"Can you sell me a nice neat binder for these messages, please? I need to deliver a petition."
The young Ryman's assistant glanced at my print-out of Palers' messages as he slotted them into the folder.
"To Gary Brooker, eh? The bloke from Procol Harum? I used to like him."
"What d'you mean, 'used to'? He's playing here tonight!"
"In Guildford? You're joking!"
"Right in this road ... two minutes' walk away ..."
By the time I was leaving the shop, the salesman was excitedly telephoning a friend ... in the hope of bringing a bunch of Guildfordians to the Civic Hall later that evening. But ... talk about 'prophets being without honour in their own country'! Procoholics had flown in from Sweden, Germany, Holland, Norway, Portugal, even Peru to hear Gary Brooker and friends perform ... yet a young fan working in the very same street as the theatre was unaware of the gig a mere hour before the doors opened. Local radio, local press, internet, word-of-mouth, all had failed to reach him, and possibly many others like him. Maybe the posters should have included the words 'Procol Harum'? You could see a bit of each word in the tee-shirt (a gift from Bert Saraco) that Gary was wearing in the photo, but maybe that wasn't quite enough.
I'd spent a happy afternoon drinking tea in the company of Frans, Hermann and Jens ... relishing their Procol scholarship and their awesome fluency in English ... and occasionally wondering whether the regular Chiddingfolders would look a bit lost in this vasty Civic Hall. But when Jens and I had a quick peep into the theatre, we found Diane Rolph (begetter of the legendary Redhill extravaganza, and now Gary's PA) calmly confident that a good audience would show up. Music blared from the auditorium and we were informed that 'his nibs' was sound-checking. In through the doors, Gary and his band were singing Homburg and doodling with Juicy John Pink ... Jens and I stood silent at the back of a large, empty hall, surprised to see Geoff Whitehorn wielding the guitar, stripy-shirted like a huge bumblebee. Geoff was strangely not included on the posters, nor mentioned in the Press Release, although I was to learn later that he had apparently been invited to play by Gary many weeks before. This was not the last Procol surprise of the evening.
Following the suggestion of 'Beyond the Pale', fans were gathering in the bar of the Jarvis Hotel, which turned out to be improbably close to the Civic. It was a delight to find e-mail personalities suddenly incarnate there: Sam, Axel, Jonas, Peer ... as well as to renew acquaintance with previously-encountered Chiddingfold, Barbican and Redhill veterans such as Michael Ackermann. Numerous photocopies, reviews, and other Harubilia changed hands now, but the conversation was pretty wide-ranging and hilarious, and I fancy I hope! it looked more like a genial bunch of old college friends than a clutch of monomaniac internutters.
It was a moment's misty walk back to the Civic Hall, all angular, concrete and spacious, where Diane's audience-prediction was already coming true. Douglas Adams and Frankie Miller were among many non-local accents represented there, as was Franky Brooker (pictured), who came to the Shine On stand while I was helping John Grayson and Christine. Business was quite brisk, which was just as well considering the gigantic 'cut' required by the Civic's management. Diane quickly got Geoff Whitehorn to autograph (or rather, to emboss!) his solo CDs, and these were rapidly snapped up by his admirers, as were copies of Liquorice John Death's Ain't Nothing To Get Excited About, then hot off the press.
Robbie McIntosh Band
Paul Beavis, drums; Melvin Duffy, pedal steel; Mark Felton, harmonica; Robbie McIntosh (see here) guitar and vocal; Pino Palladino, bass
The support band was not short of celebrities! Its leader was in principle familiar from Within Our House II, but in fact the demurely-suited Aldershot player seemed to have little in common with the stubbled, denim'd extrovert we were to witness tonight. His band was versatile and engaging, with three exciting soloists, not least the admirable Pino Palladino, whose nimble bass, often picked with the thumb, provided a flexible backbone for the all band's work. Melvin Duffy got a multitude of sounds from his pedal steel: offbeat chords like a brass section, creamy textures like an organ; and his unison lead-lines with Robbie McIntosh bore witness to careful preparation.
