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B J Wilson praised on AOL 1995 -- 1997

Including a moving tribute by his daughter Nicola

Joan May submitted the following tributes to B.J. Wilson from the Procol Harum Message Board on America Online (AOL): – Keyword music messaging --> Rock/Pop --> Classic Rock --> Procol Harum

Subj: Re:PH GREAT MOMENTS Date: 95-12-11 19:43:51 EST From: KARPEN123

Great to see PH rap. To me, greatest moments are as follows: Whaling Stories on Home = great Trower ! Every guitar player who thinks that you have to play fast to build excitement should hear his solo – similar approach on Simple Sister solo. Shine on Brightly = check our the lyrics – totally out there "My Eunuch Friend Has Been and Gone – He Said That I Must Soldier On !" B.J.'s cowbell work in Whiskey Train – B.J. in general – talk about an unknown master ! Strong As Samson from Exotic Birds – great G.B. Anyway – that's just a few. Does anyone agree that Trower's solo work is far less interesting than PH work ? Brooker set him up as a soloist – great drama. Solo work – more derivitive. ?

Subj: Re:the grandest melody Date: 96-04-12 19:01:39 EDT From: MiKearns

Fires Which Burnt Brightly is a fave with me too. When the occasion arises to 'turn someone on' to PH, it is the song I play them. Grand Hotel is a great album. B.J. had such an inventive and powerful approach to drumming – what a loss. I'm new to this group. I'm glad it exists. Shine On. Hah!

Subj: Re:BJ (?) and JC Date: 96-05-25 20:41:55 EDT From: Karmic G

I saw B.J. drum with Cocker at the short-lived Club Heat in New York. The room lived up to its name, as it was about 110 in the room and B.J. was sweating up a storm. It wasn't like seeing him in PH, but , of course, he was still amazing, and the played WSOP. It was the last time I saw BJ play (and perhaps his last performance ever in the US).

Subj: With Help from MF and BJ Date: 96-09-01 11:29:23 EDT From: Jem33

I've always loved Joe Cocker's "With a Little Help..." and his bio reveals more PH influence on its arrangement than I had thought. It was Joe's idea to slow it down and change it from 4/4 to 3/4 time – a "waltz!!" – I never thought of it that way, but of course it is. His keyboard player Tommy Eyre said "everybody loved that pretend Bach thing..." in AWSOP and Joe wanted a similar Bach-style organ intro. (This may be the only instance I've seen in print where MF's organ part was not falsely identified as note-for-note Bach). They initially enlisted Steve Winwood, guitar and Jim Capaldi, drums. But after 35 takes, it was clear that Capaldi "...wasn't getting the hang of the 3/4 time..." Producer Denny Cordell went home in tears over this, but somehow rallied and kicked the Traffic guys out, replacing them with Jimmy Page and B.J. for the next day's session, where "The Procol Harum man had a perfect waltz feel..." and they quickly got a Keeper. Joe said he'd always remember how great he felt when the song was finally right. I've listened to this recently, and the drumming is magnificent – especially the crescendo at the beginning – how often do you hear one of Those in Rock music? – and the trademark dramatic entrance after Joe sings the first few lines without drums.

Subj: Re:Dedicated to BJ Date: 96-10-08 04:47:41 EDT From: P4392B

In 1990, on October the 8th my beloved father died of an extended illness. I was 13 and thought the world had collapsed on top of me. I really never knew how wonderful and talented my father was until it was too late. I came to realize how far he came and how admired he was by a lot of people. People always told me how much of a great person he was, and above all what a great drummer he still should be. It has been 6 years today and his presence inside my heart is still as strong as it ever was. I want the whole world to know how much he loved to play his drums for you, and just bring great music to your ears. BJ was a wonderful and thoughtful man and a great father to grow up with. I have wonderful memories about him, and I will always have his music. From his beloved, Nicola Wilson

Subj:Re:Dedicated to BJ Date: 96-10-08 16:42:50 EDT From: WBrown3666

Thank you so much for that thoughtful remembrance. I must say I think of BJ and his family often, because for me, as a drummer,(and father) he is perhaps the greatest musical influence of my career. I've had the privilege of speaking with Gary and the rest of the PH touring unit (especially Mark B. and Graham B.) about BJ's phenomenal talent, and we've shared thoughts about favorite grooves, fills and songs. I hope you and your family are well. Our hearts and minds are with you today. Sincerely, Wilson Brown

Subj: Re:Dedicated to BJ Date: 96-10-08 17:17:11 EDT From: BigTex1976

Nicola, What a great surprise to see you visiting here, albeit on a somber occasion ... you are among many friends and fans of your father, who brought a lot of people much joy through his unique and prodigious talents. Having been around here for awhile I think I can speak for one and all here in saying that I hope you will stop by often to visit ... Best Regards, John Ferrari

Subj: Re:Dedicated to BJ Date: 96-10-08 21:01:40 EDT From: Jem33

Welcome, Nicola! I hope this is the first of many visits. We are all honored by your presence. Your father was by far the greatest drummer, and one of the greatest Musicians, ever to grace our planet. His work deserves to be kept Alive by those who know and love it – so that future generations of music fans and aspiring drummers – and not just Procol Harum fans- can enjoy and learn from it. I just read in the Shine On Procol Harum fanzine how Gary is doing a benefit to preserve an old English church building. This got me to thinking – how much more important to the world it would be if we could all work toward preserving and celebrating B.J's magnificent music. I wonder if the band would consider the idea of a B.J. Wilson Tape Archive, and/or Memorial Scholarship Fund or even a Drum Institute in his name. I think this is how we can all best deal with the shock and sorrow of his death. Sincerely, Joan May

Subj: Re:Dedicated to BJ Date: 96-10-08 22:55:12 EDT From: Tausendsas

Nicola... Our thoughts are with you today...your father means a lot to all of us here. He was an artist of the first magnitude, and brought something very special and irreplaceable to Procol Harum and all the other ensembles he played with over the years. Be assured that his memory will be kept alive by a dedicated and loyal legion of fans. He was one of a kind, and is sorely missed. Please visit us here again soon!. Al

