Procol Harum

the Pale 

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A Whiter Shade of Pale

Brooker / Fisher / Reid

Album: Procol Harum plus! (1998), The Symphonic Music (1995), + many compilations including Secrets of the Hive (2007),  One Eye to the Future (2008), The Best of Then and Now (2010)

Picture sleevemany

Taking Notes and Stealing Quotes on this song



Words by
Keith Reid


The two verses printed here in green are not both available on any official record but they have quite often been heard in concert.

The 'mermaid' verse is played on the
Union Chapel Live DVD

Part of verse three was (accidentally?) sung live on Top of the Pops in July 1967: story here

Read about the history of the 'extra' verses

[Roland from BtP notes: inspection of the typescript in Gary Brooker's album compiling all Keith Reid's original lyrics shows the order of the two 'extra' verses reversed, and reveals 'life', not 'love', in the 'ocean bed' verse (which enriches the Shakespeare quotation there in the same way as 'fandango' enriches Milton's 'light fantastic' earlier in the song). These two facts were first published in my liner note to Secrets of the Hive to which Keith and Gary have both given the thumbs-up]

Your chance (here) to own a beautifully-printed lyric sheet for this song, signed and numbered by the wordsmith himself



We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
but the crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
as the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
the waiter brought a tray

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

She said, 'There is no reason
and the truth is plain to see.'
But I wandered through my playing cards
and would not let her be
one of sixteen vestal virgins
who were leaving for the coast
and although my eyes were open
they might have just as well've been closed

She said, 'I'm home on shore leave,'
though in truth we were at sea
so I took her by the looking glass
and forced her to agree
saying, 'You must be the mermaid
who took Neptune for a ride.'
But she smiled at me so sadly
that my anger straightway died

If music be the food of love [see note, left, about this verse + its opening]
then laughter is its queen
and likewise if behind is in front
then dirt in truth is clean
My mouth by then like cardboard
seemed to slip straight through my head
So we crash-dived straightway quickly
and attacked the ocean bed


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