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September 2001: Procol Radio Marathon from UCLA

Transcript of the complete Gary Brooker interview

Interview Between 'Number Six' and Gary Brooker – Procol Harum Marathon #1 – 23 September 2001; of course we have compressed the sound clips to aid downloading … the original broadcast quality was impeccable.

Part One (mp3) … there's a skip in the clip, but the printed text is complete …

Number Six
Hello, this is Number 6, calling on and we’re going to interrupt here just for a second because we have
Gary Brooker on the line. Gary can you hear me?

Gary Brooker
Uh - very faintly, Number Six, actually.

All right. Let me talk a littler louder. Can you hear me now?

Well, you know – you sound like you’re out there in the ether.

Okay. Well, I just wanted to say how delighted we are that you called in. I’ve been a huge fan of yours and Procol Harum’s for many, many years. And we also want to thank for letting us do this Internet interview. How have you enjoyed your recent tours in Europe and are there any plans to bring Procol Harum to the United States?

Well, there’s no immediate plans although we would like to go over there. We have been playing with Procol Harum quite a bit this year. In fact, we played last weekend in Norway, at the Hell Blues Festival.

Ya, I love the name, there.


Procol Harum in Hell.

Yeah. Send a lot of postcards out from there. Postcards from Hell. But it actually was a great town and a really great festival that the whole town kind of took part in.


And the interesting thing that has happened with Procol Harum this year is that we’re finding that people … actually like us. There’s more people coming to see us now than there has been for a long, long time.

Absolutely, you know and I think that a lot of young people are getting turned on to Procol Harum.

Well I mean a couple of years ago – actually we didn’t play much since about ’96 … and with no disrespect to anybody, you know, the stage light was shining off the bald heads and I was, you know, having to wear sunglasses. But there's people with hair out there these days.

That’s right. Well you know, your music crosses I think all generations and it's been just so wonderful to listen to you. I think one of the interesting things is that the internet has played a large role perhaps in uniting the fans and certainly the Procol Harum website is I think one of the most sophisticated out there. What are your thoughts on this sort of new technology, and Internet, etc?

Well, I wish I was better versed in it. I’m always trying to find our website and I have terrible trouble even starting my little computer up. Then when I do start it up they tell me my software is out of date.

Oh dear.

I kept looking at my computer to get e-mail and there was nothing there beyond ’97 it was. And I suddenly saw this little button that said "get mail." And I pressed that and my computer was busy for about four hours. Because of course you have to press that "get mail" button. Otherwise I thought it was just going to be there like the postman. Not quite as good as the postman. I still enjoy the postman and the handwritten word.

I do too.

I think it has played … I mean we have been playing in Russia, Poland, and Scandinavia this year and I think that a lot of the excitement that has been generated and the knowledge has come about via our website and people just being able to touch base a bit about things. I mean, the odd thing is, is that you know I saw some very early stuff from that website and there were little messages like, "I thought I was the only person out there." And people gradually found other people and Procol Harum - yeah, I’m a big fan. Always have been.

I think there is a huge fan base out there.

Well, yeah …They are out there and they’re out there in America and they’re out there in California.


Of course. I hope we’re all coming out on the webcast here. Is anybody double checking it?

Yes. We have been.

Yeah. Cause I can hear you. You’re like a little Beatrix Potter mouse at the moment. But I’m concentrating.


Part Two (mp3)

Any plans for a new album from Procol Harum?

Well the good news is, is that we do in fact. Just this last couple of weeks, somebody's made an offer, if you like...


… for us, you know, that want to put a new Procol Harum album out.


I’m going to meet those people next week. The guys, you know, that we’ve been playing with, are all up for it, so. And we’ve got lots of ideas. So, I think that we should do one. But I mean let’s have a message on the website. Where are we?

That’s right.

I’m sure people will enjoy it. You know we made a new one in ’91, which I hope you have over in the studio.

Oh yes, we do. We have Prodigal Stranger and we will be playing that later this afternoon.

Prodigal Stranger, yeah. And that was actually, you know, the first album we had done for many, many years and it was quite hard for us to make it because we suddenly thought, well what is Procol Harum? You know. We didn’t even know what we were ourselves; I think. Sort of …some of the elements getting back together. And really we saw that as a bit of a start, if you like - a new era - or a new expanse of thinking of things. But it was a California record company actually, Zoo Records, that ended up putting that out, and they pulled the rug from under us, when we made that, because I don’t think it made as much back as they had put into the video, which we didn’t want done.

I see.

So you get … an accountant's involved … and I think Procol Harum should have actually made… You know, we should have been given two or three albums to like resettle ourselves.

Right, well I thought that (Prodigal Stranger) was a wonderful album and it sounded to me like you sort of updated the sound a little bit for the 90s..

Well yeah. You have to think of these things. We never used to think of them before. But you have to think a little bit … well…hang on…; we’re Procol Harum '90 – '91 you know. What does it mean? But it was always the same criteria were there. Like starting off with a good song. And you know, me singing ’em and playing 'em and all the rest of the guys in it … well as many as we could muster, anyway.

