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on 15 November 2012
This excellent book covers Gary Brooker's early R'n'B group, The Paramounts, all line ups of Procol Harum, Gary's solo ventures and his side excursions with other well-known musicians such as Eric Clapton and Bill Wyman.
Procol Harum's ground-breaking concerts and recordings with Classical Orchestras and Choirs are also described in meticulous detail in this well researched offering.
Henry Scott-Irvine must be congratulated on delivering the best musical biography which I have ever read. He doesn't shy away from covering the bitter court case concerning the composing rights to A Whiter Shade of Pale. However for anyone that thinks that A Whiter Shade of Pale was the be all and end all of Procol Harum, think again. There are too many musical gems to name them all. They include A Salty Dog, As Strong as Samson, Pandora's Box and The Blink of an Eye.
With interesting insights from Martin Scorsese, Sir Alan Parker, Jimmy Page and Sebastian Faulks this is a must for your bookshelf.
Rush out and buy this book right now. You will not regret it.
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on 16 November 2012
Finished up Henry's most excellent and thorough book last night. I consistently enjoyed the context Henry put around what was happening to the band at various stages be it other bands, music industry, politics or economy. I appreciated the clarity around BJs last had always been vague for me and some of the band personnel changes that occurred. Its real life and things happen. Enough has been said about AWSOP issue already but aside from the authorship question, I came away with a stronger opinion on one element this unfortunate affair. A must read for all Procol fans and those curious about the music of the late 60s to late 70's. I was continuously reminded how very,very good this band was and continues to be which surely can be attributed to the consistent quality of material produced by Brooker and Reid. Thanx Henry!
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on 27 February 2013
i've just finished this book... and i must say i thoroughly enjoyed it! i must admit that i discovered lots of facts unknown to your average punter...

Would it be only for the fact (you'll probably think it irrelevant! but...) that Gary Brooker is a Gemini!... Like Ray Davies, Nick Drake, Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, Paul Mc Cartney... Well, should i be surprised to discover how immensely talented with a sure-fire knack for a catchy melody this Southend lad really is?

The other thing i enjoyed reading was about the early days of Procol Harum when they started out as The Paramounts in Southend (Hello The Orioles... Hello Mickey Jupp...)

How strange to read the story behind Procol Harum's Big Hit "A Whiter Shade Of pale" and the late Matthew Fisher claim on his co-authorship on it after all those years...

Though i don't agree (or do i?) with Mattew Fisher's point of view on the matter, i really do sympathize with him...

After all, what would have been the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" written by Ray Davies, if it hadn't been for his brother Dave's Punky guitar work, eh????

I think the answer lies in the way U2 have dealt with the matter...
Equal co-authorship between the 4 of them!... That seals the matter clean, good and fair!...

How much does a song's succes lies in its sound, in its structures, in its harmonies, in its production? Isn't Georges Martin considered to be the 5th Beatle?
Did He get any royalties for it? Where does it end?

With all due respect to Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher, would J.S. Bach sue them if he was still alive today? (To Gary and Matthey's own admissions, he was a big influence on them... Well, wasn't he?)
Another book should be written on the subject... A few lawsuits would follow i guess!!!...

So Henry, thanks for a great read! Now i must get,(on your good advice) The Best Procol compilation called: Secrets Of The Hive on Salvo CD UK compilation to get....

And by the way, my favourite Procol Harum albums are the First and Second albums... Even if Salty Dog and Grand Hotel come quite close!

But those first two, man... i could write a book about the pleasures, images and sensations they've evoked to me, living my adolescence by the sea in Saint-Malo...

I guess this is where Southend-On-Sea and Saint-Malo meet...
In the beautiful melancoly of Procol Harum's elegiac songs...

