Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum's first year in the NME

A BtP special: thanks to Yan Friis

In each of these fascinating articles journalist Yan Friis presents an early piece of Procol Harum reportage in the context of contemporary chart events. Each summary below will be linked to a 'Beyond the Pale' page on the 31st anniversary of the news item's original publication. See also Swimming Against the Tide.

The Mammoth Task: the first fifty-two weeks of
Procol Press in the UK's New Musical Express

13 May 1967

A very early mention of AWSoP, and the single's first advertisement

20 May

No Procol press, though their single is selling hand-over-fist

27 May

Live dates, runaway sales, the primacy of Keith Reid, praise by Denny Cordell for the group's professionalism in the studio.

3 June

A tiny snippet showing AWSoP in the Top 3

10 June

Massive AWSoP sales, gigs with Hendrix, a picture, and 'lack of visual appeal'.

17 June

Spike Milligan is a fan, Jacques Loussier a critic: and an extremely revealing set of 'lifelines' about the five original members of the band.

24 June

The band's illness (diplomatic or real?) and Fisher to work on Separation with Stanley Myers.

1 July

Procol Harum sacking their manager, and a confident Keith Reid.

8 July

Brooker ordered to rest, AWSoP still at No 1.

15 July

New personnel, first album finished, the Bill Eyden 'scandal' and public appearances cancelled.

22 July

'Our fans may rest assured that we shall work extensively throughout the autumn,' says Keith, who 'owns the group'. Royer and Harrison protest at their summary sacking.

29 July

Contradictory PH 'decide to prolong their UK inactivity'; AWSoP peaks on the Billboard chart; a new single is announced with the working title, Homburg Hat

5 August

AWSoP sliding down the charts but still riding high in the US.

12 August

The first album comes out in the US; an 'amicable settlement' with Royer and Harrison

19 August

Denny Cordell and Regal Zonophone, BJ and the talking cabbage. 

26 August

Befuddlement regarding live concerts, 'Straight Ahead' productions; more legal hassles on the horizon from Jonathan Weston

2 September

More on PH's management background; Royer and Harrison announce Freedom, which at the time must have seemed like a PH splinter-group. 

9 September

Hendrix gets to grips with Reid words; a brilliant review of a live PH show ('next best thing since the Beatles'): Repent Walpurgis left the reviewer 'limp and exhausted'.

16 September

Procol Harum playing Europe; the dawn of BBC Radio 1.

23 September

Under the Beatles' influence, Procol's management flirt with film-projects! 

30 September

Homburg reviewed as A Paler Shade of White

7 October

Homburg enters the chart, and there's further confusion about concert dates for the 'negative' Procol Harum

14 October

Further extraordinary news about Procol and ex-Procol film projects, while the UK scene continues to be beset by doubts, cancellations and reversals: no wonder Gary got ill again.

21 October

The tantalising prospect of a multi-instrumental Fisher solo LP, a far more realistic and interesting possibility than those film projects. 

28 October

Homburg peaks in the chart back home as Procol Harum undertake their North American tour of clubs and television studios: and a Gary Brooker profile

4 November

Homburg 'taking off like mad' in the US while Procol get a standing ovation from the American press', and a Wilson / Trower article. 

11 November

Homburg slipping down the UK chart, PH eventually flying their own equipment out to the States, and the 'not really evil' Matthew Fisher!

18 November

Poll-mania takes its hold as Homburg continues to slide, and David Knights suffers the NME spotlight.

25 November

Poll predictions: PH in 'terrific fight for supremacy in the Best New Group division', high chart placings abroad, desperately silly headlines.

2 December

Early promise of Poll success for PH, and BJ's very revealing report about the US tour: hippies, materialism and a disconsolate Fisher.

9 December

Poll-successes for A Whiter Shade of Pale, Procol Harum and Gary Brooker: but it was never to be the same again.

16 December

A superb review of the Procol Harum album, Procol for Italy ... and they evidently have at least 25 compositions ...

23 December

A lean week in terms of Procol press, but the name keeps popping up in odd snippets.

30 December

Procol Harum offering a gnomic outlook for 1968, and evidently feeling the pressure of their still-strong reputation.

6 January 1968

Procol lost amidst a sea of Englebert in the chart retrospective; a handful of obscure college gigs, and a decision to postpone the concert tour!

13 January

Gold Disc for Homburg, and a confusingly premature gig at the Speakeasy. Meanwhile Mick Grabham's band makes an appearance!

20 January

Procol announce American dates; meanwhile news of an extended track on the next album is leaking out.

27 January

Mick Grabham's band listen appreciatively to Gary Brooker; Mick plays Hendrix; Procol planning a televised appearance in the States?

3 February

Little Procol news, but an acknowledgement of Dylan's huge influence on the period.

10 February

Nothing about Procol Harum, but all you could reasonably need to know about the young Mick Grabham.

17 February

No Procol Harum news.

24 February

Activity from Zonophone-mates The Move, but only a whiff of a rumour about a new single from Procol Harum.

2 March

Procol Harum among poll-winning bands scheduled (perhaps) to play Wembley in May.

9 March

First news of Quite Rightly So - sans Fisher credit, incidentally; and Procol opening, to silence, for the Bee Gees in Germany!

16 March

The promotional round for the new single; and Handel, as well as Bach, gets a Haroid name-check.

23 March

Quite Rightly So reviewed, as the quality of the British charts declines. And who's seen that film that the German crew was out to make?

30 March

Brooker and Reid win Britain's international song of the year award for A Whiter Shade Of Pale.

6 April

Nothing of Procoholic import, as we wait for Quite Rightly So to chart.

13 April

A minute amount of live Procol activity: meanwhile Separation makes its début, apparently with a glimpse of the band playing.

20 April

Procol plan ten weeks' touring in the USA, including recording sessions in LA; European dates are planned too, but nothing again for Britain.

27 April

Nothing Procolian except a tiny name-check from label-mates The Move.

4 May

News of an important Procol engagement!

11 May

Procol Harum put a characteristic end to their first NME year, as they pull out of a British show in order to fulfil engagements in the States.

Following this weekly cruise through the first year of NME Procol coverage, Swimming Against the Tide presents a chunk-at-a-time survey of the way things went after the AWSoP bubble burst.

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