2019-03-09

Singing A Song In The Morning

Billy Butler
William Henry Butler

William 'Early Morning Henry' Butler

William Henry Butler (18 December 1940), also known as Billy Butler, is a British-Canadian musician, composer, sound designer, record producer and recording engineer.

In the early sixties William was a singer and guitarist of several South Coast rock outfits. His own bands, The Blue Chords and The Federals, were regularly hired to back-up visiting U.S. singers touring Britain. William also played guitar as a side-man for local dance orchestras where he learned to arrange and play big band jazz and swing styles.

Gullivers People

In 1965 he joined Gullivers People, a six piece harmony group appearing at the Tiffanys nightclub in Piccadily Circus. It was at this club that Norman Smith discovered and offered them a contract, not only to record as a band, but also as session musicians for others. William Butler and Norman Smith both had an army background and had their musical roots in jazz and big bands, so it is no wonder they liked each other.

Gullivers People recorded at least 4 singles on Parlophone, from 1966 till 1969, and several of them were produced by Norman Smith. William Henry left the band in 1969. They continued to perform without him and with regularly changing personnel till deep in the seventies.

(According to IMDB Billy Butler also recorded music for the 1967 movie The Sky Bike, although uncredited. BFI, however, doesn’t include his name.)

Gullivers People
Gullivers People.

Eternal Triangle

In the aftermath of psychedelia Butler started (or joined) Eternal Triangle who had two singles on Decca in 1969 and 70. Eternal Triangle, not to be confused with a Canadian band with the same name, were Sally Kemp, Billy Butler and Bill Thacker. Unfortunately their records sounded dated in 1969, so it was not that unexpected that they failed to chart.

In the early seventies Bill changed place from the recording studio to the mixing console. He became an engineer and producer, still under the wings of Norman Smith.

In 1973 he went to Vancouver, BC to teach sound production at Capilano University. Later he turned to TV and movie sound production, in Canada and the USA, for over 70 films and TV series, winning an Emmy and 2 Juno Awards.

But what does this have to do with early Pink Floyd? Read on, we'll get there...

Pink Floyd at the Beeb
Pink Floyd at the Beeb.

Avant-Garde Dabbling

October 1967 was a relatively relaxed month for Pink Floyd. There were only 8 or 9 concerts and the free time was used to record a follow-up for The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. But as we know, all was not well with Syd Barrett.

The new songs they tried to can were Vegetable Man, Remember A Day, Jugband Blues and they dabbled on that for about the first three weeks, including the ‘Salvation Army Band’ session where a disinterested Barrett told producer Norman Smith they could play anything they wanted. (See our article on Jugband Blues & Norman Smith at: Hurricane over London.)

All in all a quite disappointing result as in those days you were still supposed to record at least a song in an afternoon.

Perhaps in a move to appease the muses they visited the BBC Radiophonic Workshop but their encounter with Delia Derbyshire did not lead to some kind of cooperation. Delia Derbyshire remembered that Rick Wright was aware of contemporaneous avant-garde composer Jani Christou and his Praxis For 12 composition. Roger Waters however was of the opinion that avant-garde was absolute nonsense, although he may have hidden that opinion that particular afternoon.

Delia Derbyshire
Delia Derbyshire.

That same day they all took a cab to Putney to visit the studio of Peter Zinovieff who was working on an early version of the voltage controlled synthesizer. Apparently this was more interesting. The third incarnation of that instrument, the VCS3, would of course magically appear on Dark Side Of The Moon.

Nonsense or not, the Floyd had their go at avant-garde on the 20th of October when they recorded the directionless 30 minutes of John Latham, now available on The Early Years set. Two other instrumentals were recorded that day: the still unreleased Intremental (believed to be a studio version of Reaction In G) and the surprisingly attractive In The Beechwoods.

Set The Controls

On Monday morning, the 23rd, Pink Floyd had two studio sessions. In the morning they recorded Untitled E66409, believed to be Paintbox. In the evening they had their first go at Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun and a demo recording that mysteriously disappeared from the studio afterwards: Early Morning Henry.

In David Parker’s excellent book Random Precision the recording sheet of that particular session can be found. We learn that ‘Early Morning Henry’ only had one take, that it was a complete demo and that it had been ‘taken by Mr. N Smith on on (a) plastic spool’.

The reason why it had been taken home by Norman Smith is simple. Early Morning Henry was not a Pink Floyd original, but a tune written and composed by William Henry Butler, at least that is what his family claims.

