Neil Robinson writes to BtP (October 2005)
'As the miller told his tale...'. The Miller's Tale, in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, is the one story of the Tales which your Lit student friends will urge you to read, because it is the the most bawdy (ie 'dirty'). It involves a love-sick fool serenading a young wife (not his own) in dark night, begging a kiss, and being tricked into kissing her 'nether eye' (that's 'butt-hole' in modern US).
Given this, the first verse, at least, of A Whiter Shade of Pale makes sense as the self-serving explanation a young male makes for the failure of his attempt to win the heart of a fair lady (hook up with a young lady), after making a slightly crude move:
Most young men remember with pain the time they "blew it" by being too crude (in a way that their male friends would applaud) with a girl that they really wanted to get on with. The remaining verses depict the awkward reconciliation after that bit of male crudity.
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
By some not very logical argument ("I didn't mean it like that"). By getting her to laugh, drawing her attention back to the music, and commenting on her beauty, he manages to draw her back, and get her to bed.
The greatest art usually evokes some truth which is hard to talk about.
Carly Simon's No Secrets refers to the 60s fad of sexual partners being 'totally honest' about their past sexual experiences. Which did not work too well if the guy told a story of a sexual encounter, then adds that "she was a he". The girl reports:
Sometimes I wish
Often I wish
I'd never heard
Some of those secrets of yours.
All polite refutations gratefully accepted!
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