Bill Turner from Toronto
If I may ... having read the page where
fans have been solicited for submissions re BJ : the comment from the fellow
[the late Clyde Johnson] who saw
Procol Harum in Santa Monica in 1977 and refers to BJ's set up on stage reminds
me of their performance below Rick Wakeman in Toronto, Canada, 1975.
By then Wakeman was ponce extraordinaire and my only reason for attending was Procol's warm-up spot. So ridiculous and jealous/self protective was the Yes-man that he afforded Procol about one-seventh of the entire stage space, in front of a massive black curtain that hid his own setup; something revealed to be unnecessarily excessive once it was opened after Procol.
Point is, BJ Wilson was forced up to the very front edge of the stage, with his back to us and facing the band (not bad for my perspective from three rows back, though).
Skill conquers all, of course, and although the prog-heads roundly booed beginning with the emergence of BJ and his mates and during/after the first half-dozen songs, things settled down a touch for a couple, then the most magnificent thing happened: it was Barrie's turn on a solo – something he opted to execute by employing merely two sticks, his snare and his foot pedal.
BJ dazzled and stunned for eight or nine minutes hunched over that singular drum; flailing, laying back, attacking and – best – drilling it with one stick while raising and lowering its pitch by forcefully pressing the other into the skin or relaxing it.
The crowd had now taken notice, but too little appreciation had come too late. Not that it really mattered; the band was allowed but a couple more tunes and then, according to Wakeman's agenda, it was time for Procol to get off the stage.
With the whole of the audience screaming for more, the lights abruptly came up, followed by roadies just as quickly hitting the stage.
Result? PH was thrown off the tour three nights later in Chicago, after their performance there. Why?
I was only slightly stunned to read that the band was being interviewed on a local radio station post-show and had the audacity to admit to the DJ that, contrary to crowd demand there, also (though I can't attest to their reception), Wakeman's crew had killed the power on them, contrary to Procol's willingness to fulfil same.
Upon reaching his hotel and having heard the interview on the way over, Wakeman demanded airtime to denounce PH's version of events and then canned them in retribution. (read Rolling Stone's account of a very similar episode, here)
By the grace of God, three nights and a couple of cities did I see ...
Songs? I agree with all that has been written about BJ here but do give me Bringing Home the Bacon (I have a killer live bootleg version) and Whisky Train, please. If you choose to post my observation, do with it as you will, for BJ and the band mean/meant so much to me. They were to tour southern Ontario, Quebec and a bit of the US the following spring [probably 1977] but the tour was cancelled for lack of interest, though that was not the case here and the other province.
Why I even chose to look up Barrie's name is beyond me and I got a bit emotional reading through some of the material. Too many superior memories of my life from what seems way too long ago. The rest of my human interest story (without meaning to Procol fans at all, unless they live in Toronto) is here. My writing there is very passionate and blunt, as I began once I settled down after being released from custody ...
By the way, I saw Procol’s return in '91 (or '92 if I'm mistaken), sadly without one of my major drum heroes, at Toronto's seventy year-old – and newly-refurbished – Winter Garden theatre. A more perfect, intimate setting could not be had. I nailed the opening song as Shine on Brightly and then it was upwards from there, if possible.
I mist up at the thought ...
More about Procol and Wakeman