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Music / Procol Harum

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We skipped the light fandango,
Turned cartwheels 'cross the floor,
I was feeling kinda seasick,
But the crowd called out for more,
The room was humming harder,
As the ceiling flew away,
When we called out for another drink,
The waiter brought a tray.
"A Whiter Shade of Pale"

Procol Harum is an English Progressive Rock and Baroque Pop band founded in 1967. The group's membership has changed frequently, the only constant member being singer/pianist Gary Brooker, although lyricist Keith Reid contributed to every album except the 50th anniversary Milestone Celebration Novum. The group recorded 10 studio albums before disbanding in 1977, then reunited in the 1990s, having recorded two more studio albums since then and continuing to perform live up to the present.

According to this page, the band's first manager, Guy Stevens, happened to look at a pedigree certificate for a cat named "Procul Harun", and immediately suggested it as the band's name. (The cat's owners actually called him "Claude"; "Procul Harun" was only a name chosen by the cat breeder. The "Procul" part was the breeder's registered prefix, and "Harun" is an Arabic equivalent of "Aaron".)

Gary Brooker died of cancer in 2022, presumably bringing an end to the band.

Studio Albums:

  • Procol Harum (1967)
  • Shine On Brightly (1968)
  • A Salty Dog (1969)
  • Home (1970)
  • Broken Barricades (1971)
  • Grand Hotel (1973)
  • Exotic Birds and Fruit (1974)
  • Procol's Ninth (1975)
  • Something Magic (1977)
  • The Prodigal Stranger (1991)
  • The Long Goodbye (1995)—not a true Procol Harum album, instead Brooker recording symphonic of Procol songs with guest appearances by other members
  • Ain't Nothin' To Get Excited About (recorded 1970, released 1997)—credited to "Liquorice John Death", a collection of covers (with one original track) that the band used to play when they were known as The Paramounts
  • The Well's on Fire (2003)
  • Novum (2017)

Live Albums:

  • Procol Harum: Live In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (1972)—one of the first instances of a rock band playing live with a symphony
  • One More Time – Live in Utrecht 1992 (1999)
  • Live At Union Chapel (2004)
  • One Eye to the Future – Live in Italy 2007 (2008)
  • Procol Harum – In Concert With the Danish National Concert Orchestra and Choir (2009)
  • The Spirit of Nøkken (2010)
  • MMX (2012)—featuring live versions of three unreleased songs


  • Gary Brooker—piano, vocals (1967–77, 1991–2022)
  • Keith Reid—lyrics (while he doesn't sing or play any instruments, he is still credited as a band member) (1967–77, 1991–2023, died 2023)
  • Matthew Fisher—organ, other keyboards, vocals (1967–69, 1991–2003)
  • Ray Royer—guitar (1967; appeared on "A Whiter Shade of Pale", but left before recording the debut album)
  • Bobby Harrison—drums (1967; left with Royer to form a band called Freedom, does not appear on any recordings)
  • Robin Trower—lead guitar, vocals (1967–71, 1991)
  • B.J. Wilson—drums, percussion (1967–77; his 1990 death was the impetus for the 1991 reunion)
  • Dave Knights—bass (1967–69)
  • Chris Copping—bass (1969–72, 1976–77), organ (1969–76)
  • Alan Cartwright—bass (1972–76)
  • Dave Ball—lead guitar (1971–72; only appears on Edmonton live album)
  • Mick Grabham—lead guitar (1972–77)
  • Pete Solley—organ and synthesizers (1977)

Procol Harum provides examples of:

