In August 1971 when I started working at my first radio station in Findlay OH, A Salty Dog by Procol Harum incongruously was atop the three foot-high throwaway stack of promotional albums headed for the dumpster. This was a middle-of-the-road AM daytimer which played only singles like “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” and banned great singles like “Sunshine” by Jonathan Edwards because the General Manager was convinced that the lyrics were about LSD. The eclectic British band Procol Harum has the distinction of placing two of the most unlikely songs at the top of the singles chart five years apart, yet these same guys put the capital “A” in “Art Rock”, no question about it. Over the many years, the number of musicians that have passed through London’s Procol Harum rivals America’s Doobie Brothers, but like the latter, two key men have been carrying the creative torch for the duration. In Procol Harum’s case, it is singer/pianist/composer Gary Brooker and lyricist Keith Reid.
One of the most exclusive categories in rock music is that of “non-performing lyricist”, and Reid shares it only with Bernie Taupin (Elton John) and the Grateful Dead‘s Robert Hunter. When Reid’s cryptic psychedelic poetry populated by minotaurs and “sixteen vestal virgins leaving for the coast…” were first set to Brooker’s reworked arrangement of Bach in 1967, what resulted was “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, easily the most non-conventional song to ever achieve #1 until Queen‘s operatic “Bohemian Rhapsody” almost a decade later. Both Gary Brooker and Keith Reid are joined In the Studio by former organist/producer Matthew Fisher and Procol Harum’s guitarist Robin Trower, for the albums Broken Barricades, Home , A Salty Dog ( all which included Trower) and their biggest seller, Live With the Edmonton Symphony released in May 1972 featuring the equally unconventional “Conquistador”. – Redbeard