Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum's first year in the NME

Early sales and prognostications: 27 May 1967

These excerpts from New Musical Express, kindly selected for 'Beyond the Pale' by Yan Friis, show the complexion of the charts as Procol Harum 'crashed in' at No 11, and as their first live gigs were announced.

Front: A full page advertisement for Brincos’ new single Lola on Page One Records.
A Whiter Shade Of Pale hits No 11 in its first week on the NME charts.

Top 3:

1 (1) Silence Is Golden, The Tremeloes
2 (7) Waterloo Sunset, The Kinks
3 (2) Dedicated To The One I Love, Mamas & Papas

(The NME reports in their Who’s Where column that if you go to Spalding Auction Hall on the 29th, you’ll get to see: Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Move, Geno Washington and Pink Floyd, all on one bill!)

On the News pages:


The Procol Harum have been booked for their first London concert engagement on Sunday, June 4, when they appear as guest stars on the Saville Theatre bill headed by Jimi Hendrix. One-nighters for the group next month include Manchester New Century Hall (10th), Derby Clouds (11th) and London Marquee (12th).

'New to the charts column', by Alan Smith:


Watch out for Procol Harum. This British group with that beautiful record called A Whiter Shade Of Pale is going to be one of the chart sensations of the year.

The name Procol Harum, I’m told, is Latin for 'Beyond these things', and without doubt it fits a sound and style far beyond anything else in the Top 30.

Certainly record buyers have been flooding into the shops for A Whiter Shade Of Pale in incredible numbers.

Sold out

Only yesterday I met one pop fan who told me he went into his local record shop and said: 'A copy of ...'. Before he could finish the dealer cut in and said: ' ... the Procol Harum? No. Sold out.'

There are five in the group:

Singer Gary Brooker, from Hackney, who was once a member of the Paramounts
Lead guitarist Ray Royer, who also doubles on violin
Islington-born bass guitarist Dave Knights
Drummer Bobby Harrison from Wast Ham
and organist Mathew [sic] Charles Fisher from Croydon.

They are recorded by A&R wizard Denny Cordell, who also produces the hits of Georgie Fame and the Move.

Says Denny: 'About 18 months ago, when I was recording the Moody Blues, I was approached by a guy called Keith Reid, who showed me the lyrics of A Whiter Shade Of Pale. No music, just lyrics.

'I told him they were beautiful, but I could really do nothing for him unless he had music. So he went away, and I didn’t see him until six weeks ago.

'Before I say anything else, the thing about Keith Reid is that he devotes a tremendous amount of his time writing lyrics and travelling about with the group. he is tremendously involved.

'Anyway, I’d also said to him why didn’t he get a group, and six weeks ago he came and played me a demo of the song just accompanied by piano. I liked it. The next thing he had formed this group. And when I heard them perform they just blew my mind.

'We’ve already recorded the follow-up to Whiter Shade Of Pale, and believe me when I say it’s just too much. And you know the thing about these guys? They record in one take. There’s no overdubbing or messing about. They just come into the studios and do it on one tape.

'When we recorded A Whiter Shade Of Pale I just couldn’t believe we’d got it right the first time, so I said 'Let’s try it one more time'. I was wrong.

'They’d got it 100 per cent straight off. Now I hear it’s the fastest selling record by a British group Decca has ever had – it’s on Deram – and that 87,000 copies were sold last Friday alone.'


Procol’s adviser-lyricist Keith Reid is aged 20 and has been described as a young man with Jimi Hendrix-type hair with dark granny glasses who always sits on music publisher David Platz's window-still. As he has been contracted to David Platz as a songwriter for some time, this may well be a good thing.

According to David, Keith borrowed £100 from him to form the group. Keith then chose Gary Brooker (who also wrote the music for Whiter Shade Of Pale) as lead singer, and they spent three weeks at a Buckinghamshire country cottage working the number out. The original demo ran for nine minutes.

The name Procol Harum was chosen because it was the name of a prized Siamese cat, and it also meant something and sounded good.

To my ears, A Whiter Shade Of Pale sounds good, too – very, very good.  

Tipped for the charts by Derek Johnson:

The Hollies, Carrie Anne
Temptations, All I Need

The gossip column 'Tailpieces by the Alley Cat' (mostly consists of quite childish one-liners):

…Deram manager Tony Hall forecasts label’s first No 1 with Procol Harum’s big hit … retitled answer version of Procol Harum’s hit suggested for Alan Freeman, Whiter Shade Of Grey!… [Alan 'Fluff' Freeman, noted UK Radio DJ of the day]

Read more from the first year of Procol press

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