  • Beware the Nice Ones: Gary Brooker blowing his stack at a German stagehand who was chatting with a member of the band and delaying the start of the song, variously reported as "Hey, we don't do friends, we do functions" or "Hey, we don't do friends, get off, fucker". Bear in mind that Brooker was considered one of the nicest guys in music...
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: "Butterfly Boys" from Exotic Birds and Fruit. While Gary Brooker once said that "This song could apply to any situation where someone's doing well and the others are getting the shit", it was specifically about Terry Ellis and Chris Wright, who not only managed Procol but ran their label, Chrysalis Records, whose logo prominently featured a butterfly.
    Gary Brooker: It's definitively about Terry and Chris swanning it up, doing very well, and running a multimillion-pound record label. Procol Harum is the "sinking ship" here, and the label owners, who were also our managers, are the ones that "get the cake". We weren't exactly ripped off, not like in the past, but Reid had spotted an imbalance! They were very upset about the song, and wanted us to change the words and title to "Government Boys". We said "Bollocks".
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Disgustingly, "A Souvenir of London".
  • Chronological Album Title: Procol's Ninth
  • Cover Version: Not common for them, but they did cover "I Keep Forgettin'" (by Chuck Jackson, written by Leiber and Stoller) and The Beatles' "Eight Days a Week", both on Procol's Ninth (which Leiber and Stoller produced). There's also the Cover Album Ain't Nothin' to Get Excited About, credited to the pseudonym Licorice John Death and not released until 27 years after it was recorded.
  • Crapsack World: The entire Broken Barricades album is pretty much a window-jumper.
  • Downer Ending: Downer Beginning, middle, and ending, really...Broken Barricades. Home probably counts too.
  • Dying Dream: "The Dead Man's Dream".
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The debut has several short "joke" songs. While some later albums do include humor, it is usually more subtle and is used in actual full-length songs.
    • Trower's guitar wasn't integrated fully yet on the debut, either. He pretty much recedes into the background when not soloing. As a whole, the album emphasizes the piano/organ interplay between Brooker and Fisher, which itself would be less important to the band's sound after Fisher left.
    • "A Whiter Shade of Pale" doesn't even feature Trower or B.J. Wilson, using session musicians instead.
    • For fans of Trower's later career working backwards, his entire tenure in the band can seem like this. Most of the band's songs were written by keyboardists, Trower's band didn't even feature keyboards on their most famous albums.
  • Epic Rocking: "In Held Twas In I".
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Rambling On".
  • Fake Band: Originally. Brooker and Reid recorded "Whiter Shade", and had to assemble a band when it hit.
  • Gratuitous Latin: The band name is evidently meant to mean "Beyond These Things", but the correct Latin would be Procul hīs.
  • I Am the Band: With Keith Reid not participating in Novumnote , Gary Brooker became the only constant member of the band.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: Mentioned in the lyrics of "Monsieur Armand" (re-recorded as "Monsieur R. Monde" - see Spell My Name With An S below), with the "other" person telling the narrator that the former is Jekyll and the latter is Hyde.
  • Koan:
    Pilgrim: I wish to know the meaning of life, father.
    Dalai Lama: Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?
  • Rock Me, Amadeus!:
    • The middle section of "Repent Walpurgis" comes from Bach's Prelude No. 1 in C major (BWV 846).
    • It's debatable whether or not "A Whiter Shade of Pale" actually copies from Air on the G String. According to Brooker, "I think only the first four notes are the same, then it starts to change."
    • "Grand Hotel" quotes the Russian folk song "Otchi Chyornije".
  • Seadog Beard: Depicted on the cover of A Salty Dog, parodying the packet design from a well-known brand of cigarettes.
  • Slave Brand: "Memorial Drive".
  • Spell My Name With An S:
    • This band name gives rise to all sorts of misspellings, such as "Proul Haven", "Procyl Harom", "Parocial Harem", etc. What's more, the official spelling itself resulted from a mistake: manager Guy Stevens suggested the name "Procul Harun" to the band during a phone conversation with the band, and they misheard.
    • Then there's the song "Monsieur Armand", recorded in 1967 and left unreleased, then re-recorded and released in 1975 with the title spelled "Monsieur R. Monde", possibly for reasons related to publishing rights.
  • Stealth Pun: The chorus of "A Whiter Shade of Pale" is actually based around one, whether intentionally or not, and you'll thwack yourself when you notice it.
    And so it was that later,
    As the miller told his tale,
    That her face, at first just ghostly,
    Turned a whiter shade of pale.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Fisher on "In the Autumn of My Madness", "Boredom", "Wreck of the Hesperus", and "Pilgrim's Progress", Trower on "Crucifiction Lane", "Song For a Dreamer", and "Poor Mohammed". Interestingly, Trower rarely if ever sang in his solo band.
  • Title Confusion: Their fourth album is titled Home. Its front and back cover illustration has a sort of "board game" theme featuring portraits of the band members cut and pasted onto cartoon characters, including some speech balloons and written sound effects such as "Whoosh!" and "Sploosh!". It just so happens that "Whoosh!" is printed on the front cover in a font size nearly as large as was used for the title. Because of this, some Benelux-market editions of the album state the album title as Whoosh on the center label/cassette label/sleeve spine.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Some of them.
  • Word Salad Title: "In Held 'Twas in I". This title comes from putting together the first word of the lyrics of each section of the song.