The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Monday, May 12, 2008

Procol Harum

5-12-08 Procol Harum – “In The Wee Small Hours of Sixpence”

This single was nominated by my old friend Brian Ware.

The version of it that I have is from Italy, RCA / IL Records, NIL 9013, 1968; with a picture sleeve. A great non-LP single at the time – more upbeat than either “A Whiter Shade of Pale” or “Homburg”. This single is backed with “Quite Rightly So”, which is from their 2nd album “Shine On Brightly” (the liner notes tell us that this was the first P.H. song ever heard in stereo – which I do not think is entirely true; I have stereo mixes of first album stuff!) “In The Wee Small Hours…” found a proper home on the U.S. “Greatest Hits / Best Of” LP/CD on A&M Records.

Where to start with my fandom of Procol Harum? I dearly love their first 5 albums (and am rather fond of the next 5 albums, as well), and this is a fantastic single. It’s always interesting for me to read about how influenced P.H. were by Bob Dylan – and they, in turn, influenced The Band. Interesting!

Are you with me in wondering why there was never a lyricist Keith Reid solo album? I mean, King Crimson’s Pete Sinfield got a solo album! I suppose we should be thankful that there are numerous Gary Brooker solo albums (and Matthew Fischer solo albums, for that matter). Was Keith Reid the first person to ever be named as specifically a lyricist for a rock band, receiving credit on the LP cover, treated as an actual member of the band? Did you know that Procol Harum was named after a small tabby cat?

Quite frankly, I cannot fault any of the singles released by Procol Harum – all of them are great – “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” has certainly raked in the accolades over the years – but “Homburg”, “In The Wee Small Hours…” and many others are deserving of esteemed ‘critical credit’. They (the singles) deserved better.

It is curious that P.H. were formerly known as The Paramounts – essentially the sanem group as found on the first several P.H. albums – signed to Parlophone Records – making ‘white boy R&B’ records not a million miles from The Beatles & The Rolling Stones – this is the company that I find Procol Harum with. Top drawer British rock music.

One listen to “In The Wee Small Hours…” confirms that they were capable of very fine psychedelic British pop music – along the lines of, say, Donovan or Traffic. This really should’ve been a big hit. At what point does pop music become rock music? The Japanese have a term for this kind of single – “Pre-70’s”. In a few short years, this kind of single would be a little more common – but in 1968? A rare bird indeed. (And they probably also influenced Rare Bird, too!)

So, thank you, Procol Harum! Fantastic single, fantastic albums. The very fabric of British pop culture, worthy of all.



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