Subj: Re: Dedicated to BJ Date: 96-10-09 19:44:34 EDT From: Haclac

Nicola, wow I'm still a little taken aback to have you join us on this forum. If you have read our many posts you know how much we loved BJs playing. I'm sure I couldn't drum to save my life but I bet i know by heart every little note he hit, they're so ingrained in me. thanks for sharing and you know you always have some friendly voices here. Howard

Subj: I found you all! part1 Date: 96-10-09 22:32:44 EDT From: SSheaffer

Finally! I found you all! I think since 1972 I've been in search of folks interested in Procol Harum. It's been a hard search...but only yesterday...October 8th, did I find this message board...and here you all are! Let me tell you my story: ................................ To back up a bit, I started using computers and figuring out this online stuff only recently. Yesteday (Oct. 8th) my wife said she listened to a MF solo album which she hasn't done for a bit now. I don't know if it was this...or something else...that prompted me to do some PH research on the computer (as best as I know how) but I found a PH link that linked me to this newsgroup. Today (Oct 9th) I figured out how to use the "log manager" to download everything. I downloaded all of the postings, and my office computer was busy most of the day, printing out the messages. After about 150 pages of printing, I started reading...June messages. After a while, I started pooping out. I came home from work to tell my wife of my GREAT downloading experience and in an attempt to show her how current this information was...I started to read her the latest messages... These messages are dated Oct. 8th. And on this date I got a message I wasn't quite prepared for...a message from Nicola Wilson...Imagine my suprise! Was it B.J. who inspired my wife to listen to M.F. on Oct.8th? Was it B.J. who inspired me to find this newsgroup? Does it have to do with my initial exposure to P.H. at my first concert with my best friend...the drummer.? I'm not really sure. I'm not much of a metaphysical person, but the coincidences are, I think, phenomenal...1 chance in 365 statistically. But the truth is that B.J. has always been an inspiration in my music. He is my favorite drummer and that impression made its mark in '72. I like to imagine that we are "in touch" so I'll accept my imagination's explanation... B.J., I love you. Thanks for everything! Nicola, though we haven't spoken, thank you for your remembrance of your dad. And newsgroup, I'm excited to have met you all...FINALLY! Steve

Subj:Re:B.J. Dedication Date: 96-10-10 21:43:40 EDT From: TBren80504

Nicola: I, too, join everyone in thanking you for offering your thoughts and remembrances of your Dad. Please believe us all when we're praising your father's talents and expressing how much he is missed. In 1974 and 1977, I had the good fortune of seeing father perform with PH, at Hofstra University and at the Academy in NYC (at the true "last show" of Procol Harum). He was great! At that time, he was truly a hero of mine. His playing was, for me and many other friends of mine, unparalleled. His style was absolutely unique, soulful and emotional. It was powerful, in every sense of the word. He had no true peers in the drumming world. And I can personally attest to a visible sorrow on the face of Gary Brooker when asked (outside a show in PA) about B.J. Like Gary, we all miss B.J. Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts. Tim B.

Subj: Re:Dedicated to BJ Date: 96-10-12 11:15:10 EDT From: Jem33

Here's a message I received from Peter May – no relation, other than musical:

>>> Nicola – Your rememberence of your father touched me deeply. As a drummer, I was inspired by your dad's work and awed by his incredible talent. I admired him as the most musical and creative percussionist I have ever heard. Now, I find that I admire him more than ever. It is clear from your moving tribute that he was a loving and much loved father. This, most certainly, was his greatest achievement. You are a testament to him and I am quite certain he would be very proud of you. Your Dad influenced my work and my drumming greatly. His work also gave me and a lot of other people a great deal of pleasure. Of that, I think you should be very proud..... Do not despair at your loss, but rejoice for the love you and your father clearly shared and for the happiness and inspiration he brought to thousands upon thousands of people like me. I admire your love for your father as I so greatly admired him. Please take good care. Peter May, Pittsburgh, PA USA <<< <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Subj: Re:Dedicated to BJ Date: 96-10-19 21:20:00 EDT From: Jem33

That beautiful tribute to BJ from Stephen Braitman (Letters, Goldmine, 5/31/91) will scroll off the Board soon, and I'd like to re-post it, in a more complete version, with an Update:

>>>>>>>WILSON WAS HEART OF PROCOL HARUM ....Despite what anyone else might have told you, B.J. was the true heart of Procol Harum. Not Matthew Fisher's grand organ washes, not Robin Trower's droning guitar, not Gary Brooker's droll vocals, not Keith Reid's willfully enigmatic lyrics. B.J.'s drumming was almost literary – following and emphasizing the narrative with far more power and passion than any mere beat structure. He was a funny, half-bent individual, not unlike Keith Moon, though he expressed the same kind of manic energy much differently. Take a listen again to "Repent Walpurgis" or "Grand Hotel" to see what I mean. In the usual description of Procol Harum's style, "grandeur" is a typical adjective. B.J. created that grandeur with stunning punctuations, great open spaces, surprising reversals of rhythm. Listen to his work with Lou Reed on the Berlin album. B.J. Wilson made the drums express both the unpredictability and inevitability of fate. He was awesome, and he will be missed... Stephen M.H. Braitman San Francisco, CA <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

I emailed Stephen with some recent postings, reiterating my appreciation of his piece, and wondering why more tributes haven't (yet) been written. He sent greetings to the Folder and had this to say:

>>>>> From: (Stephen M. H. Braitman) Well, that was all very interesting. Thank you for sending it to me..... Drummers are a quirky lot in the rock world; they either are flamboyant and outrageous and/or funny (Ringo, Moon, Led Zep's Bonzo) or steady and sturdy and faithful and a 'non-personality.' BJ didn't attract much notice from the press, perhaps because the band he was in was known for more serious music. But his lanky, unique body language with the sticks could not be mistaken for any other drummer. And, of course, his musical rhythm was equal parts intellectually intricate and majestically powerful. No doubt if Procol Harum had made it into the ranks of the top groups of the era (in terms of sales and public attention), BJ's reputation would surpass many of his peers. <<<<<

Subj: Talking Druims Date: 96-08-07 23:20:58 EDT From: Jem33

When Stephen Braitman called BJ's drumming "literary" in that letter to Goldmine, I was surprised, because I would have described his style as "musical." I read something similar in that great quirky article in the 2/92 issue of the Brit Mag Q, where Tom Hibbert refers to "...the lovely <G> B.J. Wilson and his extravagant talking drums..."

