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Procol Harum and the Older Woman

August 8, 2015

More than just hot, Cindy had a bad girl vibe that made her particularly alluring to a rutting teen.  She was concurrently the meanest and the coolest waitress at Ye Lion’s Den restaurant in Ogden, Utah, where I worked as a dishwasher and later a pantry cook during my junior and senior years of high school.  You didn’t mess with Cindy.  Despite her relatively small stature, she was honest-to-God scary.  I had no doubt that she was capable and would have enjoyed beating the crap out of any of us male coworkers if it were not for our universal recognition of that fact and resulting immediate deference to her anytime she felt crossed.

Cindy drove one of those big 70s boat cars, like a Galaxie 500 or a Plymouth Fury, which seemed out of whack with her petite figure but fit her imposing personality exactly.  She came across as a hard-partying type, but upon revisiting my memories now, I realize I only ever saw her drink a few beers.  While intimidating, she was good to me at work, regularly sharing a small portion of her tips at the end of shared shifts.

In her mid-20s, Cindy lived alone in an old house in a declining neighborhood somewhere around Ogden’s 35th Street.  One Friday night at work, she asked if I’d be willing to come over the next day to clean up her yard, mowing and edging the grass and weeding the small flower bed.  She said she’d pay me for the work.  I accepted immediately, first because she was foxy and second because Cindy was “worldly” and I’d seen the movie, man… Summer of ’42 or Summer of ’81, it didn’t matter, I knew how the story ended.  Saturday afternoon couldn’t come fast enough.

After carefully choosing my board shorts and faded Keep on Truckin’ t-shirt, I arrived at Cindy’s house shortly after noon in my stepdad’s silver 1963 Willys Jeep pick-up with our lawn mower and manual edger in the bed.  As I unloaded, Cindy came out to the porch in a terrycloth robe, with her blonde hair pulled up and looking like she’d just woken up.  We exchanged greetings and I said I’d get right to work.  Cindy told me to let her know if I needed anything and headed inside as I began to mow.  I imagined she was occasionally watching from the window while I muscled the mower through the overgrown grass, but I never looked to see if I was right (mainly out of fear that I might actually see her).

As I finished mowing and began to edge, Cindy came outside to bring me a cold drink.  She had showered and was barefoot, wearing cut-off shorts and a light, loose blouse.  Having usually only seen her in her Ye Lion’s Den waitress uniform, I remember thinking she was goddess-level sexy.  With my thoughts migrating “elsewhere” as I watched Cindy climb the porch steps and reenter the house, the subsequent edging and weeding passed in a blur.

Sweaty and sunburned (but fancying myself glistening and tanned), I piled my tools back into the truck and knocked on Cindy’s door to tell her I had finished and see about getting paid – sweet, glorious, long-awaited “paid.”  Cindy said the yard looked wonderful and that I had done a great job.  She invited me in and led me to the living room, indicating I should sit on the couch while she went to the kitchen to bring me another cold beverage.  She was still wearing the shorts and loose blouse, with enough buttons undone that, as she bent over to hand me my glass, I could tell that she wasn’t wearing a bra.  Dear Penthouse Forum …

Cindy sat down across from me and, as I drank, I tried to think of things to say that would make me seem cool to this hot, experienced older woman.  Noticing some records spread on the floor near the stereo, I pointed out Procol Harum’s Broken Barricades LP, commenting that I had never heard it but was a huge fan of the solo work of the band’s guitarist, Robin Trower, after he left the group.  She said it was an excellent album, one of her favorites, and bent down again – holy heart-pounding glory be to God – to grab the album and pass it over to me.

As I fondled the cover and mumbled something asinine about the awesome artwork, Cindy reached into her purse and pulled out a ten-dollar bill.  She handed me the bill and asked if that was enough.  I said it was more than enough and that, as a friend, I’d help her out anytime whether she paid me or not.  She smiled broadly, in a way that instantly banished all the tense sexy from her face and replaced it with unburdened beautiful.  She came over and gave me a sincere, friendly kiss on the cheek, simultaneously making me feel like the underage doofus that I certainly was while also letting me know that she genuinely liked me.