So for now we seem to have a valid reason why Norman Smith decided to take the spool with him.

Early Morning Henry Recording Sheet
Early Morning Henry Recording Sheet.

Norman vs Kiloh Smith

The song Early Morning Henry was mentioned in a 2009 article on the sydbarrettpinkfloyd.com blog of our good friend and colleague Kiloh Smith. In 2013 a mysterious comment was put on there by ‘anonymous’. It read:

The song Early Morning Henry was written by Billy Butler who was with the studio during those years in his band Gullivers People. Norman Smith was their recording engineer as well. I am surprised to see that Pink Floyd recorded the song. Norman might have been shopping the song [to] other bands, unless it is a different song entirely... but I am pretty sure my dad wrote it. Google Gullivers People and you will find a few obscure recordings that were also engineered by Smith.

Intriguing, is it not?

Eternal Triangle
Eternal Triangle.

The Early Morning Henry Blog

Somewhere between 2013 and 2016 a blog with the name Early Morning Henri (dead link) was found by several Sydiots and Pink Floyd scholars who wanted to find out more about this mythical lost song.

Written (so is believed) by one of Billy Butler’s children it contained several pages about Butler’s musical past as a member of the bands Gullivers People and Eternal Triangle. One day, supposedly in 2017, a new page was announced that would tell the story of Early Morning Henry, a William Butler song, recorded by Pink Floyd during a Norman Smith session on the 23rd October of 1967 (Pink Floyd Trivia (dead link)).

Unfortunately the blog was set to private immediately after (and before that particular page was published) and thus its pages can’t be consulted any more.

Our multiple attempts to contact the webmaster have been in vain. We can only hope that the blog will be reopened one day and that the many secrets that hide behind this song will be revealed.

And obviously, we all want to know: where is that fucking tape!

Prock Harson
Prock Harson.

The Prock Harson Mystery

But that is not the only enigma in William Butler’s life as a sixties musician.

Under the pseudonym Prock Harson, Butler recorded A Whiter Shade Of Pale in 1967. It is a shameless knock-off on the German Cornet label, deliberately trying to confuse the record buying public with a name that sounds vaguely familiar. It was a cheap trick these soundalike record companies often did.

Now it needs to be said that 1967 had thirteen Whiter Shade covers in a dozen. Here is a non exhaustive list of famous and not so famous bands and people covering it, in 1967 alone: Alton Ellis, Bobby Johnson and The Atoms, Dave Antony's Moods, Noel Harrison, Pro Cromagnum, The Box Tops, The Everly Brothers, The Peter Knight Singers, The Telstars, Trudy Pitts, Wess…

The B-side of A Whiter Shade Of Pale, I Wanna Live, a keyboard driven freakbeat tune far better than the A-side, is credited to J. Smith, probably from John Smith and The New Sound. This puts Prock Harson in the Bill Wellings stable, a famous low-budget producer for MFP (Music For Pleasure).

Prock Harson
Prock Harson.

Norman vs John Smith

John Smith and The New Sound can be found on numerous budget soundalike records, using different aliases, such as Teak Wood and The Beat Kings. We have previously written about him in a superfantadelic article from 2012: The Rape of Emily (three different ones).

The thing with these budget releases is: even when the label says that there is a Prock Harson singing on the record, it is not always the same Prock Harson singing, if you follow our drift. As such it is highly uncertain that Billy Butler does the vocals on the B-side of his own single. Probably it is one of the half dozen John Smiths instead.

A Whiter Shade Of Pale sold enough copies in Germany to make another single under that name, but Butler wasn’t invited this time, although his picture can be found on the sleeve. The A-side, “Bit By Bit”, was written by Rudi Lindt, a pseudonym for Rudi von der Dovenmühle, who was a German schlager-composer. According to a soundalike record connoisseur the single, with “I Put A Spell On You” on the flip side, used the hired voice of a certain Fred E. Thompson instead (source: Prock Harson).

Smash Hits All Time Smash Hits
Smash Hits. All Time Smash Hits.

Smash Hits & Others

Two collectors have confirmed that the Prock Harson single appeared on a Music For Pleasure Smash Hits album from 1967 (MFP 1194, picture above left), but without mentioning the artist (source: Prock Harson).

Another low-budget buff claims that Bill Butler sings on at least 4 tracks of the Smash Hits album:

Lead vocalist on both Beatles covers is in fact William (Billy) Butler, at the time a member of the group Gullivers People, recording for EMI's Parlophone label (with another Beatles connection - their producer was Norman (Hurricane) Smith who had engineered several Beatles albums). Butler also takes lead on "A Whiter Shade of Pale" and "Alternate Title".

