Procol Harum

the Pale

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A Whiter Shade of Pale

Dutch mini-documentary from 2014

TOP 2000 A GOGO (29 December 2014, 19.30) NTR (Dutch TV)

Procol scholar Frans Steensma writes to BtP:

In The Netherlands there is, at the end of each year, a tradition that the Top 2000 (voted for by Dutch people) is broadcast on Dutch radio. It's very popular in Holland. So there are on Dutch TV some programmes dedicated to this Top 2000. Eight episodes of Top 2000 A Gogo each evening at 19.30, from 24 December until 31 December. This year (late 2014) A Whiter Shade of Pale still made the Top 100 (number 98).

On 29 December on Top 2000 A Gogo there was a mini documentary about AWSoP, with short inserted quotations from Gary and Keith.

You can watch the whole fifty-minute programme at

The Procol part is from minutes 13 to 19 (maybe drop in at 14.38 if you don't know any Dutch)  

Gary Brooker
When Procol Harum started and that era, from then, the whole atmosphere changed slightly until things became really a bit more important and a bit more serious and a bit more artistic.

Keith Reid
Everybody had started to become more experimental. You know, the 'art' was kind of creeping in.

Gary Brooker
I do remember having this musical idea which I worked out on the piano. Air on a G String – which was a Bach composition – and it came out ... when I think when got  after the first two bars, I think I got it wrong kind of thing, or didn’t remember where it went and I just carried it on in my own way. And I wrote this sequence which had a bit of Bach-like melody over the top, a bit Air on a G String-y, just in that style.

Well, I think it was about then that an envelope had either arrived that morning or something. And I opened it and it was some new lyrics from Keith. And the first one that I opened was A Whiter Shade of Pale.

Keith Reid
You know, I
was at a party. Just a bunch of people sitting around and having a good time. And they were talking about a friend of theirs. Really they were saying ‘You kind of look a bit strange or you look a little pale’. I overheard this little conversation and I turned that into that phrase, 'a whiter shade of pale'.
(see here)

I’ve always been very interested in visual … you know, in pictures, in painting and cinema. I’ve always been interested in visual stuff. And so you try and come up with that in words. These are very abstract things but it’s kind of what you’re trying to express. That’s the way I work: basically. with an idea, building, going from a little p… If you were a painter: a few brushstrokes and you look it and you go, 'Hmm, what is that, what could that be?' Kind of like a Toulouse Lautrec-like picture.

I used to like – I still do – I used to like the Surrealist painters very much. So like a Dali painting ... you might think, 'I'd like the song to feel like a Dali painting looks. Clocks dissolving, just fantastical things. You know, the colours that somebody would use in a picture. You try and come up with that in words.

Gary Brooker
It was out before Sgt Pepper album and before a lot of other things. It was the very first attempt to really go off into another angle. I think really there was no fashionable style that was like A Whiter Shade of Pale, which is possibly ... one of the reasons that it shocked and affected everybody was that it wasn’t like anything else.

PS. The Top three in the 2014 Top 2000: (3) Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven;  (2) Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody; (1) The Eagles – Hotel California

Thanks, Frans

More about AWSoP | Read Gary Brooker's opinion from a mere 47 years before | More from Frans

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