Many of their offerings were taken ' ... from our fourth album, available at any good filling-station': a typically unassuming remark! Only Mark Felton on harmonica really threw any shapes as he played: 'what a star!' Robbie observed on one occasion. McIntosh himself sang well and played a variety of guitars, his lightning swaps at the ends of numbers sometimes negated by long bursts of tuning, punctuated by his cursing 'these cheap guitars!' and his 'cissy bar', as he called his capo. But he played some excellent bottleneck and I was surprised that his band got quite a cautious reception: my favourites included That Train Don't Stop Here Any More, in which his great break laced many tiny notes together, and a hooligan R&B instrumental piling jazzy inflections over Palladino's walking bass, the whole giving a feeling of perpetual acceleration that was due to the excitement of the soloing rather than to any metronomic anomaly. This was far better music than anyone's entitled to expect from a support band, and it set a high standard for the Brooker fraternity to match. 'Thanks to Gary and Franky for putting this together!' called McIntosh as his band left the stage for the interval.
Gary Brooker and Friends
Dave Bronze, bass / vocal; Gary Brooker, vocal / piano; Andy Fairweather Low, guitar / vocal; Nick Pentelow, saxophones; Josh Phillips, Roland synth; Beverley Skeete, vocal / percussion; Henry Spinetti, drums; featuring Mick Abrahams, guitar and vocal; Paul Carrack, vocal
On stage, as the show resumed, were Gary at his piano stage-right, then Andy Fairweather-Lowe and Geoff Whitehorn, Henry Spinetti at his kit in the centre, Dave Bronze, Josh Phillips on organ and Nick Pentelow on saxophone over to stage-left: they launched straight into a tightly-arranged, jazzy-chorded Let the Good Times Roll as last year, the perfect opener with its injunction to old and young to 'have some fun' and 'spend some cash' complete with sax honking over walking bass. 'One more, one more!' urged Gary as the band completed an exciting instrumental verse.
'Now I'll hand over to one of the greatest men on the planet!' A great cheer went up for Andy Fairweather-Lowe from his own loyal posse of fans. Andy made a fine job of Bright Lights, Big City, and took an extended guitar break: somehow both tight and loose, the band got many people dancing at the front, whereas the Robbie McIntosh band, for all the neatness of their playing, had attracted a respectfully-standing audience.
A rare burst of self-promotion prompted Gary to introduce the next number as 'a song from an extremely old album on sale in the foyer.' Lucille was taken at leisurely pace with a great clanking piano solo, and I was particularly taken with the squalls of 'Hammond' playing from Josh Phillips's Roland VK7, a synth specially designed even down to details of its case-work to counterfeit the B3. Nick Pentelow was less physically demonstrative than 1997's Frank Mead, but just as melodic and exciting in his soloing. 'The great ballad of Lucille,' joked Gary as the song crashed to a close.
Now Beverley Skeete, fine Rhythm Kings vocalist, took the central mike for Mustang Sally, and sounded great; backing vocals were handled by Brooker, Bronze and Whitehorn. However much one might wish to see these three musicians plying their unique profession as Procols, one had to acknowledge that for all of them R&B, lying at the very roots of their musical experience, was possibly a music closer to their hearts.
Gary, Beverley Skeete, Geoff Whitehorn and Andy Fairweather Low
Now the guitarists left the stage for the evening's first genuine ballad, the lovely Calling You (written by Bob Telson in 1988, sung by himself and Jevetta Steele on the soundtrack of Percy Adlon's film Baghdad Café). 'I'm glad I didn't see the film, in case I murder it,' joked Beverley, but she did it superb justice, her warm full voice rising passionately over a simple backing from Gary's Roland RD 600 (layered strings and Fender sound) and a reflective alto solo from Nick. One could see the bespectacled Spinetti grinning up from behind his kit as the bass plumbed some diminished, Procolesque chords in the chorus: Dave Bronze seemed to be in control here, as his hand-signals wound the song down. I really enjoyed this exotic number, despite the gruesome actualities of contemporary Baghdad; but a slow item was obviously not exactly what some of the audience wanted, choosing to make it the occasion for a bar-visit.
But the next number brought them all back! 'Andy's only had about seventeen hits, and they were all in Wales,' jested Brooker, as the opening of Fairweather Low's second solo hit, Wide-Eyed and Legless, drew a cheer from the multitude. 'Laryngitis has got the better of us,' claimed Andy, but luckily he got plenty of vocal support. It was no surprise at Redhill, of course, to see massed Procoholics singing religiously along to such arcane numbers as The Thin End of the Wedge or Piggy Pig Pig Procol Harum fans would sing along to Dead Man's Dream if they got the chance but such is Harum chauvinism that it seemed odd, down at the front, to be surrounded by people who still knew all the words of this ancient pop song (it went top-ten twenty-three years ago) and who copied every nuance of the original Fairweather inflection every time the great chorus came round. They're right, though: it's a lovely song, and its dreamy, swaying warmth was the setting for a terrific Whitehorn solo, exemplifying the restraint that some critics of the 1995 Harum tour inexplicably felt that Geoff's playing lacked.
