Procol Harum

the Pale

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Gary Brooker and Keith Reid on US radio, 1975

Interviewed by Allison Steele

Presenter in small green writing; Gary Brooker in blue; Keith Reid in pink

Eight Days A Week plays in the background:

Allison Steele
Procol Harum, brought to you by the United States Army Reserve. And I’m Allison Steele, the Nightbird

The unmistakable sound of one of the most prestigious groups in music, Procol Harum, prestigious because they’ve been around a long time and they’ve made consistently fine music all that time. 9 biggies, 9 big albums. And I’m delighted to say that Keith Reid and Gary Brooker are sitting opposite me in the studio today and I really can’t quite believe my good fortune. Gentlemen?

Gary Brooker

Keith Reid

Oooooh. It’s been such a long time. Now I’ve been, you know, ever since A Whiter Shade of Pale, which is – so, I don’t – well, I started playing progressive music in ’68, and it was there then.

And we were there even before you. We were there in – A Whiter Shade of Pale was ’67.

Isn’t that something! That was one of the first progressive pieces of music –


 – well, that any of us had ever heard. And we could – what does it mean? What does it mean? Hey, come on, fellas. What does it mean?

What does it mean?

What does it mean?

He asks him. What is this? You mean to tell me you don’t know either?

Well, it’s – I know what it means. But it’s not – it doesn’t have a meaning. It isn’t a song that’s got, you know, a thought or an – or an idea behind it. You know, it’s an express –

It’s – it’s an abstraction, isn’t it?

Yeah, it’s an expression of feelings.


And it, you know, it’s not about any one thing.


Does that answer the question?

Yes. Oh, it does. I’m just kind of teasing you.

All right.

I mean, if you didn’t know what A Whiter Shade of Pale was about, you wouldn’t like Procol Harum.


But it’s the kind of thing that it took a lot of people a long time to find out what the group was all about and that was a kind of signature for it, you know.

Right. Yeah.

Many old – Repent Walpurgis


Repent is the poem. Walpurgis was the cut. Oh, there were a couple of other cuts on that first album that were of similar nature –


 – that served to introduce us to a whole new element in music. And it’s amazing to me how much you’ve grown and yet not. And I’d like to talk more about that in a moment but I want everyone now to hear more of Procol Harum.

(Music – I Keep Forgetting)

Procol’s Ninth, the current album. And very different, and in a way somewhat distressing to a lot of people. Are you aware of that, Gary?

Gary Brooker
Um, yeah, I think so.

Okay. I mean, do you care? Does it bother you? 

Well, most of the people we meet like us and wouldn’t say that sort of thing. But – 

Oh, hey, it’s got nothing to do with liking you.

No. What I mean is that –

But – but it’s – you know – do you know – I’m sure you do. People are creatures of habit. They’ve come to expect a certain sound from a group and they love it. They adore it. They live for it, kind of thing. I mean, you know how the fans are.

Well, I mean, this is situations that a lot of people get into. I mean, like, Tony Bennett –


 – who probably – probably caters to that.


It’s that same sort of thing. Although it’s a completely different sort of music, he knows what his audience expects of him and he gives it to them every time.


That has never been the way that the group has worked.


If it had been that sort of group, then we wouldn’t have started in the first place. The thing is to – to play what we find interesting at different times and that is the only course that we can follow. And if sometime somebody doesn’t like something or any great number of people, then it may be unfortunate, but it – I wouldn’t have had it any other way. 

Oh, good. Okay. I’m glad to hear you say that. If anyone could be turned off Procol Harum by the change, then you wouldn’t want them as a fan anyway. I mean, that’s – that’s the idea. Yeah. 

No, well, that isn’t exactly what I meant.

Well, I know what you mean. The point is so many people, fans, feel that a group should never change, should never grow. And I – and I realise, of course, anybody who thinks about it does, that any good musician has to, that you can’t do the same album nine times.

Well, I see it as – as more of a long term, a long term thing, really. I think that if people are gonna support us or –


 – not, you know, on each album –


 – then, that wouldn’t be the right sort of situation, I think. You know, we’ve made nine albums and obviously some people won’t – probably a lot of people didn’t like Shine on Brightly.

I want to take a moment here, with your permission, Gary and Keith, for a word from Army Reserve.

[AS does the commercial.]

This is the Nightbird, Allison Steele, for the United States Army Reserve. Our guest today, Procol Harum.

