Procol Harum

the Pale

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Gary Brooker: 'There is something beyond the pale'

Terry Christian interview, BBC Radio Manchester, 6 September 2007

Thanks to a couple of kind contributors we are able to present off-air audio of this abortive telephone interview about Secrets of the Hive, during which BBC Radio Manchester cannot find their copy of the album. Just before we published, a music fan wrote to the Beanstalk (the Procol Harum message list): 'The webmeisters may get the words verbatim, but they might not exactly capture Gary's incredible patience with this rather irritating eejit.'

We agree that no transcription, however subtly annotated, could possibly do justice to this deliciously embarrassing collision between amateurish, egocentric gaumlessness and increasingly-strained professional diplomacy.

Part One (mp3): in which Mr Christian twice mentions a 'definitive' new album without being able to name it; he alleges that he has 'not had a copy' but also says he's been 'looking round for it'. Mr Brooker hopes it will 'perks people's ears up' and gets in an actual name-check for Secrets of the Hive. Mr Christian refers to Robin Trower with a rather odd pronunciation. He talks over Mr Brooker's point about the chronology of the recording and release of AWSoP. He brings up the time-worn 'first-record albatross' point; Mr Brooker deftly brings him round to the new compilation, praising its appearance and the insight it holds. Mr Christian suggests that Procol Harum supported Hendrix on tour; Mr Brooker gently puts him right, and praises Hendrix. Mr Christian imagines a rivalry between Trower and Hendrix; Mr Brooker speaks of a gig when Hendrix was booed for not playing Purple Haze. Mr Christian feels that Hendrix got 'a bit weirded out' and alleges that Electric Ladyland derived its title from Procol. Mr Brooker puts Mr Christian right. [faded by BtP into ...]

Photo by RCPhoto from Radio ManchesterPart Two (mp3): in which Mr Christian asks about the 60s, and Mr Brooker makes a joke about the Grateful Dead. Mr Christian imagines Mr Brooker has children who are incredulous about his reputed exploits; Mr Brooker reveals that he is not all that keen on 'ankle-biters' and praises young people who like Procol Harum, or artists unlike Hendrix and Joplin who have lived blamelessly. Mr Christian wonders why 'Pandora's Box was never a hit'; Mr Brooker puts him right, and points out that Secrets of the Hive could he but find it would tell him all he needs to know. Mr Christian says 'we're getting it now'. Mr Brooker talks about how American audiences took to Procol Harum because they liked the first album, which Mr Christian thinks was A Salty Dog. Mr Brooker reminds him that 'this double CD' would be useful to him, but Mr Christian vouchsafes that he has found 'an oldest greatest hits one' and elicits a baffled grunt by saying Procol 'will end up like The Hollies one day'. He plays A Salty Dog [faded in and out by BtP] but talks over the end, interrupting it not for the news but for a crucial listener's text message [subsequent news omitted, faded by BtP into ...]

Part Three (mp3): in which Homburg false-starts under a trailer, then begins properly while Mr Christian talks through the introduction and the start of verse one [faded by BtP ... a blurt of studio noise over the music at the end]. Mr Christian again mentions a 'definitive best-of', but he still hasn't found his copy to name-check it properly. Mr Brooker deals with a suggestion that Procol was in the vanguard of prog-rock. Mr Christian implies that Homburg would not get airtime if it were released today; Mr Brooker brings up the new anthology once again and wonders if the lately-played version of Homburg were not in fact an out-take (he probably supposes Mr Christian is playing one of the 'Westside' series of unauthorised reissues). Mr Christian wonders if Procol had seemed like Robin Trower's and Gary Brooker's band: Mr Brooker refutes this. Mr Christian begins to talk about the AWSoP court-case [faded by BtP into ...]

Part Four (mp3): in which Mr Christian begins to talk about the AWSoP court-case, asking how long it 'dragged on for'. Mr Brooker states that 'the judgment was not seen to be lawful'. Mr Christian seems not to know very much about the composition of the song in question. Mr Brooker declines to elaborate on such matters. Mr Christian alludes to The Commitments and asks if Keith Reid wrote the line about 'sixteen Vestal virgins'. Mr Brooker explains that, while he was indeed allowed to ask Keith what the words meant, he has never needed to; and he explains that the song need not be understood literally. Mr Christian alludes to another 'unanswered mystery' from a Cagney/Bogart movie, a reference Mr Brooker does not pick up. A couple of text messages are read out (one about picking up A Salty Dog second-hand), which Mr Christian takes as evidence that there are still 'a fair few fans out there'. Mr Brooker says that Procol are 'just starting'. Mr Christian threatens to play Conquistador from a previous best-of, which Mr Brooker stalls, fearing that the non-orchestral version will be played from some collection of out-takes. He hopes his expletives can be bleeped out. Mr Brooker strikes a deal in which 'I'll mention your name somewhere' if Mr Christian can actually find, and play, the record he is supposed to have been discussing. Once again he draws attention to the virtues of the new release. Mr Brooker elucidates that he is not sick and tired of playing A Whiter Shade of Pale. 'Sick and tired of court-cases ...' is Mr Christian's Wildean rejoinder. [faded by BtP into ...]

Part Five (mp3): in which A Whiter Shade of Pale plays [faded in and out by BtP] as Mr Christian again mentions the new album without having picked up its name; he reads out some text-messages including one alleging that 'Procol' means 'far from these things'. Mr Christian says he must have had sun-glasses on, since he can't find his 'Procol Harum box-set'. He makes fun of 'poems at school' and the supposed evasiveness of vicars when dealing with matters transcendental. News follows [faded by BtP] and a Rod Stewart record is played. Mr Christian (44) goes off on a reactionary riff about today's music, reveals that he's glad he's not eighteen any more; he fantasises about his ideal festival line-up, eventually coming back to something Mr Brooker said before, part of which he recalls without error.

(thanks Pat; thanks, Dave)

"Gary Brooker is a true gentleman! It's a mystery to me that Terry Christian has been allowed to remain in broadcasting for so long (see here!). I doubt he could even interview himself from an informed standpoint. One Christian that the lions missed ..." (thanks, Sheila)

Gary Brooker's page at BtP

Index to Procol history in press and broadcast

Secrets of the Hive

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