Procol Harum

the Pale

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Why It's Always Better to Have Procol Harum Stuck in Your Head ...

... than Dr Heckle and Mr Jive

Rick Koster, writing at on 26 January 2011

Do you believe anyone thinks about Procol Harum anymore?

I think you should.

And by that I don’t mean turning up the radio when classic rock radio plays Conquistador for the 16 millionth time or A Whiter Shade of Pale for the 27 millionth time. I’m talking about the rest of Procol Harum.

Truth told, I hadn’t thought about the band much, lately, myself — maybe not for several years, back when Ringo Starr brought his then-latest All-Starr Band to Mohegan Sun, and the Harum’s Gary Brooker was onboard. In fact, so were Jack Bruce and Todd Rundgren — which had to be the strongest of Ringo’s myriad lineups. That night, I sorta forgot ol’ Ringo was even there — except for those irritating times when he’d step out front and sing You’re Sixteen or something and ruin an otherwise excellent night that saw Brooker sing Whisky Train and, yes, A Whiter Shade of Pale and Conquistador, Bruce break out White Room and I Feel Free, and Todd perform the entire side one of Utopia.

Okay, Todd didn’t do side one of Utopia, but he did stomp ass with Hammer in My Heart.

Anyway, completely unbidden in the shower this morning, Procol’s Strong as Sampson [sic] spontaneously hopped into my brain. Sensational! A monstrously fine song! Hadn’t thought of it in years! From the Exotic Birds and Fruit album!

And that tune reminded me of other relative obscurities from their archives: New Lamps for Old, and Beyond the Pale.

Listen and agree with me that these are songs that scream for immortality.

By the way, my lovely bride was just complaining to me the other day that, for reasons only the Dark Soul-Thief understands, the Men at Work song called Dr Heckyll and Mr Jive had imbedded itself into her consciousness like an insidious pinworm that winds through one’s intestines in honeycomb fashion.

I’m not sure why some folks, like myself, get songs out of nowhere that are typically great, like a knock at the door from an old friend, and other folks channel really horrible songs like a Ouija Board experiment gone horribly array.

On the other hand, perhaps YOU might react to the sudden appearance in your skull of a Procol Harum song as decidedly not a good thing — and, conversely, maybe you’re delighted when Dr Heckyll and Mr Jive starts going through your head.

Which reminds me: in an interview long ago, Gin Blossoms guitarist Jesse Valenzuela told me that Feliz Navidad goes through his head pretty much continually and had since he was a kid. He has no idea why and had given up fighting it. I still find that melancholy but interesting.

Are there tunes that either bless you or curse you by buzzing around your ears? And don’t say Electric Light Orchestra’s Can’t Get It Out of My Head because I won’t believe you.

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