Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum's 30th Birthday Party

Impressions from the Harlequin Lobby

Leonard Boehm

I saw an elderly woman with white hair sitting at a table. Pat Keating (PHAST) was speaking to her. He introduced me telling me that this is Matthew Fisher's mother. I told her that her son's music had made a difference in my life and I was grateful. I mentioned that my mother used to hear Procol Harum coming from my bedroom and commented that it sounded like they were practising because of the run of the scale. She laughed at that and told me a little story about Matthew.

She was anxious, as all mothers are, to see their sons become self sufficient. She said she was nagging Matthew to 'get a job' about the time he joined up with Gary and Keith. He told her he was getting together with a band that was going to have a 'big hit record'. But, she said he told her, 'if we don't make a hit record, I will get a job'.

Wanting to 'support the boys' as best she could, she went to the local record shop and ordered the record A Whiter Shade of Pale prior to its release. She went in the following Thursday and asked for her record. They told her the order was held up. It seems as if every store in England wanted copies of this new song. They told her the 'off-shore' pirate radio station had played the song and the switchboards had been jammed with requests to hear that song again and again.

I said something to the effect that Matthew's proclamation that he was going to make a hit record had been sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. She agreed and made mention of a story called 'The Monkey's Paw', saying it was about getting what you wish for and how it always seems to get screwed up. I am, of course, paraphrasing Mrs. Fisher. She was obviously proud of her son but commented that 'as famous as he seems to be you'd wonder that he isn't rich'. My sentiments exactly. He certainly deserves much more compensation than he has received for his compositions.

After the concert was over I'd gone up on stage and took the computer print out set list from the organ as well as some chord changes, in long hand, noted for The Wedge and The Idol and Robert's Box. I showed these to her and she said Matthew reads 'dots'. Meaning he reads music scores. When he came over to the table I introduced myself to him and asked him to sign this paper for me. He said sure, 'but I've never played this song, (The Idol) in my life'. So, I assume the paper I have is in the hand of Chris Copping. I didn't take the opportunity to get his autograph on it though.

I picked up all the paper memorabilia from the stage that I could. I got the lyrics cheat-sheet that Gary used when he took the center stage mike and sang A Dream In Every Home. Right next to that was the set list for Mick Grabham. I did get him to sign that for me.

I admit I am 'in awe' of these musicians. I hesitate to impose myself upon them with nothing more than the 'I've been a fan forever' dialogue they must have heard a hundred thousand times. I would like for them to know that their music and the message it carries has made a difference in my life and the lives of many other people. That they have done good work and are respected and admired.

I suspect that most of us old PH'ers are prosteletisers for this band. We want to convert the uninitiated masses to this wonderful music that we love so much. However, I am convinced that this is a band without Mass Appeal. They're just not that accessible. You have to be willing to give some thought to the lyrics and suspend your preconceptions concerning chord structure to 'get it'. The record-buying public that could have made these guys unimaginably wealthy did not have this music presented with the marketing and promotion that would have made them stars. And, do you know what, if they'd have become as big as, say, the Stones, then there wouldn't have been a Redhill and the whole world would be different.

Perhaps Douglas Adams can take the premise that Procol played Woodstock and became the biggest draw since the Beatles and what that alternative universe world would be like.

I heard that they were scheduled to appear at Woodstock but backed out because Robin Trower's wife was having a baby and he'd flown home to be with her. I am happy to know that most of the band members now have families and are content with their lives. They've always had their priorities straight.

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