Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum's 30th Birthday Party

Thirty years of Procol Harum and AWSoP

Pat Keating

On July 19th, Procol Harum celebrated thirty years of the band and their 1967 hit single A Whiter Shade of Pale (AWSoP). The 'Procol Party' was held in the Pilgrims' Hall of the Harlequin Theatre at Redhill, Surrey, England. It was attended by about 500 devoted Procol fans from nearly all corners of the globe, most of whom were members of one Procol 'fan club' or another: Shine On (the official fan club in England), The Whalers / Gary Brooker Fan Club (Germany), The Homburg Society (New York), and The Procol Harum Appreciation Society and other Tidbits (or PHAST, from Kansas).

All band alumni were invited to attend and perform. Those who did were: Gary Brooker, Matthew Fisher, Chris Copping, Alan Cartwright, Mick ('The Lad') Grabham, Pete Solley, Dave Bronze, Matthew Pegg, and Graham Broad. Those most notable who could not or did not were: Keith Reid ('he had builders'); Barrie James 'BJ' Wilson (deceased, 1990); Robin Trower and Geoff Whitehorn (both touring in the U.S.A.); and David Knights, Bill Eyden, and Ray Royer (all of whom played on the original AWSoP single along with Brooker and Fisher).

Other alumni who could not or did not attend were: Bobby Harrison, Dave Ball, Dee Murray (deceased), Mark Brzezicki, Don Snow, Ian Wallace, Josh Phillips and Henry Spinetti.

The evening began with a reception, followed by a video presentation. This included a rare, 40-minute, 1971 performance on the German television 'Beat Club' program. Along with Brooker, Copping, and Cartwright, this band included guitarist Dave Ball and the late great drummer B.J. Wilson. The audience, including this reporter, responded alternately with tears and applause for the beloved 'BJ', one of rock music's most unique, gifted, and expressive drummers. Many of the absent Procol alumni were well represented in the second video presentation by Henry Scott-Irvine. This video commemorated the thirty years of history surrounding that oh-so-famous song, A Whiter Shade of Pale.

The video segment was followed by a buffet dinner in the foyer. On display was a comprehensive set of photographs, picture sleeves, music publication clippings, and other memorabilia concerning AWSoP from the collection of the accomplished Procol historian, Mr. Frans Steensma of The Netherlands.

Then came the main event a live concert by the assembled band members. The highlights were many, but especially the performances of the complete four verses of AWSoP, as well as the complete Procol masterpiece In Held 'Twas In I (including vocals and guitar by Matthew Fisher on In The Autumn Of My Madness). Matthew's 'mum' was also on hand to witness this rare performance by her son.

The complete set list, including many songs not performed since Procol's first 'retirement' in 1977, was:
Broken Barricades, Kaleidoscope, The Idol, Robert's Box, A Dream in Ev'ry Home, The Devil Came From Kansas, A Rum Tale, The Thin End of the Wedge, Strangers in Space, Piggy Pig Pig, This Old Dog, AWSoP (4 verses), Homburg, Bringing Home the Bacon, Cerdes (Outside the Gates of), Grand Hotel, Shine on Brightly, Conquistador, A Salty Dog, and In Held 'Twas In I (complete). The short encore consisted of the audience singing along to the chorus of AWSoP.

The evening was, indeed, a magical occasion. As the night drew to a close and since one night could never encompass Procol's entire body of work it can only be said that:

'The crowd called out for more....'

Thank you Gary Brooker, Keith Reid, Procol Harum, and Diane Rolph and John Grayson of Shine On.

(Rest in peace hereafter, B.J. Wilson.)

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