Up there in my loft are four big storage boxes full of album recordings of the 1960s and 1970s, survivors of repeated attempts by my wife to cull them, and in one of those big storage boxes is a Pickwick album of Procol Harem recordings, imaginatively entitled “A Salty Dog”.
Now as anyone of a vintage will tell you, Pickwick albums weren’t exactly the cutting edge of popular youth culture in the 1960s and 1970s, in short, Pickwick albums were what we quaintly refered to as “supermarket music” albums, that is, a Pickwick album generally contained the sort of bland tunes and sound-alike artists that you always hear when pushing a trolley up and down the aisles of very cheap supermarkets.
And whilst a Pickwick album would be cheap as chips, you could pick up a Pickwick album for the cost of a single in those days, they were the sort of albums that you’d hide from your mates when they came around to listen to your music collection for it was not cool to be seen with a Pickwick album in your record collection.
“What else have you got” your friends would say after browsing all of the albums that you had on display in the gold wire record rack on display in your parents living room.
“Oh, nothing else” you’d lie
“What are those albums there ?” they’d enquire
“What are you talking about ?” you’d lie again
“Those albums there, hidden behind the paper rack with cushions piled on top of them so that I can’t see them”
They’d found your cache of Pickwick albums, the cheap collection of sound-alike pop performers who weren’t quite good enough to record under their own identity but also not too proud to say “no” when Pickwick approached them to “Sing in the style of Elton John on this Elton John Pickwick tribute album”.
The Pickwick album “Procol Harem – A Salty Dog” is the real thing, its actually a re-release of their 1969 album “A Salty Dog”, I promise you it is, its the real thing purchased by Pickwick and re-released some years later in tribute to a band who had been popular in the late 60s but by the mid seventies could only scratch their arses with the ha’pennies that Pickwick Records had paid them for the rights to their best selling “A Salty Dog” album.
So I had waited all of those years for the Procol Harem to fall on hard times and have Pickwick re-release their best selling album before I jumped on board the band wagon and came to realise that the band were so much more than just “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (which will always be queueing in a Vauxhall Viva on a hot August Bank Holiday afternoon to get into Church Fenton Air Show – these are indelible memories evoked by popular chart music).