The two Beatles covers Butler sings are When I'm 64 and All You need Is Love, but unfortunately we couldn't find these versions on the web. Alternate Title is Butler's cover of a Monkees song. That these low-budget albums were successful can be proven by the fact that the 1967 MFP Smash Hits album exists in three, slightly different, sleeves for the UK alone, each with a different selling price printed on its sleeve.

Update March 2019: Meanwhile a kind reader from this article has made the above tracks available, thanks! You can find the links at the end of this article (for as long as they stay alive).

A Whiter Shade Of Pale also landed on a couple of other MFP albums, for instance on 48 Great Hits (1968), All-Time Smash Hits (MFP 5010, above right) from 1970, on Million Seller Hits (MFP 5203, left underneath), from 1971. It can also be found on Gloria Schlager-Volltreffer (SMGL 14 098, right underneath), a German budget and cover versions label. Some of these albums had regional editions, with slightly different sleeves such as the German 'Die Bekannstesten Schlager Aller Zeiten', a copy of All-Time Smash Hits.

Million Seller Hits Schlager Volltreffer
Million Seller Hits. Schlager Volltreffer.

See Emily Play

MFP was a low cost label that started in 1965 as a joint venture between Hamlyn and EMI Records, with EMI providing the music. It has been established by now that Bill Butler wasn’t afraid of a little moonlighting and neither – so has been rumoured – was Norman Smith.

Who could have been better to record some soundalike Beatles tunes than the man who sat behind the Beatles’ console from 1962 to 1965?

William Butler could have been on other soundalike tracks than the four we know.

Our heart skips a beat if we think of the possibility that he, together with Norman Smith, might have been the ones behind The Okey Pokey Band’s See Emily Play.

But that is – of course – pure speculation. (You can read about the different budget See Emily Play covers at: The Rape of Emily.)

Update March 2019: unfortunately the version of A Whiter Shade of Pale on Flower Power, from The Okey Pokey Band And Singers, is not the Billy Butler version.


Many thanks to: Esfera04, Freqazoidiac, Jumaris CS, Peudent, TopPopper, Waelz
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥

Image Gallery: an image gallery with pictures of the different 'Billy Butler' bands and Prock Harson record sleeves can be found at Tumblr:
Billy Butler
Gullivers People
Eternal Triangle
Prock Harson

The above article has stolen most of its biographical information from an archived copy of the (now private) blog Early Morning Henry, believed to be written by William Henry Butler’s daughter.

Sources (other than the above mentioned links):
Parker, David: Random Precision, Cherry Red Books, London, 2001, p. 103-105.
Povey, Glenn: Echoes, the complete history of Pink Floyd, 3C Publishing, 2008, p. 68-69.

Discography and Youtube links

Gullivers People

1966 Splendor In The Grass / Took This Land

https://youtu.be/yAv75iM7nbc

https://youtu.be/-dxH3OUp2-Q

1966 Fi-Fo-Fum / Over The Hills

1968 On A Day Like This / My Life
A-side co-written by Butler, produced by Norman Smith.

https://youtu.be/CJcUKlNKJKA

https://youtu.be/2hE3S_w3A6E

1969 Somehow, Somewhere / I Found Love
Produced by Norman Smith

https://youtu.be/MVIo8oTOCZk

???? Horizontal (Bee Gees track on a sixties compilation)

Eternal Triangle

1969 I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City / Perfumed Candle
B-side written by Butler.

https://youtu.be/l2BzOZ9WeiA

https://youtu.be/WZCsxtGHJlU (22 seconds excerpt)

1969 Turn To Me / Windows

Prock Harson

1967 A Whiter Shade Of Pale / I Wanna Live
Butler only sings on the A-side

https://youtu.be/Q_q2XwSYOD0

https://youtu.be/WHqjXrHxXmM

1968 Bit By Bit / I Put A Spell On You
(Butler is not on this record.)

Billy Butler (uncredited)

3 songs from MFP Smash Hits that could be sung by Billy Butler:

All You Need Is Love

When I'm Sixty Four

Randy Scouse Git (Alternate Title)

Plus, Penny Lane from another MFP album called Hits '67 (MFP 1089), which could be the same Mr. Butler (with hilarious out of sync trumpet overdub at the end).