Procol Harum

the Pale

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AWSoP wired directly to the brain

Gerald Guthrie

Gerald Guthrie writes to BtP:

A Whiter Shade of Pale had been out for several months and, though I had enjoyed the now familiar blend of classical refrains and bluesy shouts, I had not paid the song or the group, Procol Harum, too much attention.

I was living at home, a sophomore in high school at the time. I had an old shortwave radio that also had an AM band. I would listen to it every evening just before drifting off to sleep. In an attempt to be responsible, I would religiously turn it off right before sleep would overtake me.

One night I forgot to do this and came to consciousness in the middle of the night as A Whiter Shade of Pale quietly played on some distant AM radio station. I was totally overtaken by the words and music, permanently changed and converted. My body was in a state of absolute relaxation as I listened to the song as if it was wired directly into my brain.

I had never heard a song so clearly and so completely. Every word meant something, though exactly what I will never know nor need to know. The haunting strains of the organ and the soulful voice merged perfectly. Time stood still.

The next day I went and bought their album and have been a fan every since. Procol Harum's type of thinking-man's rock has never been equaled and though many are aware of their great song, many only know them as a one-hit group.

Try leaving the radio on next time you go to bed and, if you are lucky, the oldies station will wake you up to A Whiter Shade of Pale and a greater understanding of the power of music.

Gerald Guthrie lives in Urbana, Illinois, where he teaches at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

He writes, "I am a visual artist and did a color drawing a number of years ago entitled, "Beyond the Pale," based on Procol Harum's title. Check it out if you like.

I have the deepest respect for Procol Harum's music and lyrics. It's true that Keith Reid is a surrealist, and I am sure this has been a source of attraction for me through their different albums.

I believe it is the inexplicable and unpredictable nature of things that is most likely to hold our interest and elicit contemplation."

There are more images of Gerry's online: visit his splendid website at

Gerald's work consists of highly detailed drawings, prints and kinetic constructions of interiors inhabited by solitary figures, seemingly engaged in mysterious activities. Guthrie's "peephole boxes" are constructed and painted interiors, completely encased within white cubes, through which the viewer must look through a small hole to view these mysterious scenes. In addition, his recent work includes digital ink-jet computer prints of similar compositions.

Guthrie says of his art: "My principal artistic endeavors have stemmed from the Dada and Surrealism movements of the 1920s and 1930s. The perception that this age of science and industry would unite to produce a utopian society has been an important influence on my work. During this period the average person was capable of being both inventor and scientist. Now out of reach for the common man, science and industry have become the new western religion and to be effective on this level must remain mysterious and magical.

"I ask the viewer to ponder such issues as the presence of absurdity in intellect and belief. it is my intention to elicit contemplation about the many important yet enigmatic issues associated with everyday life, By creating images with unusual metaphoric twists playing against familiar, more comfortable backgrounds, the sensation of the dream-state is closely recalled. I believe this feeling is present in all people and allows a common pathway for communication. Though there is also an element of humor in the work, it is the humor of nervous laughter, intriguing yet slightly discomforting."

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