Gary's larynx had luckily defied any bacterial assault, judging from the ferocious energy he brought to the tongue-twisting Too Much Monkey Business: this featured a characteristic chordy solo from Andy, much fine organing from Josh, an eyes-closed five-string solo from Mr Bronze on the bass, and percussion enhanced by the Brooker maracas
Now the band was cooking, a new ingredient was added in the grizzled form of Mick Abrahams, first of the 'name' guests. Gary had got to know Mick when Procol toured with Blodwyn Pig and then with Jethro Tull: in fact Geoff Whitehorn welcomed Abrahams on stage with a one-legged flute-playing mime. Geoff and Mick struck up an immediate rapport: they have played blues gigs together, as well as performing with Brooker, Phillips, Bronze, and Spinetti at Chris Wright's 30th birthday bash for Chrysalis Records. Broad and bedangled with earrings, Abrahams dwarfed his SG, from which he now wrung a thin, incisive sound on the blues Rock Me Baby: he also handled the gruff vocal very stylishly, and it all went down well with the Blodwyn Pig brigade, who had earlier been selling their idols' wares from a corner of the Shine On foyer-stall.
Procol-fanciers might regret any dilution of the programme with singers other than Brooker, but the constant variety was actually very engaging: furthermore the imported performers helped raise the financial prospects for Cherry Trees, the charity Franky and Gary had decided to support. At this juncture it was announced that the raffle had realized 435 pounds; later I learned that the whole evening had raised a magnificent 3,375 pounds, which Cherry Trees had been thrilled to receive: they don't normally get donations even approaching this size.
The next song was dedicated, by Abrahams, to the late Alexis Korner, 'a big influence on me and on a lot of people on this stage.' He now coaxed a silvery, fluid sound from his guitar, singing I Wonder Who The Next Fool In Line Will Be with soulful conviction. Half-way through this long, slow number I felt the mood in the hall shift: something indefinable had changed, the band was gelling superbly, the audience were all in their hands. A great little piano break, and a burst of unison guitar and scat vocalising from Mick, earned a justified roar of approval.
Gary took the band straight into a brief Blueberry Hill, in which everybody joined immediately, with much good-humoured clapping and jiving. Gary's rolling piano was high in the mix, as was the sax of Nick Pentelow; Mick Abrahams remained on stage as a sideman, contributing, alongside Josh Philips's synths, to a weighty backing sound.
'Turn your tape-recorders on now!' announced Dave Bronze suddenly, and many Procoholics in the hall immediately caught each other's eyes, recalling how Gary had written to BtP (on 10 November) that he would 'do [his] duty and ensure that the ship sails safely and with a fair wind through both charted and uncharted waters. If you come to the concert, I promise to play a Procol song you have never heard before!'
This promise of a new song had both intrigued Palers and filled them with trepidation: how could it be a Procol song if it were not being given its début by Procol Harum? Only, it seemed to me, if the song had actually been played or recorded by them in the past, in which case it might well be something already circulating among enthusiasts, or exhumed by Westside in any event, something Gary had understandably forgotten that fans already knew about.
'I went on the Web a while ago,' he was announcing, going on to explain that he had somehow been 'a nano-second, a pico-second, an atto-second away from disaster.' (I don't think I've ever heard any of those words from a concert platform before!) Lacking a tape-machine, and knowing no shorthand, I didn't manage to write down how this all linked into the new song: but in a moment it was under way, not A Robe of Silk, nor one of the 'chocolate-covered dogshit' lost songs from Something Magic: rather, something aggressive and genuinely new! Nor did I meet a single Harum cognoscento afterwards who claimed to have heard A Real Attitude, or even its title, before.
