The origins of the band Procol Harum began in 1964 when Gary Brooker and Robin Trower formed a band called the Paramounts. The group had a minor hit with a cover of the song “Poison Ivy.” The band went through various name and personal changes. In 1967, Gary Booker took the name of Gus Dudgeon’s cat and formed the band Procol Harum. At the time of formation the band consisted of Gary Brooker, Ray Royer, David Knights, Matthew Fisher, Bobby Harrison and Keith Reid. Original Paramounts members Robin Trower and B.J. Wilson would replace Ray Royer and Bobby Harrison after the band’s debut album.
The band’s debut album in 1967 spawned the biggest hit of their career entitled “Whiter Shade of Pale.” The song had originally been released as a stand alone single and had not been included in the U.K version of the album. However, it was included on the U.S. album. Robin Trower appeared on every track with the exception of “Whiter Shade of Pale.”
The band released the album Shine On Brightly a year later in 1968. Procol Harum continued releasing records almost on a yearly basis until 1977. Robin Trower left the band in 1971 after recording five albums with the band. In 1991, the band reformed to record another album that featured original members including Robin Trower. The album was dedicated to B.J. Wilson who had passed away.
The band would release two more records, both many years apart. In 2003 they released The Well’s On Fire and fourteen years later they released Novum.
Our Top 10 Procol Harum Songs list takes a look at different points in the band’s career. It attempts to include their biggest hits, but also cover the different time periods of this great progressive rock band.
# 10 – I Told On You
We start our Top 10 Procol Harum songs list with a stunningly beautiful track from the band’s most recent album entitled Novum. The album was released in 2017, fifty years after the band’s debut album in 1967. The song “Last Chance Motel,” appeared as the second track on the record.
# 9 – A Rum Tale
How can you not love this song. It’s the ultimate escape song. “A Rum Tale,” was released on the Grand Hotel album in 1973. Just love that great bouncy piano opening lick. Nothing like hearing a great piano riff underneath a spectacular vocal line, while the organ slowly creeps into the mix. When the second verse hits the listener the band explodes onto the scene making this great track an all time favorite. This one is just so emotional.
# 8 – Nothing But The Truth
This great Procol Harum song was released on the band’s 1974 album, Exotic Birds and Fruit. The song “Nothing But The Truth,” was released as the album’s only single. This one always reminded me a bit of Elton John, or at least the song’s great opening riff and arrangement. Even the chorus had that big time Elton John sound.
# 7 – Fool’s Gold
Procol Harum’s legendary album Procol’s Ninth was the first album that band ever released that featured cover songs. On The record, the band covered The Beatles “Eight Days A Week,” and Leiber & Stoller’s “I Keep Forgetting.” However our favorite track on the record was the album’s second track entitled “Fool’s Gold.”
# 6 – An Old English Dream
There are not many bands or artists that came of age in the 1960’s that have continued to release such quality music over a fifty year period. One could argue The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan or Neil Young. One listen to this amazing track “An Old English Dream,” confirms that Procol Harum is one of them. This great track was released in 2003 on an album entitled The Wells On Fire.
# 5 – Simple Sister
This great song opened with a guitar lick to die for. From a time period when musicians learned to play their instruments and inspired countless musicians to practice. Listen to the interplay between Robin Trower and Gary Brooker. The track “Simple Sister,” appeared on the band’s 1971 album Broken Barricades. One can hear the impact that the death of Jimi Hendrix had on Robin Trower on the album. Just listen to the song’s opening guitar riff.
# 4 – A Salty Dog
Procol Harum recorded some of the most breathtaking songs in classic rock history. “A Salty Dog,” was the title track from the band’s 1970 album A Salty Dog.
# 3 – Whiskey Train
Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Robin Trower! Listen to Robin legendary guitar during the song’s opening lick. I have always felt that Robin Trower was one of the most underrated guitarist in classic rock history. He was quite popular among rock fans in the 1970s, but his legacy has been often ignored by many classic rock stations who play nothing but Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. There were so many greats in the 70s that have sort of gotten lost in time. If you ever caught one of Robin Trower’s live shows in the 1970s, I’m sure you were blown away by his greatness.
# 2 – Conquistador
The last two songs on this Procol Harum Songs list are difficult to write about because they are such legendary tracks in the history of classic rock music. So we will just list the dates and the albums. “Conquistador,” was released on the band’s debut album in 1967. It is the first track to appear on a Procol Harum album.
# 1 – A Whiter Shade Of Pale
Procol Harum’s signature song “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” was released as a single before the band’s UK debut album was released. The song was included on the United States version. The single was released on May 12 1967. The song “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” became the number one record in ten countries including the United Kingdom. The song reached the number five spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. The single has sold over 30 million copies. If we were to send a CD into outer space that represented the 10 best Classic Rock songs of all time, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” would most definitely be on that list.