Well, now I think I see what they mean. In one of my fave BJ tracks, Nothing That I Didn't Know, his drums Do appear to talk. When they first enter the song, and repeated several times throughout, echoing Gary, they seem to be saying:

"......did you HEAR??............did you HEAR??....."

Affirmative, B.J.

Subj: Re:Talking Drums Date: 96-08-08 13:02:48 EDT From: Tausendsas

On thier 1974 tour supporting EBAF, the band performed a fantastic rendition of Thin End Of The Wedge, greatly enhanced by some incredible work from BJ. As is so often the case with this band, the recorded version doesn't begin to approach what it sounded like live. On the recorded version, BJ is pretty laid back, but in concert he did some very interesting and expressive accents throughout...he was in constant motion but never fell into a rhythmic groove. It's a good song on the album, but the concert version was positively stunning with the addition of the talking drums (and very good background vocals by Mick).

Subj: Re:Hello folks/PH Live Art Date: 96-09-13 00:50:28 EDT From: Jem33

Hi Phil!

>>> My introduction to PH was my brother’s "Live" – I spent hours trying to figure out who was who on the back cover – they all looked the same to me (except Keith of course). <<<

This prompted me to look at said cover art. It's by the same Bruce Meek who did that surrealistic cover for SM, btw. Yes, the drawings of DB and BJ are very poor, and I'm not sure about them – but my guess is (L-->R): Chris, Dave (or BJ), Keith, Gary, Alan, and BJ (or Dave).

In looking at the front cover art I remembered I heard that during rehearsals for Edmonton, there was much concern about BJ's "drowning out the orchestra" (so where was the problem?), and that measures had to be taken to tone him down. Does the cover art depict these measures? – The rug under the drumkit, the cloth in front of the bass drum (atop a monitor speaker?), and those 2 large blue structures (what are they?) on either side? Can anyone offer technical info about this?

I've been enjoying this CD lately, and think it was by far the best recording of the Band (regardless of the orchestra) – especially the Indispensables – Gary and BJ; for once they didn't sound muffled. Chris Thomas produced several of their other albums – why wasn't the sound as good on those? Or even half as good??

I think this album sold so well not because of the orchestra, but because for once the fidelity approached what PH Really sounded like. If all their albums had been as well recorded, IMHO, they could have ruled the music world.

Subj: Re:PH sound Date: 96-09-18 20:06:28 EDT From: Jem33 ...

I don't think Any of PH's studio albums did justice to their true sound – LIVE [w/Edmonton Symphony] came the closest but was still far from it. The drums were better recorded by Chris Thomas than by Denny Cordell or Matthew Fisher, IMHO (this is interesting because Denny is quoted in that Bud Scoppa Rolling Stone review of GRAND HOTEL as saying that BJ was the band's "real talent." So why were his drums so trebly and far back in the mix on Denny's productions?). When I first saw PH live – HOME time – I was Astounded by the Power and Majesty of the band's overall sound and BJ in particular. The Chris Thomas productions, while better with the drums than their predecessors, didn't reproduce the excitement of that total sound at all, for me.

And as to Unquiet Zone – I didn't realize what a Blockbuster that was until I recently heard and saw live footage of the song. Then I went back to PROCOL'S NINTH and cranked up the volume, which helped somewhat.....

I think it's the "concert hall ambience" about LIVE that I like so much. ...

Subj: Baffling Barricades & Tidbits Date: 96-11-05 15:00:03 EST From: Jem33

This is for folks interested in drumming technique.

Neil Peart of Rush, perhaps Rock's most highly respected drummer, recently decided his playing had become too mechanical, and took Lessons from drum master/teacher Fred Gruber. He and the article's author described his new technique in a recent issue of Modern Drummer, and I was amazed at how much it sounds like BJ's! "It's traditional grip** for me from now on" " ..flowing above-the-drums motion... his stroke is much more fluid...he's not boxing anymore – he's dancing on the drums..." Maybe Fred Gruber taught BJ, too? Or learned from him? I don't think Neil is familiar with BJ's work or he'd have sung his praises in print by now.

** Shortly before Neil's article came out, I had acquired a video of Procol from 1976 that has excellent camera work and on which BJ played a great solo. I could SEE him much better on this than when I actually had gone to see him, and I'd immediately taken notice of his grip – "Hey! he's holding the 2 sticks differently! That looks Cool" I learned that this is called Traditional grip – the left hand holds the stick like a fork or spoon, and the right like a bike handlebar. Most drummers I've seen use "Matched" grip – both sticks like handlebars.

I emailed a professional drummer/BJ fan whom I met at the Drum Magazine Site (keyword Drum – message boards – Drum Gossip) and he told me all about the Traditional Grip, its history, etc.

From Jazzer5a: >>>>The way you describe BJ holding his sticks is known as the "traditional" grip, so named because it evolved from the pre-drumset days when drummers played field drums carried on a sling around their shoulders...The drum naturally tilted in one direction, and the grip allowed the drummer to better access the playing surface in this position...This grip was carried through on drumset, with drummers typically tilting their snare drum stands to accomodate the grip... In the late 50's or early sixties with the development of rock and the need to play heavier backbeats some drummers began playing "palms down" (e.g both sticks parallel to the flat snare surface)..Technique and finesse were sacrificed, but in rock that did not matter as much as a fat snare sound..Nowadays I'd say that players are split about 50-50 between the two styles. Personally, I play either way depending on the requirements of the music I'm playing , but probably play traditional more....<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Then I asked him about all the "barricades" around the drumkit at Edmonton:

Jazzer5a: >> ... all that stuff around him is to baffle the sound..The two panels on either side are called "Gobos";.(.don't ask me how they got their name).. but they are used in studios to isolate musicians playing in the same room so the the guitar amp, say, does not "bleed" into the bass mic..Nowadays you do not see them too much since so much recording is done right into the board (e.g, no mics on amps in the studio...The thing in front on the floor looks like a monitor with a blanket over it..possibly also for sound? <<<

So far I've "met" 3 drummers online – at least 2 of whom make their living as drummers – who cite BJ as a major influence. Great! Here's hoping for many more! :-)

More notes on BJ's technique and pictures, here

Subj: Re:Baffling Barricades &tidb Date: 96-11-05 17:05:52 EST From: Edangered

thats wonderful its nice to see such a great and sadly missed perc as bj noticed all to often he is as all of u have basically said sometimes left in the background to more traditional drummers but hey is procol traditional are we at the mercy of a general top 40 commercial band! i think not we are the fans and friends of ultimately the greatest progressive band of all time yehh!!

