Procol Harum

Infobox musical artist
Name = Procol Harum

Img_capt = Procol Harum
Background = group_or_band
Origin = London, England
Genre = Psychedelic rock
Progressive rock
Years_active = 1967—1977
Label = Regal Zonophone Records
Reprise Records (US)
A&M Records
Chrysalis Records
Deram Records
Associated_acts = The Paramounts
URL = [] - 'Beyond the Pale' (Procol Harum's semi-official website)
Current_members = Gary Brooker
Geoff Dunn

Matt Pegg

Josh Phillips

Geoff Whitehorn
Keith Reid
Past_members =
Dave Ball
Dave Bronze
Mark Brzezicki
Alan Cartwright
Chris Copping
Matthew Fisher
Mick Grabham
Bobby Harrison
David Knights
Dee Murray
Pete Solley
Robin Trower
B.J. Wilson

Procol Harum are a British rock band, formed in the 1960s, which built an important foundation for what would become progressive rock, or perhaps more closely, symphonic rock. They are best known for their 1967 hit single "A Whiter Shade of Pale", which is not only a regular item on classic singles polls, but is also regarded as a seminal track in the development of pop music and particularly progressive rock music. Procol Harum have had a devoted following throughout their career; their music, although being principally noted for its classical influence, also embraces the blues and pure pop music.



Based in Southend, Essex, The Paramounts, led by Gary Brooker and Robin Trower and including Chris Copping, scored a moderate British success with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's "Poison Ivy" in 1964, reaching number 35 in the UK singles chart. [UKChartHits|1679] They were unable to recreate this, however, and the band fell apart in 1966.

Early years

In April 1967, Brooker began working as a singer/songwriter and formed Procol Harum with non-Paramounts Keith Reid (poet), Hammond organist Matthew Fisher, guitarist Ray Royer and bassist David Knights. The band name was chosen by its original manager Guy Stevens after a friend's Burmese cat, Johansen, "Procol Harum - Beyond the Pale". p50] and has been alleged to be Latin for "beyond these things", however the correct Latin translation of "beyond these things" is "Procul His". [cite web
title =Lost in translation
url =
accessdate =2007-08-12
] The name of the band is frequently misspelled; often with "Procul", "Harem", both, or other variations.

At Olympic Studios, with session drummer (and non-Paramount) Bill Eyden, producer Denny Cordell, and sound engineer Keith Grant, the group recorded "A Whiter Shade of Pale." The song was officially released on May 12, 1967. With the sudden success of this single and The Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin", their label Deram Records became known as a premier progressive rock labeldubious .

With a structure reminiscent of Baroque music, realized in the contrapuntal, heavily ornamented lines assigned to Fisher's Hammond organ, Brooker's soulful vocals and Reid's mysterious lyrics, "A Whiter Shade of Pale" reached #1 on the British charts and did almost as well in the United States, reaching #5. In the years since, it has become an enduring classic, placing on several polls of the best songs ever.

After "A Whiter Shade of Pale" became a hit, the band set out to consolidate their studio success by touring; their live debut was opening for Jimi Hendrix in 1967. The group's follow-up single, "Homburg", with a lineup change of former Paramounts B.J. Wilson on drums and Robin Trower on guitar, was almost as successful in the UK as it reached #6, but the LP "Procol Harum", was less successful (it was recorded soon between the two hit singles, but was held back until early 1968 and in mono and phony stereo, which was unusual by that time). A series of singles charted lowly in the US and UK, though rarely both at the same time. "A Salty Dog" (1969; see 1969 in music) was popular among fans, and was their first album to sell well in the UK; it is still regarded as one of their finest albums. The title track in particular gained a good deal of US FM radio airplay, with Reid's ominous lyrics in the forefront. However, Fisher, who produced this album, departed the band soon after its release.

The group would have many personnel changes [] , but their "classic" lineup for their first three albums was Gary Brooker (piano and lead vocals), Robin Trower (guitar and lead vocals), Matthew Fisher (organ and lead vocals), David Knights (bass), B.J. Wilson (drums), and Keith Reid (lyricist). Former Paramount Chris Copping joined on organ and bass in 1970, and from late 1972 till 1977, the group's guitarist was Mick Grabham, a very worthy successor to Trower.

Procol Harum produced a unique sound that emphasized Brooker's melancholy vocal style and an evocative mix of his eclectic piano, Fisher's elegant, church-like organ, Wilson's dramatic drumming and Trower's searing guitar, with frequent black humour and a penchant for experimentation. Musically, Procol Harum was split during all these years between Trower's guitar-driven blues rock style and Brooker's and Fisher's structured classical rock sound. The group often combined the two into a dynamic fusion, but by 1971 the disparities in style became too great; the end of an era was marked for Procol, with the release of their fifth album "Broken Barricades", and subsequent departure of Trower to form his own power trio band; he would be replaced by Dave Ball.

Procol returned to success on the music charts in the following years with a distinctly symphonic rock sound, often backed by symphony orchestras. At this they were one of the first groups to achieve success; "Procol Harum Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra" was a #5 gold album in the U.S. in 1972, as well as reaching #48 in Britain. "Conquistador" (a track from their first album, recharted for accompaniment by the Edmonton Symphony in 1971) was a hit single in 1972, getting to #16 in the U.S. with considerable additional FM radio airplay, while reaching #22 in the UK. Their follow-up album, "Grand Hotel", did fairly well, reaching #21 on the U.S. Billboard Chart in 1973.


