Ageing rock band Procol Harum only really ever had one song, so it is no
surprise that its members have spent most of the past three years squabbling
over who owns it. But the argument was finally
laid to rest on Friday, when lead singer Gary Brooker won back royalty rights for A Whiter Shade of Pale from organist-turned-computer-programmer Matthew Fisher.
Although Fisher was apparently responsible for the signature organ melody that opens A Whiter Shade of Pale – Procol Harum's 1967 number one hit – on Friday he discovered that he was no longer
entitled to a single penny in backdated royalties. Although Fisher had successfully won his claim to 40% ownership of the song back in 2006, a new ruling from the Court of Appeal quashed his
demands for $2 million in past royalties.
Friday's ruling found that Fisher had been "guilty of excessive and inexcusable
delay" when asserting his original claim in 2005, or 38 years after the song was
released. As a result, although
Fisher is still allowed to claim 40% ownership rights, the computer programmer will have no windfall as a result.
Hopefully, this will draw a line under the battle of the sexagenarian former band-mates. "I would hope that now we can all get on with our lives," said Gary Brooker, who will probably sleep easier
with past royalty earnings now firmly in his back pocket. Also, the former [sic] lead singer of Procol Harum has managed to avoid becoming a computer programmer.
The world of rock is beset with acrimonious legal disputes, as the initial love of making music is quickly replaced with the far more urgent need to keep up mortgage re-payments.
Three members of Eighties fops Spandau Ballet lost their royalty claims against chief songwriter Gary Kemp in the 1990s, leaving them out of pocket and touring under the ridiculous title of
"Hadley, Norman and Keeble, ex-Spandau Ballet."
The Smiths' frontmen Morrissey and Johnny Marr lost a royalty case against drummer Mike Joyce in 1996.
More about the AWSoP lawsuit