Shades of Procul Harum uncovered

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Feb 2013 Shades of Procul Harum uncovered

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Procol Harum

The Ghosts Of A Whiter Shade Of Pale

By Henry Scott-Irvine

Omnibus Press Isbn: 9781780382333

In 1967, Procol Harum recorded the song that would top the charts worldwide, selling millions of copies in the process, but would also become the opening anthem to the UK’s Summer Of Love.

To this day, it is the most air-played recording in British Radio history, but not without a cost. It also became a milestone around the band’s neck, a weight on their shoulders they found impossible to shake off. It led them to be called ‘one-hit wonders’ and dubbed: ‘the band that couldn’t play live’  – both totally inaccurate claims that both I, and their legion of loyal ‘Palers’ know to be untrue.

Henry Stott-Irvine has left no stone unturned in his quest to unearth the full story, including extensively-interviewing Gary Brooker, Matthew Fisher, Keith Reid, Chris Copping, Robin Trower and other past and present band members, management, associates, fans including Jimmy Page and Pete Frame – anyone with a tenuous link to the band – to fully detail the journey from an R&B band in Southend-on-Sea, to one of the most unique musical legacies this country has produced.

From the formation of The Paramounts playing blue-eyed R&B, signing to EMI who pushed them towards a more pop sound, the many package tours backing Duffy Power and Sandie Shaw, among others, in the process, to the total transformation into Procol Harum in 1967, the year when music came of age, the struggle to follow the enormous success of ‘AWSOP’, the huge American tours, departures of both Fisher and Trower, the struggles of working with Leiber and Stoller on ‘Procol’s Ninth’, the disbandment of the group, Brooker’s solo career, the reformation, and the final reappearance of Fisher claiming his writing credits of ‘AWSOP’ which led to one of music’s most bitterly contested court cases.

The recording of each album is recalled, many track-by-track, with the many tours and one-off gigs, including Redhill 1997, in great detail, by those who were there. From a personal point of view, as someone with a 100% collection of their works and, possibly, having seen them on more occasions than I’ve seen any other act, this is a most welcome addition to my bookshelf.

It’s a thoroughly researched publication, an enticing read, not only for Procol fans, and – hopefully – Scott-Irving will achieve his ambition of adding a TV documentary to this amazing story.

Jim Stewart 2013
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