Cindy said she had to get ready as she had the early shift at the restaurant, and mentioned that I was welcome to take the LP with me if I wanted to borrow it.  Recognizing dream was not to become reality that day, I accepted the offer.  As I walked “unpaid” to the truck with the sawbuck in my pocket and the record under my arm, along with the disappointment of the unconsummated fantasy, I felt the self-satisfaction of having done something nice for a deserving and grateful friend.

I worked at Ye Lion’s Den for another year and Cindy continued to make me feel like a friend, while still terrorizing all of us at the same time.  For whatever reason, I don’t think I ever went to her house again, and my Summer of ’42 daydream was certainly never realized.

On the other hand, one of the easy highpoints of my seventeenth year was the night when Cindy, probably tipsy, came into the restaurant’s back room where I was washing pots and pans to share tips with me after the final patrons had departed.  As she snuck up behind me and reached around to slowly ease her hand deep into the front pocket of my jeans to donate a few dollars, I must have looked like a terrified deer in the headlights as my whole body tensed and I nervously mumbled a feeble “thanks.”  (I must admit I’ve reimagined that moment repeatedly over the years, envisioning a significantly altered personal response and dénouement.)

Procol Harum:  Broken Barricades (1971)

While my fantasy deflowering by Cindy never played out, she forever gets credit for introducing me to an exceptional album.  The last Procol Harum record on which guitarist Robin Trower played before going solo, Broken Barricades is the relatively least progressive and most traditionally hard rock outing by the band to that point in their history.  Nothing like “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” the only Procol Harum song most folks know nowadays, the tracks on Broken Barricades go easy on the organ, emphasizing instead the pairing of Trower’s searing guitar with Gary Brooker’s evocative piano.

While everything on the album emphasizes the melodic over the bombastic, the harder rocking songs tend to be underpinned by a strong, tight groove over which Trower plays some of the raunchiest guitar of his career.  Of these, the guitar-soaked “Playmate of the Mouth” and the strings-laden “Simple Sister” are standouts.  Among the few slower and more orchestral songs, the moving “Luskus Delph,” on which Brooker’s beautiful piano and immediately recognizable vocals carry the weight, harkens back to the sea-faring feeling often found on Procol Harum’s preceding LPs.  The album also boasts the unique “Song for a Dreamer,” which Trower composed in tribute to the then recently passed Jimi Hendrix, and on which Trower provides a rare lead vocal.  The atmospheric “Song for a Dreamer” calls to mind the more melodic portions of “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” off of Hendrix’s own Electric Ladyland.

In no way dismissing the contributions by Brooker and the rest of the band, Broken Barricades is very much Trower’s shining moment within the Procol Harum catalogue.  One can almost sense him chomping at the bit to move beyond the confines of the band.  Indeed, the Trower-composed “Memorial Drive” would fit seamlessly on just about any of the Trower solo albums that would follow as the 70s went on.  As for Keith Reid’s lyrics, which adorn all eight tracks, they are as dense and impenetrable as ever, while somehow managing to “fit” perfectly nonetheless.

Broken Barricades is an outstanding album that has not suffered from the passage of time in the four decades since its release.  It still sounds as vibrant and fresh now as it must have in 1971.

Playmate of the Mouth:

Simple Sister:

Luskus Delph:

Song for a Dreamer:

Memorial Drive:

From → Daydreams, Music

3 Comments
  1. Terrific story, VotF, beautifully told. You really nailed that yearning/lusty fantasy/panic thing experienced by every repressed lad anywhere in the space-time continuum.

    I’m pretty sure I have Broken Barricades at home – purchased I dare say for the sleeve and its die-cut holes for the faces – but, from your positive review, it sounds worthy of breaking out once I get back into the correct hemisphere. Perhaps if I listen to it as a pre-solo Trower than a Brooker-organ Procol I might find more to like.

    • Thanks VC.

      I think that would be a good call to give this one a spin in a more Trower-centric mindset to see if it connects. As noted, it is much more Trower-y than the earlier Procol LPs.

  2. wes morgan permalink

    great

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