Procol Harum

the Pale

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Dump my Thesaurus ...

Unknown words in Procol-related songs

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The place in the title of the song Cerdes (Outside The Gates Of) is not a real city. Says Keith Reid: 'Cerdes is just a name that I made up. There's no such place as Cerdes!'

'La grippe' is influenza to the French, who also use the word for anything they dislike. Keith Reid, however, uses the spelling above, with a capital letter. It may be what Lewis Carroll's Humpty-Dumpty called a 'portmanteau word', incorporating elements of 'Greeks' and 'creeps'. Not very helpful, perhaps: but we can derive a modicum of reassurance from the certainty that, whatever 'greeps' may be, they are 'no longer what they seem'.

Colour words all seem to have conventional superlative forms (red, reddest; green, greenest) so there is in principle no reason why 'ivory' should not produce the curious formulation found in Chasing the Chop: 'the ivoriest of towers'; it's not, however, a word we've come across anywhere else.

Naked jumberlack
This oddity from Good Captain Clack is a transposition of the prominent consonants in the word 'lumberjack': a Spoonerism, in fact. Given Gary Brooker's propensity to commit Spoonerisms in performance ('and though the cloud crapped desperately') we might guess that 'jumberlack' was a rehearsal or recording error retained in the final mix for comic effect. Or it might have been Keith's way of suggesting Peter Clack's state of mind?

Luskus Delph
Gary Brooker spent a late evening in 1971 promoting Broken Barricades on Radio Luxembourg. Asked about Luskus Delph, he coyly vouchedsafe that 'Luskus' was a word made up by Keith: "a cross between 'luscious' and something that people like to do in the evening."

Rock published a piece in 1971 including: 'When Gary introduced it, he said, "Keith tells me that 'Luskus' is a cross between 'lust' and 'suck'.'' The way he said 'suck' with such resounding vulgarity before launching into this beautiful piano phrase, it really shocked me ... with that resounding, hard, lascivious 'k' at the end. It really floored me. I wasn't ready for that.'

Roland from BtP asked Gary Brooker why his commentaries in concert never sought to explain 'Delph'; quick as thought, he replied 'Cross between demon and elf'.

'Gale force frighty' sounds like something from the daily Shipping Forecast, whose mysterious litany of coastal waters and light-house names is a staple of BBC Radio 4, a ritual broadcast all Britons must be are aware of, but few listen to carefully. Even 'force eight' is a mighty wind; yet 'frighty' appears to incorporate 'eighty' and 'fright'. This 'power failure' has certainly put the wind up the speaker.

Is the supposed name of the author of both songs on the first American Procol Harum single: look at the scans here. Both sides of the British record, however, managed to 'Reid more sweet'.

Squeamin' is something that taste-buds do in the presence of Fresh Fruit. The word is uttered in the recorded performance, but not present in the written words. One suspects Luskus overtones here, though it might be a portmanteau of 'squealing' and 'squirm', both of which occur in the song. The upbeat context makes it unlikely that the word is related to 'squeamish'. Further notes here

Another 'portmanteau word'. It seems to conflate the words 'symphony' and 'sympathy' in Gary Brooker's 1982 prisoner-of-war epic. Note that it's not actually a word in the song, just in its title, and even then not on the CD itself: LINE, more cautious than Mercury before them, seem to have mistaken it for a spelling-mistake.

Zika nor nama ... hesah!
We think it's not Swahili ... but it must be in some dictionary, surely? Holding on for help from linguistically-oriented PH fans ...

I've been okee-doked ... Iíve been fluffed ... Iíve been shadow boxed ... Iíve been powder kegged
Wonderfully allusive words, from The Well's on Fire ... but to what do they actually allude?

This amazing title seems to have been contrived along heavy Germanic lines to emphasise the instrumental's various degrees of kinship with Repent Walpurgis. Certainly it is not exactly authentic; but the BtP team was asked before the record came out if we knew the German for 'Night of the Kitchen Sink' (we didn't) and if you half-shut your eyes you can see 'Vessel-Cleaning-Night' in the words Procol Harum eventually came up with. Better to shut your eyes altogether, of course, and just listen to the track!


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