Procol Harum

the Pale

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

'Living out of Time'

Robin Trower interviewed on live DVD, 2005 (1)

The beginning for me was because I had an older brother that used to bring records into the house, obviously, you know. And I was, I suppose, what 9 or 10, something like 11 and started to hear rock'n'roll basically because he would bring in Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, Everly Brothers, and stuff like that, so – and started to see pictures of Elvis around that time always playing a guitar. So I think that's it, you know, just the image of that, you think, "Oh, I'd like to play a guitar." And then – and that's it. I asked for a guitar for Christmas and never looked back.

And did you sort of practise a lot now? What – what do you listen to when you're --

Well, all that kind of stuff was – was – was all there was at the time, you know, and American music mostly my brother was bringing in. And I used to – I don't think I actually tried to play any of those songs but I did seem to have an ability to play the guitar somehow. It was almost like you'd played before or something, you know. It's just like I knew how it worked somehow. So I was playing pretty quickly early on, from about 14, I think it was, 13, 14.

And when did you get your first band together?

I think that would probably be while I was still at school. And I was at school in Southend – Southend High. And that's where I knew Chris Copping from. And we had a band together. And we only had two guitars so what we did, we tuned down one of the guitars so it would be more like a bass. And that was the first band.

And how did The Paramounts come about, because that was your first --

Well, there was a band from Romford that used to come and play in Southend called the Rockerfellas, The Fabulous Rockerfellas. And they were fabulous. They were great. And they were doing a lot of Jerry Lee Lewis stuff and lots of other bits and pieces, quite quirky stuff. I remember one of the things they did, was a big favourite of mine, was Hi Ho Silver and Stay by Morris Williams, you know, that – those kind of things which you weren't really hearing that much and I don't know where they were getting it from.

But anyway, their line-up was piano, singer, guitar, bass, and drums. So I decided that that – that was the line-up you had to have because they were so great. And so first off, it was looking for a piano player. And Gary Brooker was playing with another guitar player called Johnny Short, who was local, in a band locally. And I asked him to join.

And first off, we had Mick Brownlee on drums and Chris was on bass, Chris Copping from my school band. And we – we had a couple of out-front singers but they sort of came and went quite quickly. And I asked Gary if he would do the vocals so that we could be more like The Rockerfellas, you know. And – and that's how The Paramounts started.

And – and this was all the swinging '60s. And you supported The Beatles, I understand.

We did their last – I'm pretty sure it was their last tour that they did. We opened up the show and it was all – I'm pretty sure it was all Brian Epstein's stuff because we were actually with the Epstein agency at the time. I think that's how we got to be on it.

Now I read from a review that you – you weren't that impressed with the Beatles.

They weren't that good live, no. No, but – but nice guys, really got on very well with them.

And you had a good relationship with the Rolling Stones as well?

Well, they were great to us, the Rolling Stones. They gave us, you know, we – we just – as they were coming out with their first single, I think it was Come On, we did a support of the – one of their shows. I think it was in Kent, Deal, somewhere. And they liked us. And as they were leaving their club work, you know, what you call the R&B clubs, they were recommending us. And then they used to put us on their tours and, you know, they were a big help.

Was it – do you say – would that be a – did you sort of break your bones playing in that – playing in those days with a lot of concerts, a lot of work?

Well, from – I think it was pretty much from working with – in – in The Stones, you know, the stuff that they've given us or recommended us for, was how we got our first deal with – with EMI to do the first single So up to that time, it was all just live work.

Did you sort of feel that you'd developed a guitar style by then?

Oh, no, no, no. I was – I was just sort of messing about then. It was – I didn't really take it seriously, playing the guitar, until after Procol Harum.

So tell me, how did Procol Harum evolve out of The Paramounts?

Well, I left The Paramounts because I was getting more interested in blues. I was becoming sort of pulled away from popular black music and more into the rootsier kind of stuff. I'm very big on BB King and Howlin' Wolf and people like that.

And so I left The Paramounts. So they carried on for a little while And I formed my own band called The Jam and Gary went off and formed Procol Harum eventually because he started writing a lot more. And he got together with Keith Reid and wrote, obviously, A Whiter Shade of Pale and all that – all those songs, those early songs.

And obviously they had a big hit with A Whiter Shade of Pale. But they weren't really happy with the guitar player or the drummer. So they asked me and BJ Wilson, who was the last drummer in – in The Paramounts to come in. And that's how that unit came together. They already had Dave Knights on bass and Matthew Fisher on organ.

What was it like being in Procol Harum?

It was great. I – I think about it now as being like my school, you know. It's where I started to learn about recording particularly and also about, you know, proper touring. Up to that stage it had been just playing in pubs, pubs and clubs. But with Procol Harum, we went out to the – to the States and played some of these, you know, these sort of great venues, Winterland and the Fillmore and all the places like that, you know. And it all becomes up to a different level, you know.

It's – you – it's a much, much more thrilling event kind of thing rather than just playing in a pub or a club. It becomes a real high-intensity event. So I learned a tremendous amount about all that, you know, about playing an audience, you know, working an audience and all – and all that kind of thing.

More from this interview to follow!

(thanks, Jill, for the typing)

Robin Trower's page at BtP

More of this interview

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