Daily Archives: 09-01-09

November 15th 1973

“Got Procol Harum”

Whilst this doesn’t fully compare to the horror of Uriah Heep a week or more ago, it does come pretty close. At least to me.

The album in question would have been “Broken Barricades“, the last Procol Harum album to feature guitarist Robin Trower before he embarked on a long, mostly pointless, solo career.

I can recall someone played me the opening cut – “Simple Sister” – and based on a certain je ne sais quoi about it, I stumped up good cash for the entire album.

Let’s quickly scan the lyrics of “Simple Sister” shall we?…

Simple sister
Got whooping cough
Have to burn her toys
Take her treats
Eat her sweets
Scare off all the boys

Simple sister
Got whooping cough
Have to put her out
Wear her clothes
Steal her bows
Tell her that she’s stout

Simple sister
Got whooping cough
Lock her in a cell
Throw the key
Into the sea
Hope she never gets well

I think they fall adequately into the arena of “HUH?“, don’t they?

Now, let’s listen to it

Nope, I don’t see the attraction either.

I’m sure Broken Barricades isn’t the last “crap” album I bought on the basis of hearing one ‘good’ track, but it may very well have been the first? What’s the betting I was as attracted by the (admittedly) groovy die-cut sleeve as I was anything else?

As the years have gone by I have grown to dislike Procol Harum more and more, none moreso than the hideously ubiquitous “A Whiter Shade of Pale“, their supposed classic from 1967. This droning despondent organ-based number has even more trite lyrics than “Simple Sister”…
I wandered through my playing cards
and would not let her be
one of sixteen vestal virgins
who were leaving for the coast

For some reason the ‘general public’ love this song and even 32 years after its release it is “the most played song in public places” (pubs, restaurants, etc) in the UK. It’s been named winner of the Best British Pop Single, made #57 in Rolling Stone’s “Greatest Songs of All Time” and is a lofty #19 in the “100 greatest number one singles”. Which only goes to prove there’s no accounting for taste.

More recently we all had to endure it even more as it featured in the news, former Harum organist Matthew Fisher finally winning his court case against songwriter Gary Brooker after claiming that he ‘co-wrote’ the song (because of his distinctive Hammond organ ‘riff’). Boy, that must have been a slow news day?

A few years ago I took part in a ‘torturethon’ for charity, which comprised of me having to listen to the same song – one that I truly hated – over and over again for as long as I could, in my case for 8+ hours! Wherever I went and whatever I did, the song I chose was always in my ears. I blogged the experience for an online magazine, mainly swearing gratuitously. That song was Siouxsie & the Banshees “Hong Kong Garden”.

It could just as easily have been “Whiter Shade of Pale”

Like the Uriah Heep before it, I hope future diary entries make mention of ridding myself of the ‘evil’ Procol Harum album.


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