The most famous Procol Harum fan (and the only one to cross the footlights and perform with the band!) was Douglas Adams, the great British comic writer, technophile and conservationist. 'Beyond the Pale' wholeheartedly recommends Palers to buy MJ Simpson's fine, occasionally controversial, biography of Douglas (not just because we get name-checked!). Click directly on these links to have your copies delivered from Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany or Amazon USA
From ‘Hitchhiker, a biography of Douglas Adams’
by MJ Simpson, Hodder and Stoughton © 2003, pp 270-271
Jane and Douglas also held dinner parties and an annual Christmas carol party, which Douglas took very seriously, in spite of his atheist ideas. Only those friends with good singing voices were invited to the carol parties. But the apotheosis of Douglas' [yes, the editor has opted for this irregular form of the possessive throughout the volume] parties were the Partially Plugged events, at which 200 or more people would cram into Douglas' front room to enjoy a performance by his musician friends. The band included David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Gary Brooker, Robbie McIntosh, Wix and Margo Buchanan; as for the audience …
'That was special,' recalled Buchanan. 'The audience was more famous than the band. I remember one night trying to see a face I didn't recognise in the audience. There was Melvyn Bragg sitting cross-legged next to Salman Rushdie. Paul Allen the Microsoft guy was sitting next to Lenny Henry. Then I saw Angus Deayton passing a bottle of wine to Terry Gilliam who was next to Terry Jones. And right at the back was George Martin. Incredible.'4
'Douglas was the consummate music party host,' says Jody Boyman. 'I attended Partially Plugged 2 and 3 at his home in Islington, and I don't think I've ever seen Douglas more in his element.' 'It reminded me of Victorian musical soirees where people would have their friends round and you'd invite someone to sing some Lieder or something at the piano,' says Eugen Beer.
'I remember one night, I found myself sitting on a windowsill and the window was open. I was looking at the people squatting, cross-legged on the floor in front of me. I suddenly realised that sitting there, grooving in the way that makes people squirm, that sort of horrible, affected, swinging of the head and body and clicking of the fingers - was Salman Rushdie. I suddenly realised I was right in the line of bloody fire! I said to my girlfriend, "I'm not taking a bullet in the back for him.'
Though the parties were packed - who wouldn't want to see a private performance by the combined highlights of Pink Floyd, Procol Harum and Paul McCartney's backing band? - not everyone enjoyed them completely. 'They were very interesting, but in a way they were a bit pretentious,' says Beer. 'It was all fine, but there was a sort of reverence to the whole thing. I think everyone else had a great time but I found them slightly dysfunctional. But the champagne would flow and the food was magnificent, everyone had a jolly good time.'
'Douglas' parties got too grand for me,' admits Terry Jones. 'There was a sense in which Douglas seemed to get stuck in star worship. He seemed to become very impressed with the incredibly famous people he'd got to know - and that was a little disappointing, since it somehow diminished himself.'
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