Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale 

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Meanings in 'A Whiter Shade of Pale'

'After all, what does any of it mean?' (GB, 1995) 


Mail 'Beyond the Pale' if you feel you can help with this 'conundrum'


I don't know what they mean. It's never bothered me that I don't know what they mean. This is what I find rather hard, that, especially in America, people are terribly hung up about lyrics and they've got to know what they mean, and they say, "I know, I've figured out what these lyrics mean." I don't give a damn what they mean. You know, they sound great… that's all they have to do.

Matthew Fisher on BBC Radio 2, March 2000. (Whole transcript here, audio clip here


Read this account of Keith Reid's debt to Robert Burns
The song interpreted in terms of the 'Titanic' tragedy
Kathryn Hansen offers a balletic view
Attempts to wrangle these lyrics into linear coherence .... don’t let it bother you (says 'American Songwriter')
Breck Breckenridge elucidates the psychedelic implications of the song
'There is no subtracting an element of this ensemble to express it with the same power' says Iguanamind
Herbert Terwolbeck mixes ejaculation and penile dysfunction
Procol's Dave Ball responds to the above
Peter Dunn's reading of the text
Click here for a superb article touching closely on this song, and here for Martin Scorsese's opinion
Mona Eagle offers a sympathetic and searching enquiry into the song's emotional impact
A now-anonymous contributor asserts that 'the meaning of this song has been well-known for years': it's about drugs.
Bill Barrett opines that the song is 'unclearly many things'
Laura Becker recognises the 'mermaid of death' in the song
Neil Robinson reckons the song is about 'awkward reconciliation after male crudity'
Tom is inspired to 'mockery and hatred'
He and this woman are on The Titanic, says Emily M
Laura Lougheed has two possible readings
Nicholas Kin emphasises the alcoholic content
Garry Herzog on the quest for meaning
Miiki Kurtakko on the trail of prostitutes in the song
What do readers of The Guardian say about the meaning of the song? 
A contribution from Brian Rogers
'Should it be banned'? asks Joe in a topical poem (13 February 2013)


Guus Endeveld from Haarlem in the Netherlands writes to 'Beyond the Pale' (August 2011) with 'my small – maybe trivial – contribution: according to colour theory (eg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tints_and_shades) a shade is a mixture of a colour with black, and a tint is the mixture of a colour with white, so technically speaking this phrase does not make sense. A whiter tint of pale would be correct, but that doesn’t sound that nice'.


Ive heard it has to do with a group of nuns (the Vestal virgins) from Belgium who were trying to escape the nazi's in WW2. They did not escape. my friend doesn't want to be named,,, any way the info came from his travels 25 years ago in Belgium. The locals at the time were the people who explained it to him, i don't know where in Belgium and thats all the info i can get out of him. ,,,,, the nuns came to an untimely death.
cheers simon edwards


Not to use a pun, but I may be all wet about this theory of Whiter Shade Of Pale, but here goes. I believe "While the Miller told his tale" could refer to Arthur Miller writing a book or screenplay, this would make the paled lady Marilyn Monroe, his wife.

The reference of the 'mermaid that took Neptune for a ride' could be a reference of her assumed relationship with J.F.K. who was a sailor who went on to be president [A king sort of]

The sixteen virgins could refer to her age of her first marriage [Loss of virginity possibly] to a sailor! JFK a sailor, first husband a sailor, might have to do with so much references to the sea. 'At first just ghostly white [she was the fairest of them all] turned a whiter shade of pale' could refer to her untimely death.

If you think this is bad, you should see what I came up with for CCR's Looking Out My Back Door!

Thanks, Phil [Angr26@cs.com]


I think the song is about a man who is visited by his lover – though the lover had died many years ago.  It's a last dinner, a last date with her, before she has to return to the sea (ie heaven).  The title A Whiter Shade of Pale might refer to the moment where he finally lets go of her memory – when she becomes more removed from his life than she used to be.  The word 'pale' would indicate her as a distant memory to him, and as she becomes 'a whiter shade of pale' her death finally sets in to him emotionally.

 

This is all just speculation – I am not affiliated with the song in any professional or recording manner.

Thanks, Mitchell Meltzer


A whiter shade of pale ... I've pondered what these five words might mean for many years.  As life goes on, and you experience more, you begin to realise that in many respects life slowly but ever so surely moves towards a central perspective, or in terms of a color life becomes gray, and one might use the word ... pale.  I think a whiter shade of pale is the same as saying 'a brighter shade of medium, or gray'.  So from a spiritual perspective, we all eventually return to the 'middle', and once you accept this for the truth it is, there are few thoughts more exhilarating than to ponder the possibility that something out there just might exist as ... 'a whiter shade of pale'.  I think all the rest of the words of this song are a muse, a riddle of sorts, serving the singular purpose of keeping the world guessing, and thinking, forever.

Thanks, Doug Hilbert 


Let me say first, before I rain on everyone's parade: I love this song – it's utterly beautiful, well-played, well-sung, and deserves all the success it has enjoyed.

That said, I cannot take the lyrics at all seriously. They sound to me like a hodgepodge of literary references, sword-and-sorcery clichés, and disconnected story snippets, mashed into a pointless grab-bag. The song has become an all-time best-seller, so there are millions of fans who love it enough to scratch their heads over the meaning of the lyrics; I just don't think there's a lot of "meaning" there to begin with. I don't mean to insult the lyricist, he may have put a lot of time and effort into their writing, and I'm just another blowhard with an opinion, but I'm a fan of the song despite the lyrics, rather than because of them.

One acquaintance of mine opines that the song was actually intended as a parody of the "deep, meaningful, heavy" songs popular in the day (anyone still have their 45 of In the Year 2525?) [A hit in July 1969]. This friend is sure Procul Harem [sic] was laughing up their sleeves when recording the it, and then were forced to defend it when it became a smash hit. I don't know if I buy that, but when I think, "Hmm ... skipped the light fandango ... turned cartwheels 'cross the floor," I'm not so sure.

Thanks, Woody Hamilton

 


I have, in the last few years, felt that the lyrics to Whiter Shade of Pale could be referring to the Titanic. There is someone skipping the light fandango in a room that is apparently at sea and something has definitely gone wrong as the room hums and the ceiling flies away.

The additional concert lyrics contribute to this theory by suggesting that, for some reason, 'she' has the mistaken impression that the ship has reached shore but in truth is still at sea. The shudder and lurch of hitting an ice berg might give the impression of slowing to dock but the looking glass reveals the truth.

Who the miller relating the story later on is I haven't patched together. Could be someone who made it back to the coast on one of sixteen never-before-used-lifeboats. Brief research reveals that there were 20 lifeboats on the Titanic. Maybe four weren't used or able to be used? I'm not obsessed enough with the idea to research it much more than that.

I'm either way off track with this theory but it seems to make some sense.

From Mikindi@aol.com

 


Aaron M. Poutanen writes as follows …

Well I haven't sat and analysed AWSoP to the death like most of the people that wrote in. I'm not going to analyse every single verse, but I'd like to add a different thought that I personally think touches much more closely on the intended (?) meaning of the song.

'A whiter shade of pale' refers to being under the influence of coke, and taking another rail to go "a whiter shade of pale". The first verse is pretty clear to me: they are a band, they are very coked up while doing a show, skipped a light show and did everything they could to impress instead. The crowd calls out for more as they blow the roof off the place.

In my opinion this whole song is laden with references to coke and using coke and being heavily under the influence of coke. Why do all these people think he's writing about getting drunk?

BtP pointed out (a) that Keith Reid when he wrote these words had never had any experience of being in a band and (b) that it was written probably in late 1966 if not early 1967 when coke was an unlikely chemical to encounter in the Mile End Road: Aaron graciously replied:

Hey thanks! I have some weird friends and they talk a lot about different phrases that reference to coke and it seemed like it really was that to me! LOL ... although before reading the words to the song, I thought it said 'as the mirror told its tale' which would be a heavy reference to a mirror that you'd use staring up at you and reminding you of what you're doing.

Above all this theory, it is an EXCELLENT song! There's nothing like it I've heard really, in that it's almost got a symphony feel in its power and presence. And his singing is very emotional and powerful, a great song to just sit back, close your eyes, and crank ...

 


"Ben Ling writes that 'I think the lyrics simply describes in a very subtle way how a man loses a woman':

 

We skipped the light fandango 

We were so happy as if we were perpetually in a dance 

 

Turned cartwheel 'cross the floor 

We did crazy things like doing cartwheels 

 

I was feeling kind of seasick 

We were intoxicated and dizzy 

 

But the crowd call for more 

People who noticed us longed to see more 

 

The room was humming harder 

Everything was getting more intense 

 

As the ceiling flew away 

It was so exhilarating that we felt the sky opened up for us 

 

When we call out for another drink 

We desired more and more of each other to the point of getting sick 

 

The waiter brought a tray 

somebody was getting ready for clean up 

 

She said, "There is no reason" 

It just happens 

 

And the truth is plain to see 

I don't need to explain anything 

 

But I wandered through my playing cards 

I searched my fate and destiny 

 

And would not let her be 

Stubbornly in my mind I would not let her go 

 

One of sixteen vestal virgins 

She is as desirable as a young virgin ...

 

Who were leaving for the coast 

too bad she is leaving for unknown territories 

 

And although my eyes were open 

I was aware of the situation 

 

They might have just as
well's been closed 

Why didn't I see it coming in the first place 

 


Well, quite simply I think this is a tale of a man who met a mermaid (or some sort of Siren) who took "shore leave" in a pub or perhaps a dance hall ... they danced and he ended up falling in love with her and making love to her that night ... I think they ended up in on the ocean in a boat and it seems her secret was revealed then ... they both plunged into the sea together. Her face turning a whiter shade of pale may have been another way of saying she had died along with the the fellow. I don't quite understand the allusion to the miller; that may have been a reference to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and may have just been poetic license. This is one of the most beautiful rock songs I have ever heard. I love it.

Luz Laulo 


Has anyone thought that it describes nothing more than a band member getting lucky with a groupie after a show? For instance ...

"the room was humming harder as the ceiling flew away...": We all know the expression "blow the roof off the dump" thanks to David Letterman... perhaps this is just a way of saying that the band was doing a particularly good (and loud) job that night?

"so it was that later as the miller told his tale that her face at first just ghostly turned a whiter shade of pale"

"Miller told his tale" = "a little bit of how's yer father", maybe during the act she got sick? Pale ... vomit

"She said there is no reason and the truth is plain to see" – maybe she thought better of it and tried to weasel her way out of the bed?

"I wandered through my playing cards and would not let her be one of 16 vestal virgins"... he pulls out all his tricks and convinces her to stay ... thus ending the virginity...

"she said I'm home on shore leave, though in truth..." Lies told, etc. to make oneself more interesting

"you must be the mermaid who took Neptune for a ride" – perhaps a case of azure chestnuts for the singer or for a member of his band? Makes a case for retribution ...

And perhaps this theme is carried over into Conquistador, Garden Fence, etc...

Just thoughts ...

 


Whiter Shade of Pale captures our imaginations. There is enough room in both melody and lyric for anyone's imagination. It opens our minds to flights that connect our desires to a timeless story of quest.

Does it end in conquest as well? It does if we want it too. The story can become as complicated as we want. Recently I fancied she may have been alluding to morning sickness. Imagine a Vestal Virgin tragically fallen only to confide in, maybe a travelling entertainer, one of a troupe?

That is what pleases me about classical music. I can relax and enjoy or make it fit my imagination. Procul [!]Harum have created that quality with the addition of lyrics that are classical. Rich enough to capture our imagination and spare enough to allow our imagination to be captured. Thank you for your website. It has been a treat for me to see that others have put as much thought into this work as I have.

Paula

 


The Truth Is Plain To See … by Misty Dew  
 

We skipped the light fandango

Yeah, it's one of those English dancing places, the ballrooms, they dance stuff like the fandango there.

turned cartwheels 'cross the floor

Yeah, that's how it looks, turned on their side. They're swirling around the floor.

I was feeling kinda seasick

Yeah, this dude has had too much to drink (might be an alcoholic), and he's getting sick – seasick in fact.

but the crowd called out for more

Yeah, they always do that at dances.

The room was humming harder

Oh this guy is really drunk!

as the ceiling flew away

Is he ever drunk!

When we called out for another drink

Yeah...

the waiter brought a tray

O god, this guy is going under! He's going to be sick, or make a nuisance of himself, or both...

She said, 'There is no reason

She? Well yes, this is the cruncher. The guy made a bad drunken play for an innocent girl and this is what he is living down. She turns him down, he asks why, she brushes the insistent question off. Has no one been young here?

and the truth is plain to see.'

Oh sure it is. This girl is not his bait, and if he were sober and less horny he'd see this and move on – he's wasting his time with this one!

But I wandered through my playing cards

Oh yeah, that's the whole point: he never gives up! He just keeps at it, looking for a new angle, he wants in this girl's knickers so bad!

and would not let her be

Same thing again – he's a nuisance! This one will cost him dearly!

one of sixteen vestal virgins

Yeah, exactly, she's on a boarding school trip or something, out with some of the girls from the trip perhaps, she's far too young and far too innocent for the likes of him – he's scandalizing her!

who were leaving for the coast

Yeah, exactly, on their way to Dover or Felixstowe or Brighton or Christchurch or wherever. Big deal.

and although my eyes were open

Poetic – means nothing but leads up to the next line.

they might have just as well've been closed

Yeah, he was downright stupid!

 

-- So where's the problem?

 


A personal, erotic view from Tiffany

 


A man from a prominent family of church ministers and musicians who is very pale knows that he is so white that his female partner must in fact be a poorer peasant woman. They know they must accept the doctrine of the church if he is going to be a minister, and she must not question his authority. As the church loses its grip on society, they realize they are on a sinking ship, and all they have is their love for each other and the music they shared.

Jim Boda

 


I had a look at Whiter Shade of Pale in more depth and this is what I came up with (verse by verse)

The first verse is basically a scene setter, the writer is out on the town (getting drunk!) with a female friend. They sit down and....

There is a reference to a miller. Surely this is referring to Chaucer's 'miller's tale'? In this a Scholar convinces an innkeeper/carpenter that a flood is coming (via astrology). The Carpenter leaves and the Scholar has sex with his young, beautiful wife. It seems as though the writer is accusing the female of sleeping with another man. The woman denies this, although her face betrays the truth. The line regarding playing cards may well be a reference to the Scholar (forecasting, destiny, fate etc). The female says that the writer has examined his head, his soul, and his feelings (his cards?) and has come up with the fact that his friend is not pure (vestal virgins were temple servant types, supposedly completely pure). She is claiming that he has judged her already, and 'would not let' her be pure. The line 'leaving for the coast' means that these morals (purity) are going hay wire. The final line is saying that the although the writer has seen what he has seen (presumably he has evidence of her infidelity) he is not seeing the whole picture, that his eyes are clouded by prejudice (pre-judgement, right?)

3rd) The metaphor of 'at sea' is one of being lost, of lacking direction or any one India. Therefore the metaphor of 'shore leave' is someone who is in possession of full senses, someone who is not at sea. The writer forces the woman to agree that their relationship WAS lost and lacking direction by examining her VERY closely. The Neptune reference is completely beyond me (I have no idea about Greek mythology). If the sea is standing for a lack of direction, then surely the king of the sea is the source of this deception. If the female was able to take him for a ride then surely she is a deceptive person indeed!

If love consumes music, and grows from this the laughter is the queen of music. I have NO idea what this means :-) The writer openly speaks his mind (passes his tongue through his head). The two then seek to destroy the source of their misdirection. They start with a wave, then move to the very basis, the ocean floor.

James

 


About the meaning of lyrics, it's very little what I can say,  because English is not my everyday's language; however I think I can help to understand the first line, 'We skipped the light fandango...' where 'fandango' may be:

a) a rarely used Spanish word for 'commotion', I think KR could have used it because he also used 'Conquistador', Spanish for 'Conqueror'. In this case, obviously the writer and his friend 'avoid a light commotion'...

b) The name of a light ship. In this case, the writer is the skipper ... Too obvious for me.

c) Both senses.

Kind regards. Jose Luis Pomar.

 


Surely Dr Cameron has read Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, has he not? The Miller's Tale is the bawdiest of the lot. No black magic there, just sex drive, repressed or hot. Which has to do with most of the songs, not all, but most in one way or other. It's the sex drive or its the loss of innocence which deflates the ideal. It's a snapshot in time of youth at its peak or a fading glimpse of youth slipping away in our dreams. It's something magic that can't be defined, not ritual and witchcraft. It's an allusion, magic as incomprehensible, not real. Enjoyed the article, but let's not lead our readers too far afield lest they become entwined with raptures so far flung amidst the follies of this most imperfect world. Take care, gents, and keep em coming.

Jim Krapf

 


Well, the Miller's Tale is obviously Canterbury Tales and that story is about being duped and turned into a cuckold. I know many people have commented on this part. What I haven't seen however is further reference to the "at sea" portion, and I will take a bit of a leap and point to another English writer of the same period – Samuel Taylor Coleridge – and his great work, The Ancient Mariner. I remember studying Canterbury Tales and Ancient Mariner my junior year in high school (same crappy teacher) so it must have been part of a curriculum back then (early 60s) that perhaps Reid was also exposed to (it's just a guess, remember).

This lends itself to many different thoughts: (1) Coleridge was a heavy drug user who wrote his best stuff, including Ancient Mariner while very high. (2) Ancient Mariner is about loneliness, about being surrounded by the obvious, but being unable to partake in any of it, about denial, and being denied – all close themes to The Miller's Tale. Anyway, I don't claim one iota to know what AWSoP is about, but the Chaucer / Coleridge connection is one I've wrestled with in the verbiage for at least a couple of decades.

Michael Kronley

 


'We skip the light fandango' can only be about commotion, he and this girl are having a fight in some tavern getting drunk or whatever and this guy (the Miller) starts to tell of story of young love and about the tragedy of it. After she here's the story of young love tragedy, her face turns pale, anyway they reconcile until death do them part, into the sea seems to be eternity, the vestal virgins, yes she is one of the rare few who are hard to (a virgin that is); also I get this very late 18th, early 19th century feeling about this song; what's really weird is that it's not even sad, it's a rejoicing song about reconciliation and eternity of togetherness.

GJac487328@aol.com

 


From the Paler's Diary of Beverly Peyton

It is high noon Wednesday, June 30th; 11:58 to be precise. I love sport. It is the remaining deciding players at Wimbledon that have my attention before I leave for work. To make better use of the time, I preset the stations on my new walkman while watching Becker wave "farewell." Phone calls interrupt both matters at hand.

105.9FM is South Florida's classic rock station. I press these numbers and A Whiter Shade of Pale enters my ears. A high noon song indeed. I proceed to bang my knee on the coffee table racing for the 'on' button of my stereo. This is silly, I think to myself. I can hear this song whenever I want. I won't even venture to guess how many copies I possess. Why do I get excited just because it is suddenly on the radio? What can possibly be said about this song that hasn't been said already? It seems to me I hear it more now than I ever did before. Why isn't listening to it on the walkman enough? Why must I fill the room with it? I really want to fill the neighborhood with it, but I know better.

I look about the room as I listen and smile. The touches of Procol Harum surround me. I'm still not sure what the words mean and I truly don't care. It remains a great song. It's still a feel good song. It now dawns on me that it was just about 32 years ago that it went on to become a number one song. It remains a number one song with me.

How fitting ... Henman, the Brit, wins his match.

 


The dropped stanza starts out with a line from Shakespeare ... "If music be the food of love play on! / Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, / The appetite may sicken, and so die." The speaker, Duke Orsino, wishes one phrase of music to be played over and over again so that he might lose his appetite for love ... the thing that interests me is the source of the line, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night ... what struck me, especially when the line is paired with the incessant naval imagery of Whiter Shade of Pale, that starts with the substitution of "fandango" for the more familiar "fantastic" in the first line. This ... brings up the idea of dancing on a ship, especially when paired with the rest of the song. But ... Twelfth Night is about the aftermath of a shipwreck ...

Preston Brown

 


I think the song has a deep spiritual meaning...

The singer, an unenlightened mortal sole [sic], one that has skipped (we all have a choice) to seek the light (meditation / pious life) has crossed the path of a spiritually enlightened individual that knows the meaning of life. A guru of sort. The cartwheels and drink are just examples of the folly pursuits of mortal youth.

The humming room and flying ceiling tells me that singer already has some psychic intuition and is unwittingly in tuned into this mysterious visitor. The humming and roof flying off are all analogous to what one experiences when just entering a deep state meditation and seeing the light. The Guru woman sums it up by stating that there is no reason to life and the truth is there to see (it's there to see for the dedicated and disciplined seekers of the light / meditation.) She's quite esoteric by purpose.

The guru woman has caught the attention of the one she wants. The singer goes through her cards, which I think are analogous to tarot cards, and she has her destiny spread in front of her (she knows a few spiritual secrets herself). This guru woman is spiritually enlightened, having one foot on earth on foot in heaven so to speak. For her to not take notice of her surroundings isn't surprising. As angels they're never entirely here, she's only visiting.

The Guru remains an enigma and keeps the attention of the singer. She knows enough to know what she doesn't know and so her eyes indeed may well have been figuratively closed / blind. Spiritual ignorance is often referred to as being blind, hence the many gospel tunes "I am blind and now I see." What they now can see is the light of God and everything (through their newly opened spiritual eye) everything in comparison seems like darkness.

They say when the student is ready the teacher shall appear. The singer is the student and she is describing her first encounter with her ordained spiritual teacher of life and eternity, her Guru. This may well have been the first time she has crossed the path of this truly enlightened soul.

Angels do walk among us. At a time ordained long before they met, or for that matter long before they were even born, their precise date and time to meet was set.

That's what I get out of this wonderfully written song so beautifully sung by Annie Lennox.

Branden

 


Tim Mullen explains that 'The first paragraph describes death, or passage to the spiritual world. The second paragraph describes the Truth of the Devine [sic]Creator. The third paragraph describes his station in the spiritual world.

We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels 'cross the floor

(Delight of entering the spiritual world.)

I was feeling kinda seasick
but the crowd called out for more

(Trauma of dying to the material world, but he had to keep going, no going back.)

The room was humming harder
as the ceiling flew away

( The material world vanished as he entered the spiritual world.)

When we called out for another drink
the waiter brought a tray

(Now in the spiritual world, he describes the abundance of that world. Ask for a drink and a waiter shows up with a whole tray ( metaphor ).)

And so it was that later
as the miller told his tale

(The Prophets of God, revealing hidden mysteries of the universe.)

that her face, at first just ghostly,
turned a whiter shade of pale

(So powerful the message (tale) that the dwellers of heaven are astounded. "Truth itself is astounded.")

She said, 'There is no reason
and the truth is plain to see.'

(The spiritual world defies reason and the Truth is plain to see in the spiritual world)

But I wandered through my playing cards
and would not let her be

(He wanted to know more, but did not have the spiritual capacity to comprehend more. He reached his capacity of what he developed on earth)

one of sixteen vestal virgins
who were leaving for the coast

(Sixteen mysteries of God, She was ascending to her place of honor, where he could not follow)

and although my eyes were open
they might have just as well've been closed

(In the spiritual world the Truth is revealed for all to see, but he knows he should have found it while on earth, when it counted most)

Tim concludes: 'This is the Day in which God's most excellent favors have been poured out upon men, the Day in which His mighty grace hath been infused into all created things. – Baha'u'llah'


Jack Nielsen writes:
The song is hard to make sense of until you add the concert lyrics in.  I don’t think that the song has anything to do with The Titanic, though it certainly takes place on the ocean.  There are references to mermaids in the first of the two concert verses, and in the final concert verse, the first two stanzas, “If music be the food of love, then laughter is its queen,” are finished by the last two, “So we crashed-dived straight-away quickly and attacked the ocean bed,” indicating he succumbs to her seduction without no regard for the consequences. [NB Reid evidently wrote 'food of life', not 'food of love']

“She” is his destruction—the siren who lured him to his doom.  There are some specifics that I still need to work through, such as who or what “the miller” represents, the sixteen vestal virgins (since there were only six sirens), but, “her face at first just ghostly turned a whiter shade of pale” fits, since the island where the sirens lived in Homer’s Odyssey had “a great heap of dead men’s bones lying all around" [Homer (1993) Odyssey trans. Samuel Butler.  New York: Barnes and Noble Books (p. 148)] referencing both death (hence, ghostly) and the color white (the bones and deathly pallor).  Her pallor might also indicate that she recognizes her responsibility in his destruction.

I also don’t think this song was written about actress Marylin [sic] Monroe.  While Monroe was often called a “siren”, and Arthur Miller, her one-time husband, was a playwright (and hence, storyteller/chronicler), the song is clearly a personal one, not external to the writer(s).  There would have to be documentation of a member or members of Procol Harum to have shared a cruise ship with Monroe to convince me otherwise.

Cocaine?  No.  When you spin around in circles (ie “turned cartwheels 'cross the floor”), you become dizzy and the ceiling appears to fly away. This is not to say that drugs and alcohol weren’t part of the experience, just that they themselves weren’t the experience.  There’s clearly a party at the beginning of the song, but romances have been known to begin at parties, on cruise ships and all-around merry-making.  

Long story short (too late, I know), the siren song is a metaphor for a tragic love affair.

Comments/Questions?

 


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