Having read the comments on The Truth Won't Fade Away in BtP's 'Taking Notes and Stealing Quotes' series, two Palers submitted their additional thoughts in an extended form that didn't permit excision and assimilation into the original article, as some briefer interventions had done. We’re grateful to Jim Krapf and Greg Panfile for permission to reprint their pieces here:
Don't know if this is a contribution or perhaps just a reaction but I thought you might be interested in an American's (NA) take on this song, especially someone from the good ole USA.
Needless to say, in general when I first listened to the Prodigal Stranger LP I was crestfallen because it didn't sound like Procol Harum. After accepting the loss of BJ, and coming to grips with the fact that without him the band would never be the same, I began to enjoy the songs in their context and appreciate their value. My favorite song from the album has always been Man With a Mission which was released as a single in the US and I heard played on an FM station in Chicago.
However, the one song that to this day will make tears well up in my eyes is The Truth Won't Fade Away. It is interesting to read your collective views (and KR's) about the inspiration for the words. Of course, my take on them infuses my own meaning into the mix, which may or may not have been part of the overall concept, but nonetheless makes it especially poignant for me.
The words are certainly open-ended, might take on many allusions, but for me the Vietnam War and my decision to take the stance of joining the protest movement against it has always been brought to mind when I hear this song. I doubt that KR had that in mind originally, but during the formative process might he perhaps envisioned that possibility? You mention the Vietnamese footage for background to A Whiter Shade of Pale. What incongruity! However, that was what was on everyone's mind at the time. It was the overriding, all encompassing cloud that was constantly with us. A few remarks:
Gee, did I really go on like that? Isn't it amazing how we inject our own experience into a work of art? One might say that is the ultimate compliment. The song works for me, that's really all that needs to be said. Thanks guys for listening,
I always felt the "we" in the song referred to the band and the fans ... those who were at the early concerts and the late ones, those who were on or listened to the records. It is that group that was both young and old, black and white etc. and of course voluble. And the chorus then means that whether we were right or wrong with the so much we had to say, the truth, whatever it actually is, will not fade away because it has an objectivity and permanence beyond the realm of opinion.
I've written elsewhere about how much of Keith's work seems to be concerned with a sort of surrealist metaphysics; this song clearly in some ways seems to operate in that realm. As Sam and Roland note, the word "truth" appears in a lot of songs and in more than one song title. It seems to be more of an interest to Keith than emotional relationships if you compare how often it is used to how seldom the concept of "love" is directly addressed. The more pompous might assert that while love can be true or false, and obviously does fade away in many cases, truth is superior; in the presence of love it acts as an amplifier, and in the absence of love as a means of sustenance.
The matter of what truth is and how to identify it is another entirely. My favorite story on this involves a king who decides that all his subjects must tell the truth, and imposes the death penalty for lying. Each new arrival at the town gates is to be questioned, and those who answer falsely hanged. The inevitable wise man/guy shows up and in response to the question as to why he is visiting the town, he replies, "To be hanged on this scaffold." The judge at first insists that this is a lie and the wiseguy should be hanged; then realizes that if such a thing happens the person told the truth and should not be executed. In the resulting confusion the wise man points out, "Now you know what truth is to you ... it is what you want to hear and can understand, not what is really true."
Pursuing the lost civilizations thread, I have read that in some cases, special buildings like the Pyramids or whatever had metaphysical functions, and some of them actually retain a sort of electric charge or stored capacity that persists after the culture is dead. It could be argued that in this context the chorus words are referring to this phenomenon.
Good tune to perform, though, really rocks out; let's do it in Manchester! The Tonight show tape of it is awesome. Agree with MAF this is one of the absolute hottest tracks and songs on the album for sure. Have actually told GB so which I am sure was a big moment in HIS life;-).
later, kids ...
Taking Notes and Stealing Quotes song-by-song index