Procol Harum

the Pale

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'Going Beyond the Pale'

Matt Ogborn in Inside Out, December 1998

Inside Out is a 24-page full colour Arts Supplement that goes out to something like 40,000 homes inside various titles (Surrey Mirror, Dorking Advertiser, Leatherhead Advertiser) run by the Surrey and Sussex Newspaper group. This piece, accompanied by a colour picture, was billed as the Star Interview, and is reproduced by permission of the author and the Arts Editor.

For millions in the 1960s Procol Harum's A Whiter Shade of Pale was a defining experience. To misty-eyed fans, nothing like it's been heard before or since. The group's lead vocalist Gary Brooker is now mounting a Christmas charity concert at The Civic Hall, Guildford: he talks to Matt Ogborn.

A true legend of the rock scene hosts an evening of music next Friday.

Gary Brooker, lead vocalist and founder member of Procol Harum, has assembled a heavyweight line-up for the event, staged at the Civic Hall, Guildford on December 18.

Gary, who has lived in the Guildford area for more than 25 years, will be remembered by many as the voice behind the No 1 hit A Whiter Shade of Pale which wowed listeners in 1967.

Every year he hosts Christmas gigs for charity with celebrity guests under the alias of No Stiletto Shoes.

This year's set, in aid of local charities, will be bigger than ever.

'We have really gone out on a limb,' he told me when I caught up with him last week.

This year's charity for Gary is Cherry Trees, based in East Clandon. It provides short-term help for handicapped children, and is one of many to benefit from a Gary Brooker experience.

Earlier in the year Gary joined Ringo Starr and his All-Starr band to raise 150,000 pounds for local charities at a special Charity Concert at Wintershall, Bramley and 77,000 pounds of that money went towards completing the Cancer Day Care Centre at Guildford Hospital.

Since the phenomenal success of A Whiter Shade of Pale, Gary has recorded several albums with Procol Harum, together with some solo efforts.

'Live onstage I prefer to have other musicians around me,' Gary said. 'I am not essentially a solo performer.'

Among the musicians joining him for next week's event are Andy Fairweather-Low, former lead singer with Amen Corner, and Paul Carrack, lead vocalist / keyboard player of Squeeze and Mike and the Mechanics fame.

The Robbie McIntosh Band, which is supporting Gary, also boasts some of the world's leading musicians, including ex-Pretender / McCartney lead guitarist Robbie, and bass-player Pino Palladino, who has worked with Eric Clapton. Robbie describes his music as 'Nashville meets Chicago'.

Last year saw the thirtieth anniversary of Procol Harum and A Whiter Shade of Pale.

It was celebrated at the Harlequin Theatre in Redhill. About 500 people, some from as far way as Australia, attended the 'Procol Party'.

'I couldn't believe how far people came for the event,' said Gary. 'One of the women from Australia even brought her baby.'

The Harlequin was picked by Gary's PA, Diane Rolph.

'I chose it because I knew the staff could cope,' said Diane. 'It was an amazing party. People still tell me it was one of the best things they have ever been to.

'There's unending enthusiasm for everything to do with Gary and Procol Harum.

'I first met Gary when I was 15. I went to hear his first-ever band, the Paramounts, playing at Addlestone Co-op Hall. I've been a fan and a friend ever since.'

Procol Harum initially retired in 1977, but reformed in 1991 and toured until 1996, testifying to the huge worldwide impact the track and the band have made over the years.

In the past few years Gary has toured twice with Ringo Starr and in October he embarked on a European Tour with Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings.

In the near future, he hopes to tour some more with Ringo.

'And then I will finally find some time to sit down and write new songs.'

The new songs will either be for a solo album or another collaboration with Procol Harum.

Gary initially moved into the Guildford area because, he says, 'It was the fashion in the 70s.

'Musicians would go into the country to seek inspiration when they were recording.'

One thing is for sure. Gary Brooker and Friends will be aiming to re-create some rock magic come December 18.

'First of all it will be a fantastic night of music, and then there's the bonus of raising money for charity.'

For tickets, call the box-office on 01483 444 555: tickets cost 15 pounds standing and 20 pounds for balcony seating.

If you would like to find out more about Gary and Procol Harum you can visit the excellent website, 'Beyond the Pale', at the following address: The site has up-to-date news, features and interviews together with a chat-room.

Photo-caption: Gary Brooker, composer of A Whiter Shade of Pale, has invited a lot of friends to his Civic Hall show, but tickets are still available. Judging by who he's been playing with lately, who knows who might turn up ...


BtP contacted Matt Ogborn to thank him for the BtP name-check, and to see if Gary had mentioned any further information about future recording projects, that had perhaps ended up on the cutting-room floor. 'He said he hadn't had time for ages to sit down and do any writing,' Matt reiterated; nothing else of note remained in his memory of the ten-minute telephone interview a week before; but he added that Gary was 'Very forthcoming, easy to talk to.'

Thanks, PWRC for typing help

Guildford 1998: index

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