It all began with a Usenet posting ...
In April 1997, I found a posting in Usenet regarding an upcoming concert by Procol Harum in Redhill, England. I followed the link in the posting to Jens's old 'SoB' website to find out more information about this concert. The more I read, the more excited I got as I realized that one of my favorite bands was going to get together again for just one night.
After a couple days of stewing the idea around in my head, I decided the trip to Redhill might indeed be worthwhile. I called up the Redhill box-office early before work one morning and bought tickets for me and my husband Gary.
I'd never been to the UK before, so I realized the trip to Redhill would give me a perfect excuse to frame a whole summer vacation around a concert. Thanks to Redhill, I spent a week and a half in the UK last July and loved every minute of it!
We arrived at Gatwick airport early on the morning of July 18th. I was so excited during the whole six-hour plane trip, I don't think I slept more than ten minutes. At the airport we flagged a cab and asked the driver to bring us to Lakers Toby, the hotel we'd be staying for the next couple of nights. The forty-something cabbie asked what brought us to the UK and we told him about the Redhill concert. He'd said he'd heard of Procol Harum and remembered AWSoP. He also told us about concerts he'd been to in London when he was younger; he got particularly animated when he described a Jimi Hendrix concert he'd once attended!
Once we got to Lakers Toby, Gary and I left our bags at the front desk as it was too early to check in. Like Jens, we immediately walked down to the Warwick Quadrant to check out the Harlequin. After that, we jumped on a train into London. We sat down across from a youngish London business type who spent the whole trip into town gabbing on his cellular phone! Here we were, totally jet-lagged, in a strange country, listening to this guy yack on and on in a strange accent using totally foreign slang. Hey, I genuinely thought I spoke English until I went to the UK!
When we got into London on Friday, we spent a lot of time walking around, just looking at everything. We even went to Denmark Street, KR's old hangout. I took my first UK picture there, just so I'd remember what it looked like when I got home.
When we got back to Lakers Toby on Friday afternoon, I rang Jens from the front desk. He told me to meet him, and other PH fans, in the Lakers Toby bar at 7 for our planned, pre-concert get together. After a dinner of fish and chips, I met everyone in the bar. A little later in the evening Diane Rolph and John Grayson appeared. I pulled out my camera and took as many pictures of people at this gathering as I could. Later, after I got back home, I had the pictures developed and sent the best ones to Jens so he could post them on his web page. Diane and Gary
The big day
On Saturday, Gary and I woke up around 10 and tried to figure out what we were going to do until the concert began. Since I've always been a big fan of the Who's Quadrophenia, we decided to spend the day in Brighton. After arriving there at noon, we immediately made a beeline down to the beach, did our best 'Dr Jimmy and Mr. Jim' imitations and took a lot of pictures of each other being goofy by the pier. Later, on our way back to the train station, we walked by the Royal Pavilion and saw a rather strange site: a guy sitting on the lawn in front of the pavilion playing very psychedelic music on a sitar!
When we got to the train station, we realized we'd just missed the 3 pm train back to Redhill. This meant that we had to wait until 4 to catch the next one; it also meant that we would miss the reception before the concert as the train wouldn't arrive back in Redhill until close to 5.
When we arrived in Redhill, we raced up to Lakers Toby,
changed our clothes and then ran to the Harlequin Theatre. On the
way up the stairs to the theatre, Gary suddenly grabbed my
camera, thrust it into the air above his head and snapped the
picture of the entrance to the Harlequin that Jens has posted on
his web page and which appears at the beginning of the Procol
Party Souvenir Program.
Once in the theatre, we had just enough time to buy some beers before sitting down to watch the movie that started the event. Later, at the intermission, Gary and I spent a lot of time talking to Leonard Boehm from California and Fritz Friedl from Germany. At one point I paid a visit to the lady's room and when I came back Gary and Fritz told me I had just missed meeting Franky Brooker! Ah well, I wasn't upset for long since I ended up meeting her later in the evening.
The concert itself was excellent, as those who went know! I got particularly blown away when they started into In Held 'Twas In I ... I never expected them to play that! And hanging out in the foyer afterwards talking to all the musicians, getting autographs and taking plenty of pictures was worth it as well! All the band members were so friendly and appreciative that we had arrived from far and wide to watch them play.
Once the concert had ended and we got our share of autographs
in the Harlequin Theatre foyer, a lot of folks ended up going to
the Lakers Toby hotel bar to continue to celebrate. I remember
when Gary and I arrived there, the place was jammed with people
– groups were clustered around Gary Brooker and Chris
Copping, while other fans bunched around Frankie Miller, who was
sitting at a table eating what looked like a full-course meal! (Frankie,
it turns out, stayed in the hotel room next to mine.)
A little later on Tom McCaffrey and Jerry Morrison sat down to talk to Frankie Miller, one of their musical heroes. Tom and Jerry, who hailed from Glasgow, were some of the most intensely funny folks I met at this PH event. Later, after Mr Miller left, Gary and I sat down and shared some beer and off-color jokes with these guys. About mid-conversation, I told them my family background was partly Scottish and that I had a Scottish middle-name.
For the rest of the evening they teased me about my middle name – Hughey (my grandmother's maiden name) and pronounced it 'hoouuugheeey' – so that it sounded, with their strong Scottish accents, as though they were about to upchuck their beers whenever they said it! Jens has a picture of us all having a good time that night posted here on his web page.
The rest of the trip
The next day Gary and I got up late and went into London to check out Camden Lock marketplace. I always wondered why everyone kind of dispersed that Sunday and went their own separate ways ... in hindsight, it would have been nice to hook up with other PH fans and spend the day with them.
During the next week or so I spent in the UK, I went to Stonehenge, up to Stratford-on-Avon to visit Shakespeare's birthplace, to Warwick castle (I had to see a real, honest-to-goodness castle!), down to Bristol to visit an old friend and to Glastonbury, the legendary site of Avalon (I'm heavily into King Arthur Fantasy / Sci-Fi books so I had to check out the Glastonbury Tor!)
But the story doesn't end there ... earlier this year Gary and I went on vacation in California. While there, we visited Leonard Boehm and his wife, Dianna, who treated us to a great dinner at Hula's, an all-you-can-eat Mongolian stir-fry house, and Leonard showed us his great collection of PH video clips.
So, after all these great experiences Gary and I have had in connection with Redhill, we wonder when the band will get together and do it all again! As several fans murmured towards the end of the Redhill event, 'next year in New York City!' As we can see, that didn't happen, but we can always hope that it will in 1999!
Diane Wells, Malden, MA
More Redhill anniversary pieces