Subj: SOB CD's Date: 96-12-08 20:23:32 EST From: Jem33

Welcome from me too, JMasucci1 !! You wrote re SOB:

>>>Third, does anyone know of a remastered CD of this album? The US release has the same compressed sonics as the original LP.<<<

Castle Communications in England reissued SOB in 1992, with the harpsichord-from-hell cover <g>. I think it sounds a little better than the green cover – A&M version, but it's not as good as the Castle reissues from 1995, e.g. Home [sic], Grand Hotel, Ninth, Exotic Birds (I think the latter 2 are from Castle). The 1995 ones sound Much better than my LP's or earlier CD's, and have Updated liner notes, and lyric sheets where once there were none. On the Home liner notes, Derek Humphries (name sounds familiar – who is he?) even mentions MF's past contributions to the band, and that B.J. was Jimmy Page's first choice for Led Zep.

Subj: Re: ASD Date: 96-12-11 02:12:18 EST From: Jacksbj

I always thought it was about being banished, forgotten and given up on, but finding your own peace regardless. We could of course go on with this speculation forever. Gee, duh, isn't it just a rock n' roll Mutiny on the Bounty??? Just kidding folks...Anyhow, where does one contact this Castle company to obtain these high quality CD's? I would love a good CD of Exotic Birds and Fruit, as it's always been a favorite. Thanks for the info, whoever's got it. As for me, yes, those horns on Ninth turned me off so bad I hardly every listened to it. So much other good music to enjoy and I didn't want it tainting my opinion of PH. Thanks for the info that BJ was the first pick for LZ, how come all the music world knew how great PH was and the general public only marginally ever figured it out? Justice has not yet prevailed, but I somehow I think someday it will.

Subj: Musical Justice Date: 96-12-15 20:39:20 EST From: Jem33

Hi Jacksbj!

You wrote:

>> ... Thanks for the info that BJ was the first pick for LZ, how come all the music world knew how great PH was and the general public only marginally ever figured it out? Justice has not yet prevailed, but I somehow I think someday it will.<<<

I'm sorry to say I think you give the music world too much credit. Jimmy Page knew BJ from that Joe Cocker session they both played on – the hit single "With A Little Help From My Friends." In fact, as I posted earlier, Joe and producer Denny Cordell credited BJ with saving that session, after 35 unsuccessful takes with Jim Capaldi. But Page didn't follow up with his good taste after Bonzo died, when BJ may have been available. And I'm afraid BJ is totally unknown to the world of drummers at the present time – I was shocked to find this out during the past year.

But as you say, it's never too late for the public, and the music world, to discover the greatness of PH and BJW. I've been wondering lately about the possibility of a Video release. There's some Incredible stuff out there – I have only lo-fi copies, but I'm sure Someone must have state-of-the-art versions.

Subj: Music Hound: Rock Date: 96-12-06 21:06:53 EST From: Jem33

The Book Howard mentioned is called

Music Hound: Rock The Essential Album Guide Edited by Gary Graff. Visible Ink Press, 1996.

The reviewer who did the PH material is Shane Faubert, described as a musician (not further specified) who's a solo artist in Montvale, NJ, and was in an 80's band called the Cheepskates (spelling theirs).

.... he wrote some Lovely copy!!!

"...Unlike other "progressive" rock bands of the time, Procol Harum didn't use string arrangements and classical melodies to disguise the fact that it couldn't write or as a way to seem more important than it was. On the contrary, Procol Harum wrote concise pop songs that were magnificent, beautiful, haunting, mysterious and hummable. Brooker and Reid are obvious choices when discussing what made Procol Harum tick, but Wilson is possibly one of the most underrated drummers ever (slightly less manic than Keith Moon and far more stylish), and the many guitarists who played with the band (Trower went on to huge success as a solo act) all provided flash and taste. Things tended to sound bombastic or pretentious at times, but you always got the feeling that the band was winking at you all the while. ....."

Subj: Re:Hello Shane Date: 97-01-19 16:02:06 EST From: Shane5465

Hi –

Thanks for the welcome!

I have always been a huge Procol Harum fan – I made two 90 min. compilation tapes of my favorite PH songs many years ago and I still listen to them often. Love the songs, love Brooker's voice, love the arrangements... REALLY love BJ Wilson's drumming. I've been trying (successfully) to convince people for years that he ranks as one of the best rock drummers ever, and is probably THE most musical drummer ever. Seems he was a nice guy, too...

Subj: Re:Hello Shane Date: 97-01-22 13:52:50 EST From: Jem33

Hi Shane!

You wrote:

>>... REALLY love BJ Wilson's drumming. I've been trying (successfully) to convince people for years that he ranks as one of the best rock drummers ever, and is probably THE most musical drummer ever. <<<

As you can probably guess, that's music to my ears (or eyes).

I've been somewhat frustrated in trying to complile a BJW sampler for the uninitiated, because even more so than PH in general, he was never well recorded. On the first 3 albums, just about all you hear are cymbals and snares; the toms and bass drum – where he performed so much of his Magic – are barely audible. Even on the later albums you often have to ignore the orchestra/chorus, &/or boost the bass, turn up the volume, etc. and actively listen for him to hear how Great he was. I think even some PH fans who focus on other instruments in the band could be missing many of his nuances.

