Procol Harum

the Pale

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'Procol Harum ... was a great group, man, and you are fabulous'

Gary Brooker in a raucous pub-broadcast

Joan May sends BtP an off-air curiosity in which Gary Brooker and many others perform A Whiter Shade of Pale in a London public house – and it gets broadcast! Joan made an unsuccessful attempt to share this with the group who use Yahoo's Procol Harum forum: let's hope it will entertain the global constituency of PH fans here.

One of the Yahoos had speculated, "I wonder if AWSoP worked in a pub?" to which another correspondent had replied "Oh, I'm sure it did – with everyone in the place rearing back and singing out: "And - so - it - waaaaas. Lay-ay-ay-ay-ayter, as the miller told his tale...." (some contend that this is the 'hook' of the song, of course). This had been followed by "Oh? and how do you know they didn't quietly lean forward and intone, "DAHHHHHHHHHH, DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH-duh-duh-DA-DA-DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH-da-da-DAH-DAH-DA ....."  (this is an attempt to invoke the crowd singing the Hammond melody, in addition to the vocal tune).
The redoubtable Ms May writes to BtP: 'Actually they did just that – in June of 1988 [that's the date on the tape a fan gave me; I don't know how accurate it is] when the Howard Stern Group (with Robin Quivers, Fred Norris, Gary Dell'Abate, maybe others)  broadcast some shows from a London pub. Gary B played a cheesy sounding keyboard and they all sang and shouted along. Through the cacophony, you can still hear Gary's voice sounding beautiful ...'

It seems that Howard Stern is a "shock jock" in America. Fans may be astonished to learn that this performance was ever considered to be of broadcast quality, since Gary Brooker is all-but swamped in places by the spotlight-chasing cacophony of non-musicians. Yet if you click here to play the mp3 you will hear:

This may have been one of those experiences in pubs in the late 80s, Joan May suggests, that Gary mentions when explaining how he was encouraged to reform Procol Harum, as follows:

Why did you reunite for The Prodigal Stranger album?

I'd been playing with other things in the '80s, a bit with Clapton, done some solo albums, and then about '87 I'd been playing with Andy Fairweather-Low and getting back to R&B roots with that band, playing in pubs. But we stopped in about '89 ... going up to Bill Wyman's café where they had an American radio station day. They had live radio going to America ... I met lots of people and they were all talking about the band as if it still existed and with a lot of respect ... DJs are talking as if Procol Harum had just played last night down the road ... asking: "When are we going to see the band again" .... so afterwards I thought, well, people still like us and we haven't played for fifteen years or however long it was. People still respect the band. [read the whole interview here]

A Whiter Shade of Pale  

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