Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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Procol Harum's Blues Guitarist

'MC' in a 1967 publication, title unknown


We are possibly the most honest pop group on the scene

Robbie Trower, a blues guitarist of some repute, became one of the Procol Harum fairly recently. Before he actually joined he couldn't imagine himself fitting in with the group, because he wanted to play the same style he had always played, and couldn't picture their "classical" image being changed.

But what surprised Robbie was the ease with which he slotted in. He told me: "Gary Brooker asked me if I'd like to audition. I said OK primarily because I needed a new group but also because I felt they might have something new to offer, musically. I'd heard A Whiter Shade of Pale, liked it, but felt they really didn't need a blues guitarist. Still, Gary knew my style from the days when we'd played together in the Paramounts, and I told him I hadn't changed ... and didn't expect to.

"But the next thing I knew was that I had been accepted ... for my blues playing. For the first few weeks I became absorbed with the immense power of their music. Their first record didn't really show the true colours of Procol Harum. There's a continual musical development, with everybody improving all the time. And I would like to say that we are possibly the most honest pop group on the scene. I believe this because the music is our own, the lyrics explain actual events, and that [sic] the sound is completely original.

"The only way to show this is on personal appearances. We have a tour of ballrooms lined up in this country. It's going to be difficult to get across to a majority of the audience ... the people who come to see us because of our records. They're going to be surprised. I wonder if I can quote you something from an American magazine? Their writer said we had a sound that was a cross between Ray Charles, Earl Flatt and Lester Scruggs, and Jimi Hendrix. That's the sound they can expect".

Procol Harum did a tour of the States recently, to judge audience reaction on a large scale. And Robbie was pleased: "It went well. The tour was a testing-ground for us ... we wanted to suss out the type of people who would see us, and to hear their views on our music. But there wasn't any hysteria. Just kids who came to listen. We played in most of the major cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Chicago. The American tour was the first time we had made a string of personal appearances, but we intend to be seen regularly [sic] in England."

The new Procol Harum LP, however. is not representative of their current stage sound. Robbie says: 'I feel we have moved on. The music we are playing is much more powerful and shows much more confidence. Anyway, the group can only sound as good as the material it plays, and this is where we have an advantage over many other groups. Keith can read us some lyrics, and the effect is incredible. We want to record them straight away. But added to Gary's music, they take on a different dimension. And when they're finally recorded, the result is something we couldn't have expected from the first hearing.'

Does Robbie feel this musical involvement has helped him as a musician? "Most definitely, yes. Although, as I explained previously, my style hasn't changed. The whole group needs to improve, for its own satisfaction. With pop music continually moving forward, we must move with it. And I hope we are adding something new to the scene.

'But I will say one thing. I'm glad success, for me anyway, has come with Procol Harum, because the Paramounts certainly didn't deserve it."


Robin Trower's page at BtP More PH history in print

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