Southend, Essex, UK. It's 1945. Type that into google and you'll find out what makes a town famous. Fourteen year later, a group of 14 year olds want to live forever. What better way than form a pop group...

The Paramounts are born, taking the traditional route of teen pop bands - school-age gigs at youth clubs and dances. Unlike the huge majority of teen pop bands, they're actually quite good. Good enough to get a residency in a local Southend-on-Sea club in 1962. The Paramounts' material is mostly covers of American R&B.

After several quick-fire line-up changes, the autumn of 1963 saw their demo get them a hearing from EMI and signed up to Parlophone. Their first single - a cover of The Coasters Poison Ivy, one of their demo tracks - reached number 35 in the charts the following January. Unfortunately, kudos from The Rolling Stones helped not a whit - the next 18 months saw no chart success and their status reduced to a backing band for more well-known artists.

That did it. The band split. The dream was over.

Except that Gary Brooker took the opportunity to start writing songs.

Along with Keith Reid - whom Brooker had met through Guy Stevens - they accumulated a number of songs and started touting for musicians through that hallowed magazine Melody Maker. The resultant band was named The Pinewoods, the line up in Spring 1967 being:

The Pinewoods' first recording was a track you may have heard of called A Whiter Shade of Pale. Uh... and that's were the node title comes in, I guess.

Sometime between recording the track and releasing it, the band's name changed:

a name derived, as alternate stories tell it, either from Stevens' cat's birth certificate, Procol Harun, or a Latin "procul" for "far from these things" (hey, it was the mid-1960s, and either is possible)
They were known as Procol Harum.

The single was to be released under Decca's Deram label. Guy Cordell, the producer, sent a copy to Radio London:

one of England's legendary offshore pirate radio stations ... which played the record. Not only was Radio London deluged with listener requests for more plays, but Deram suddenly found itself with orders for a record not scheduled for release for another month -- before May was half over, it was pushed up on the schedule and rushed into shops.

Careerwise things could not go better: opening for Jimi Hendrix, first single hitting number one, six million copies sold in the first month. But that didn't stop a quick reversion in the line up. Out went Royer and Harrison. In came two of Booker's Paramounts' cohorts - Robin Trower and B. J. Wilson - to form the lasting line up.

I could go on but the essence is there: more line up changes, varying degrees of commercial success, but a complete inability to shake off that first hit:

A new album, Something Magic, barely scraped the US charts in April of 1977, and the band split up following a final tour and a farewell concert at New York's Academy of Music on May 15, 1977. Only five months later, the band was back together for a one-off performance of "A Whiter Shade of Pale," which had taken on a life of its own separate from the group -- the song was named joint winner (along with "Bohemian Rhapsody") of the Best British Pop Single 1952-1977, at the Britannia Awards to mark Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee, and the band performed it live at the awards ceremony.

Mandatory album list:
Precised and quoted from the fount of all knowledge - All Music Guide.

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