group. It happened to ... for the past three months or something. You would see someone standing in front playing a guitar, hair flowing that is the image of these people. I think our image depends more on a feeling.
Do you feel it's fair that you're associated with a kind of bleak despairing perspective in spite of the fact that several of your songs are humorous or are characterized by out-and-out rock & roll energy?
The music takes on a general outlook and the general outlook is not of humour, is not of happy-go-lucky rock music either. I don't want to make anybody feel bad or anything but the fact remains, when you're playing and you're making records ... We don't do it intentionally but like we have something which other people don't. If we were a happy-go-lucky rock group then it would be along with a few dozen other people. If people think about us, they think of us. They have a feeling about us. They know our feeling. There are a lot of kids in this country that know our images. We didn't create our image. They created it. You could ask one of them what our image was and they can tell you. We don't get a lot of fan letters. But the ones we get they're so genuine and meaningful. If we had only ten a year, it really means something to us. Each time we get one, it's so worth reading. Knowing how somebody feels and what we mean to them. You never have a letter saying: I think you're fab and you're the best guitar player or singer in the world and your group is the greatest. We get outpourings of people's really sort of very inner feelings.
You were saying the other night that should someone come up to you and tell you that a song of yours has changed their life you really would be at loss to react to that or to react it all.
If it's a song they've heard and they've got something from it and they're trying to tell you what they got from it it's very hard to give them something else because you've given it already. You've had a very personal involvement with somebody whom you never met. Cause in creating the song you've exposed yourself very personally, you've given of yourself and you've communicated and you're communicating to people that are strangers. They've got a strong understanding of you. You never met them. You don't know them. You got no conception of who they are or what they are or anything.
Is there anything remaining anybody wanting to say or...
Procol Harum (singing)
We'll meet again, don't know where don't know when
but I know we'll meet again some sunny day.
There you have our problem in a nutshell ...