Procol Harum

the Pale

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home

No Stiletto Shoes

Club Riga, Southend 19 and 20 December 1998


Usually Stansted airport is an excellent choice if you are going to London. It's smaller and less busy compared to Heathrow and Gatwick. But when Guildford is your destination, Gatwick is a much better option. But I was using a frequent-flyer bonus tour, so the airline was selected not because they used the best airport in London for my mission, but because I needed free tickets. So that's why I found myself spending three hours in trains and subways, a somewhat tiresome experience involving three changes. But it was easy to find my way, thanks to the Internet railway planner.

I was staying at the Carlton Hotel in Guildford. The first option, Jarvis, was already full when I called them. I wish I had negotiated a bonus deal with the hotels I recommended on BtP. Carlton and Jarvis were full of Palers and somebody even had to stay at other hotels.

As soon as I called at the reception of Carlton, I was told I was expected. Jose had already been asking for me several times. And as I entered the street to find Jose at Jarvis, I ran into Frans and Hermann. Guildford was full of Palers!

I was amazed that the hotels were so close to the Guildford Civic Centre, the venue for tonight's concert. From the maps on the net, I didn't expect to have a long walk, but getting to the theatre was more or less a matter of crossing the street. Excellent!

We had arranged to meet all the Palers at the Jarvis hotel. But before entering the pub, Roland and I decided to have a look at the Civic Hall. Inside we were delighted to meet Diane Rolph. But suddenly we heard music from the stage, and we decided to gatecrash. The doors were open, and suddenly we found ourselves facing Gary and co having their soundcheck. We could not stay long: the Palers were waiting at the Jarvis pub. But we did get to hear two Procol Harum songs played on the stage: Homburg and Juicy John Pink I cannot understand why Pink was not played later that evening, it sounded great.

Diane promised to give Gary the BtP T-shirt: she did, and Gary was wearing it when we came back for the concert later that evening. (This photo was taken backstage after the concert) 


We left the band, and joined the Palers gathering at the pub. It was great to see you all!

The Sports Pub at Jarvis Hotel


The Guildford concert will be covered on this website by Roland, so I will not cover this. I will only say that it was nice to run into several persons known from this website, Palers and musicians. Funky Paul had brought his son, Chris Thomas was there and agreed to do an interview for BtP. I saw Douglas Adams, but didn't get to talk to him this time. Frankie Miller was there, wheeled around by an old friend from Redhill, Tom. John Grayson and his wife Christine were busy selling Shine On merchandise, including the newly-released Liquorice John Death CD.

The band onstage at Guildford

Mark Brzezicki sat in on drums for two Procol Harum songs

It was arranged that Gary and his wife Franky were to join us at the Jarvis after the concert. But as the bar for some strange reason was closed, this could not be. So we decided to join the backstage party, and managed to get a chat with most of tonight's musicians. I have said it before, but I will repeat it. Procol Harum must be one of the most friendly bands. The musicians are friendly with their fans, and the fans share friendship with each other.

Outside the Carlton hotel. 
From left: Frans Steensma, Roland Clare and Hermann Braunschmidt

Saturday was a case of more train swapping, and early in the afternoon I was in Southend. The Tower hotel was selected in Southend, and when I arrived the pub was already occupied by some Palers. I joined them for beers, and during the next hours The Tower Hotel pub was filled with people sharing the fascination for the music of an old Southend-originated band: Procol Harum.

"I would like to thank those of you coming a rather long way, Jose from Peru and Jens from Norway," Gary Brooker said as the concert was ending. I wish my friends had been there to hear it. They will probably never believe Gary mentioned my name from the stage. "Are there any from Russia?" he continued. I don't think there were, but he had a really international audience that night. Most of the Palers from the Guildford concert the previous night had regrouped to Southend. So the audience included people from Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Portugal, Scotland as well as Norway and Peru. I wonder if Club Riga had ever before seen such an international audience?

Club Riga was a small, local music pub: a floor said to hold about 150 persons, a few chairs and a bar. And a small stage, that could barely hold the five Shoes and their instruments. But apparently the club had a good management: the posters on the walls told the tale of a club that had hosted many fine musicians. 

Only the day before we came, Be Sharp had played Club Riga. Be Sharp is a band that should be known to the Palers, as one of its members has a definite Procol Harum connection.

But tonight Gary Brooker and No Stiletto Shoes was the main attraction. Upon entering the club I was greeted by Paul, the man that had sold me the tickets through the telephone a month earlier. He seemed very happy to have such an international audience.

Gary Brooker was brought up in Southend, and it's said that his mother still lives there. And before the concert, a video was shown. A video telling the story of the Southend rock scene. The opening picture was of Gary, and the music was A Whiter Shade of Pale. The video included several interviews with Southend musicians who have earned international fame. I wish the had that video for sale, but when I asked him, Paul could not tell if and where it could be bought. He promised to try to find out.

The support act was a local guitar-player whose name was  Craig, very technically skilled. When the main attraction was about to enter the stage, we decided to find our places close to the scene, and ended up standing only centimetres from the musicians.

Gary Brooker, Andy Fairweather-Low and Dave Bronze


Nick Pentelow

Henry Spinetti working hard on his drums

The support act, Craig, joined the band for the finale

Tonight Gary had not invited any special guests, only the five Shoes were onstage. Some of the songs were repeats from Guildford, some were not. When we spoke to the stage technicians in the hotel bar later that night they even told us that two or three of the songs were unrehearsed. I don't think any of us could hear which. The band consisted of such skilled musicians, and played so tightly, that it was impossible to spot the unrehearsed songs.

No doubt, tonight was better than yesterday's concert at Guildford. Like Henry Spinetti told me afterwards: "Tonight was more fun." You could really hear the band was enjoying themselves: and so were we.

Henry Spinetti signs my poster

After the concert, it was obvious that Gary and co were among friends. The Paramounts used to play the clubs in Southend. Gary's father was a musician at a local hotel, and Gary himself had done his first stage performance a few blocks from Club Riga. So Gary walked around, greeting old friends and apparently having a good time. One didn't want to intrude, it was obvious he was talking about old times with long-lost friends. But The Commander was nice as always, talking to all the Palers, And shaking hands and wishing a Merry Christmas to those of us that not planning to return for Sunday's concert. Dave and Louise were so delighted by tonight's performance that they decided to stay another night and promptly bought tickets for tomorrow's concert.

Set-list, Saturday
Let the Good Times Roll
High School Confidential
Bright Lights, Big City  (AFL)
(If Paradise is) Half as Nice (AFL)
It Should Have Been Me
Too Much Monkey Business
Rock Me Baby
Keep A Knocking (with false start)

--- break ---

Stagger Lee
Blueberry Hill
Wide Eyed and Legless (AFL)
Fresh Fruit (snippet on piano)
Happy Birthday to Angela (Gary's sister)
Ubangi Stomp  (thanks Peter Christian)
High-heeled Sneakers
Don´t Ha Ha
Irene Goodnight (AFL)
Elisa Jane
Woolly Bully
You Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover

A Whiter Shade of Pale (only Gary and his piano)
Little Queenie  (with Craig)

We had a nice chat with all the Shoes, before we relocated to the Tower Hotel pub. This time we were joined by one or two of the locals, and I really enjoyed listening to their eyewitness stories from the sixties.

"It's such a waste," somebody had said at Guildford. "We have here tonight a full Procol Harum line-up, and they use most of the time playing cover versions of old American hits. Although they are very good, lots of bands play this music. Why don't they play more Procol Harum music? Nobody else can do that." A valid point. But in Southend it became clear that although the Palers came to hear the Procol Harum side of it, many of the locals had listened to the Paramounts playing these old songs in the Southend music clubs, and were more happy with this than the stranger Procol Harum their 'heroes' later turned into.

The next morning most of the Palers left, and only a few of us stayed for Sunday's concert. The day was spent as tourists. Southend boasts the world's longest pleasure pier, and a train brought us the almost 2,000 metres to the end.

"Tonight is going to better," Dave Bronze answered when I told him how I enjoyed Saturday's concert. Whether it was, I can hardly say. Some of the set-list was changed, or maybe Gary simply decided what to play as the evening evolved.
"We are very close to the sea," Gary said, "If you listen carefully you can almost hear the seagulls." And so we were treated to a beautiful performance of A Salty Dog. It's difficult to understand why the band decided not to play this song on the two previous nights.

It was rumoured that Matthew Fisher would turn up and join the Shoes onstage. Alas this did not happen. Strange how rumours can spread. I wonder if Matthew was scheduled to play this night?

"Actually, it's such a silly name. But it wasn't without a reason," Gary said, about to tell us how No Stiletto Shoes got their name. "We were playing this village hall in Surrey. And the hall superintendent came up to us a couple of days before and said: 'You know we don't allow stiletto shoes in there here.' I said 'Oh?' and he said, 'No it ruins the floor.' So I said, 'What can you do about it?' And he said, 'We ought to put it on the ticket.' So we had these home-made tickets with 8 p.m Civic Hall, No Stiletto Shoes People thought that was our name. And we didn't change it."

Set-list, Sunday
Let the Good Times Roll
Rock And Roll Music
Bright Lights, Big City  (AFL)
Let´s work together
(If Paradise is) Half as Nice (AFL)
Blueberry Hill
Too Much Monkey Business
Good Golly Miss Molly

----- Break ----

Rock me Baby
Wide Eyed and Legless (AFL)
A Salty Dog
Poison Ivy
Old Black Joe
Santa Claus is Back In Town
Woolly Bully
Don´t Ha Ha
Irene Goodnight (AFL)
Eliza Jane

Gary tells the story behind the name 'No Stiletto Shoes'
A Whiter Shade of Pale
Little Queenie

The next morning it was time for another encounter with British Rail. But no need to take the tube this time: both the Stansted express and the trains from Southend call at Liverpool Street Station. Relaxing on the 'plane, I was thinking of what an exciting weekend it had been. How nice it had been to meet all the Palers, talk with the musicians and listen to the music.

We had been treated with a Procol Harum song never been performed before: A Real Attitude. Could this be the first sign of a much-wanted re-birth of Procol Harum? Right now we don't know. But one of the main subjects during late-night conversations this weekend, in Guildford and Southend, had been: we must see a new CD and tour from Procol Harum in 1999. This will be our New Year's Wish. We do hope it will be the Commander's new-year resolution.

Guildford main page

The Shoes play Southend 2000


PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home