Procol Harum

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Stoke Poges

The story behind an unissued number

Jens Anders Ravnaas

Painting by The Rev. Cyril Harris JP, Vicar of the Parish of Stoke Poges. It is owned by The St Giles Society of Church Bellringers of Stoke Poges. Painted 1997.

This page was added to BtP on 30 September 1998, the day the Vicar retired from active duty.

Stoke Poges is the name of an instrumental Procol Harum played on their first US tours in 1968. According to fans, this song was inspired by British poet Thomas Gray (1716 – 1771) who lived for a while at the village at Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire. The churchyard at Stoke Poges was the scene of Gray's famous Elegy written In A Country Churchyard.
Gray died at Cambridge and was buried at Stoke Poges churchyard.


Although many fans regards this as a Matthew Fisher composition, Stoke Poges was in fact composed by Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher. Gary wrote the 9/8 bit in the middle, and Matthew the rest.

Fisher explains:
'It was Keith who came up with the title, and it was simply a joke reference to Repent. Maybe we should have called it Repent Stoke Poges. Anyway, it was generally considered not to be as successful an endeavour as Repent so we chose not to include it on the Salty Dog album.'

You can read more about Stoke Poges and Thomas Gray at the Stoke Poges website (Thanks Matthew Fisher and Toby Baillon)

Joan May adds (August 2007)
When I saw the 'Stockey Poges' misspelling of 'Stoke Poges' (here) my first thought was:  well it's been called stranger things - i.e. 'Fountain Street Church Blues' – by Gary at Fillmore West, 1968 – as per the concert at Wolfgang's Vault (at the end of the MacGreggor track). Why did the Vault call the piece Fountain Street Church Blues at first? Because Gary introduced it as such, and he probably named it spontaneously at the gig. Why he called it that is still a mystery: maybe he was familiar with the famous Fountain Street Church organ? I googled "Fountain Street Church" organ and found that there's a Fountain Street Church in Michigan which is famous for its organ, so could that be more than a coincidence? The celebrated Carlo Curley reminisces about Virgil Fox in 1970 while writing about the restoration of the Fountain Street Church organ: click here

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