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Procol Harum

Origin: Essex, England

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Genres: art rock, Blues-Rock, Progressive rock, psychedelic rock, symphonic rock

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A British band named after a cat, charted a 1967 hit which is one of the few that sold more than 10 million copies. You remember “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” don’t you?

Procol Harum is that band which formed in ’67 and contributed to the development of symphonic rock, and by extension, progressive rock. Their best-known recording “A Whiter Shade of Pale” is considered a classic of popular music. Although noted for its baroque and classical influence, Procol Harum’s music also embraces the blues, R&B, and soul.

Once named The Paramounts, and for a split-second, The Pinewoods, the newly constituted band was signed to EMI UK.

In April 1967, former Paramount member, Gary 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.

Guy Stevens, their original manager, named the band after Gus Dudgeon’s Burmese cat. The cat’s Cat Fancy name was Procul Harun, Procul being the breeder’s prefix.

After six years, the band’s music had reached its peak and sales began to wane. The band broke up in 1977 and for awhile every member pursued their own projects. The band reformed in 1991 with Brooker, Fisher, Robin Trower and Reid (Wilson had died in 1990).

In July, 2007, fans arranged the celebration of the 40th 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. Since then, the band has been touring and releasing material at a moderate pace.

The band played about a dozen gigs between 2015 and 2016 and Brooker participated in four Winter Solstice concerts in New York in December 2016.

2017 marks the 50th Anniversary of the band. They started with a sold-out orchestral concert at the Royal Festival Hall, during which Brooker fell and injured his head and right hand but managed to return to the stage to play the second half of the concert. The band embarked on tours of the UK and Europe in May 2017.

Their 13th album “Novum” was released on April 21st, the first featuring lyrics by Pete Brown, a performance poet who has worked with Cream and Jack Bruce.

This note: In 2009, Matthew Fisher won a British court judgment awarding him 40% of the music royalties from 2005 forward, for 1967’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” which had previously gone 50% to Brooker for the music and 50% to Reid for the lyrics.

Discography

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 Well’s on Fire (2003)
Novum (2017)

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