Procol Harum

the Pale

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home

Repent Mat Fischer

Heres lookin' at you kid

We have sat on this article (anonymously authored even before BtP had evolved out of the 'Shine on Brightly' website in October 1997) until the time seemed right for 'the truth' to leak out. We publish it now 'as is', without overusing the '[sic!]' that its style of writing would seem to merit.

Draw, as they say, your own conclusions.

"Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies" is what we learned on Mommas knee, also used by a cat called Obie Clayton on his album called Obie Clayton, the DJM label DJLPS 458 (1975).

Blonde-haired Clayton Fall of '82, thereabouts, I'm browsing the used goodies in this traveling sale, and I come across this Clayton disk. Its got a clipped corner so I guess its done time in bargain land. The pic on the sleeve shows a bit of old piano with Clayton (I guess) flashing his bare chest and medallion.

Then the dude thats selling slips me a clipping out of a UK mag Zig Zag which says Clayton was Mat Fischer out of Procol! So now I took a bit notice. Journeys end and I'll be there came out in '74 and '75, great albums. I figured I'd missed out on a few because the next up (that I'd found) was Mathew fisher and Strange days from '80 and '81 (that I found in Europe). So Clayton makes the missing link, says the dude, and I pay him and head for the hills.

Brown-haired Clayton Clayton on the cover looks smooth and kinda smarmy, but all the Fischer album pics are a hairy guy and downbeat dresser, only on the back he's here in a smart gown, down round his feet, and he's playing piano. Then he's got brown hair here but he's blonde on the front. Can't be the same guy as Mat, I figure, though the way he works the same with two sidemen laying down rhythm tracks (John Atkinson on bass who overdubs violin and clarinet, Alan Eden on drums and Gerry Conway does percussion). Obie takes vocals, keyboards, guitars, harmonica and orchestral strings arrangements, the same amazing talents Fischer has on his albums.

But that doesn't mean he's the same guy, so I'm sleuthing on the label for clues. Theres something about Chrysalis Music there who also did Mats publishing on the '74 and '80 albums, and it could be his typical humor "Rockbottom Music" or "This Record Company", but there again it couldn't be.

On it theres Take good care of my baby by Goffin and Carole King so I put that on, and straight out its obviously Mat with piano, organ and bass turning the Brill sound into something classic with new changes, synth under the vocal like on Whiter shade of pale though the vocal is real throaty and theres a great swoop that comes twice and it sounds a whole lot more sexy than Mats voice on his other albums.

All the rest are self-penned so I fix a drink and put them on. Say you're sorry is kinda poppy with typical electric piano that Mat loves and slow tempo, and its about making a mistake, in the lyrics. The vocal is tracked a couple of times and sounds like the Four Tops when he hums. Its really down, though which tells us its him, and when he sings "Bring your light home and brightly will I shine" we know the Zig Zag tip is true by the quote of Keith Reid from Shine brightly.

On Window on the world he's playing a lot of guitar, two in fact, and rock piano, and sings about "mess around the dance floor for hours on end and take a girl home" but then "I see your little circus clearly from my window on the world" where he's sidelined like he always seems to be in the other Mat albums. He never sang a lyric like "real good time" before but he does here, all part of the disguise I guess. But the guitar has got no guts here.

Matthew Fisher at Redhill 1997 If he did the Rob Trower records in '73 thru '75 I guess that'll be where he gets the spunk to go solo on this with a different producer Tony Cox. Someone out there can check out the name and see what else he's done, but nobody has ever heard of Clayton before or since so I doubt he was a real artiste, just an anonymous try by Mat to get an image and make people take him seriously for what he was without the Procol tag.

The dude that sold it to me said that Mat also did an album with a country singer Roger someone in disguise and that what put the idea of an album into his head done under a false alias, everyone knows Mat's dad used to publish stories under a false ID so its in the blood.

Blues for beginners was never a blues but has slap echo and the vocal is again a real outsider singing with "I'm slowly turning grey/she won't be pleased till she takes my breath away" and "I'm like a lizard in the winter-time" or "a scarecrow in the dark" though he seems to get hay fever as well. Someone's overdubbing National guitar in my right ear or my left ear and it sounds tricksy, and theres some sexy gasping, clavinet, nothing you find on the proper Fischer cuts so either its not him or its him trying very hard to be someone else. Or his brother. He doesn't even sound like a Brit in parts.

Lucky boy had upbeat backing but the lyric are schmaltz about "Nobody believes him" and "songs come telling about his sorrow". It could be off Pepper in the backing but its light weight all the way. So I'm thinking its not Mat and someone has got wrong facts when Break heart boulevard comes on and its real gorgeous with great arrangement and changes. "Way back in '27 I had the eyes to drive you wild/my swimming pool had seen them all" shows Mat again with the pool showing wealth like in "Going for a song" and maybe even it was "Way back in '67" for a working lyric and he changed it for the cover-up so we did not know it was about him and Procol on "Its a long time since Coco Chanel and I were friends, my old director" Coco being Procol but the words are hard to hear. Theres Duane Eddy guitar and something on synth when the vocal stops that sounds like Mat in a classic mood. The first side ends here and its not knockout but solid just the same and could have been someone imitating anything around that time, Bowie, The Glamor Tubes, type of stuff.Medallion-man Clayton

On his other cuts where Mat writes like a college grad "you're under some kind of misapprehension" or "they're really going to have to make alternative arrangements", on Bad loser Obie sings "take heed of trying me over-much" which sounds like it was Shakespear! "I'm a bad loser, I go insane, yeah-yeh/I'm a bad loser I won't stand the pain", its easy to know this was the same guy on I'll be there with all that typical anger. He sings about shining again, obviously how he looks back on the Procol days "My stars now just a memory/too weak to shine for you now the way it used to do. I'm so jealous much too jealous/Just let me catch you out, the moon will hear your cries/don't upset me." and even something about Autumn of my madness "you mention springtime then its autumn in the air".

