What To Do With All The Half-Finished Tracks Music Production The Lost Lyrics of Procol Harum’s "A Whiter Shade of Pale"

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The Lost Lyrics of Procol Harum’s "A Whiter Shade of Pale"

In 1967, the British group Procol Harum released one of the few singles that sold 10 million copies worldwide: “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. The members who recorded the song were Gary Brooker (vocals and piano), Matthew Fisher (Hammond M-102 organ), bassist David Knights, Ray Royer on guitar and session drummer Bill Aidan (later replaced by Bobby Harrison).

Even the group’s most devoted fans may not know that Procol Harum had an important “sixth friend”: lyricist Keith Reed, whose song title confused fans. Reid says “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was a comment he overheard at a party; This original idea inspired the mysterious words that followed. The challenge for the musicians was to deliver a music track with the same appeal.

Pianist Gary Brooker came up with the chord sequence that was a nod to Bach’s “Air on the G String.” Matthew Fisher’s melancholic organ pattern followed, then morphed into “Sleepers, Awake!” of Bach. Like The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and The Beatles’ “Walk Away Renee”, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” has been characterized as “baroque rock” because of its classical influences.

As complex as the track sounds, it was recorded live in two takes at London’s Olympic Studios. Brooker called the result a happy accident, unlikely to be repeated. Producer Danny Cordell hoped to give “A Whiter Shade of Pale” the flavor of American soul music; Cordell says the searing vocals and celebratory organ of Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” were the catalyst for Procol Harum’s sound.

There has long been confusion about the meaning of “whiter shade of pale”. The consensus is that, like most songs, it’s about a man and a woman trying to get together. The nautical references of the song give the feeling that the couple is on board a ship. The confusion may be due to the fact that half of the original lyrics were discarded before the song was recorded.

When first written, the song had four verses. When it came time to record the track, the second and third verses were omitted, leaving what were originally the first and last verses. The meaning of the song becomes clear when including the missing verses, performed live by the group. The abandoned lyrics, as enigmatic as those on the final recording, confirm that the setting is, in fact, the sea; The singer tells his love, “You must be the mermaid / Who took Neptune for a ride.”

Those who find it difficult to decipher Keith Reid’s song lyrics are not alone. Matthew Fisher even said it he Can’t understand Reed’s cryptic words, but it never bothered him because “they sound great… that’s all they have to do.”

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