Recently, an acquaintance of mine mentioned the PROCOL HARUM  song “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (music by Brooker/Fisher, lyrics by Keith Reid) which brought me back in my mind’s eye to a loftier time and reminded me that PROCOL HARUM was one of the bands that made me have a strong dislike for Progressive Rock(a different article). Keeping in mind that PROCOL HARUM was a favorite of mine in the late 1960’s through 1971. I had the first few albums, and the 45 rpm “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and enjoyed the pleasure of seeing them numerous times at FILLMORE EAST, SUNY@ Stony Brook, and WOLLMAN RINK in Central Park, albeit with guitarist ROBIN TROWER. Then, he left and so did I.

   “A Whiter Shade of Pale” is a great sing-a-long tune, even if you don’t know ALL THE WORDS. The organ riff (credited legally) of MATTHEW FISHER, the haunting vocals of GARY BROOKER, and the words KEITH REID, all  a wow the first time you hear it and still today. On another note I once saw KEITH REID in the back of the lobby of FILLMORE EAST, over by the water fountain and near the door to the “medical area”(aka “safe room for LSD users), Keith bespectacled, wearing a natty suit and carrying copy of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. Thought that to be strange but later found out what it(the book) meant to him and why he carried it…but I digress.

   In an interview with Uncut magazine, Reid shed a little light on the song’s origin and meaning. “I had the phrase ‘a whiter shade of pale,’ that was the start, and I knew it was a song,” he said. “It’s like a jigsaw where you’ve got one piece, then you make up all the others to fit in. I was trying to conjure a mood as much as tell a straightforward, girl-leaves-boy story. With the ceiling flying away and room humming harder, I wanted to paint an image of a scene.”

   I got it, At a Stony Brook concert during  a PROCOL HARUM  performance I was that guy (maybe not) noted in the song, a drunken seduction victim with the sea as a metaphor even though the song was not played that night, but I digress, again. Let’s deal with the lost two choruses which finish out the tale…The “Whiter Shade…” (WSoP) is a drunken sexual moment gone coo-coo for CocoPuffs.

(3) She said, ‘I’m home on shore leave’

Through in truth we were at sea

So I took her by the looking glass

And forced her to agree

 Saying, ‘You must be the mermaid

Who took Neptune for a ride’

But she smiled at me so sadly

That my anger straightway died

[Chorus]

And so it was that later

As the miller told his tale

That her face at first just ghostly

Turned a whiter shade of pale

(4)

If music be the food of love

Then laughter is its queen

And likewise if behind is in front

My mouth by then like cardboard

Seemed to slip straight through my head

So we crash-dived straightway quickly

And attacked the ocean bed

[Chorus]

And so it was that later

As the miller told his tale

That her face at first just ghostly

Turned a whiter shade of pale

…to be continued…