Tuesday, June 09, 2009


September 14, 2001 concert at the Hell Blues Festival, Norway.

Only one guy remains from the original 1967 band. Singer/pianist Gary Brooker and organist Matthew Fisher split over legal dispute concerning Fisher's uncredited contribution of the famous organ solo that opens "Whiter Shade of Pale." As of this writing, Matthew's won a victory - his name is now officially on the credits. But Brooker's also won a victory - he doesn't have to split past royalties. The latter part is on appeal, with Fisher asking for royalties going back at least since the case was brought to trial, and also asking that court costs be paid by Brooker.

Without Fisher, and with an increasingly older lead singer not always in the best of voice, Procol's found fewer and fewer gigs over the years, mostly doing a few summer nights in the dark countries...Denmark, Norway or Germany. Below is a vintage concert from Norway back when it was just a pit-stop on a longer tour of Europe, and Fisher was still across the stage on his Hammond.

Procol's muscular rock music was in contrast to the ill lyrics of Keith Reid, whose Dylan-influenced words self-admittedly "wallowed in a morass" that darkly verged on pretentiousness. Their few chart hits involved a woman turning from ghostly to a "A Whiter shade of Pale" (dead) and the grim philosophizing over the corpse of a "Conquistador." Focused on destruction, torment and painful self-consciousness with mere glimpses toward nirvana, Procol's hardest rocking songs bubble in a cauldron of bile ("Piggy Pig Pig" and "Bringing Home the Bacon") and are steaming with wretched excess ("Whiskey Train") or angry angst ("Typewriter Torment"). Their prettiest songs tend to be eerie ("Salty Dog"), decadent ("Grand Hotel") or filled with semi-disguised put-downs ("Homburg"). There's not a song in this set that does not have an undercurrent of pessimism, anger or despair.

Any band critically praised for a blend of classical music, eclectic lyrics and R&B blues is bound to suffer, especially one with an intellectual name (Latin for "Beyond these Things") so Procol Harum remains beyond fame, often written off as a one-hit (or two-hit, counting "Conquistador") wonder. Concert Note: This is one of those times when The Commodore chooses to sing the "extra verse" omitted from the original "A Whiter Shade of Pale." Morbid Note: the band pronounces its last name "Horrum," closer to horror than a harem.

Procol Harum Live Concert? Go to...
OH, it's HELL, Folks!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great gig by the Procols! Thanks for posting. I saw them live at the Whiskey A Go Go in Hollywood back around 1968, doing essentially the material on the first two LPs. More recently I picked up via another blogsite a live set from that period, very nice to have since it showcases Robin Trower as much as the other gents in the band.

Again, thanks for this PH post.

John Berg, Seattle area fan