So if any of you has ever lived by the sea... GET THIS BOOK!!! (and if you've never lived by the sea, GET THIS BOOK too, cause you'll then want to hear those songs like "Salty Dog", "A Whiter Shade Of Pale", "Hamburg"... and then... and then... You'll want to move

I even think they came to play in st-Malo... Or did i dream it?
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Although Procol Harum fans will welcome this tome, I can't help feeling that it's something of a missed opportunity. Whilst it's a good linear biography of a Great British Rock Combo - still underrated after all these years - it's an ever so slightly dull read, and I don't think it quite does the band full justice. There's not much analysis of the bands' albums and lyrical content, and whilst I am glad it's been done, colour me underwhelmed.
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on 19 November 2012
Procol continues to delight its fans 4 decades on. For fans who have listened to more than the hits, they know there is much more to Procol than just AWSOP. Henry Scott-Irvine has penned the second but likely the best history of the band. From the early years, we get a concise history of the Paramounts and details of the early line ups of Procol. Scott-Irvine deftly weaves into each era of the band and covers many of their seminal recordings. If there are any minor criticisms of the book it is the following: since Henry is the bands historian I would have liked to have seen a detailed list of tour dates and a videography. Some of the airings are mentioned within the text, but there is no concise appendix covering air dates and/or filmed performances. Also, during the "Something Magic" sessions, many, many cuts were shelved. It would be nice to hear about the 10 or so songs that were not deemed fit for consumption. But other than these minor trifles, this is a great history of a timeless band. And for those who think they are faded relics, I suggest you see them live. You will never be the same.
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on 2 January 2016
This is hardly the first review of this now 3-year-old hardcover book. The excellent quasi-official Procol Harum website ‘Beyond the Pale’ lists (at this writing) no less than 19 links to reviews, Amazon and other comments, interviews and other features relating to it, with many more “promised,” so I’m not going to be adding much.

Ghosts is a straightforward chronological account of the life of this enigmatic, fluid (membership-wise), confounding, wonderful, genre-defying English band. They were founded in early 1967 out the ashes of the Paramounts, one of Britain’s best (and least-known) R&B bands from Southend-On-Sea, as Essex seaside resort town about an hour out of London by train; the town boasts “the longest pleasure pier in the world” and now, I suppose, also boasts that several of their young citizens went on to considerable fame. The Paramounts recorded a couple of dozen songs over their brief career, paid their dues in small local clubs, played further afield, endearing themselves to many fans in south and central England. Their reputation grew to the point of being recognized by the Rolling Stones as their “favourite R&B group.”

It’s been nearly 50 years since the band was formed after the demise of the Paramounts; briefly, leader Gary Brooker was paired with a young lyric songwriter named Keith Reid, and contracted to write music to Reid’s words (not unlike the Elton John-Bernie Taupin collaboration). One of their early efforts (A Whiter Shade of Pale – aka AWSoP) impressed the publisher, and in early 1967, it was first recorded, and then released as a single mid-year. This is the start of the story as related by Henry Scott-Irvine: although Chapter 1 covers the Paramounts period, it’s really at Chapter 2 the story of Procol Harum starts, and in turn it’s really AWSoP that kicks things off. AWSoP is a classical example of something being both a blessing and a curse: a blessing, surely, as it vaulted Procol to fame, as AWSoP became ubiquitous during the Summer of Love, virtually defining those heady (intentional pun) days. But … a curse, in that they were never really able to “live it down.” It became Procol’s Citizen Kane, in a way, starting them at the top with the single, which was followed by an eponymous album release in the UK which did not include the hit single, ensuring the commercial demise. As with Orson Welles’ movies after Citizen Kane, their music work with rare exceptions, working their way down. Lots of critical acclaim and peer acknowledgement, especially early on: their next three albums especially were masterpieces, with intermittent successes as the seventies wore on, but they were, arguably, defeated by the “punk revolution” – seeming to become less and less relevant as tastes changed. Several members reformed the band for an album in 1991, and they have been soldiering on in various forms since then, with only Gary Brooker the one constant throughout their nearly 50-year (with gaps) career.

The beauty of Henry Scott-Irvine’s account is that he’s managed the very difficult job of wrangling together all the various components of the band into a coherent narrative. When you think they have had a total of more than 30 members filling the five positions, several of whom came, went, came back, and left again (Fisher, Brzezicki, for example), a few for only a gig or two. Then there were at least a dozen guest performers on record, at least a half-dozen each of their managers, producers, engineers and roadies (one of whom, the late Kellogs served in three capacities at various times: in addition to roadie, he played bosun-whistle on A Salty Dog (!) and later served as their manager, and was beloved by the band and all who knew him. RIP Kellogs!)

