Procol Harum (1967–1977, 1991–present)
Gary Brooker (vocals, piano) 1966-1977, 1991-present
Ray Royer (guitar) 1966-1967
Dave Knights (bass) 1966-1970
Bobby Harrison (drums) 1966-1967
Matthew Fisher (organ) 1966-1970, 1991-2004
Robin Trower (guitar) 1967-1971, 1991-1995
BJ Wilson (drums) 1967-1977
Chris Copping (bass, organ) 1970-1977
Dave Ball (guitar) 1971-1972
Alan Cartwright (bass) 1971-1976
Mick Grabham (guitar) 1972-1977
Pete Solley (organ) 1976-1977
Keith Reid (lyricist) 1966-1977, 1991-present
Geoff Whitehorn (guitar) 1991-present
Matt Pegg (bass) 1993-present
Josh Phillips (organ) 2004-present
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Procol Harum members, Gary Brooker, Robin Trower, Chris Copping and B.J. Wilson started out as The Paramounts. They temporarily acted as the backup band for British singer/60s starlet, Sandie Shaw.
Procol Harum lyricist, Keith Reid
, revealed in our interview how he took on numerous odd jobs before he finally ventured into song writing: "I was a construction worker, over here we call them laborers. I worked in a bakery, worked in a book shop, I worked for a solicitor, I worked in a garment factory packing dresses, can you believe?"
In April 1967, following the disbanding of The Paramounts, Gary Brooker began working with Keith Reid on Procol Harum. The band's original manager, Guy Stevens, got the idea for the name from his friend's Burmese cat. It is Latin for "beyond these things." Stevens would also be responsible for naming Mott the Hoople, and would later go on to produce The Clash
's seminal 1979 album, London Calling
When we spoke with Keith Reid, he told us that he would write lyrics and then pass them on to Gary Brooker to compose music to. However, this was disputed in our interview with Brooker
: "Well, I wouldn't entirely agree with Reid's synopsis there. He might think it, because when he writes lyrics, he hasn't heard any music to them, so he thinks they exist first. But what about a scenario where he's at home writing lyrics, and I am also at home writing song ideas? And then at some point the two come together. And by me looking at his lyrics, I will see that I've got a really good musical idea that will fit with them."
Procol Harum's opus, "A Whiter Shade Of Pale
," was released in the UK on 12 May 1967. Keith Reid, told Melody Maker
that the idea for the song came about at a party: "Some guy looked at a chick and said to her, 'You've gone a whiter shade of pale.' That phrase stuck in my mind - I wish I'd said it." The song was an instant success, peaking at #1 in the UK charts and staying there for six weeks. It has since gone on to sell over 10 million copies worldwide, making it one of the biggest selling singles of all time. The song has been covered over 1000 times. According to BBC Radio 2, as of 2009, it is the most played song in public places in the past 75 years (closely followed by Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody
"). In our interview, Keith Reid told us that, although they liked the song, Procol Harum did not expect "A Whiter Shade of Pale" to be a big hit: "We were really excited about it and liked it a lot. And when we were rehearsing and routine-ing our first dozen songs or so, it was one that sounded really good. But there were a few others that we liked I would say equally - we have a song on our first album called 'Salad Days (Are Here Again)' that was a strong contender. At our first session, we cut four tracks, and 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' was the one that recorded best. In those days it wasn't just a question of how good is your song? It was how good of a recording can you make?"
The phrase "a whiter shade of pale" has since gone on to become a common saying in the English language and is frequently used in contexts independent of the original song. The phrase is even recognised by The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations.
There have been numerous lawsuits surrounding "A Whiter Shade of Pale." In 2005, former Procol Harum organist, Matthew Fisher, filed suit against Gary Brooker, claiming that he co-wrote the music for the song. Fisher won the case and was awarded a 40% royalty share. In April 2008, Gary Brooker successfully appealed against this decision, with full royalty rights returned to Brooker. Fisher appealed for a second time in 2009 and won, re-granting him permission to future royalties.
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page once asked former Procol Harum drummer, B.J. Wilson, to helm the kit for Led Zeppelin
, but Wilson declined. B.J Wilson died in 1990 at the age of 43 following a battle with pneumonia.
Procol Harum reunited in 1991 after a 14 year break in order to release the album The Prodigal Stranger. The band have since gone on to release The Long Goodbye (1995) and The Well's on Fire (2003). In 1997, Ain't Nothin' to Get Excited About, an album of rock and roll songs originally recorded in 1970, was released by Procol Harum under the moniker Liquorice John Death.
Procol Harum have an asteroid named after them: 14024 Procol Harum was discovered by Italian astronomers, P. Sicoli and P. Ghezzi, in 1994.
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
, the second book in Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker Trilogy
, is inspired by Procol Harum's song, "Grand Hotel
." Adams was good friends with Gary Brooker and would often introduce Procol Harum on stage at their gigs.
In our interview, Keith Reid listed some of his personal Procol Harum favourites: "There's a song called 'A Rum Tale' on the Grand Hotel which I really like. It's got a real nice melody and it's quite a gentle song. I like 'The Salty Dog' a lot too. I think that two lines from 'Grand Hotel,' 'Dover sole and oeufs mornay, profiteroles and peach flambé,' was some pretty tidy writing." Brooker, meanwhile, told us what he considered to be his best vocal performance with Procol Harum: "Well, I would say something off of the Edmonton Symphony Live album. I don't mind which one, really. But it always gives one a great deal of pleasure if you know that when you sing live, that you sing as well or better than you did in the studio."
About that crazy band name: it was the name of a cat owned by an acquaintance of the band - who used to sell them drugs - when they were forming. The name almost translates into Latin as "beyond these things," which led to more elegant rumors of how the name came about.
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