This is one reason I think the next PH project should be the release of some of their great Vintage live material, especially the Videos, with state of the art sound. That Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus video that all the critics are raving about, especially re The Who/K.Moon's performance, demonstrates that a show from 1968 can look and sound as if it were made on the best and latest equipment.

But I doubt that we'll see a PH video release in the near future, if ever, so I'm wondering – have you discovered any of the existing BJW tracks that have been particularly convincing?

Subj: My Favorite Things... Date: 97-01-22 21:48:08 EST From: Shane5465

I think my favorite BJ Wilson moment is the oddly timed break back into the verse in Devil Came From Kansas. Not that it's an incredible piece of drumming, just that I've never heard anything quite like it before or since. I think that his performance on the live version of Conquistador is stunning, however. If you close your eyes (and I do) you can just about see him twirling the sticks between all the cutting and slashing that he's doing with the kit. I think what I like about his work overall is that he always seems to be playing himself into corners that nobody else could get out of... and then boom, he's back in the groove again. His rolls sound almost awkward, but they are absolute magic.


Subj: Re:My Favorite BJW Things... Date: 97-01-22 23:44:09 EST From: Jem33

Thanks for the suggestions, Shane, and the great descriptions, as usual.

YES that Conquistador, and the ASD off the ESO album are Fantastic BJW. But my novice listener, if not concentrating, might be so distracted by the orchestra that s/he could miss all the beauty of those drums. I'll have to go back and listen to Kansas again.

I may as well list my fave BJW tracks:

With A Little Help From My Friends – Joe Cocker 1967 single SOB – not the album version, but the one on Beat Workshop, 1971 video Wreck of the Hesperus Pilgrim's Progress – not the album version – but – Beat Workshop, 71 Nothing That I Didn't Know – this may be my #1 favorite – with Liquorice John a close second About To Die Still There'll Be More – esp. on Beat Workshop, 71, also – Shine On Live Your Own Choice Power Failure – not the album version, but – Rockpalast 76 video Simple Sister – not the album version, but – Beat Workshop 71 Conquistador – ESO, Live London 76, and Rockpalast '76 ASD – ESO, and Live London '76 Grand Hotel – Rockpalast, 76 Bringing Home the Bacon For Liquorice John Fires Which Burn Brightly As Strong as Samson The Unquiet Zone – esp. on Rockpalast '76 You Are So Beautiful – Joe Cocker, live, Montreal, 1981

Subj: Re:My Favorite BJW Things... Date: 97-01-23 20:04:24 EST From: EMVan1

It's been mentioned on this board that PH's albums, production-wise, have not been all that great for showing off BJ's brilliance. True enough that I didn't quibble at the time, but in retrospect, there is a glaring and glorious exception: HOME. The drums on "About to Die," e.g., are in your face! The dynamic range is tremendous. I can't imagine playing this for someone who knew music but didn't know PH or BJ, and not having them say "Who the ***** is that drummer! Wow!"

When I first heard PH (a story I ought to post; it's written and nearly finished!), I wasn't that much of a music fan. Except for the Who. And especially, for Keith Moon. (Recently I played "Amazing Journey" from TOMMY for the first time in years, and was thrilled to discover that Moon's drumming was absolutely as brilliant as my ignorant 15-year old self thought). BJ's drumming was one of the first things that grabbed me about the group. And it's never let me go!


Subj: Re:My Favorite BJW Things... Date: 97-01-23 20:55:49 EST From: Jem33

Hi Eric – Yes, I'd rate Home as the best produced BJW of all the albums, especially the Castle CD version. But I can still hear places that can stand improvement – e.g. – Whaling Stories.

Subj: Re: Favorite BJW Date: 97-01-23 15:36:19 EST From: Procol9

Just thought I'd add my two cents- I love his drumming on Skip Softly, especially right after the piano solo.

Subj: Production Values for BJ Date: 97-01-24 19:25:08 EST From: TBren80504

Yeah, Home does justice to BJ's skills; particularly on About to Die and Nothing the I Didn't Know. Though I haven't listened to it in a while, his playing always seemed pretty pronounced on Broken Barricades, too, I think. Well, at least we still have these...

Subj: Re:BJ in Heaven Date: 97-01-24 19:57:52 EST From: JEEPER548

You know, if there's AOL in heaven (unlimited access with no charge or busy signals), BJ is, well, in heaven. But of course we all know that.

Subj: Play the Silences Date: 97-02-25 21:30:57 EST From: Jem33

In the new Shine On there's an interview with the first 90's PH bass player, Dave Bronze. I wasn't expecting much of interest here, but then came the following:

Bronze: [talking about Willy Wiggs (lol), Donny Hathaway's bassist]: "...He's probably the most beautiful, melodic bass player I've heard. It's not what he does, but what he doesn't do." <THAT got my attention!> Interviewer: The _not_ playing part certainly shows in your bass playing. Bronze: I hope it does. I'm not a fan of the very busy school of bass playing with the exception of Jaco.......I love bass, I love bottom end, simple and powerful, a nice sound with the big notes. If you've got a really great bass sound with big sound you can't play fast on it as it just gets muddled. As I said before "If the sound you're making is not better than the silence it replaces, shut up!"

Now I'm In Love with this guy!!! I've been trying to say the same kind of thing but calling it "filling up the air spaces." I like his "silence" better.

What he says sure applies to most bass players! The main exception for me is early Sting – check out his brilliant work on Roxanne to hear what I mean.

And of course it applies to producers who can't let one second of silence go by without filling it up with washes of strings, synths or blaring horns.

And does it Ever apply to Drummers! No drummer has EVER known how to Play the Silences as masterfully as BJW!

Subj: Re:My Favorite BJW Things Date: 97-01-26 13:55:28 EST From: JJones1790

Anybody mention Simple Sister, Luskus Delph, Drunk Again. He has my nomination for best rock drummer. I understand he was in the running for replacing Led Zep's drummer and would have been my candidate for a Keith Moon replacement. If there is one thing missing in the new Procol Harum, it's that BJ Wilson 'off-tee" signature. I miss him. (If there is a Rock & Roll heaven, you can bet he is the drummer)

Another: My vote is for KR being the one asking: "Is it 'on' Tommy (Tommy being producer Chris Thomas) ."

Shine On! Tito

Subj: BJW/Boys Brigade Date: 97-03-12 15:22:33 EST From: Jem33

In the 12/96 issue of GB Fanzine from Germany – Whaling Stories – there was a tribute to BJW – the first tribute to him I've seen ANYWHERE!!

In it, they say he got his start drumming as a child – as part of the "Boys Brigade." ??? Do any of you Anglophiles out there know what that is/was????

And – how often does Whaling Stories publish? Has there been a followup issue with any further comments on BJ?

Hey, Phast – have you considered doing a BJ Tribute in your Newsletter? I've asked the Shine On people the same thing, but that's one of the many unanswered questions I've asked them....

Subj: Re:Power Failure Date: 97-03-14 20:31:06 EST From: Jem33

Leo Kottke wrote a lovely sad instrumental called "B.J." that appeared on his 1989 "My Father's Face" album – I think that's the title. There was no documentation about the song but I assume it's a tribute to BJW. I'd like to hear that from him someday – if anyone sees him, maybe they'll ask.

B.J. also appeared with Leo on the Paul Bunyan CD – a short 2 or 3 minute part of a song cycle – called "Edelin." The album came out in 1990, but Edelin must have been recorded prior to 1987. I wonder if it was B.J.'s last recording. Again, if anyone sees Leo......

Subj: BIG news from England Date: 97-03-21 14:57:11 EST From: Jem33

I'm in a big hurry right now so will only post Part of this GREAT NEWS – more info to come probably this evening. Please forgive the predicted even MORE typos than usual....

Just heard from Diane Rolph of Shine On:


They've hired a theater and invited all current and former PH members to play – and so far they've gotten GARY, MATTHEW AND – SAINTS BE PRAISED – MICK GRABHAM!!!!!!!!!

My hope is for them to also get Bill Eyden, who I think did a great job on the song!

There will also be RARE Video Shown!!! Here's a blurb from Richard Amey -


Excuse me for shouting BUT!!!!!!!! :-) :-) :-). What's the symbol for being beside oneself with Joy????

Diane also says this is the only PH gig "this year" so I guess that Austrian thing was from 1996....

I'll write more soon.

YES YES YES etc etc..................

Subj: One quick thought Date: Thu, 27 Mar 1997 02:51:34 EST From: Jacksbj Message-ID: <>

Just for a minute, pretend that you are BJ Wilson and you've just been handed a new song. Pick one. Milk of Human Kindness. Whatever. Now, how exactly do you figure out how you're going to play it? Surely no exact sheet music for the percussion has been created, it's up to you. So what now, have them play it a zillion times while you slowly add a piece here and a piece there until you get the recordable version? Something unique with clever little flairs in weird spots, some out of place beats that work regardless, and more and more.

I doubt you could do it, and I doubt he did. There just weren't enough opportunities between the time they wrote the songs and the time they recorded them. And it was all too non-standard to just be off the cuff but still billiant. I think he planned each and every aspect of his work on many of the songs, up front. Like he scored his own drums, and did it in a completely personal way. Not all the time, but on some songs for sure. It must have been a very collaborative effort. I wonder about those sessions just after GB or whoever introduces the melody and everybody else has to deal with it. I bet BJ went off for days with the song in his head and wrote his part. Who else could have done it?

I'm probably totally wrong, but it makes certain songs more fun to listen to. If you think of a particular rhythm line as being totally planned the way the melody was start to finish, it stands on its own more and isn't so much just going along with what the melody demands. seems odd there's never any song writing credit given. I guess this is just standard cause every drummer does it, huh? But most just play very standard patterns, they don't deserve much credit. On some PH songs though, the weirdness of the rhythm structure makes the whole song. He should have gotten some credit. I know GB did not write all those patterns and changes out on paper. They came out of BJ's head, with a deliberate effort to achieve a deliberate effect. With tremendous success.

There's my BJ tribute, hope you liked it.

Subj: Re: One quick thought Date: Thu, 27 Mar 1997 12:40:43 EST From: WendigoNY Message-ID: <>

Lovely tribute to BJ, Jacksbj. I especially like your mention of the weirdness of their rhythms (and your attribution of this to BJ). They *did* have a weird rhythm -- alive and aware. Like the rhythms of a thinking process.

I remember being at a show once and they were going to do ASD. BJ started his sparkling surf rolls and the rest of the band just stepped back and listened. GB just shifted back in his seat, as if he were sitting on a seaside porch and listened, smiling. When a musician can produce such joy and awe in his colleagues -- who see him and hear him day in and day out -- you know he's got something really special. Wendigo

Subj: Re: One quick thought/BJW Date: Thu, 27 Mar 1997 13:55:44 EST From: Jem33 Message-ID: <>

>> There's my BJ tribute, hope you liked it. <<

YES YES YES – I LOVE it! Thanks so much, Jack!!!!

May I re-post it in Usenet


Jack are you by any chance a NEW BJW fan, who took another listen to his work by focusing on it? Much as I did during the last 2 years with MF? I seem to remember your saying before that you didn't notice BJ much in the past.. Or perhaps that was someone else...

Regardless – Thanks Again for the Beautiful Tribute! I know drummers never get official songwriting credits (except Neil Peart for his Lyrics!!!) but BJ sure receives credit from me whenever I listen to PH. I was only half kidding when I said this folder could be subtitled: B.J. Wilson's Backup Band. That's often how I listen to them. :-)

Subj: Re: One quick thought Date: Thu, 27 Mar 1997 15:32:37 EST From: Patty ODay Message-ID: <>

I really enjoyed your BJ tribute, Jacksbj.....and I think it made great sense.

The song that came to my mind first, just after I read your post, was "Bring Home the Bacon"........the rhythm definitely brings that song to life...and BJ did such a great job on it.

So many additonal songs could be placed on the list...but BHtB just struck me!


