Procol Harum

the Pale

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Psychedelic out, ‘enjoyable’ rock in

Julie Kennedy  in The Cincinnati Enquirer •  12 October 1969

Psychedelic music is dead. Long live good hard rock!

Such is the opinion of Procol Harum, a top British pop group which records for A&M Records. ‘I think we’ve just moved through a very pretentious period of music,’ says lyricist Keith Reid, commenting on the last two years of ‘acid’ rock that has filled popular record shops, discotheques and radio programs.

Psychedelic rock was created generally by poor musicians making new but short-lived sounds, contends Reid. ‘It was a bit false, and a bit unreal.’ explains guitarist Robin Trower.

‘It’s getting back now to enjoyable music,’ says Reid.

And Procol Harum, named after a mysterious Burmese blue cat belonging to a friend of Reid’s, feels it is definitely playing a part in this return to sanity in popular music. Its third album recently released in this country, Salty Dog, has already sold about 100,000 copies. The group is best remembered for its 1967 hit tune, A Whiter Shade of Pale, which was recorded about two months after they began playing together.

The five musicians – who together play 21 instruments, including the recorder, tabla and celeste – and one lyricist (who never appears on stage) are all from low-income London backgrounds. ‘But our social backgrounds didn’t affect our music,’ insists Reid.

‘Just our musical background affected our music,’ Trower chimes in.

They characterize their musical training and the way they got together as ‘haphazard’ since only-three of them did any formal study of music and they joined ranks by placing and answering classified ads for musicians. As for their style, ‘It leans more toward blues than toward straight rock,’ explains Trower.

‘I think blues is really the root of rock ’n’ roll. That’s why the old musicians are still the top musicians,’ he says.

Soft-spoken lyricist Reid, peering out through round purplish-tinted glasses, adds: ‘I think we write love songs as opposed to social protest songs,' he explains, ‘I’m against social protest or any kind of protest.’

But the group shrugs off the title ‘the new Beatles’ given them by some. ‘I don’t think anybody’s seriously called us that,’ says composer singer - pianist Gary Brooker.

They admit that they are fairly unknown at home in Britain. They explain: ‘We’re never there.’

Their appearance, both on and off stage, is what they describe (chuckling) as ‘scruffy.’ Long, unkempt locks, bell-bottoms and a variety of wilted open-necked shirts or worn sweatshirts are standbys. Jackets range from leather motorcycle to nylon wind-breaker, while shoes go the gamut from white canvas to Italian-style loafers.

Future plans are vague. ‘We’ve got enough to cope with now,’ says Brooker.

Thanks, Mary

'Future plans are vague' indeed. We can't be sure when this interview took place, but the Procols didn't play any dates that we know of between August and December in 1969. Certainly when this
article was published the band was in hiatus following the departure of David Knights (bass) and Matthew Fisher (organ) ... neither of whom participates in the reported conversation, incidentally.

More Procol Harum history in print | 1969 tour dates

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home