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Don't Get Caught - Procol Harum

Some song lyricists were so integral to the groups they wrote for, that they were considered a member of the group. One of the most remarkable instances of this was Keith Reid, writing partner of lead singer and pianist Gary Brooker with English rock band, Procol Harum. Others include Pete Sinfield of King Crimson and Robert Hunter of the Grateful Dead. While Pete Brown, unlike the aforementioned, was never named as such, many considered him the fourth member of rock band Cream, so integral to their output were his lyrics (see last few posts).

I always feel sorry for Procol Harum because their first ever recording, "A Whiter Shade of Pale", written by Brooker and Reid along with organist Matthew Fisher, is one of the greatest rock records of all time. Talk about peaking early. They could never hope to match it, and they never did, having only three subsequent hits, none of which achieved anything remotely close to its success.

They have however, since produced 12 excellent albums, with Reid writing the lyrics for all but the last of these, the 2017 "Novum". It's not clear why Brooker dispensed with Reid for "Novum", or whether it was Reid that declined, but he was replaced by Pete Brown. It is no mean feat to replace the other half of a partnership that had lasted for thirty-six years, but Brown rises to the challenge seamlessly.

Throughout, "Novum" has a valedictory tone - as though both Brooker and Pete Brown are saying goodbye to their musical audience forever, and it was indeed the last Procol Harum album he was to record prior to his death in 2022, and in all likelihood, the last LP release by the group.

"Don't Get Caught" reads like the life advice of an old man to a youngster, but it unravels into a self-confessional autobiography, a man wrestling with the brutal truth of his life, was he good, or was he just getting away with it?

"Life is hard and don't last too long -

there's no difference

between what is right and wrong

- I rest my defence...."

The giveaway is the bittersweet tone of the words, the resignation in Brooker's voice as he reflects upon a life journey nearing its final destination.

"....and that is the end of the line

or maybe it's not,

just bequeath them some stolen wine

or whatever you've got...."

The more you listen to this, the better, and sadder, it gets.

"It's the age to try and relax,

have some fun before the axe,

just remember the things you've been taught

and never, never ever, get caught...."

Because, in the end of course, you do.


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