“Procol Harum’s ‘One Hit’ Doesn’t Make Them a ‘One-Hit Wonder’”

We now mourn the loss of Gary Brooker, lead singer of 1960s British psychedelic rock outfit Procol Harum, beholden to the crystalline mega-hit “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” Just to attempt to put things in some perspective as to the importance of this particular song, I can for one offer the anecdote that it plays during the introductory opening track on the old Jimi Hendrix Experience Live at Winterland album — the venue must have been pumping it on the PA before the band took the stage. It’s a gentle song, probably, by today’s “rock” standards, but one which pretty much everyone who grew up in the ’60s and liked rock music knows and adores, and one I personally champion for its elaborate chord progression and imagistic, perhaps metaphorical lyrics, to accompany the memorable, catchy hooks.

And this is something of which I’ve noticed quite a rash lately — our society positioning musical acts so that only one of their songs remains famous. Really, this has always been true of Procol Harum, and I’m sure many coffee table discussions are going on right now, particularly in Britain, on whether they were a “one-hit wonder.” Technically, I guess, they were, as they had no other high-charting single or big radio hit. 

But for what it’s worth, this band, on a total of two albums that are on Spotify, their self-titled debut and A Salty Dog [1], compiled one of the most consistent and rewarding catalogues in the history of classic rock. The songs on these albums are relatively brief — they didn’t really have a “guitar hero,” per se, to lead them on providential nine-minute treks, as it were. They got by on songwriting, which was pretty much always stalwart and Beatles-influenced, throwing vaguely back to gospel and Motown as well, and they got by on production, letting a live, organic and breathing mix lasso the curiously eclectic, piano-driven instrumentation through some comforting, refreshing grooves. Also, the vocals of Gary Brooker himself always seemed to levitate the proceedings into something, if not celestial, at least that would get everybody nodding and having a good time, like, it seems, was pretty much a foregone conclusion in rock and roll back in this gold era. 

A couple PH favorites of mine, in particular, are “A Christmas Camel” from the debut, and “The Devil Came from Kansas,” from A Salty Dog. But truth be told, I have not heard a bad song by this band. Guitarist Robin Trower also boasts some popular solo stuff and still does tours to this day frequented spiritedly by baby boomers, if my mom and her friends are any indication. 

For posterity’s sake, now, I’ve compiled a hopelessly brief list of artists of whom you typically only hear one song on satellite radio, each one accompanied by a preferred 10-song pallette thereof listed in alphabetical order.


Alice in Chains 

Song you always hear:

“Man in the Box”

Best Other 10 Songs:

“Bleed the Freak”

“Dam That River”

“Down in a Hole”

“God Smack”

“Got Me Wrong”

“Hate to Feel”

“Heaven beside You”

“No Excuses”

“Over Now”

“Sludge Factory”


Band of Horses

Song You Always Hear: “The Funeral”

Best 10 Other Songs:

“Is There a Ghost”

“Islands on the Coast”

“No One’s Gonna Love You”

“Ode to LRC”

“Our Swords”

“St. Augustine”

“The First Song”

“The Great Salt Lake”

“Weed Party”

“Wicked Gil”


Franz Ferdinand

Song You Always Hear: 

“Take Me out”

Best 10 Other Songs:


“Come on Home”

“Darts of Pleasure”

“Do You Want to”

“Eleanor Put Your Boots on”

“Tell Her Tonight” 

“The Dark of the Matinee”

“This Fire”

“Walk away”

“What You Meant”


Wu-Tang Clan

Song You Always Hear: 


Best 10 Other Songs:

“Clan in da Front”

“Hellz Wind Staff”

“Hollow Bones”

“Little Ghetto Boys”

“Protect Ya Neck”

“Shame on a Ni**a”


“Triumph” feat. Cappadonna

“Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber”

“Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F’ wit’”


[1] It’s true, of course, that “A Whiter Shade of Pale” doesn’t appear on either of these LP’s, hence probably making the public that much more reticent to digest them.