by Lawrence J. J, Leonard
What does it mean to be “in a mood“? We can feel energetic, snippy, feisty, leery, paranoid, ticklish, and sometimes mellow. Maybe it has to do with our feelings when we hear someone’s voice. Maybe it has something to do with the song that plays inside our minds over and over when we wake up to a new day. With music it can be the sound of a church organ or a clarinet or a bass drum that resonates and causes a reaction.
When British poet Keith Reid got an invitation from Gary Brooker (formerly of The Paramounts) to write the lyrics, it was for a new band with a progressive approach to rock music. Gary decided the new group would have new band members Matthew Fisher, Ray Royer, Robin Trower, Bobby Harrison, and David Knights. The band manager decided on a perplexing name for the band – Procul Harum. It was the breeding monicker of a friends’s Burmese cat, modified to sound familiar.The name Procul Harum invoked all kinds of reaction when spoken by deejays on the radio.
Keith knew his lyrics were novel. Gary and Matthew were hopeful that the music would be a worthy and interesting complement to the unique subject matter. Their new composition was just quirky enough to capture our imagination as a counterculture anthem. Plus, it subtly introduced a new metaphor into our collective consciousness. Sad and lonely are powerful feelings.
The haunting melody and somberly sung lyrics in “Whiter Shade of Pale” were a unique combination which propelled the recording to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was released in May 1967, four months before their self-titled album debuted in the United States. It was a standout song, the title notwithstanding. Keith said he was at a party when he overheard someone saying to a woman, “You’ve turned a whiter shade of pale.” The phrase stuck in his mind. And now it is stuck in ours.
Just like the tunes we hum to ourselves, some have a lasting impact. When we find ourselves feeling blue and moody, a song such as “Whiter Shade of Pale” gives us the power to get through somehow until our moodiness passes.
Lyrics: written by Keith Reid and Gary Brooker
We skipped the light fandango
Turned cartwheels cross the floor
I was feeling kinda 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.
But 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 have just as well’ve been closed
(only on long version)
She said, I’m home on shore leave,
Though 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
If music be the food of love
Then laughter is its queen
And likewise if behind is in front
Then dirt in truth is clean
My mouth by then like cardboard
Seemed to slip straight through my head
So we crash-dived straightway quickly
And attacked the ocean bed
Copyright © 1960-2017 Lawrence J. J. Leonard All rights reserved.