Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum's 30th Birthday Party

Sketchy notes on Henry's films

Henry-Scott Irvine's film-treats did a great deal to enhance the wonderful atmosphere of celebration at Redhill on 19 July 1997. A number of people who couldn't be there have asked for a report, so here are some snippets from Roland Clare's notebook. They don't really do justice to the films we watched, however, and he can't vouch for their accuracy so long after the event. Since the notes were written in darkness there's quite a lot he can no longer read, in fact.

Beat Club footage (now available as Pilgrim's Progress on Video CD)

German TV studio film featuring the 'Edmonton' line-up, with BJ in the middle, piano and organ to left and right as we looked on. The sound was very bottom-heavy throughout and the vision-mixers obviously didn't know the material: they focussed frequently on the wrong player. See a page of stills from this film here.

Shine on Brightly: Copping's organ-solo frantic by comparison with the shapely standard set by the original recording

In the Wee Small Hours of Sixpence: using the melody from the 1968 Regal Zonophone 'B' side, not the version recorded on the Dojo Early Years compilation

Still There'll Be More: GB seemingly amused that this most irreligious lyric is going out as a Christmas special. Dave Ball looking ill and making slight contribution. Awkward pauses between songs

Pilgrim's Progress: Copping a dead ringer for Fisher here. Intriguing to hear Brooker sing it. Applause from the Redhill audience! Wish I'd heard this song live.

Quite Rightly So: the sound starting to cohere now. Band looking more at ease

Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone): GB reproduces the vocal brass effect as heard on the 1968 recording, and the original 1967 version; Copping sings backing vocal at the end, off-mic. Ill-advised folksy twangling on guitar. Boys' Brigade influence in BJ's snare work; Brooker plays bits of Chopin, Polonaise in A, in the playout.

Power Failure: GB's introductions cheerfully off-hand. 'This is about rushing around on tour with a group'. BJ's running joke, 'I feel funny, Brian.' Copping backing vocal and rhythm guitar as often on tour. BJ's solo brief but inspired. Head to one side, alopecia ... . huge Redhill audience reaction, quite rightly so. GB clearly very pleased with the performance.

A Salty Dog: Fine stuff. 'I nearly had a stroke on that top note though'. Organ does not play the orchestral rising parts.

Simple Sister: Dave Ball happier in this bashy number. Sadly no central build-up section.

Play-off: Gary on piano, The Teddy-Bears' Picnic


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Grand Hotel era footage

Henry announced rare footage of the Grabham-era band playing Drunk Again but it wasn't shown, owing to technical mix-up. The set-up appeared to be a video back-projection and I imagine the wrong tape had been slipped in by his technical helpers.

It was Thirty Years Ago Today

A work-in-progress 35-minute version of Henry Scott-Irvine's own film - a fascinating, skilful Whiter Shade of Pale retrospective. Let's hope this gets shown on television all over the world: fans who can contribute material should read this.

Britannia Awards - Pete Murray presents AWSoP award

Mark Roman, or Ronan? - the Radio London DJ who first aired AWSoP

Peter Clifton - the Vietnam-heavy promotional AWSoP film. MF, recently filmed, quotes Decca on AWSoP: 'morbid, slow, dreary ...'

Brooker, recently filmed, on the surprise of French success and being mobbed in Paris when AWSoP was Number One in France

Derek Taylor on Lennon's famous AWSoP fixation and the multiple plays in his psychedelic Rolls Royce (see also here)

Top of the Pops footage of 'Procul Harum': live, with apparently more organ (MF in cowl) and differently-inflected vocal, recorded live.

Booker T and the MGs: references to Green Onions: 'Steve Cropper and Booker T ... my heroes' says MF, 'I'd ripped off his style ... taken it for granted ...' GB: 'Stax was an influence but it's difficult to see it in anything we've ever done.'

A bit of the Paramounts; Little Bitty Pretty One

The start of Procol Harum: GB ' ... you'd done your copying, now you had your chance to put what you knew ... techniques and feeling ... into something new.'

GB: 'Procol Harum predated The Band'. The Dylan electric sound, such as Tom Thumb's Blues, was an influence on Procol Harum.

Keith Reid, filmed recently, outside the church in which Matthew was about to record the organ part for the Symphonic Walpurgis: 'Nobody wanted our stuff. Dusty Springfield rejected a song.' He's played an audio clip of praise from Elton John and Bernie Taupin ... smiles. It was unusual to do the words first, but that's the way Reid and Brooker worked in 99 percent of cases.

KR: 'I try to be poetic, but that's very difficult.' Huge background noise!

About AWSoP: it was four verses long; one was scrapped to start with and another dropped in the studio

First gig, May 1967. GB recalls the UFO club when Hendrix 'barged up ... grabbed our bass player's bass...' to join in with a song. MF: 'he couldn't possibly have known what it was.' GB/MF recall the absolutely splendid light-shows ... how the relationship of sound and light bore comparison to that in the early days of silent films and piano accompaniment.

Homburg promo film: the band standing around in snow, MF in hood.

At The Fillmore, with The Byrds and Pink Floyd: MF very relaxed about who topped the bill: 'the Byrds, or us ... I couldn't have cared either way ...'

MF wishes AWSoP had been their second release, not their first. The organ sound was a Hammond preset. 'I loved that classical organ sound.' Referring to the imminent church organ recording for The Long Goodbye album: 'I'll do my best.' (GB and MF are being filmed in the Virgin Manor mobile recording studio outside All Saints' Church).

Neat cut to clip from The Commitments

At AIR's Lyndhurst studios (also a church, originally). Orchestral recording section on 6 April 1994; a lengthy sequence as the whole of the symphonic AWSoP is played, sans vocal. Henry agrees this would have to be trimmed for transmission, both for aesthetic reasons and because of the royalty that would have to be paid to each orchestral performer! Darryl Way conducting, GB at mixing console in cricket pullover. GB talking about early orchestral work at the Stratford festival. LSO in mufti, of course. George Martin in attendance. Darryl Way regards AWSoP as one of the top three tunes of all time.

Finally, a reference to the ten-minute standing ovation at The Barbican ...

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