The Misplaced Lyrics of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”

In 1967, British group Procol Harum launched one of many few singles to promote 10 million copies worldwide: “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” The members that recorded the track had been Gary Brooker (vocals and piano), Matthew Fisher (Hammond M-102 organ), bassist David Knights, Ray Royer on guitar and session drummer Invoice Eyden (later changed by Bobby Harrison).

Even the group’s most devoted followers could not know that Procol Harum had an essential “sixth member”: lyricist Keith Reid, whose track title has confounded followers. Reid says “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was a remark he’d overheard at a celebration; that authentic concept impressed the mysterious lyrics that adopted. The problem for the musicians was to ship a music observe with the identical gravity.

Pianist Gary Brooker got here up with the chord sequence that was a nod to Bach’s “Air on the G String.” Matthew Fisher’s melancholy organ sample adopted alongside, then morphed into Bach’s “Sleepers, Wake!” Just like the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and the Left Banke’s “Stroll Away Renee,” “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was characterised as “baroque rock” due to its classical influences.

As advanced because the observe sounds, it was recorded stay in two takes at Olympic Studios in London. Brooker has known as the consequence a contented accident, unlikely to be repeated. Producer Denny Cordell hoped to offer “A Whiter Shade of Pale” the flavour of American soul music; Cordell says the searing vocals and solemn organ of Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Lady” had been the catalyst for Procol Harum’s sound.

There has lengthy been confusion concerning the that means of “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” The consensus is that, like most songs, it’s a few man and a girl making an attempt to get collectively. The track’s nautical references give a way that the couple is on board a ship. The confusion could also be attributable to the truth that half of the unique lyrics had been tossed out earlier than the track was recorded.

When first written, the track had 4 verses. When it got here time to document the observe, the second and third verses had been dropped, leaving what had been initially the primary and final verses. The track’s that means turns into clearer while you embrace the lacking verses, which have been carried out stay by the group. The deserted lyrics, as enigmatic as these on the ultimate recording, verify that the setting is, in truth, the ocean; the singer tells his love, “You have to be the mermaid / Who took Neptune for a experience.”

Those that discover Keith Reid’s lyrics laborious to decipher are usually not alone. Matthew Fisher has stated that even he cannot perceive Reid’s puzzling lyrics, nevertheless it’s by no means bothered him as a result of “they sound nice… that is all they should do.”


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