Procol Harum

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Remembering Gary Brooker MBE 1945 – 2022
Procol organist Chris Copping : 'Great Memories'

Chris writes to 'Beyond the Pale' (2 March 2022) with this amusingly-structured, literary, and interestingly moving memoir sparked by Gary Brooker's death.

May I add an extract or two from a recent e-mail exchange with an unnamed person?


Well your honour

It was like this

Rob and me was in this band and there was a battle of the bands at a local dance place at the top of Pier Hill

Who cares who won but Pete who ran the place had a cunning plan to put me and Rob with the best drummer around and a local singer who was quite popular
but sung mostly white rock

I think it was Rob and Pete who applied Machiavellian theory to economy with truth, to steal Gary Brooker from another little combo who had a brilliant guitarist

Theft accomplished we started playing gigs as Bob Scott and the Paramounts. None of the band sang, just Bob

Bob left and we had a madman who jumped on the piano but he was funny

Then one day we didn't have a singer in the middle of rural Essex where they still 'ad an accent like.

We split the vocals between us and at the end of the evening we pointed to Gary and said "You're it"

Then Robin's dad bought a seafront café in Southend just away from the funfairs and we rehearsed there, played on Sundays and did gigs elsewhere

Our mate Wilk stocked the juke box with things you wouldnt normally hear: Jimmy Reed, James Brown, Booker T, Bobby Bland etc etc.

We were still only around 16

The café had motorcycle enthusiasts (Triumph 110s were the order of the day and the mods had their Vespas)

Never a moment of trouble. The music united everybody

As times went on some of us would maybe stroll down the road to a pub also on the seafront and hear older chaps talk about carburettors

Then back to the Shades

I did my 'O' levels but when 'A' levels approached I wanted to secure a place at Uni so I suggested a chap at Westcliff High who could play play guitar and piano
and I thought he'd be fine. Mick wanted to get married and he left and then they found BJ. Meanwhile I became a jazz snob -- Miles, Monk, Coltrane

In 2005 there was reunion at the Cricketers Hotel in Westcliff, one of the places that Robin and I had started rehearsing in easy before drinking (not that Robin was a drinker).

BJ had gone anyway so it was the original four -- AND the Rockerfellas who started in 1956 (from Romford). Robin always wanted a band like that -- piano, bass, guitar, drums. Tony played piano and sung

Talk about a time loop

Now there are only Robin and me and we don't communicate

Great memories

And now we know … Can’t have been hard to pick that voice as the one to go with…

I read in one obit of the moment in the Appeal Court when the judge asked him to play the melody of Whiter Shade of Pale as he had written it before the addition of the organ counter-melody.
He played it end-to-end and apparently the silence was so thick it was almost unbreathable.


Hi there

The funny thing was that Gary was not known as a singer then -- just a piano player and a good bloke, but the rest of us were shite as N Gallagher would say

Unlike, say, Winwood who sounded mighty from the word go

If you listen to Paramounts records you can hear he could sing -- in fact their recorded version is possibly a bit better than the Stones' one. And his voice got a lot of groundwork in during the Paramounts' career.

I really think that meeting Keith, which triggered him into writing his own stuff, brought out another layer or two on him

I thought the progress they made on the first three Procol Harum albums was astonishing.

Keith's influence is amazing -- BJ became a great drummer (as opposed to a good one)

Robin was challenged by the gothic structures but they brought some very fine playing out of him

I was flabbergasted when I was asked to take over bass and organ!

Bass, yes ... but replacing Matthew was like taking over from Lionel Messi, who wasn't even born then ... but looking backwards I would be happy to approach Ray Parlour's standard (a team player, not a star). Matthew was irreplaceable but he hated touring

That's about it (end of e-mails)


So that's more or less how I remember it

You have done a great job on the site.

Very best wishes,

Chris Copping's main page at 'Beyond the Pale'

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