Procol Harum

the Pale

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 A Fisher miscellany

Antonio Costa Barbé

Antonio Costa Barbé is a lawyer, musician and freelance journalist. In June 1998 he sent 'Beyond the Pale' this memoir of a recent e-mail exchange with Matthew Fisher, principally about the band's first three singles. His radio interview with MF is here

A Whiter Shade of Pale

Can you remember the first time you have listened at AWSoP? In what form was the song? Only the singing melody? and how came the idea to continue the organ melody through the song?

I first heard it at one of the early rehearsals when I first joined the band. It was more or less like the record (if you switch out the organ). I just sat in and started playing the ideas that came to me.

Eventually the organ part became set when we went in to record a demo. Before this, we used to use all four verses and the solos would alternate between the piano and the organ. However, this would have made the record about 10 minutes long! Having decided to cut down to 2 verses, Gary suggested that I take all the solos.

With that in mind I went home and planned out a definitive solo that would be the same every time. In doing so I decided to change the bass line and a couple of chords at one point. The rest, as they say, is history.

Why Harrison and Royer unsuitable for the group?

The move to oust Bobby Harrison emanated from our producer, Denny Cordell. I think Keith and Gary were of the opinion that the band just wasn't exciting enough on stage and the drums and guitar seemed the obvious targets.

Also, Gary had always wanted to get BJ and Rob in the band but they originally declined when there was nothing tangible to offer them. The success of AWSoP changed all that!


Tell about the history of the second single?

The recording that was released (the single) was actually the version we cut with Royer and Harrison, with some extra drumming by BJ.

Antonio's thoughts concerning the sleeve notes to the Westside boxed set

  The sleeve notes of Henry about the Rarities Disc from the westside boxd set are correct for track 3 (Homburg original 45 - Harrison and Royer, but plus extra drumming of BJ, according to Matthew);
Correct for the track 13 (Homburg original 45, but mixed in stereo - Harrison and Royer, but HERE in the stereo mix of original 45 is NOT present the extra-drumming of BJ! (listen, for example, at the drum breaks at 1'26 / 1'28 and 3'36 / 3'37, breaks only present in the MONO version)
Incorrect for track 14 (Homburg so called 'early version': here the drumming is by BJ, by Jove! - I wonder in what day of 1967 was cut this version (with BJ), and in what day was cut the released version with Bobby Harrison and Ray Royer

 A Salty Dog

What was your organ part in the live versions of A Salty Dog?

I just used to play chords with a fairly neutral sound, simply to highlight the dynamics. I prefer playing string-synth as I do now. It's not really an organ song.

In fact, what Hammond has you at the present time?

I don't own a Hammond, myself. When Procol play we hire in a B3 or a C3.

And finally ...

In the so-called progressive music of the seventies what group encounters your appreciation?

I really hated the 70s. If you ask me who was my favourite 70s band, the answer is definitely Abba. The only progressive band I ever liked was the Beatles.

Read Antonio's Radio Azzurra interview with Matthew Fisher

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