The first impact of A Whiter Shade Of Pale remains epiphanic: that swirling organ emerging like a headless horseman from the mist, the 16 vestal virgins leaving for the coast ... Gormenghast come to life. And that, for the bulk of British record buyers, was more or less that for Procol Harum.
But, as Claes Johansen reveals in this first-ever biography on the band, there was plenty of life before and after that song. They began as The Paramounts in the bustling British beat scene of the early 60s: strange to think those phantasmagoric early songs (Conquistador, Whiter Shade) were conjured up in Southend.
While Whiter Shade went ballistic, Procol were in disarray - they didn't gig, lost their manager, split and failed to include the hit on the album. Then there were the clothes: bassist David Knights remembers "red vinyl boots, criss-cross lacing all the way down, a pair of velvet purple trousers and a gold blouse".
Whiter Shade remained their milestone, and their millstone. But Procol were always a band of quality, and in Beyond The Pale they finally have the book they deserve.
Mojo uses a picture (in colour) that comes from the same session as the official photos (made in February 1973) for the Grand Hotel press kit and includes Keith Reid in the line-up. The caption reads: Procol Harum: 'Gormenghastly good taste'.
Thanks, Frans (thanks, also, John!)
As his initials might suggest, Patrick Humphries has a long and sympathetic PH track-record: see these articles in particular: