Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home

The Making of A Whiter Shade of Pale

Nick Hasted in Uncut ē February 2008


The baroque-flavoured Summer-of-Love smash that kicked off a bitter legal feud

Even by the creative standards of 1967, Procol Harum's A Whiter Shade of Pale sounded extraordinary. John Lennon played it obsessively on acid while he waited for Sgt Pepper's release. Hearing it for the first time the night he met Linda Eastman, Paul McCartney described it as Ďa benchmark'. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a rattled Brian Wilson claimed it sounded like Ďmy own funeralí.

DJ / producer Guy Stevens had brought together Procol Harumís songwriting partners Gary Brooker, from Southend RíníB band The Paramounts, and poet Keith Reid in April 1967 [sic!]. Astonishingly, they released A Whiter Shade of Pale just one month later. With its haunting, Bach-inspired organ line from keyboard player Matthew Fisher and Reidís enigmatic lyrics, A Whiter Shade of Pale became one of the most analysed and dissected songs of all time. It also became one of the most successful: in 2004, the performing Rights Group certified it the most-played song of the last 70 years, clocking up almost 1,000 cover versions and 10 million sales.

A year later, Fisher filed a lawsuit against Brooker, claiming co-writing credits for the song. On December 20, 2006, Fisher was awarded 40% of the copyright [sic] in the high Court. Today Brooker and Reid are still outraged by the ruling, while Fisher harbours resentment towards his former bandmates. Quite what the '16 vestal virgins heading [sic] for the coastí might have made of all this remains a matter of pure conjecture.

(photo caption, right: 'Procol Harum get their heads together in '67: (clockwise from bottom) Gary Brooker, Matthew Fisher, Ray Royer, Dave Knights and drummer Bobby Harrison [ replaced by Bill Eyden for the recording of A Whiter Shade of Pale]')

Interesting to see Bill Eyden outside the parentheses

Three contributors to the famous song are quoted at length: click to read their statements

Gary Brooker's remarks

Matthew Fisher's remarks

Keith Reid's remarks

 


More about the AWSoP lawsuit

 

 

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home