A simple, well-shaped melody, authoritatively pitched in the higher reaches of Gary's range, rides over angry, primitive chords well-suited to this splenetic tale of disaffection for a high-flying woman:
'She's got friends in high places, her picture's in Vogue
She's seen at the races and walking the dog
She swallows the camera, she follows the press
She covers the angles, she's dressed for success'
Later I mentioned jokingly to Geoff that it had taken me back to the Monkees' I'm Not Your Stepping Stone not just the rising chords and the E-based key, but the whole topic of the 'godfather's baby who gets every wish' and her high-fashion magazines. Geoff replied that that 'My Lord Reid' listens to all sorts of strange things you wouldn't expect at all: a musically very well-educated man.' But the similarity to the Boyce / Hart number is only superficial: whereas the Monkees' song reveals its all inside a minute, Attitude mutates harmonically into what Geoff called 'one of those big-boned, mature Procol rockers', somewhere along a developmental line defined by Still There'll Be More and Butterfly Boys.
It's interesting that this and Into The Flood didn't make the cut for The Prodigal Stranger album: the tape Gary gave the band for guidance before rehearsal was of a nicely-completed Attitude demo, with guitar played by Foreigner's Bob Mayo, a one-time Frampton sideman (incidentally Mayo is the guitarist, not Trower or Stevenson, whom we hear on the rare German Procol single of Into the Flood).
Both Flood and Attitude work well live: I wonder why they were not fully developed for the album? One might speculate that neither started life as a Harum lyric certainly Into The Flood recycles words already set to music by Robin Trower ten years earlier (on 1981's Truce). But A Real Attitude has full Procol credentials, internal rhymes and word-play: 'She kisses the bridegroom and disses the bride', though the (very catchy!) hook, sung in harmony by Brooker and Whitehorn, 'She don't bring me water / she don't bring me food / all that she's got is a real attitude' certainly partakes of the 'reduced-imagery set' of the Prodigal Stranger words in general.
The song has only two verses, but an attractive instrumental section, somewhat reminiscent of the loose piano / organ interplay in Man With a Mission, where sax, organ and piano trade short licks over a bubbling figure on guitar and bass. Henry Spinetti told me that they had played the song 'a couple of times at the end of each rehearsal': Geoff remembered doing it only once, on the Wednesday before the concert. 'Gary just told us, "This is the new Procol song,"' said Henry. I got the impression that everyone was pleased with the way it had come out. 'We got the stops right, which was the main thing,' said the drummer, referring to the repeated rhythmic hiatus that imparts final drama to the piece.
After the concert, fans briefly joined Gary and co backstage, and he confirmed our suspicions that this was a Prodigal outtake. Further detail appeared in his Boxing Day message at 'Beyond the Pale': 'Under great self-induced pressure we managed to play one premier PH song called A Real Attitude. For those interested this was a song from The Prodigal Stranger album that got forgotten about until last week. I hope those that were there enjoyed it as much as myself and the rest of the band.' He concluded by wishing 'Season's greetings and happy Ramadan to y'all at BtP'.
But back to Guildford on that Friday night before Christmas. Gary modestly acknowledged the applause that had greeted the unveiling of the new Procol Harum song how long can it have been since he last had that experience? Niagara time, I would guess as Beverley and Andy returned to the stage. He also explained that limited rehearsal obliged him now and then to give directions to the players in the band. 'No change there!' grinned Dave Bronze. 'What key's this in?' asked Andy. 'Getting technical now!' Bronzie scolded. 'Mere details, Andy,' counselled Brooker, suggesting that all would be well if we '... count to five then scream "Oowww!"' He did just that, and Beverley Skeete and her wonderful falsetto then stormed into soulful action with I Feel Good, its sentiments a perfect antidote to those of the previous number.
This was followed by a beautifully-judged duet between Beverley and Gary: You Got What it Takes was a 1960 hit for the UK's Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, though it was introduced as a song 'made famous by some Americans.' Josh Phillips transferred to another synth to reproduce the cheerful string fills, while twin guitars, muted with the flat of the picking hand, plucked out the proper period arpeggios. Gary, evidently enjoying the whole business enormously, pantomimed an attempt to lower his voice by adjusting his trousers: great fun all round!
