Composers Try to Settle the Score on Big Summer of Love Hit

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Byline: By Stephen Howard

It was the massive hit of the summer of love back in 1967 - but yesterday it became the centre of a bitter High Court battle over copyright. As the haunting strains of A Whiter Shade Of Pale filled the courtroom, Mr Justice Blackburne - who studied both music and law at Cambridge - followed the tune on a transcribed music score.

It will be his task to decide whether Matthew Fisher, original organist with the band Procol Harum, made such a contribution to the success of the song that he is entitled to half the copyright and earnings.

Fisher sat at the front of the court at the opposite end of the bench from Gary Brooker, the vocalist, who is now defending his claim to being the sole writer of the tune.

Before the original recording of the song was played to the judge, Iain Purvis QC, representing Fisher, said, 'One always risks a 'who are the Beatles?' moment in cases such as this.'

But Mr Justice Blackburne assured him he knew of the work, with, 'I am of a certain age, yes.'

Fisher is claiming back royalties of around pounds 1m for the song - which sold 10 million copies worldwide and has been voted one of the greatest pop songs of all time.

It has always been attributed to Brooker, 61, who still fronts Procol Harum, and lyricist Keith Reid, another member of the original group.

Mr Purvis told the judge, '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. The recording was at No1 in the hit parade in the UK for five weeks that summer.'

He said it had been voted best British pop single with Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

'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.'

He said the claim was based mainly on Fisher's contribution of the organ solo which forms the introduction to the song and is repeated - a crucial element to the record's success.

Fisher, now a computer programmer in Croydon, who was a classically-trained musician, says he also made chord changes to the original Brooker sequence and added to the work with a counterpoint to the song melody. …