Subj: Re: How did BJ do it? Date: Fri, 28 Mar 1997 02:31:53 EST From: EMVan1 Message-ID: <>

(Was: "One quick thought")

Interesting post!

I've observed a lot of rock bands in rehearsal, including the process of teaching band members new songs. The two bands I hung out with most, the Atlantics and Mission of Burma, both had brilliant drummers (Boby Bear and Peter Prescott) who played a lot of very uncoventional parts which were often as important to their songs as B.J.'s. So, here's my own guess as to B.J.'s working method . . .

I think the two key factors here are *imagination* and *memory*. And *spontaneity*. OK, three factors. In my experience, drum parts like these emerge surprisingly quickly. Basic patterns, no matter how inventive, are chosen by the drummer as soon as he "gets" how the song goes. They may or may not be fine-tuned in subsequent run-throughs, but within a few days of rehearsal the final basic drum parts are pretty much in place.

As the drummer starts to nail down the basic patterns, he begins to improvise fills and other oddball stuff in the places where it seems appropriate (spontaneity and imagination). Lots of drummers, actually, have this talent. What separates the B.J.'s of this world from the rest is that most drummers, after improvising some spectacular fill, will be at a loss to repeat it! "What the f did I just do?" These are drummers who, in order to be "on", must get into the "zone" where they're not thinking about the music. The Atlantics' drummer, Boby, was precisely this way. The more he thought, the worse he played, and he never played a song the same way twice, couldn't if he wanted to. Drove the other band members crazy!

Listening to B.J., I suspect what made him the genius he was was a lack of conflict between the thinking and improvising aspects of drumming. His approach was simultaneously cerebral / intellectual, like a composer, and visceral / spontaneous. I imagine that he could not only free his brain in order to go with the flow of the song, but, remarkably, remember what he had played, stroke for stroke, in order to use it again (in part or in whole). Eric

Subj: Re: One quick thought Date: Fri, 28 Mar 1997 03:14:32 EST From: EMVan1 Message-ID: <>

Some further thoughts . . .

When you have a brilliant musician in your band, it definitely factors into your songwriting. Imagine GB writing "Bringing Home the Bacon." Writing the piano part for the intro, and thinking "This is kind of a cool rhythm, I bet B.J. can do something great with it." In fact, probably hearing something in his head, based on his years of familiarity with B.J.'s playing, that he thinks B.J. might come up with.

From watching my musician friends, I think I know what happens next . . . Very rarely, the part the musician comes up with is not liked by the songwriter, who then has to teach the musician the part they thought he would play. (This usually happens because the musician is hearing the song in a fundamentally different way -- hasn't really "gotten" it yet). Sometimes, the musician comes up with *exactly* the part the songwriter had in mind, without having to be told! But most often, the musician comes up with something even better (after all, *they're* the genius!), which may range from being similar to the imagined part to being completely different (which is always fun for the songwriter!).

You can think of the songwriter's imagined version of the part as sort of a "generic" version or part. This proves to be a very useful concept. For instance, if you listen to Keith Moon, starting with about QUADROPHENIA, he's still great, but he's playing generic Keith Moon parts, the sort of parts you'd get from a computer which had been programmed with all his playing from previous albums, all recycled licks, nothing new. And in fact, Pete Townshend used to do full demos with his idea of what Keith would play. I suspect that, at some point, Keith started just playing those parts, rather than taking it the extra step.

I can do generic B.J. and Robin Trower parts in my head -- in fact, I can imagine generic parts for just about any guitarist, bassist, or drummer (Hendrix might be an exception). Of course, the actual musicians, when they're on their game, go way beyond those generic stylings . . . The last time I saw Trower, actually, I was hugely dispappointed because all he played was generic Trower. Nothing that I didn't already know . . .

B.J., to my knowledge, never played generic B.J. parts.


Subj: Re: One quick thought/BJW Date: Sat, 29 Mar 1997 16:24:12 EST From: Jem33 Message-ID: <>


Beautiful tribute to BJ!! Especially:

>> B.J., to my knowledge, never played generic B.J. parts. << Yes! I think that was a Huge part of his Genius – never duplicated by any other drummer (that I know of..). I think I'm going to collect all the BJ tributes – the ones by fans, and the few in print – and post them in Usenet.... :-)

Subj: BJ Boot Tidbits Date: Sun, 30 Mar 1997 12:59:13 EST From: Jem33 Message-ID: <>

While listening to the great Live London 76 gig – for the Umpteenth Time – I just noticed something: At the very end of All This And More – which had such Great drumming throughout – I'm almost sure Gary said, quickly and quietly:

"thankyou, Barrie."


On the Rockpalast Video, Gary introduces BJ on Power Failure as the "octopus in the bathtub." Of course I got the 'octopus' reference but could never quite fathom the 'bathtub.' Well I recently heard from a British PH fan that this came from a (Brit) music review which likened BJ to an "octopus in the _Hot_ bath." Now THAT makes Sense!!

Subj: BJW remembered Date: 27 Apr 1997 18:18:34 EDT From: RBpicker Message-ID: <>

..... As a teen, my best friend, who turned me on to PH with SOB album, was a drummer.He explained how BJ was unique in his ability to maintain multiple rhythms simultaneously (I never believed he was playing that cowbell too, until I saw him do it live.) He was a drummers' drummer and well respected among his peers at that time. But drummers are a funny breed when it comes to appreciating others. They tend to idolize only those that are stylistically similar themselves, and since NOBODY played like Barrie, who was there to idolize him? As a musician I will tell you that what he did as drummer, very, very few could do. A pioneer, with a signature style instantly recognizable, and IMHO the only living being who could have been right for the PH sound.(oh hell, he WAS the PH sound) Only the good die young Please indulge me two more insights into this uncanny artist. Barrie Wilson had an unbelievably innate sense of timing. He could take his drumming to the brink of chaos and still emmerge on beat with the music.This was the essential quality that made his playing mesh so perfectly with the music. This same quality can be heard in RT's unique PH guitar solos. Whether they influenced each other's approach to their respective instruments can be debated, but this quality helped define the style that made both artist's work instantly recognizable, wherever they went. And as someone before me so insightfully pointed out in a previous post to this board, B.J.Wilson's mind's eye was that of a composer and a craftsman, which allowed him to stamp his trademark on every measure of his music, allowing the listener to feel that he is hearing something truly origional at every moment, and know that that same quality will be repeated with each rendition of the piece. If there is a heaven for composers, then I suspect that BJ will be jamming with Beethoven, and feeling right at HOME. (closely watched by God on high!) .....

