We skipped a light fandango; turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor

Recognized as the most played record by British broadcasting of the past 70 years, more than 1,000 cover versions have been recorded by other artists.  And as one might imagine it all began at a party when non-musician lyricist, Keith Reid overheard someone say to a rather inebriated woman, “you’ve turned a whiter shade of pale.”

When it’s not alluding to Chaucer’s story of courtly love in “The Miller’s Tale” the song blends Reid’s intimations of drunken seduction with vocalist and keyboardist, Gary Brooker’s Bach-inspired melody.  Organist Matthew Fisher also received belated credit and it’s interesting to note that “A Whiter Shade of Pale” doesn’t actually crib from Bach’s “Air on the G String” as much as it does Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman”.

Formed in Southend-on-Sea in 1967, Procol Harum (not Harem) got its name from a friend’s Burmese cat, which itself got the name from its owner’s poor Latin translation of “beyond these things.”  Perhaps the first group to incorporate a lyricist as a full member of the band (King Crimson later did the same), “Whiter Shade of Pale” was Procol Harum’s debut release, reaching Number One in the UK and Number Five in the US during that groovy Summer of Love.

 LISTEN TO THIS SONG – Sunday 10 March 

A Whiter Shade of Pale

 We skipped a light fandango

Turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor

I was feeling kind of seasick

But the crowd called out for more

The room was humming harder

As the ceiling flew away

When we called out for another drink

The waiter brought a tray

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

 She said there is no reason

And the truth is plain to see

That I wandered through my playing cards

And would not let her be

One of sixteen vestal virgins

Who were leaving for the coast

And although my eyes were open

They might just as well have been closed

And so it was later

As the miller told his tale

That her face at first just ghostly

Turned a whiter shade of pale

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