Procol Harum

the Pale

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I keep forgetting ...

Brooker and the Beatles

At 'Beyond the Pale' you can read fan-type statements about A Whiter Shade of Pale from John Lennon and from Paul McCartney;

Later, of course, Lennon paid homage to Keith Reid with the verbal discontinuities of I Am the Walrus, and McCartney 'doffed his hat' to the Harum sound-world in Your Mother Should Know.

But what was the real nature of the Procol / Beatle relationship? Carsten Overgaard and Niels-Erik Mortensen put the following question to Gary Brooker on Danish radio in 1990. (Good anecdote here from Gary about an excursion with John Lennon)

You done Eight Days A Week on one of your albums, and George Martin produced your first solo album No More Fear Of Flying, and George Harrison played on the next solo album, Lead Me To The Water, so you have had something to so with the people around the Beatles. What do you feel about that and do you have still plans for doing things with these guys?

GB: Am I reforming the Beatles? Well ... (long pause) Lots of people work with other people, I don’t really ... I mean I know the Beatles, sort of thing, only as professional people. I know George a bit better; I mean he kindly invited me to play on some of his records at various times; with the Paramounts we did quite a bit of touring with The Beatles; George Martin was something to do with the Paramounts as well in that we were on the label that he was in charge of on Parlophone and we’ve always kept up contacts with these people in one way or another. And George uh ... where was I? ... but I’d rather not remember any of those things actually ...


Well ... I don’t know why we did Eight Days A Week. I’d forgotten that we’d done that and I think everybody else should forget that.

You’re not too proud of it?

I could not see the point in Procol Harum doing Eight Days A Week, I mean ...

Neither could I ...

You’re absolutely right, I mean it was strange circumstances: we were working with a pair of producers then that were putting other pressures on us and I think that it was a kind of reaction from the band. We were working with Leiber and Stoller and they really wanted us to do some of their material

And you did one ...

We did one because that was an old one, we’d always been admirers of Leiber and Stoller but we did not want to do new original material of theirs: that was not what Procol Harum was about. We wrote our own songs but we could always doff our hat to our past and to ... you know, our roots which probably went back into the 50s as musicians, and by all means play a Leiber and Stoller song. We did eventually talk them round to recording I Keep Forgetting with us ... but I think that the pressures of this every day somehow ... we did Eight Days A Week, I think that we probably played it ... you know they probably said, ‘How about playing this new one of ours?’ and we ... ‘Oh yeah, how about this one?’ and bashed out a Beatles song, and I think that it got ... and that they switched on the machines and said ‘It’s Great’ and we said ‘No, I can’t ...’ ... 'It’s Great'.

But you never did that live, did you? [more detail here]

No, no, I would never ... as I say ... I would never even ... you know if there’s anything I could change ... (laughs) ...

You would omit that?

Most things I could get away with and say that in some way I can see that I thought it was a good idea at the time or I was responsible or that it was somebody’s idea ... but that one slipped in, I don’t know ... there was some other force at work.

Did you do anything with Paul McCartney ever?

Um, played on something of his once I think with Rockestra. Had a bash on the piano, Back To The Egg I think that was.

When was that?

Dunno. '79? '80? '81? Not sure. [1979 (RC)] Played live with him on a stage once as well, it was a kind of a big band, four pianos, four drummers, four bass-players, eight guitarists *

It was more like a musician: you have not done anything interactively, or composed anything together?

No, no no.

* Robert Moselle writes (August 2011): 'I think this clip may be the one referenced in the GB interview. It looks like him and he is credited in a comment'.

When Gazza met Macca: in November 2011 Alan Matthews alerted BtP's Procol Facebook group to a long-lost gem - an unreleased forty-minute documentary on the Abbey Road Rockestra recording session on 3 October 1978. Gary Broooker can be spotted on many occasions throughout but the significant highlights are as follows: 7’18” : Macca announces “Gary Brooker of Procol Harum” as the fifteenth member of the team (fourth on the alphabetical end credits) as the sound of a camera shutter and accompanying stills suggest that Linda is taking shots of each member; 8’16” : Gary chatting with session producer Chris Thomas; 9’47” and 10’ 25” Gary chatting with Tony Ashton; 11’00” : some solo pipe smoking!; from 14’00” – and this is the big moment of interest – McCartney running through the piano part with Gary.

Read more of this interview

Video clip of GB singing All You Need is Love

Gary Brooker plays at George Harrison's memorial concert, 29 November 2002

Procol at the Abbey Road café

Procol manager in a Beatle book

McCartney wooings and AWSoP

The new Beatles Anthology Book

Order the Beatles Anthology Book from Amazon USA

Order the Beatles Anthology Book from Amazon UK Beatles store

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