Great guitar on that one, and a whole lot more space in the next cut, Sin city where the producer earns his buck with great backing feel and more interesting tunes than Mats other albums. And sexy lyrics like "Snake eyed beauties marching out tonight/shes out on business and its out of sight/ its groovy and its so much fun/ she loves it all to death until the next one comes/its easy if you wanna please me just keep me in high boots at a well known place or two" where he's worked hard to make us not think its him, unless it really is not him but someone trading on his name and reputation.

Its got that real sixties movie feel and the backing is like Queen. Then its like in Long long Geek with "Pinstripe fights his way upstairs" and much more feelings in his voice on "time and again you'll take the pain of the world upon you. But when they come/be trusting who dares, in sin city" where we see Mat Fischer like a wounded artist cry out for what he never had, recognition of his awesome talents.

Its more Fender piano on Bad for you a moody piece like he does on Just how blind but this one takes forever to die away with the strings souping it up without interest and we just want to shout "Turn up the Hammond Mat!". On Ask me no questions its about screwing around, "I lose my conscience when I'm out of your sight/so ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies" with grunting and echo and all. Here I saw the same typical singing, about lies and truth that is on all his other records.

Separated at birth? It closes with Sign of the times where the real giveaway is, another moody cut. "You say you've seen my face before, familiar though you don't know my name". The face did look kinda familiar even if his hair was colored in and a pic from Red Hill was the clincher IMHO, the one on the left is Clayton in 1975 and the other one Mat Fischer from Jenns' web site 1997 at Red Hill. He takes his voice up real high and "I'm doing it now for love and money, there's no other way, SIGN-ME-UP-TIME oh look out lover I'm back with a message for your feet" shows he's looking to get noticed maybe signed maybe a record deal but as far as the dude that sold it to me says the record never even got distribution over here. Everything in here is so Brit of that era, with the stuttering like on My generation and Marc Bolan who was big at the time in Britain and Europe is in there as well somewhere.

So I fix a drink and think it could be someone else but everyone of his albums sounds different anyway and theres doubt rage anger and regret just like on his other records here, and it was recorded at Cornwall, south Britain and well out the way. And how come he's in the picture playing piano when on the record there is a lot of guitar, it doesn't add up.

So then I'm sleuthing the other records, on Living in a dream he pretty damn nearly admits it, "Living in a dream/watching as the days go by/me and my alibi/looking for a short-cut to tomorrow/living in a dream/waiting for the lucky break/seeing how long it takes/killing all the time that I can borrow/clutching at straws and then letting them fall/taking no chances you can't get hurt at all/living in a dream/in another world/looking for a place to hide/me and my wounded pride/looking for a short-cut to perfection/in another world/no-one ever knows my name/no-one can fix the blame/and all of my crimes escape detection/taking on faces and changing them round / everyone thinks that I'm six foot under ground/living in a dream/running out of time/watching chances slip away/me and my yesterday/looking for a shortcut to salvation/running out of time waiting for the final call/I had to end it all/when they demand their explanation/clutching at straws and then letting them go/when its all over I had to let them know/living in a dream/I'm only living in a dream" great lyric.

A great lyric and so true, somebody out there just has to ask him, but what could he say, if it was a shot at the top and it failed why admit it now? Mat Fischer is a man that knows the truth is out there and its painful, "Why can't you lie to me I just can't take the truth / You can think about it any old way you want to you can turn the whole thing upside down but the fairy-tales that you find all inside in your mind. To make believe its you thats been pushed around, you've only yourself to blame / enemies smile through their teeth as they're telling me lies they think I'm gonna fall for/I wish I could believe the end would justify the means/if they're looking for me to provide their entertainment they're really going to have to make alternative arrangements" the kind of great rhymes that he always used, and "everyone knows its nothing but make-believe, a game that I had to play, the price that I have to play" on one of his solo cuts.

And then you have someone calling himself Claes Johansen (unless that is another tricksy disguise of Mat Fischer himself) on the CD liner on Strange days (the killer tip off there was "To buy tomorrow you must sell your yesterday/without a thought to what was gained or what was lost/you never count the cost" where he comes right out what he was doing as Clayton) saying "though not an uplifting thought, there is a fair chance that he may never record or release anything again under his own name" which IMHO means he records under other names as well.

So I fix a drink and think why rake up all this now, its because of that Red Hill pic and if he did not want to be found out why leave his face on the cover anyway, its all public domain. If Clayton had taken off then Mat Fischer would want to prove one day it was him all along, who knows, people out there may take up this album and really start to dig it, Obie Clayton you're time has come. Heres lookin' at you kid.

Mat Fischer's page at BtP

The real Obie Clayton, revealed

The truth about this misleading article … its author and subject matter

Obie Clayton writes to BtP

A Doubting Thomas
writes in …

Obie Clayton's obituary: well worth reading

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home