Procol Harum is arguably the most successful "accidental" band in the history of progressive rock music. By which I mean, the band originally assembled to take advantage of the success of a record created in the studio. The band was formed from the ashes of the R&B band ‘The Paramounts’ by Gary Brooker (piano, vocals), Matthew Fisher (organ), Bobby Harrison (drums), Ray Royer (guitar) and Dave Knight (bass). Their famous debut, Bach-influenced single, ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’, catalysed the London boys to becoming one of the biggest successes of the late 1960s. It was followed by the Top 10 hit, ‘Homburg’.
However, by the time a hastily thrown-together debut album was released, the band was falling apart. Harrison and Royer departed to be replaced by B.J. Wilson and Robin Trower (who was a member of The Paramounts). The other unofficial member of the band was lyricist Keith Reid.
Brooker and Reid provided the band's entire repertory, however the frequent line-up changes did not help the bands creativity although it added a new instrumental voice to the proceedings. At their most accessible, as on ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ and ‘Conquistador’, they were one of the most popular of progressive rock bands, teir singles outselling all rivals, and their most ambitious album tracks still have a strong following.
‘A Salty Dog’ was released to critical acclaim before Fisher and Knights departed and the circle was completed when Chris Copping (organ, bass) became the last former member of The Paramounts to join the band. Trower’s Jimi Hendrix – influenced guitar patterns on ‘Broken Barricades’ began to give the band a heavier image, not compatible with Reid’s fantasy sagas. This was resolved by Trower’s departure, the recruitment of Dave Ball and the addition of Alan Cartwright (bass). Further line-up changes ensured with Ball departing and Mick Grabham joining in 1972. This line-up became the band’s most stable and they enjoyed four successful and busy years during which they released three albums. 1977 saw the musical climate dramatically change and Procol Harum were one of the first casualties of punk, which led to their disbandment. 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 Silver Jubilee. An enormous achievement by any standards.
In August 1991, Brooker, Trower, Fisher and Reid reunited, with Mark Brzezicki (ex-Big Country) replacing the recently deceased Wilson. Unlike many re-formed ‘dinosaurs’ the result was a well-received album ‘The Prodigal Stranger’. In July 1997, fans arranged the celebration of the 30-year anniversary of the success of ‘A White Shade of Pale’ and invited the then-inactive band to perform.
In late 1999, Gary Brooker promised that Procol Harum will play in 2000, and in September the band played an open-air gig with the New London Sinfonia in Guildford. Since 2001 the band has made several tours of mostly Europe, but also Japan and the US. Fisher quit Procol Harum in 2004.
The band resumed with a limited touring schedule in 2005, with Josh Phillips replacing Fisher on Hammond, leaving Gary Brooker as the only original performing member. Brooker was appointed a Member of the Order of The British Empire in the Queen’s Birthdays Honours on 14 June 2003 in recognition of his charitable services. It was Brooker’s vision and never ending thirst for music, which has been the driving force to the life of Procol Harum and one feels that if there was to be one member that was the heart and backbone to the group, it’s Gary Brooker. The band was able to withstand frequent line-up alterations, however it was the one constant, Gary Brooker, that enabled the band to become the legendary and unique progressive rock band that Procol Harum are.
Although there was no Procol Harum activity in 2008, their manager, Chris Cooke, used the 'Beyond the Pale' web site to announce plans for a live DVD and a new album.
This information is provided as a brief overview and not as a definitive guide, there are other sources on the net for that. If however you have a story or information that is not generally known we would love to hear from you. Content@rokpool.com
Why Not Check Out: