Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Deram Records: Repent Walpurgis

For our Wordless Wednesday song from Deram Records, it was a competition between Whistling Jack Smith’s “I was Kaiser Bill’s Batman,” which charted at #20, and Procol Harum’s “Repent Walpurgis,” which failed to chart. Duh!!! Well, if you know me well enough, you would have guessed “Repent Walpurgis” won that battle. Since I had previously featured the band’s only hit on Deram, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” I had to cull something else from their debut LP.

In Britain, only the “Whiter Shade of Pale” single was released on Deram Records. Their self titled debut LP would be the first release on the newly resurrected Regal Zonophone label – a subsidiary of EMI. In the US, the first Procol Harum LP was issued on Deram and led with “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and eliminated “Good Captain Clack” from the LP’s lineup. Additionally, the song order varied between the transatlantic versions, but “Repent Walpurgis” was the final cut on both.

Written by organist Matthew Fisher, “Repent Walpurgis” is one of the more powerful tunes on the album. Fishers’ overdriven Hammond Organ, Gary Brooker’s piano, and those guitar leads from Robin Trower just conjure up all kinds of images. Fisher felt the song was full of angst and that he thought it should be named “Repent.” One of his band mates said it reminded him of Walpurgis Night – or witches night that occurs prior to St. Walpurga’s Day on May 1. So they combined the thoughts into the title “Repent Walpurgis.”

While the name was ominous, so were the inspirations for this instrumental as they spanned centuries and continents. The primary progression of the tune featuring Cm, Ab/Eb, Dm7b5, and G was directly inspired by the chorus of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons 1967 single “Beggin’.” The piano interlude came primarily from Bach’s “Prelude 1 in C Major” from “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” This is prog rock at its finest.

Alternate Stereo Version

Here’s an alternate take of “Repent Walpurgis” that was shelved until the 1999 release of “Pandora’s Box: The Unused Procol Harum Stereo Versions Plus.” Unlike the original and shorter version, the alternate take is in true stereo not the rechanneled stereo found on American Deram release. While Fisher plays some different organ counterpoint, “Repent Walpurgis” also features more and heavier guitar work by Trower. It becomes quite the jam towards the end when someone whistles to signal to Trower and bassist Dave Knights to wrap it up and they do. It is a rather nice version in its own right.

The Four Season’s Inspiration

To make this feature complete, I found it necessary to add Frankie Valli and the Four Season’s “Beggin’.” Written by Bob Gaudio and Peggy Farina, the single peaked at #16. Although it had a respectable chart showing, it lost in the airplay wars with Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You” that charted at #2 and was released two months after “Beggin’.”

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