Procol Harum

the Pale

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Elementary, my dear Sousa Sam

Jonas Sφderstrφm et al

This chemical thread started on the Procol list long before Procol Harum's renaissance at Guildford in 2000; as you will see, it ends with an astonishingly accurate prophecy. The idea got going with a few off-topic asides about performers whose names incorporated the names of elements: Pb Zeppelin, Hg Messenger Service, Cu Head, Fe Butterfly, Sn Machine, Fe Maiden, The Ag Beatles, Au Earring, the late Freddie Hg; it took in Atomic Rooster, and Kate and Anna McGarrigle's fine song, NaCl, and They Might Be Giants with Particle Man; and it started to turn Procol-wards when Beverly Peyton reminded us that 'PH Factor' means the concentration of hydrogen ions in an aqueous solution; expressed logarythmically (more hydrogen ions and fewer hydroxyl ions = more acidic; fewer hydrogen ions and more hydroxyl ions = more alkaline).

This discussion had somehow evolved from Roland's proposal that the Procol songs could be arranged in a diagram, like Mendeleev's Periodic Table, to bring out their family relationships, and that the ensuing Table could be used to predict the nature of missing or future songs.

Greg Smith then revealed that … 'In my business I deal with a few nuclear physicists. I've had a chat with them and requested that they knock up another ten or so elements by year's end. They said they'd give it a shot,' … with the underlying idea that, since the number of their existing songs [before TWoF, of course!] more-or-less corresponds to the number of chemical elements, extending the real Periodic Table would oblige Procol Harum to record and release another album. Commonsense really.

Jonas weighed back in with this virtuoso paragraph of puns: 'So after the current – at least in my encyclopaedia – Ununium (111), I will now eagerly anticipate Homburgium (112) and Cerdesium (113). But I wouldn't want too much Betweenusium, and I think we could do without Adoubtium. Kaleidoscopium (114) and Luskusdelphium (115) would be nice, though, as would Mabelium (116) and Pandorium (117) [which really looks a whiter shade of Paleium (118)]. Boredomium (119) and Conquistadorium (120) could be next; and then we could have Foolsgoldium (121), which is not as strong as Samsonium (122). What a monument to our boys – just think of it! All this and Moreium (123) – and then, the final Thrustium (124).

But he also added a challenge:

'Seems Keith's own periodic system only contains of four (pure) elements. There's gold, silver, some lead and ... one more! The first to identify the fourth element in a Procol Harum (recorded) song wins a prize!'

Roland suggested '… a rattling good yarn with an IRONic twist ?', 'The COPPERs are using radar trying to intercept my dreams ?' … Or are we really looking for BRIMSTONE, the former name for Sulphur, or 'Sulfur' as some would say? John Kennedy's terser suggestion was Diamond = Carbon = C; Richard Beck was the first to spot "wrote her fate in neon captions" from Playmate of the Mouth.

Marvin Chassman wondered about Five (Nickel) and Dime (Mercury) / Sulfur Behind? / and NaCL Dog?, while others vainly opted for marble, pewter and crystal, things that sound elemental, but aren't! Chickenfat? Sam Cameron noted that nobody had mentioned 'Dave Bronze (thus we have copper and tin) ... oh stop me, quick, before I say Chris Coppering …'

Jonas declared that Neon was the expected answer, but graciously extended his prize umbrella to include brimstone (albeit archaic) and diamond, (albeit an allotrope). 'I thought someone should suggest steel (in Holding On), which is an alloy, ' he went on, 'and Lime (... Street Blues), which is calcium oxide, but sometimes used as a synonym for calcium, or rhinestone, which is silicon dioxide.

'There are just a few elements in Keith's lyrics, but many other substances; many fascinating like blood, ashes, pus, piss, rust, sawdust, poison, stone, sweat, milk, dirt, steam, smoke, snow.... maybe someone could start a thread on these?'

This brought a prompt and characteristic rejoinder from Sam, who contended, "this kind of thing is likely indicative of [Keith Reid's] Jewish upbringing … Jewish mysticism emphasizes the elements in human nature [ΰ la Alchemy] particularly in the Kaballah in the form of the Tree of Life where the above things would be an embodiment of Malkuth ... the list of above being mainly earth in a more universal earth-fire-air-water alchemical foundation. The Jewish mysticism is also shown up in the missing AWSoP lines … not great poetry, but the polarities and the attempt to reconcile them i.e. with front and behind and 'dirt in truth is clean' are exactly what you find in 13th century texts [No I don't have any of those in the house for a tape swop before you ask] of Jewish mysticism. I suppose that found its secular culmination in Hegel but really that is enough from me.'

In a later mail, Jonas added,

'While rambling on about transuranics, and at the same time thinking about PH different line-ups, it struck me that many PH "generations" in the nineties have been extremely short-lived – decaying after only one gig. Just like transuranics (= man-made elements heavier than uranium, not present in nature).

'Now, the theory at least used to predict that after the now-known transuranics – which decay after only milliseconds – there might be superheavy elements that are actually stable, with atomic weights of 114 or so. But they're very hard to make so far...

'So, similarly my theory predicts that after all these short-lived PH generations, there will suddenly be a super-stable, super-heavy PH line-up that will rock the world.'


(or Amin?)


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