Tuning Into Static

By Kyle Brown
Copy Editor
While browsing the interwebs for a good story to use as my intro in my research paper on whaling, I discovered something scary and wonderful. One of the first Google results for “Whale story” was a song: “Whaling Stories” by Procol Harum. I was desperate for anything at that point, so I decided to give it a click.
There was no way I could predict the magnitude of what I had just done, no way for me to guess how it would shape the next seven minutes of my life.
The minor chords started out slowly, darkly, reminding me of Pink Floyd’s “Us And Them” all the way. It towered up to a grand, climactic panic before lunging ahead into the guitar solo, with the scales trudging on behind it. It finally calmed down, the quiet after the storm, and then built up once again, this time to a broad chorale à la Queen to close it out.
The rich, progressive nature of “Whaling Stories” hooked me in and pulled me under for the discovery of one of the most underrated classic rock groups of all time. This band had enough cull in its day that it could collaborate with an entire symphony if it so chose (they have performed live with the Danish National Orchestra and Choir as well as with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra).
Their symphony pieces are beautiful, rich and they rock to boot. Songs like “Conquistador,” with its Latin trumpet fanfares and an army of strings to drive the guitar riffs further home make me wonder why everyone doesn’t utilize the talents of classically trained professionals. I know the Beatles, the greatest band of all time (Don’t dispute with me on this. It’s fact.), used choirs and orchestras on several occasions. Just look at “I Am The Walrus” and “All You Need Is Love.”
On that point, it’s easy to see that music is made so much better when it draws from a variety of places. Procol Harum got that right, but they were snubbed from the rock history books. Even though they only lasted a decade, their influence is apparent in the works of Pink Floyd, Queen and even John Lennon.
Lennon even praised the band for their album Home, saying “They went into the studio and recorded a nightmare,” and he meant that in the best way possible. Snippets of “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” are evident in Lennon’s “Imagine;” the melody, the tempo and chord progressions are eerily similar.
If you have influence on the works of some of the greatest artists of all time, you know you’re doing something right. So, even though Procol Harum’s music has not persisted directly, it’s comforting to know that the style of such great pioneers have been able to find their way through the hits of their followers.