Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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AWSoP in Organ Literature

by the inimitable Joan May!


There's an interesting new book published by Keyboard Magazine not Keyboard Review called The Hammond Organ, Beauty in the B, by Associate Editor Mark Vail (Miller Freeman Books, San Francisco, 1997). Vail is a professional keyboard player with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Electronic Music and Recording Media. [See here]

AWSoP is mentioned right at the start of the book the first song mentioned :-)! The introduction begins (page 5):

'Ahhh, that sound. That glorious sound. Staccato attacks stabbing through the horn section. Sorrowful wailings that breath [sic] against the beat. Electrifying glissandos pumping up the blood pressure, ushering in the climax. Those accidental notes and the familiar held note with descending bass and flavorful backbeat traps that lead into the chilling Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum ...'

Then on page 216:

'One of my all-time favorite B3 [sic] songs is Procol Harum's A Whiter Shade of Pale, by Keith Reid and Garry [sic] Brooker (ASCAP). I found it on the Big Chill Soundtrack CD, vol 1 (Motown).'

Fortunately, Matthew Fisher is mentioned elsewhere in the book in a discussion of harmonic percussion on the 'B3' (page 24):

'Matthew Fischer [sic] of Procol Harum used the second harmonic ...'

In the chapter on 'Hammond Licks You Must Know' (page173) example #1 is a 2-measure chord progression and descending bass line a bit reminiscent of Air On A G String, introduced as follows:

'Example 1 sounds best when played in a large cathedral, preferably the same one used by Procol Harum.'

He meant that as a joke, right? The written music has Leslie notations and the caption: 'Play majestically and set your reverb to the Stone Church preset.'

I thought the above might not be literally true, but rather another appreciative quip about Matthew's Celestial Sound! Larry Pennisi just emailed me and confirmed that as follows: 'There is no such setting as Stone Church ... as a matter of fact, B3s and C3s do not have settings for reverb at all. The smaller house organs do though and I believe that the M102 has them. Thanks, Larry! :-)

Mark Vail obviously admires AWSoP tremendously, but judging from his descriptions, he might not realize that the sole creator of the Hammond Organ melody in the song is Matthew Fisher. And he did get a few spellings wrong, including misspelling 'M102' as 'B3' <g>, confirming Matthew's statement on his Web Page about how common that mistake is.

Keyboard Magazine has a Web Page where Mark Vail's e-mail address is listed as mvail@mfi.com; I'll probably be writing to Mark and would urge others to do the same.


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