It (the truth won’t fade away) was a great, great song.

Part Three (mp3)


And let me ask you this. Of the Procol Harum catalogue, which are your favorites? I mean if you had to pick a couple of favorites which are your really favorite songs?

Favorite songs?

Yes. Which are your …

Well, you probably just played my favorite. You just played Salty Dog.

Salty Dog. It is a wonderful, wonderful song.

Yeah it seems…It was one of those songs that just tumbled from the sky. That there was no thought in. It just sort of happened with the first chords and then it just flew through. And it was all done within a few minutes. I thought, well there's a song – and that’s very different, that.

And I heard the story that you got the idea for the first few chords from a train whistle. Is that correct?

Well the first chord … Absolutely true. Yeah the first chord was … I was sitting down at a piano somewhere. I think it was in Switzerland and this train went past and made a noise as they do and this happened to be three notes. I thought, "What’s that?. That’s a strange cluster of notes." And I found it on the piano in the same key and everything and, I thought, "Hmmmm…." And I just stabbed away at it and then I made it sound slightly nicer.

It does sound nice.

And that’s the start of Salty Dog. And then it actually flew through, then, and within a few minutes that song was written. And a lot of good songs, hopefully come out quickly. Some of them sometimes you think of more clinically.

Part Four (mp3)

It’s been a difficult two weeks here in America. As I’ve listened to some of your songs, there seems to be an almost eerie relevance to what is happening here in the United States right now. For example, in The Truth Won’t Fade Away "the bombs and buildings are exploding" in Holding On "through shadows cast to a brighter day". What’s the mood in the UK right now?

Well, when those terrible events were happening … I was with some friends. Well, not some friends; some colleagues, musicians. We were rehearsing at my house. And we were rehearsing to play at the memorial service of Douglas Adams, who was a great Procol Harum fan.

And a wonderful novelist, too.

He wrote The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy. And he was actually living in Santa Barbara at the time and he died a few months ago, most tragically at 49. So we were playing at his memorial service this Monday past. We were rehearsing that day. I got the guys and I said, "One of the Towers is alight in New York," and they come in … Dave Gilmour and that were here; Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd, and he said "Jesus, look at that! What a disaster." And then another plane hit into it. And then…the whole world…sort of… you know we didn’t want to watch it actually. We went back to our rehearsing. And we went back to rehearsing Holding On

"And it all suddenly took on a bit of a stronger meaning. But it was very hard to concentrate that day. We kind of got through things pretty quick. Sort of all scuffled off home thinking, "Well I certainly can remember where I was on September 11, 2001."

That’s right. It’s been a horrible tragedy. It has been hard to concentrate. But, your songs give us inspiration.

Well, we hope so. There's no answers in it, obviously, but I think ... I mean, obviously, Keith Reid wrote the lyrics to all of our songs. And I think…you know I don’t know how well he is appreciated in the literary world, but I think his words have really in a few phrases very often summed up the whole idea, which is what good writing is all about.

He is a superb writer.

I’m not talking about "I love you baby. Let’s dance, Let’s go home and do it." (Laughter) We’re talking about "This war we are waging is already lost." or something.

Those are very wise words and when I hear his song about ships running afloat rather than running aground, you sort of think of the sea as almost a metaphor for life and his writing is really superb.

Yes. Well metaphors and opposites … I think opposites as in 'run afloat' instead of 'running aground' … that’s also a way of just making a point more strongly.

That’s right.

Part Five (mp3)


Well, I had a chance to see you live here in Los Angeles several times. I think the last time I saw you was in 1995 at the House of Blues, but I also saw you at the Greek Theatre with Jethro Tull, in the early 90s. And I drive on my way to work every day basically past the Hollywood Bowl, and I know that you played the Bowl there in 1973. And I still have this dream that someday we’ll have Procol Harum back in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Bowl with the LA Philharmonic or something like that. Again, your music has just been an inspiration to us. I think that your music is in our minds and in our souls and is so important to so many of the fans out there. I just can’t thank you enough for just giving us such wonderful music, such excellent music over many years. And we hope that Procol Harum goes on and on and we hope that we continue to hear your wonderful music for years and years to come.

Well thank you very much Number Six.

You’re welcome Number One.

Well you have a good day and I’m going to go and try to find it on my computer now.

Okay. I hope you can. If not, get some help, because it is playing. We do have some people here who’ve heard it and we’re going to keep going for many hours to come today playing the superb music of Procol Harum. And thanks again for calling in, Gary.

Well thank you, UCLA Website, Number One and all these other people that are involved. There are probably about three of you.

That’s And thank you very much.

Okay. You have a nice day.

You too, now.

Bye, bye.

Thank you. Shine on.

Bye bye. Shine on.

Thanks, Bob!

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More about the first UCLA radio marathon


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