Procol Harum

the Pale

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Gary Brooker: artist in profile

(Interim report)

Till time permits otherwise please be satisfied with this hasty report

The Barbican thing was extremely enjoyable (there was also a brilliant and extensive Joseph Beuys exhibition there) but I have consequently had very little sleep and will not report properly until later. Gary was on sparkling form and gave the professional comic mind of Douglas Adams a fine run for his money. He ragged and ribbed and mystified him and there was much hilarity. Not everyone liked it, however: the deadpan humour on both sides didn't appeal to David Fogarty, nor to Burt Webb: click to read their comments, and replies by Richard Solly and by Procol's Dave Ball.

Douglas had flown in from LA specially for this event and as a fan knew what to ask: they talked a lot about music and stayed off the much-trod biog stuff to everyone's relief. It was nothing like Parkinson interviewing Sir Paul Macca on the telly the other night: the accent was on informality and Gary was characteristically mystifying on occasions: one can see why professional interviewers have been so rattled by him in the past. Between them Brooker and Adams 'spun off' into many surreal corners.

A piano had been supplied on the whim of the day before, at which Gary played and sang A Salty Dog (including the Swiss loco-hooter story, and a self-mocking smidgeon of Bernstein thrown in), As Strong as Samson, Rum Tale, Too Much Monkey Business, Holding On (with some of the words of Perpetual Motion) and part of The Worm and the Tree (yes really, at Franky's request). These performances were cajoled from him by hyper-fan Adams and were by no means polished: Gary broke off with comic asides, lost his way in songs he's had no call to play for decades, and fumbled genially ... there wasn't an atom of pretence about the whole thing and it would have been impossible to mistake any of it for a prepared recital.

No breathtaking revelations from the interview but much, much fun. Gary also showed a fine compilation of films which I will report post-slumber. Peter Christian took some very nice pix. Organiser John Tolanksi was visibly moved to tears 'by Gary's poetry, genius and innocence' (I think I wrote this down somewhere). He also kindly credited me with putting him in touch with G's office which I had forgotten, it was so long ago, and stood us a fine meal.

Quite a good showing of Palers; Antonio flew in from Novara with presents for all ... thanks, Antonio! Interesting and sensible questions from the audience at the end of the two-hour presentation. Diane and John from 'Shine On' were there, of course .... Wix and Margo from Chiddingfold gigs; Dave Ball was there ... Keith Reid likewise ... had a nice v positive chat with him ... looking well, inevitably foresees more delays on his book.

Supper with Brookers / Adamses afterwards, much good humour and much talk about e-mail and the cyber world. GB's inability to retrieve e-mail is a standing joke. Sends his good wishes to all involved at BtP ... Franky very appreciative too (and the only one to show rock and roll tendencies, lobbing food across restaurant into open mouths).

Nice to spend time with Frans Steensma though it's hard to navigate North London in the wee small hours of six guilders while talking PH at the same time ... a labyrinthine goodbye if ever there was one.

Got home at 4 to a nightingale singing in the road. This is highly unusual in urban Bristol. Good omen perhaps, though it has to be said that GB did not unveil new PH album and tour dates on this particular occasion. He did however help us out with some very nice prizes for the annual BtP Christmas competitions, so there's that to look forward to.

Brooker at the Barbican 1999: index page

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