One of the more fascinating parts of the book is towards the end: the long and winding account of the lawsuit concerning Matthew Fisher asserting his composer rights to the famous organ tune portion of AWSoP, ultimately ending his relationship with Brooker in the process. What remains unresolved are the financial ramifications, especially with respect to who pays the lawyers (who, of course, are the only winners in these matters!)

According to a reliable source, there is almost no chance of a second hard-copy edition, and “Omnibus retains global rights for another seven years.” So, the possibility of a paperback edition is remote. This is a shame, because, like all “first” editions, there are little errors here and there, which publishers have the chance of correcting prior to a second edition. Fortunately, for those who like them, we have perhaps five eBooks format editions available, which effectively means it doesn’t go out of print.

Henry Scott-Irvine is the same fellow who wrote the liner notes to the 1997 Westside 30th Anniversary Anthology covering the “First Four” albums plus singles and rarities, the late 90s Westside ‘Plus’ releases, several of the first Salvo 2009 reissues, and the recent Esoteric Records reissues. He rarely repeats himself! He is also responsible for researching the best possible sources for the various reissues; each set of releases has been a genuine improvement over the respective previous editions. Many Procol fans (like me) have multiple editions of the same record as a result!

But for the hardcover, there are only about four hundred left (at the time of writing), so anyone who has a little holiday cash and is a Procol Harum fan should hop to it! Trust me – it’s a winner!
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on 22 January 2014
I was not on this planet in the summer of 1967. When I was born in a rural country village of Deep South of Japan, one of my aunts had a Japanese 7inch single of "Whiter Shade of Pale". I spinned it in my childhood, in the summer of 1989.The very copy I owned has dissapeared into the shade of pale, literally.
In Japan, the song is very famous as an oldies, but we actually did not care so much the group is called "Procol Harum". They were in most recognition in Japan, one hit wonder group.
Now, Henry Scott-Irvine describes not only Procol Harum, but also the 60s British music scene. Of course their original menbers, followers, and rivals are interviewed by the auther who tries to recreate their days with original documents left.
Now I can feel Procol Harum rose from the beat rock scene of early 60s, into a statement group of time with their European tinge as a stand out identity.
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on 6 March 2013
This is a well-written and exhaustive account of the recording and touring history of Procol Harum. It takes us from the days of the Paramounts in the Southend of the early sixties right through to the draining four-year court case that pitted the band's original organist against his former employers over forty years later. The coverage is comprehensive and well organised and the early chapters on the Southend scene are especially engrossing.

In spite of the determinedly factual basis of the book, it's entertainingly written in a relaxed and highly readable style. As you'd expect, there is much quoting from interviews with band members and others closely connected to them and a selection of photographs.

Overall, I found it a little light on analysis perhaps: the author prefers to let the facts and the interviewees' own words stand for themselves rather than offering his own interpretation or critique but then some may see that as a strength of the book rather than a weakness!

Without a doubt, this is an essential book for anyone even remotely interested in the band and its origins. No prior knowledge is assumed: this is definitely not an "insider" book for fans only. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 16 February 2014
I have been a Procol Harum fan for many years, discovering them as a teenager (aside of course from Whiter Shade Of Pale as a kid). I was surprised to find out that somebody had written a book about them. Mr. Scott-Irvine was interviewed on the Wax Museum With Ronnie Dark. This book is awesome, with stories of the old "Paramounts", and them Procol Harum. Not realizing all the history involved, and the many things I never knew, it was book that I didn't want to put down. If you are a fan, or are just into music in general, you will enjoy it. Great job, Henry!!
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on 16 December 2012
As a fan of Procol Harum from the minute I heard the opening notes of "A Whiter Shade of Pale" in 1967...I have waited a long time to learn more about the band. This book met all of my expectations: from the birth of the Paramounts, through the court battle over song the latest updates on Gary and the boys. This was the first time I was able to get the full story on the sad end to B.J. Wilson"s life...a most remarkable drummer!
Read this book, break out the records and enjoy.
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