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Procol Harum

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Procol Harum's lyricist Keith Reid told us the story behind this song: "Gary Brooker and I, before we formed Procol Harum, when we were just working together as songwriters and getting into it, we had this regular deal where he lived about 40 miles from London near the ocean, and I'd jump on a train once a week and go visit him. He'd have a bunch of my lyrics and he'd play me whatever he had been working on. This particular time, though, I'd got down there and he'd been working on a tune. He said, 'What does this sound like to you?' And I said, 'Oh, conquistador.' It had a little bit of a Spanish flavor to it. I went into another room and started writing the words there and then. 99 out of 100 of those Procol Harum songs were written the words first, and then were set to music. But that particular one, the words hadn't existed before he had the musical idea."
Conquistadors were Spanish soldiers who set out to conquer the Americas after their discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
This became a hit when Procol Harum recorded it live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra on November 18, 1971. It was released in 1972 on the aptly titled album Procol Harum Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. When we spoke with Gary Brooker in 2010, we asked him what he considered to be his best vocal performance. Brooker replied: "I would say something off of the Edmonton Symphony Live album. I don't mind which one, really. But it always gives one a great deal of pleasure if you know that when you sing live, that you sing as well or better than you did in the studio. And, of course, when you get excited, when you're playing on stage, a bit more adrenaline, it always fits well in with the feeling. When we played in Edmonton with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra that first time, it was a very inspiring evening, and there was a lot of good music going on from everybody, and the vocals had to get over it all." (Check out our interview with Gary Brooker.)
Procol Harum
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Comments (4):

The live version is definitely superior. A great production piece.
- Martin, Fresno, CA
This, in my opinion, is a far better piece than WSOP. Nothing makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up than when the Hammond organ lights off a full-throated scream against the Edmonton Orchestra in the final verses. There have been other well-done fusions of rock and orchestra but this, in my humble opinion, is at the apex of the list.
- Dave, Fernandina Beach, FL
Procol Harum spawned Robin Trower, who I will see in concert for about 35th time on June 12th. But Procol Harum was my favorite group up until Trower left. Check out PH's 2nd album 'Shine On Brightly', although their fitst album may be better.
- Lester, New York City, NY
In Canada this song gets more airplay than "Whiter Shade of Pale" due to 'Can-con' requirements -- radio stations must play a prescribed amount of Canadian-content on the air.
The flip side of the 45 is great too: "A Salty Dog"
(I still like 'Whiter Shade of Pale'/ 'We Skipped the Light Fandango' much more.)
- Reg, Kemptville, ON, -
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