Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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Battle over Whiter Shade of Pale 1m

Southend Echo 14 November 2006


Two former members of Southend band Procol Harum are locked in a courtroom battle over who wrote their most famous hit.

Singer Gary Brooker, 61, and lyricist Keith Reid have always shared the credit for A Whiter Shade of Pale since it was written almost 40 years ago.

But now former organist Matthew Fisher is claiming his contribution was integral to the tune and is due an equal cut of its royalties, valued at 1million.

Yesterday, a courtroom at London's High Court was filled with the song's familiar strains as it was played at the opening of the case.

And more musical interludes were promised with the presence of a Yamaha keyboard, which both Fisher and Brooker are expected to play as part of the proceedings to illustrate their input.

Justice Blackburne, who is presiding over the case, studied music alongside law at university and has said he would also be playing the tune from sheet music, but in the privacy of his own chambers during an adjournment.

Iain Purvis QC, representing Fisher, told the court: "We are dealing with one of the most successful pop songs ever written by British artists.

"In the minds of many it defines the summer of love of 1967. The recording was at No 1 in the hit parade in the UK for five weeks in the summer of that year."

Mr Brooker was inspired to write A Whiter Shade of Pale after hearing Johann Sebastian Bach's Air on a G String on a Hamlet cigar advertisement. Bach's Sleepers Awake is also cited as an influence.

At the heart of the case is the striking organ solo Fisher says he contributed, as well as making changes to the chord sequence and adding a counterpoint to the song's melody.

Mr Fisher is now a computer programmer in Croydon, south London, but Mr Brooker is still touring and recently played a sold-out gig with his former band the Paramounts, at Club Riga, Westcliff.

Mr Brooker, who is strongly contesting the claim, will argue that it is "extraordinary" that Fisher, who left the band in 1969, is bringing the case after nearly 40 years.

Yesterday, Paramounts bandmate Mick Brownlee, who is still in touch with Brooker, told the Echo he was surprised Fisher was bringing the case, but said he could not comment further until after it had finished.

Meanwhile, drummer Mr Brownlee and Mr Brooker are preparing to return to Club Riga for two gigs on December 16 and 17 with their current band No Stiletto Shoes.

Mr Brownlee, of Eastern Road, Rayleigh, is now retired but tours occasionally.

The case continues.
 


More about the AWSoP lawsuit

 

 

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