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Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade Of Pale lyrics

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
And 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 they would not let her be
One of sixteen vestal virgins
Who were leaving for the coast
And although my eyes were open wide
They might have just as well been closed

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, "I'm here on a shore leave,"
Though we were miles at sea.
I pointed out this detail
And forced her to agree,
Saying, "You must be the mermaid
Who took King Neptune for a ride. "
And she smiled at me so sweetly
That my anger straightway died.

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

If music be the food of love
Then laughter is it's 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

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

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  • u
    I was a teenager in the '60s and as my son told me recently, most of the songs of your day, mom, sound as though they were written by musicians who were in a perpetual mist of drugs and alcohol. The lyrics of " A Whiter Shade of Pale" helped me to disappear into a fantasy world, and escape for a few minutes into a world of contradictions, hope and despair, love and war, prejudice and defiance. When I hear this song today, I feel a sense of nostalgia for a time when young people joined the Peace Corps, lived with nature, marched for civil rights, loved hard and felt the need to give back to the world.
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  • r
    Ronnie Racine
    I always had a specific period in mind for this, which may have been thanks to all the movies this song was in, and the fact that you rarely hear the full lyrical version. I felt this was a song about a young man having his last night on the town before being shipped off to Vietnam. The first verse describes the setting and his mindset. The second verse was him trying to convince her to make love before he had to leave. I assumed the miller was just that, the town miller who happened to be at the bar, telling some grandiose store to the other patrons. As he did this her face turned from one shade to a whiter shade of pale, either by the millers story, or the suggestion being made to her by the soldier. That is usually all you hear of the song, so in that version, if my story is correct, the girl seems apprehensive, and the soldier seems desperate. Her saying there is no reason, and the truth being plain to see, would be the possibility of pregnancy, and the possibility of his death. Always made me feel bad, because there is no closure to the story, and its open ended. Does the vestal virgin that's heading for the coast get his desire?. This vestal virgin becomes her, once I discovered the rest of the lyrics. Now they are both in service. He, still a soldier, her, the navy. The rest becomes his metaphors of the sea to his love, as she does indeed give in to the drunken one night love affair, all the while, the miller keeping everyone else's minds occupied with his tale.
    4 replies
  • u
    Ah so sad yet again children that didn't go through this age believe it was a covert song about drugs but much more likely and less talked about was illegitimate babies. To me this song is about a pregnancy to another man and the dilemma of love versus society with the truth getting conststantly told by the mirror as time goes on. Oh and rubbed in by the virgins which she said she was hence the whiter shade of pale. He loves her thoigh so his eyes might well have been closed but someone always brings it up as it always gets later where the truth is plain to see. Logically if this song was about drugs they would have admitted it by now, his fiancee have another guys kid no way!
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  • u
    I had always assumed like Richard Wilson that it clearly borrowed from The Miller's Tale (sorta overt references, dontcha think?). And that it also clearly borrowed from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. In that tale, is a pale woman.

    I also felt the meaning went beyond that and the overall theme could be an analogy of the sinking of the of some great ship (real or from literature) to the image people had about the governments/religious orgs in the '60s (and often still do)
    The song seemed to describe the way that people ignore things that should be obvious clues that something is amiss. But they just keep on playing the game. Until they sink and hit the bottom of the ocean floor.

    No matter what, there is a lot of Neptune and the sea being referenced, so someone with a lot of knowledge of literature that deals with the sea would have an advantage here.
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  • e
    Eline Kooij
    It was written to sound as a Dali painting looks. So the colors you see, the melting clocks, the feeling you would get from the painting is similar to the feeling you get from listening to the song. I don't know about you, but I get goosebumps every time I listen to the song, so I'dd say mission definitely accomplished!
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