A Legal Shade Of Grey

Procol Harum singer Gary Brooker has reopened the legal battle over who wrote ’60s hit "Whiter Shade Of Pale" because he thinks last year’s trial was unfair.

He’s in the Appeal Court trying to overturn the December 2006 High Court ruling that awarded organist Matthew Fisher a 40 percent share of the musical royalties, according to BBC News.

Brooker’s legal team feels they didn’t have sufficient time to prepare a detailed case regarding things that happened four decades ago, a situation made worse by the fact that some of the key witnesses are deceased.

Fisher, a classically trained musician who now works as a computer programmer, had originally claimed a half share of the music copyright.

John Baldwin QC, representing Brooker, told the three Appeal Court judges that Fisher failed to take the case to court earlier because he knew it would be the end of his career in the group.

"There are advantages in being a pop star. Girls wink at you. There are huge lifestyle benefits from being a pop star and this was Mr. Fisher’s dream," he told the bench.

"He wanted to stay in the band and live the life of a pop star. Being a litigant was not something he could do alongside that, and he realised what he would have to give up."

The QC also claimed that neither Brooker nor his record company had been alerted of Fisher’s decision to take action, so they were unable to "prepare themselves to meet the claim."

Baldwin said this meant the previous proceedings were unfair on the grounds that a fair trial was impossible, the news service reported.

He said many critical witnesses were dead, including impresario David Platz, who predicted that the song he heard in early March 1967 – before Fisher joined the group – would be "a certain hit."

Vital evidence, including Brooker’s original tape of the song featuring his own attempt at a Bach theme on the piano, had also been lost, Baldwin added.

The first case centered on Brooker saying he wrote the song as a straight R&B tune, based on Bach’s "Air" from the Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D, which he had heard on a Hamlet cigar advertisement, and the composer’s Cantata No. 140, known as "Sleepers Awake."

Fisher embellished on the keyboard part to such an extent that he claimed his contribution entitled him to an equal share of the royalties.

Last December the High Court gave Fisher less than the 50 percent musical royalty he was claiming.

Although he said he felt Fisher had made a "substantial contribution," Justice Blackburne said it wasn’t as great as Brooker’s input.

Judge Blackburne also threw out Fisher’s case claiming back royalties.

Brooker, who still fronts Procol Harum, was left with a legal bill estimated at about £500,000.

The Appeal Court hearing was set to resume October 11.