Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum : Live at the BBC

'Strange Fruit' album


Bringing Home the Bacon

Whaling Stories

New Lamps for Old

Beyond the Pale

As Strong as Samson

Simple Sister

The Idol

Grand Hotel

Butterfly Boys

Nothing But the Truth

All titles Brooker / Reid

Earlier version of Track 1 available on Procol Harum (1967); 3 on Home (1970); 7 on Broken Barricades (1971); 1 and 3 on Live (1971); 9 on Grand Hotel (1973); 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 and 11 on Exotic Birds and Fruit (1974).


Procol Harum: BBC Live in Concert

Considering Procol Harum's global stature as a live act, and the golden sales of their live Edmonton orchestral album (1971), it's unbelievable that 1999 should see the first official concert release from the quintessential Harum, a storming five-piece rock outfit.

The BBC recorded these eleven superb compositions (words Keith Reid, music Gary Brooker) on 22 March 1974 at Golders Green Hippodrome in London; this CD supersedes the incomplete, off-air tapes that fervent Procoholics - you can hear them yelling out "Encore" before a note's been played! - have treasured over a quarter-century.

Following a three-month lay-off for studio recording, Procol had already played six college shows and a John Peel session in March 1974 - unprecedented UK exposure for them. Brooker recalls, "You did the BBC shows as a way of getting your new album on the radio", and to Mick Grabham they were "... pretty much just another job." Reid also emphasises the workaday nature of a gig where "... if somebody screwed up, it just got broadcast that way."

1 Conquistador: Procol judiciously open with their latest hit (August 1972). They'd played Conquistador on two (now lost) 1967 BBC sessions with their original Hammond-genius, Matthew Fisher. His successor, Chris Copping, provides a final Baroque flourish!

2 Bringing Home the Bacon: another favourite 70s opener, driven by the piano and percussion of Brooker and Barrie Wilson, instrumental core of Procol's evolving line-up. This song was not included in the hour-long broadcast, 30 March 1974.

3 Whaling Stories: the band condenses a thrilling range of dramatic emotions into nine epic minutes. The BBC didn't retain concert master-tapes, so the somewhat haphazard original mix cannot now be rejigged.

4 New Lamps for Old: over half tonight's concert comes from 1974's Exotic Birds LP, whose theme of disillusion (at waning record sales?) this weary setting complements to perfection. "New Lamps was certainly very unusual for us to play live," says Reid, who always determined Procol's running-orders.

5 Beyond the Pale: although one famous 'Pale' was a ghetto for Russian Jews, Reid's title surely alludes to Procol's huge A Whiter Shade of Pale hit, a much-demanded 70s encore. Brooker actually sings 'beyond the veil'; nevertheless exotic additional sounds (Wilson's mandolins on record, Copping's banjo tonight) enhance the Eastern European flavour of his chord-progressions. 'Luckily no-one threw the tomatoes that my banjo-playing deserved!' Chris now recalls.

6 As Strong as Samson: this unusually topical Procol song, about 1973's industrial unrest, was updated during 90s tours, with '... Croats and Kurds, causing confusion and changing the words'. Sadly that reborn Harum could not include the great Barrie Wilson, who had died in 1990. Marvel here at his inspired start to the instrumental break!

7 Simple Sister: now Procol relax and let rip! If the Edmonton orchestral version of this savage belter had been included on the Live album, it might have shaken the 'classic-rock' prejudices that unjustly beset the band.

8 The Idol: Mick Grabham, unrivalled as an ensemble guitarist, shines out as the soloist here. Who was the enigmatic 'idol' who had saved these 'drowning men' before, but could now 'see no point in diving in'? "I get an image of a golden, Biblical idol," says Gary, "not someone specific from rock music."

9 Grand Hotel: like Whaling Stories, this sumptuous offering unites many disparate elements. Is that violinist quoting the Russian Gypsy air, Ochi Chyornije? 'Never heard of it,' Gary declares. 'I always owned up when something was purposely lifted ... but one's ears are unconsciously open to everything!"

10 Butterfly Boys: Reid's lepidopterous libretto angered Chrysalis, the band's record company. "Procol is the 'sinking ship' here," says Brooker, "and it's Chrysalis who've 'got the cake'. They wanted us to change it to Government Boys. We said, 'Bollocks.'"

11 Nothing But the Truth: John Peel made this 45 release (15 March) his 'single of the week', and Elton John praised it on a pop panel - sadly to no effect. Chart hit or not, this is prime Procol Harum - in full flight there really is no-one in the world to touch them.

Roland Clare, October 1999

February 2000

When I first saw the Strange Fruit BBC Procol CD I was disappointed to see that my liner-note had been cut, so that the part that referred to the Redhill reunion, and to the musicians' present activities, was missing. I asked Strange Fruit about this, and it appeared that the last page of my FAX had not transmitted properly. They seemed genuinely apologetic, and said that the best they could offer would be to insert the missing words if the insert ever came to be reprinted.

It was a kind suggestion but I didn't really expect anything to happen, and contented myself with printing out the complete text for Gary Brooker, so that he would at least know that my interviews with the band (who were thanked on the official insert, even where their comments hadn't been printed!) had not been entirely overlooked.

Imagine my surprise, then , on receiving two correctly-reprinted copies of the CD this morning! I rang Sue Armstrong at Strange Fruit, who explained that they had been reprinting for various markets, so it had been no trouble to run out some corrected film; the company prides itself on respecting the wishes of those involved in a project!

It seems that the CD has sold well: at least 3,000 in the UK, and data still to come in from the US, Japan and the rest of the world. Sue says that when it has run its commercial course she will be looking again into the BBC PH archives: 'There is lots more, which we are keen to make available,' she observed.

Procol sales will be greatly enhanced by all those completists who go out now and buy the BBC CD again to get the second-edition liner-note! But just in case you are not quite mad enough to do that, you should be able to read the hitherto-missing text in the white panel here.


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More about this record

Special deal for Palers

Read the long draft for these notes here: more about each song and more band quotations

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