- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2006

LONDON

A classic of 1960s hippydom, Procul Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” was at the center of a less-than-peace-and-love tussle yesterday as former band members fought over rights to the rock song in a London court.

The swirling chords of the semipsychedelic tune echoed through the High Court as the band’s organist, Matthew Fisher, made his case for his fair share of the income generated by the 1967 hit.

Mr. Fisher, 60, brought the action against Gary Brooker, Procul Harum’s singer, who is defending his claim to being the sole writer of the tune. Mr. Fisher wants half the copyright and earnings. The song, renowned for its mystifying lyrics — beginning with “We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels cross the floor” — topped the British singles chart for five weeks and was a top 10 hit in the United States. Rolling Stone magazine has ranked it 57th in a list of the 500 greatest songs of all time, Associated Press reports.

“We are dealing with one of the most successful pop songs ever written by British artists. In the minds of many, it defines the summer of love of 1967,” said Iain Purvis, Mr. Fisher’s attorney.

Mr. Brooker originally based his tune on Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Air on a G String” — which he reportedly said he heard as an advertisement for Hamlet cigars — and Bach’s “Sleepers Awake.” However, Mr. Fisher, a classically trained musician who is now a computer programmer, says he wrote the organ solo at the start of the song and made changes to Mr. Brooker’s chord sequence.

“Mr. Fisher now seeks a declaration that he is entitled to a share — an equal share in the musical copyright for the song as originally recorded,” Mr. Purvis said.

Mr. Brooker is contesting the claim and argues that it is “extraordinary” that Mr. Fisher — who left the band in 1969 — is bringing the case after nearly 40 years.

A Yamaha electric keyboard sat near the witness box, where Mr. Fisher is due to appear later in the case, AP noted.

The case is being heard by Judge William Blackburne, who studied both music and law at Cambridge University. According to AP, he requested access to the keyboard and sheet music of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” so he could run through the song after court hours.

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