More personnel problems contributed to declining sales in the later part of the 1970s, with "Pandora's Box" being their final UK top 20 hit in 1975; the band finally broke up in 1977. They reunited for a single performance five months later, when "A Whiter Shade of Pale" was named joint winner (along with Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody") of the Best British Pop Single 1952–1977 at the BRIT Awards, part of Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee.

1991 and further

The band reformed in 1991 (see 1991 in music) with Brooker, Fisher, Trower and Reid (Wilson had died in 1990), and released "The Prodigal Stranger", but sales were modest. After the album's release, a new incarnation of the band, with Brooker and Fisher but not Trower, toured the US and the world for a few years in the first half of the nineties.

In July 1997, fans arranged the celebration of the 30-year anniversary of the success of "A Whiter Shade of Pale", and invited the then-inactive band to play. The concert, at Redhill, drew fans from all over the world. A direct result of the concert was the creation of the fan website [ "Beyond the Pale"] in October 1997. Unusual for fan websites, 'Beyond the Pale' prides itself on being updated on a daily basis. Typical updates include the latest Procol Harum news, details of concerts from the 1970s and occasionally messages from the band.

The web site also made fans aware of each other, and thus catalysed and sparked a new interest in the band. This then led to [ The Palers' Project] , in which the fans got together to record three double CD albums of Procol Harum songs in novel arrangements, which in turn financed the web site. A fourth and final double-album is in preparation (2007).

In late 1999, Gary Brooker promised that "Procol will play in 2000", and in September the band played an open-air gig with the New London Sinfonia in Guildford, UK.

Since 2001 the band [Brooker; Fisher; Geoff Whitehorn (also guitarist with Elkie Brooks), guitar; Matt Pegg, bass, Mark Brzezicki, drums] has made several tours of mostly Europe, but also Japan and the US. A 2001 concert in Copenhagen was released on DVD in 2002. In 2003, the band released the album "The Well's on Fire". A December, 2003 London concert with much of the material from that record was released on DVD in 2004: "Live at the Union Chapel". Fisher quit Procol Harum in 2004.

The band resumed a limited touring schedule in 2005, with Josh Phillips replacing Fisher on Hammond, leaving Gary Brooker as the only original performing member. In June 2006 they played at the Isle of Wight festival, the only act also to have played the original festival in 1969. In August 2006 Procol Harum played two outdoor concerts with the Danish Radio orchestra at Ledrebourg Castle in Denmark, which were tele-recorded. Later in 2006 they played in Switzerland, Norway and Denmark, but with Geoff Dunn replacing Mark Brzezicki on drums, reportedly [] because the latter's other band Casbah Club was touring with The Who. However, Dunn ended up replacing Brzezicki on drums, for the band's European tours of 2007 (Italy, Germany, Netherlands). Procol Harum played an orchestral concert at the outdoor opera venue Dalhalla (near Rattvik) in Sweden on June 30th.

On 20 July and 21 July 2007, fans arranged the celebration of the 40-year anniversary of the success of "A Whiter Shade of Pale", and invited the band to play. This took the form of two concerts at St John's, Smith Square in London. 20 July saw Procol Harum play a mixture of songs from their early days through to the début of a couple of new songs, "Sister Mary" and "Missing Persons". The following night "Gary Brooker and Guests" performed a fixture of obscure songs by Brooker-Reid that had either never been recorded, never been performed live before or were significantly different from the version they recorded.

Authorship lawsuit

Former organist Matthew Fisher sued Gary Brooker and his publisher in the Royal Courts of Justice in 2005, claiming that Fisher co-wrote the music for "A Whiter Shade of Pale" and was entitled to 50% ownership of the song's copyright. [cite web | url= | title=A Whiter Shade of Pale authorship lawsuit | accessdate=2006-09-21] On 20 December 2006 Fisher won the case but was awarded 40% ownership. [ [ BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Organist wins Procol Harum battle ] ] Brooker appealed in October 2007 and the judgment was reserved. In April 2008, the British Court of Appeal overturned part of the lower court's ruling, stating that Fisher was entitled to co-authorship, but Brooker was entitled to full royalty rights. [ [ Procol Harum singer wins royalties fight - ] ]

Influences in Popular Culture

The band's unusual name has inspired references in modern popular culture. The asteroid "14024 Procol Harum" is named after the band. The orchid "Procol Harum," a hybridisation of Cymbidium "Mighty Sensation" with Cymbidium "Electric Ladyland", is also named after the band. [cite web | title =Procol Harum, the Orchid | url= | accessdate =2007-08-12]

The second book in Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker Trilogy, "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe," was inspired by the song "Grand Hotel", from Procol Harum's album Grand Hotel. [cite web|url= |title=Text of one of Douglas Adams's introductions of Procol Harum in concert |accessdate=2006-08-21|last=Adams |first=Douglas |date=8 February 1996] [cite book|last=Adams|first=Douglas|authorlink=Douglas Adams|title=The Salmon of Doubt]


DVD recordings

* 1999 The Best of Musikladen Live
* 2002 "Live"
* 2004 "Live at the Union Chapel".



External links

* [] - 'Procol Harum'
* [] - 'Beyond the Pale' (Procol Harum's semi-official website)
* - Bruce Eder's history of the band
* [] - Robin Trower's official site
* [] - Matthew Fisher's Homepage

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