Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
UK rock band, began as the Paramounts early '60s, playing R&B covers in Southend (singles collected on Whiter Shades Of R&B '83 on Edsel): Gary Brooker (b 29 May '45, Southend), piano, vocals; Robin Trower (b 9 March '45, London) on guitar; Barrie (B. J.) Wilson (b 18 March '47), drums; Chris Copping (b 29 Aug. '45), bass. Brooker had bluesy, Ray Charles-infl. voice and a tune from J. S. Bach; Keith Reid (b 10 Oct. '46) provided mysterious words; with Matthew Fisher (b 7 March '46, London) on organ, David Knights on bass (b 28 June '45), Ray Rowyer on guitar, Bobby Harrison on drums, they recorded 'Whiter Shade Of Pale', at no. 1 UK/5 USA, and with the Beatles' 'All You Need Is Love' and Scott McKenzie's 'San Francisco', one of the singles of the 'Summer of Love' '67, on Decca's Deram label. Some thought follow-up 'Homburg' was a better record (on venerable Regal Zonophone label, A&M in USA). Rowyer and Harrison quit; Trower and Wilson were recruited to finish Procol Harum '67 (Latin for 'beyond these things', or perhaps the name of somebody's cat). The first edition of the LP bravely did not incl. the big hit (but did in the USA); they were infl. for their two-keyboard approach. Shine On Brightly '68 and Salty Dog '69 were '60s classics, with Reid's lyrics, Wilson's unusually free drumming, members doubling on celeste, recorder, marimba etc though the hit was so big they were regarded as one-hit wonders, especially in the UK. Fisher went solo '69 (Journey's End '73, I'll Be There '74, Matthew Fisher '80, Strange Days '81; ran his own studio in South London); Copping replaced Knights on bass, doubled on organ; albums Home '70, Broken Barricades '71 were patchy, Trower's Jimi Hendrix fixation taking over; he went solo, replaced by Dave Ball (b 30 March '50); Copping switched to organ full time, Alan Cartwright (b 10 Oct. '45) joined on bass; Procol Harum: In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra '72 was their biggest hit LP in USA at no. 5, incl. surprise hit 'Conquistador' (the original a track on the first album). Mick Grabham (ex-Cochise) replaced Ball on Grand Hotel '73; Exotic Birds And Fruit '74 was strong rock, B. J. Cole guesting on steel guitar. The last two didn't chart in UK, but Procol's Ninth did '75, perhaps because it was prod. by Leiber and Stoller. Something Magic '77 was their last LP, centred on ambitious, flawed 18-minute 'Worm And The Tree'. Reid went into management; Brooker was part of Paul McCartney's Rockestra, then made solo albums No More Fear Of Flying '79, Lead Me To The Water, Echoes In The Night '85; Trower made a dozen power trio albums '73--88 of which Bridge Of Sighs and For Earth Below '74--5 were top ten USA, and came back with Someday Blues '97 on Demon. Harum are still remembered for the first hit, but each LP had something of merit; reissues and compilations abound.