Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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And So It Was That Later ...

Tavistock Times Gazette, 19 August 1999


A ticket costing just over 50p from a rock concert in Tavistock Town Hall 32 years ago was sold at a London auction - for 80. Why ? Colin Brent reports

It was a scramble to buy tickets for dances in Tavistock Town Hall back in the 60s. Queues to get in stretched round the building. Bedford Square was packed with teenagers. The Troggs, The Tremeloes, Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers, The Foundations, Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich...the list of performers is like a litany of charting artists from the decade. One of the most memorable of these town hall gigs took place on June 16 1967 and headlined a new band with a strange name: Procol Harum. The performance coincided with their first chart success, the mysterious number one single, A Whiter Shade of Pale.

Now, a ticket from that famous event has been bought by an avid Procol Harum fan who lives in Norway. He paid 80 for it. But this is not so much a dance ticket, more a rare piece of rock memorabilia. The ticket cost 10/6 - no mean sum back in 1967 - and what makes it so special is that its reverse was autographed by the five original members of the band - just days before their line-up changed.

The ticket was bought by fan, Tormod Ringvold, 47, who contacted The Times seeking information about the concert. The paper's files revealed that the concert was organised by Tavistock Football Club's social secretary, electrician Dave Spurrell, who sadly died some years ago.

When it came to booking groups, Dave had a knack Beatles manager Brian Epstein might envy. The Troggs and The Tremeloes were booked just before they hit the big time.

Dave made it a hat-trick by booking Procol Harum when they were virtually unknown. By the time the Tavistock gig was played the group was at number one with A Whiter Shade of Pale. The paper reports that the gig was a great success with 500 youngsters dancing to the Harum. And it states: All the latest fashions were desported. There were mini-skirts, trouser suits and all the latest Carnaby Street creations.

One of the support bands was the local group Blitz. The bass guitarist, Dave Venner, now 52, recalls that the hall had well over 500 people that night.

"I remember it distinctly. The hall was filled to about three times its capacity, there was no room to dance.

We played just before Procol Harum came on and tried to build up an atmosphere for them. They made a quiet and dignified entrance, a very slow and protracted affair. At first I thought it was unprofessional but then they started to play and you could tell that they were really good musicians. When they played A Whiter Shade of Pale I was flabbergasted - the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end because the sound was so similar to the recording.

I remember the vocalist, Gary Brooker, put a wonderful amount into his performance. He was dripping with sweat."

But Dave also remembers Procol Harum were disappointed with one thing - the response of the girls in the audience. "The group were upset that they hadn't been mobbed or had knickers thrown on the stage. We tried to explain that the place was that packed there was no room for anyone to throw underwear at them !"

For Tormod, who lives at Lillehammer in Norway, all this information is gold dust. He said:

"When you told me you had articles I was really thrilled. It was very interesting to see what happened at that time. Procol Harum are my favourite group from the 60s. I can still remember hearing A Whiter Shade of Pale on Radio Luxembourg in May 1967. I have collected their records and been a fan ever since. I have wanted something signed by the original line-up which lasted only for a month. So when I found the signed ticket from Tavistock at a fair in London I had to buy it."

Tormod, who is an auditor, said 80 might seem expensive but similar Beatles memorabilia would be ten times that price. "It's fun to find something from the original time after 30 years."

Tormod said the original line-up's final gig was at Torquay on June 18 1967 so the Tavistock concert was one of the last by the first members. The group now has its own website [sic], Beyond the Pale on www.procolharum.com.

Procol Harum played a 30-year celebration concert at Redhill in Surrey two years ago but with only two of the original band: vocalist and piano player Gary Brooker and organist Matthew Fisher.

Tormod, of course, was there and A Whiter Shade of Pale was among the numbers performed. Tormod said the song originally had four verses but because of its length, only two were recorded. The lyrics were by Keith Reid who was virtually a sixth member of the group.

Those lyrics have puzzled pop fans for decades: (lyrics to the first verse of A Whiter Shade of Pale)

"Even Gary Brooker has never said exactly what the words mean", said Tormod. "They are still a mystery".

And where did the name Procol Harum come from ? No mystery there. "It belonged to a pedigree Persian cat."

Of course it did. [Though some might not agree! Evidence is discussed here]


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