Subj: Re: BJW remembered Date: 27 Apr 1997 18:34:02 EDT From: Jem33 Message-ID: <>

Richard! Thanks so much for your beautiful tribute..... As a matter of fact, I think RT and BJ DID influence each other. I have a newspaper interview with the 2 of them from 1967, where they both said as much...It was in one of the early Shine On's – I've been wanting to transcribe it here or for a WebPage – it's too blurry to scan...Now you've given me further incentive to do that...

Thanks Again!!! :-)

Subj: Re: BJW remembered Date: 27 Apr 1997 23:00:36 EDT From: Kenney Message-ID: <>

In '82, the band I work with went to Australia. The day we arrived Joe Cocker was playing in town, so we all went down to the gig. Within the first 30 seconds, I noticed the drummer's unusual style of playing and mentioned, "That guy plays like the guy from Procol Harum", to which my smart-aleck buddy replied, " Maybe that's because he IS the drummer of PH." The most embarassing thing was, we were backstage before the show and I was chatting with one of the guys, named Barry (sp). I didn't even make the connection, 'til I saw him play. After the show, I humbly apologized for not recognizing him, which he wasn't bothered about in the least. He told me that he lived on a farm in Oregon, and as I was in N. Calif. and thinking about doing some recording, I bravely asked if he was available. I couldn't believe when he said, "sure" and gave me his number. By the time I got some time off to go home, I found out that he had passed away. It's wonderful that there is a place like this to keep his legacy alive. Thanks. Michael

Subj: Re: BJW remembered Date: 30 Apr 1997 16:16:46 EDT From: EMVan1 Message-ID: <>

<<As a matter of fact, I think RT and BJ DID influence each other.>>

I can't conceive of a drummer and guitarist, both as good as these two were, playing with each other for as long as they did ('63-'66, '67-'71) at such an early age, and *not* influencing one another. And that's without factoring in how musical B.J.'s playing is, and how rhythmic Robin's is. Eric "In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart." -- Anne Frank

Subj: Re: BJW remembered Date: 04 May 1997 15:50:34 EDT From: DFriedl531 Message-ID: <>

Hi, thank you very much for your mailing. Your opinion meets my feeling, but I never got an explanation by an understanding drummer. (I am a keyboarder). So perhaps you can tell me your opinion about BJW's very special kind of sitting behind his drums: no one else sits so deep, so listening into his machine, and so "working" with his complete body. He must have been excellently free and open. I miss him very much, and he can not be replaced in PH-music. Fritz

Subj: Barrie J. Wilson Date: 05 May 1997 21:36:35 EDT From: DLS Webz Message-ID: <>

Dear Joan and all the other blokes: It was a distinct pleasure to read the Melody Maker interview given in ' 73 by BJ. I have always felt there was a dearth of literal memorabilia concerning the man who met such a sad demise. I will never forget the moment when I was told in ' 90 or so that the band had reformed, but that BJ was gone--the mix of glee and sadness was as bittersweet as any lost love. There is, sadly, very little memorialized info on this great musician. One of the things that most strongly drew my friends and me to the band was Barrie's playing, which was so much more than mere time-keeping that it almost reinvented the drummer's role in rock music, along with just a few others, like Keith Moon and a very limited group of such illuminaries. One of the interviews I have preserved on tape is made some 20 years ago, just after the blighted "Something Unmagical" album came out. BJ was together with GB and KR for this exchange, and he was deferential to his leaders--a shame. There is so much we all could have learned from his muse, cast in the tragic sickness that Joan has alluded to So many times; a great artist lost and, perhaps, inspired by his own affliction like Bird or Van Gogh. This may seem a bit grandiose, but if you ever heard him, especially live as I did on more than a few occasions, the creative output you were priveleged to from a set of drums--usually no more than an underpinning or time signature--was truly awe inspiring. BJ collected and dispersed all influences in his genre; carried and drove so many songs of PH that he could be actually be called, uniquely, a lead musician. This is a legacy we should all remember and cherish: How does one beat sticks on cowbells and skins in such an inspiring fashion to be called, Quite Rightly So, a Lead Musician. Well, I've been wanting to say this for a very long time, and have been absent (yet, still in Held 'Twas I by the band and this site), and now it's said. Go listen to the title track from "Broken Barricades".....then tell me where we can find something as sublime today, and I'll rush out and buy it. Kindest regards to all. Dave

Subj: Re: Barrie J. Wilson Date: 06 May 1997 00:03:38 EDT From: MirrorTime Message-ID: <>

Very Well Said! I can't figure out why BJ is so overlooked in the music world . The man has and will always blow me away. The intro to "Strong as Sampson" freaked me out just last night. BJ lived about 10 miles from me at the time of his demise. I never got to meet him but I really thinks his memory is strong . Peace Dean my e-mail address if you want to keep on talkin bout BJ

Subj: Re: Barrie J. Wilson Date: 07 May 1997 00:15:15 EDT From: Haclac Message-ID: <>

For some reason BJ never seemed to get the recognition, though often this is a result of the popularity of the machine you are in. I just came across a book on greatest drummers of the 60's (I think) and thumbing through there, no BJ of course until a small back section for honorable mentions and there he is with quite a nice 5 line writeup but alas in the back of the book. Though there is almost nothing he did that didn't strike me as unique compared with the pounders that are rock's drummers for the most part, most indelibly i hear him at the end of the live Conquistador, just beating the hell out of his drums and it always excites me and also at the end of The Idol which is kind of a ponderous song but BJ's work at the end always makes me sit thru it for the payoff...good stuff and only the tip of the iceberg ... Howard

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