(Music – Pandora’s Box)

Procol Harum, from Number 9, and I’m just delighted that Gary Brooker and Keith Reid are visiting with me in the studio today. Let me ask you this, Keith, that when – when Procol evolves, when the sound of Procol Harum evolves, I mean Nine is a far cry from Conquistador.

Keith Reid

Is it – is it – is it something that you take out and put on the table and say, “Hey, guys, I mean, I think we got, you know.” How does it evolve? How does – how do – how do you get from Conquistador to – to what you’re doing today?

Well – well, first of all, it starts off with writing songs.


And when you write songs, you – particularly after you’ve written – after, say, your third album or so, you – you think, Oh, I must – I – I’m not going to write that. You know, I’ve done that kind of thing in the past. I’m not gonna do that kind of thing. You know, you try to change.

Is there a tendency to repeat past successes?

I don’t – well, there isn’t a tendency, but, I mean, it – by the very nature of what you’re doing, I mean, you become more aware of the process of working. I mean, I think, you know, back to, you know, the first songs that we did. I mean, you know, one didn’t think at all about writing. You know, a song came along, you wrote it –

Yes. Just bubbled up, right.

 – and another song came along. And it came, you know, but, the longer you do it, the more you be – well, the more you become aware that you are a – you know, you accept the fact that you are a writer, you write songs.


And you – you realise  that you – that you’ve got to, meanwhile, progress, I suppose is the word. You’ve got to – to do a different kind of things. And you might be working on something and think, oh, no, you know, it’s – I’ve done this kind of thing before. I’m not going to do it. I’m going to wait for another idea or work towards something else.

I know that this current album was – you changed producers.


Does the producer – the handling – the producer of the album – she’s fumfering, listen to her, the big radio announcer – does the change in producer, is that the total reflection of the change in your music or did you choose the producer because of the way you felt? I mean, which came first, the cart or the horse, if you follow that?

Gary Brooker
The horse.

The horse?

Which one’s the horse now?

Which one’s the horse now, Gary?

Well –

Did you – did you seek out the producer because of the – of your feeling about the music?

No, I think it was – the change was made because the group wanted a new surroundings. We’d, in fact, made our last three or four records in the same studios –


 – with the same people. And when it came round to doing it… again, it was – well, it didn’t seem that exciting.

Old hat?

So we thought we’ll change.

AS: Did you – did your new producers inspire you in the direction in which you’ve come or did they just make skilful music?

I think that it – that the end product of the record is a lot to do with them.

Yeah. I – I think it was a marvelous marriage, you might say.

Yeah. I think it had a lot to do with it, yes.

It was just such a lovely, lovely surprise.

We’re going to take a word – take a moment for a word from Army Reserve and then hear more of Procol Harum.


(Music – The Piper’s Tune)

Procol Harum and if you – if you haven’t added the Ninth album to your collection yet, it’s sadly lacking. I heard a rumor and I just have to check it out, gentlemen. Is it true that you’re going to make an album with Frankie Miller?

Keith Reid
Well, we did a – we did a concert with Frankie Miller –


– that was recorded.


And, well, we want it to come out. I think they will.

I can imagine it must have been a great concert.

Well, it was. I mean, we like him a lot.


He’s a fantastic singer.


And we had the opportunity to play with him and, well, we loved it. We enjoyed it. He enjoyed it. And it was a great night. And I think if it comes out, you know, the album is a true reflection of the concert of that night.

Was it in London, England?

Yeah, right.

Oh, good. And we missed it. Is there any – any chance that such a concert might be done here?

Gary Brooker
I doubt it. It was –

Was it an accident?

No. It was – in fact, it was a theatre in London called the Rainbow, where they’ve had a lot of rock concerts over the past few years.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

And it was the last night.

Oh, the closing down, of course.

It was closing down. It was closing –

Would that appear in the album Over The Rainbow, do you know?

There was one track from Frankie Miller and ourselves on there.

I haven’t heard the album yet.

Brickyard Blues, I think.


Is the album out yet?

Is it out here? I don’t know.

I don’t know. I’ll have to check on it. I’d like to hear that, love to hear it. I had heard the story and didn’t know it was on an album. And I’m delighted to know that.

I’m going to take a moment here for a word from Army Reserve.


Let’s hear more of Procol Harum now.

(Music – The Unquiet Zone – fade out)

(thanks, Jill, for all the typing)

Keith Reid's BtP page

Gary Brooker's BtP page

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