'Please welcome Paul Carrack!' called the Commander, and a cheer went up for the ubiquitous Mechanic / Squeeze man, recently heard on the Rhythm Kings' Strutting our Stuff. He launched (having tamed a rogue SLR jack) into How Long Has This Been Going On, his 1974 hit with Ace, which still sounds like a classic of its kind. I remember reading that this was written from the perspective of a musician discovering that a fellow band-member was two-timing with another ensemble, but of course it also 'reads' perfectly as a lament for a crumbling romance: in this respect it has a verbal kinship with certain Procol Harum songs, such as Fires (Which Burnt Brightly), a seeming love-song, which many fans interpret as a covert history of the band. Mick Abrahams was back on stage for this number and, fronting a nine-piece ensemble, Carrack was in great voice: his soul mannerisms went down pretty well, though when he rasped something like 'Tell me, Guildford ... How Long Has This Been Going On?' I did hear some impatient wag near me holler 'Five minutes!'
Geoff Whitehorn, Andy Fairweather Low, Henry Spinetti, Paul Carrack, (Mick Abrahams), Dave Bronze
I could have done with another five minutes of Carrack originals, but had to be content now with High Heeled Sneakers, a great throw-away. Gary left the stage at the start of this and returned with a tambourine, but two shakes later he was back at the piano: meanwhile Beverley was dancing privately in the wings, transported by the beat. The two guitarists' differing approaches could be heard most clearly in the rhythm stops at the end of their solos: Geoff Whitehorn generated a fat-toned roar with his whammy bar, and Mick Abrahams played as many light-toned notes as possible during his. Meanwhile Josh Phillips's organ seethed comfortably alongside the stomping sax riff.
Is there something about Woolly Bully that obliges Mr Brooker to count out the start in a foreign language? Last year it was Portuguese, this year French: maybe this is some sort of multilingual homage to the Pharaohs who recorded it in 1965. This was followed by the sing-along, Li'l Liza Jane, and it was interesting to hear Nick Pentelow repeat Frank Mead's saxophone clip from Dvorak's Humoresque, which I had imagined to be a Chiddingfold one-off. At one point Gary optimistically requested some harmonies from the audience, who sang along beerily over bass and kick drum. 'That's good!' he generously (ex)claimed.
Now an unexpected newcomer took the stage, genially greeting the outgoing Spinetti. 'Big Country!' yelled a Brzezicki fan, his last word deliberately misheard by the mischievous Whitehorn in a manner familiar to viewers of the Brooker-band Rockpalast video, where the same smutty wordplay precedes the SS Blues. The stage cleared somewhat and we were back with five bona Procols, who launched into a moody Homburg, as good as it had been at the sound-check. Josh Phillips, however, did not pour organ-chords over the verses in the manner of Matthew Fisher, though his arabesques during the chorus were very effective: he certainly plays like a true Procol fan. Geoff had adopted a blue Strat for this number, which doesn't really offer much for a guitarist, and I cannot say I specially relish the off-beat chords that he introduces into the second verse. Whalers and Palers in general enjoyed this song, of course, but it was too quiet for some in the room at this juncture.
Not so Conquistador! This was a very nice performance, ripping along with a fine Whitehorn solo, ending again with a nice bit of tremolo in the last few bars. Josh evinced a great approach to this song too, mouthing along to the words as Gary's voice soared into the chorus. Of course this is a Procol staple, but it would be so nice to hear something else from the repertoire in the same up-tempo vein: how long since any of us heard Toujours l'Amour live, for instance? It was nice to hear Mark Brzezicki play the song on stage a first for me though I didn't feel that he excelled Henry Spinetti in any particular way. Perhaps the drummer-exchange was simply to give Henry a rest, or maybe Mark had turned up on spec. and his participation was genuinely impromptu. Or maybe he was in some sense playing for the benefit of Michael Gaiman, promoter of one of Procol Harum's last US tours, whose presence was notable in the hall. 'Can't you get this lot back out on the road?' I asked Gaiman. His reply gave no great grounds for hope: he said that unlike many of his peers Brooker had no expensive drug-habit to fuel, no alimony to pay: 'He's been far too sensible!' was the verdict. I mentioned 'Beyond the Pale', which Mike was already well-aware of, and the fans' petition we were about to present to Maestro Brooker. 'It will all help,' Gaiman yelled over the music.
