With the sad news over the weekend of the passing of Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker, news of another passing went relatively unnoticed. The legendary Canadian drummer Skip Prokop, whose seminal work promoting Canadian bands and founding Lighthouse, a band which achieved huge popularity in the 1970s for their eclectic mixture of Jazz, Fusion, Rock and Classical, was another sad loss for the music world.
Prokop rose to popularity as a founding member of The Paupers, a band which began in 1965 and quickly established themselves as one of the premier rock bands in Canada. Achieving moderate success, by way of two albums issued by Verve-Forecast, the band got the attention of Albert Grossman who convinced Prokop to leave The Paupers in 1968 and join up with Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield to record the follow-up Supersession album as well as participate in the first solo sessions with Janis Joplin, following her departure from Big Brother and The Holding Company. Grossman asked Prokop to put a band together for Joplin.
In 1969 Prokop formed Lighthouse, which went on to become Canada’s leading Rock group in the early 1970s.
Tonight, it’s a look back to the early period – the release of The Pauper’s debut album, Magic People. The Novemver release prompted a 17 city U.S. tour in a month, where they opened for Cream and later that month, supported The MC5 on several dates.
Listening to this album again, after some 30 years, I began to realize why it achieved only a moderate level of success. It wasn’t the bands fault, or the labels – I think the fault lay in something that plagued a lot of bands during this period of time: bad production. We were in the middle of a period of time where bands who were successful as live acts seldom cut it as recording bands because the technical ability to capture that essence was very difficult to achieve. Not everyone could boast a George Martin at the helm of their recordings. And listening to what was some pretty lifeless recording, mixed in a less-than-ideal fashion no doubt contributed to the audience shying away from it. I can’t tell you how many times that happened during the late 1960s. The recording atmosphere and what was possible were undergoing big changes – but during this time it was frustrating. There is an interview with Alice Cooper regarding the making of Pretties For You, their first album on Straight Records, and the frustration with the engineer and producer just not getting the artistic vision was all too common at the time.
With all that said – here are five tracks from that debut album to give you an idea of who The Paupers were, and why they were of historic importance to the musical life in Canada, and why Skip Prokop was the consummate talent he was. If you aren’t familiar, check it out – this is from the original lp and not the CD reissue from a few years ago, so the sound may be vastly different.
RIP: Skip Prokop – an amazing talent who did an incredible amount for the musical life of Canada.
A Good one, and one who will be missed.