Procol Harum

the Pale

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'You're right; we should run a feature on BJ'

Letters, Rhythm magazine, April 2009

Dan Kirby writes to BtP (March 2009): 'As promised here's a copy of my  letter that was printed in this month on page 32 of Rhythm magazine (April Edition), and the editor's response.'  There's also an interesting interview with original Beatles drummer Pete Best (probably the unluckiest drummer ever!)' Read Dan's earlier memo to BtP

BJ Please!
I read with interest and despair your magazine's feature on the 100 Most Influential Drummers Ever!

While I agree there are some very special drummers in the 100, I never got Charlie Watts, just didn't see it, or am I missing something here? To quote, 'He brought a jazz drummer's refinement to rock'n'roll'. Ive seen Watts many times over the years with The Stones, and I believe they would have made it anyway, with or without him. I also saw The Charlie Watts Jazz Orchestra and Bill Eyden, the other drummer in the band, did all the intricate jazz parts while Watts tapped away at all the simple parts. If you really want to hear a master jazz rock drummer, then look no further than Danny Seraphine of Chicago (missing from the 100) who was without doubt the finest exponent of fusing jazz with rock. This was in the early days of Chicago before they slithered into gloss dross!

But probably the most criminal omission from the 100 is the late great BJ Wilson of Procol Harum, who sadly died in tragic circumstances in 1990. I'm in no doubt that Wilson was the most creative and unorthodox drummer to come from the UK. He didn't just play the drums; he orchestrated them, and never played the obvious. Even Jimmy Page had Wilson down as first choice for the drum stool when he was forming The New Yardbirds back in 1968. Page was obviously impressed with Wilson when they worked together on the Joe Cocker album, With A Little Help From My Friends. Wilson turned down Page's offer and stayed with Procol Harum. And who knows – if he had taken up the offer, we may never have heard of the brilliant John Bonham.

Even the late Cozy Powell once commented after seeing Procol in concert in the early '70s, that maybe a few so-called heavy drummers should check out BJ Wilson and learn a few points in technique! From about 1973, BJ Wilson would sit at the front stage right [sic] during live concerts, so the audience could see his showmanship and immense drumming. I don't think any other drummer was positioned in that way in concert, as most drummers were positioned at the back.

I really do think you should do a feature on BJ in your mag and if you really want to hear how good the guy was, then try checking out the 10 Procol albums Wilson played on. All I can add is that if Procol Harum had been in the top 10 bands of the time (in terms of sales and popularity) then I'm in no doubt that BJ Wilson would be a household name!

Dan Kirby
Sidcup Kent

Ed Notes
Thanks for writing in Dan. You're right; we should run a feature on BJ. However, I think you've probably answered why BJ wasn't in our list at the end of your letter. While undoubtedly a wonderful drummer, the poll was all about influence and inspiration, not ability and creativity, and because of his profile we simply didn't feel BJ had influenced enough players to be included, whereas Charlie has.

Phil Ascott

Dan also writes: 'My original letter was slightly edited where I listed my own favourite albums where I believe BJ's performances really took off! eg A Salty Dog, Home, Broken Barricades, Edmonton (where I cited that the album was probably the finest live exponent of orchestra/rock band fusion ever made!) Grand Hotel, Exotic Birds, Procol's Ninth, and Something Magic. While there are some fine BJ performances on the first two albums, I really thought he found himself from Salty Dog onwards! (but that's just my opinion, guys!). My original letter also stated (though edited out) that if they were to do a BJ feature, then to contact you guys at 'Beyond the Pale' for a full in-depth history of Barrie eg including work he did outside of Procol.'

BJ's page at BtP | Dan Kirby's preceding article

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