Later I asked Geoff Whitehorn what lay on the musical horizon for him. He is working on his third solo album and playing blues gigs until Easter with Denny Newman from Brentwood, but has no other major commitments for a while (Paul Rodgers has reformed Bad Company with Simon Kirke, presently working with Gary and Ringo). 'Anyway I'd drop everything to do a new Procol Harum album,' says Geoff. 'As you know it's the band I'm happiest with. Let's hope somebody makes Gary an offer that he can't understand [sic] ... '
After this delightful Procol Harum interlude, Gary concluded the concert by starting up a pounding riff, first in one key, then in another: Henry, Geoff, Andy, Josh and Nick cocked uncertain ears at this, but as soon as it mutated definitively into Whole Lotta Shaking Going On they joined in with a will, truly bringing the title to life. There was a round or so of vintage Brooker piano, and Andy took one of his unique solos, which Geoff stopped playing to watch before taking his own. The band laid back, and twin keyboards suddenly started to quote In the Mood, Gary wiggling from his stool to his feet. This was an exciting rendering, perhaps because it seemed unrehearsed. Afterwards Henry mentioned that Gary '... likes to keep everything pretty loose ...': only really the tops and tails of numbers had been planned.
Gary models his 'Beyond the Pale' teeshirt
Could this really be the end? 'Thank you so much for coming,' shouted Gary as he left the stage. But our applause managed to extract a trio of great encores from these hard-working heroes: How Sweet It Is immediately established a lovely, light soul feel, with all the players contributing to some stirring backing-vocals, as Paul Carrack took the lead, urging us all to join in. As I wondered how many more styles the band had at their immediate fingertips, the delicate voice of Andy Fairweather-Low launched into Goodnight Irene, which found all the Chiddingfolders swaying together while Carrack howled along in coyote fashion, Whitehorn contributed a Hawaiian-style vibrato, and Brooker took the penultimate verse in a comically-straining tenor. It was all enormous fun; I wished I was going to be able to get to the Southend shows that followed, but I had a long-standing commitment to play with a scratch band for a family party, where, surprisingly, we were asked by one of the Friday Guildford audience to play 'That Irene thing from last night', and found there was someone in the room who could get up and sing all the words of all the verses. (We also played an approximation of Homburg: but the whole band knew that one!)
The band went off again, but it was almost a forgone conclusion that they would be back for A Whiter Shade of Pale, which, though offered almost apologetically, was a real highlight: again we had five Procolers (Spinetti quite superb on the drums), Josh frantically trimming his VK7 to get the organ sound he wanted, Bronzie playing eyes-closed, and the crowd transported. Someone shouted 'More!' on cue, and there was near-silence such as no other 'slowie' of the evening had commanded. Into this attentive milieu Nick Pentelow poured a lovely silvery alto solo in a Courtney Pine vein, and the stirring Brooker vocal for the second verse was the icing on a very fine cake.
After the show Jens and I helped dismantle the Shine On stand, and began an interesting chat with Chris Thomas, kindly arranged by Diane: but the theatre management, zealously hoovering every square inch of foyer-carpet, obliged us to cut this short. Palers, Whalers and all had arranged to meet Gary and Franky in the bar of the Jarvis, but when we got there it was already shut: after havering briefly we walked the few paces back to the theatre and presented ourselves at the back door.
Encountering a stranger on the stairs, I muttered something about running a website, in the hope that the words 'Beyond the Pale' would act as some kind of Open Sesame; imagine my surprise when a whole sentence of my 1997 Chiddingfold review was immediately quoted verbatim ('cymbal-splashes scattered reflections over the white bricks behind him like the rippling light on a swimming-pool wall') by lighting-man Neil Jerram, delighted to have had his work commented on in print (Neil later left a message at the BtP guest-book too). Soon we were in the spartan dressing-room where a few understandably tired musicians mingled over plastic cups and lemonade, and Franky Brooker moved everything along with customary businesslike charm.
Gary receives the Palers' petition for Procol Harum to work again in 1999: full text here
'Come along Gazza,' she chid, as the ever-cordial Gary pondered over the wording of his Christmas message to 'Beyond the Pale'. 'I've got no "pen" in me tonight,' he explained, writing out the words of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. In return, Jens and I offered him the Ryman's binder filled with fans' depositions from the website, and he received this with apparent pleasure. But midnight loomed: soon it was safely stowed in a weighty briefcase, and borne out to the Brooker Volvo: now cold air engulfed the faithful as Franky, wrapped in a Peruvian scarf brought by globe-trotting Jose, bade the Whalers goodnight. Gary lingered to relate how Sir Bob Geldof had played Repent Walpurgis on his radio show ... but all too soon the personalised 'FB' number-plate was vanishing into the night ... taking with it the fans' petition for a Procoliferous 1999, and all our chiefest musical hopes.
Fingers crossed, and let's see what happens ...