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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



Lyrics taken from /lyrics/p/procol_harum/a_whiter_shade_of_pale.html

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A Whiter Shade Of Pale meanings Post my meaning

  • U
    + 8
    Unregistered
    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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  • U
    + 4
    Unregistered
    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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  • r
    + 3
    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.
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  • U
    + 2
    Unregistered
    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
    + 1
    Unregistered
    This song is hauntingly beautiful, and I'm very curious about what the lyrics mean. My first guess was that a couple in love were on an island with a hurricane, but then, I came to the conclusion that it might be a couple on the Titanic, having last drinks and knowing they were doomed. The first part supports this, but the last part is vague. Perhaps he is trying to distract her by calling her a mermaid for a last laugh, but he sees her face turn into an image of a dead person. The ship goes under, finally, "attacking the ocean bed." To me, it's a very sad song, and I tear up each time I listen to it. Perhaps this explanation is too simplistic, but makes more sense to me.
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  • e
    + 1
    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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  • U
    + 1
    Unregistered
    Ugh Please... As a 15 year old in 1967, I have to say that MrKite has the best interpretation I have ever heard. This music, haunting, lonely, brings us ever so closely together as a generation. It conjures up one's one images. If you were lucky enough to have lived then, you understand. All the other interpretations are just nuts.
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  • U
    0
    Unregistered
    I spent 40 years on and off wondering what this was about and so far all I know is that it is about he and a girl were t a club dancing and drinking. The miller is the man who grinds the barley and hops to make the beer; him telling his tale represents inebriation totally taking over. She was at first drunk and pale and progressed beyond that stage of drunkeness. I will think more on the other verses and perhaps 40 years from now I can have new interpretation including the miller is a reference relates to fales of chaucer and the millers wife was cheating on her husband and he came to the bar raising hell and things got out of hand.
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  • r
    0
    Robert Arthur Loades
    Although it's been said the song is about a drunken seduction, with the haunting melody which owes much to J.S. Bach's Air on a G string, many people have always found many different meanings in this song. Perhaps there are many subliminal messages. The Miller first tell his tail (or at least the first we know of it), in Chaucer's, Canterbury Tails 1386. There are many other half remembered images, which make up this song into a Surreal work of art that plays on your mind like a Salvador Dali painting.
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  • r
    - 1
    Richard Wilson
    Read the Old English version of The Miller's Tale.
    (And the Miller told his tale)
    The verses may of been inspired by The Miller's Tale.
    But there is no reason, the truth is plain to see....

    And likewise if behind is in front ....
    If it is dark is pitch, your eyes are open but you do not see

    Absalon wiped his mouth till it was dry. 3730
    The night was dark as pitch, as black as coal,
    And from the window she stuck out her hole;
    And Absalon, not knowing north from south,
    Then kissed her naked ass with eager mouth
    Before he was aware of all of this.


    First Verse..

    On which at night he'd play a melody,
    So sweet a sound that all the chamber rang; 3215
    And Angelus ad virginem he sang,
    And after that would follow "The King's Note."
    Folks often praised him for his merry throat.


    My mouth has itched all day, a situation
    That is a sign of kissing at the least.

    Allison
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  • j
    - 1
    Julius Centik
    It can only be about commotion, he and this girl are having a fight in some tavern getting drunk or whatever and this guy Miller starts to tell of story of young love and about the tragedy of it. After she listens to the story, her face turns pale, anyway they reconcile until death set them apart, the vestal virgins - she is one of the rare few who are hard to meet; also I get this very late 18th, early 19th century feeling about this song; what's really weird is that it's not even sad:-(.
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  • U
    - 2
    Unregistered
    I always wondered what this song was about because. I had this song in my dream the night my dad passed away, I left for the hosp. To sign paperwork then I got to my car and turned the radio on this song was playing. I think it's about a person who throws their life away on the party life and leaves the truth behind, love of a family!
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  • m
    - 2
    MrKite
    Just like Dylan's Desolation Row the meaning is the juxterpositioning of images in our minds that have no connection to a literal meaning. It's for the enjoyment of the lyrics that areas unique and interesting as the best poetry. Poetry is often the same way. Interesting words and they're sounds. Multiple meanings and images with or without rythyms. The music at this period was psychadelic and the surroundings in the discoteques usually complimented the imagery of the lyics. The musicians and the fans dressed in black light or bright colors with Mod hippie styles of British invasion. To me the art and music of that time can be immitated but not repeated. The mind stretching lyrics that many heard while on acid or other intense drugs (like peyote and mesculine not meth, crack or angel dust) before it became passe and denigrated because of its association to the rock stars deaths like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. It was the best of times and the worst of times. From the Viet Nam war, civil rights violence to flowers, peace. All You Need Is Love, make that free love, Haight Ashbury, and Woodstock and finally to Altamont, and the Manson family. What had been a feeling of positive expansion of our consciousness turned into disenchantment and loss of the magical fantasy most young people were exploring. A Whiter Shade of Pale is from the height of that experience. You had to live through it to appreciate it. Hopefully there more great times ahead and not just high gas prices and global warming. Technology will either save us or kill us. Many hard to figure songs will be written along the way. Don't cheat yourself from enjoying them just because they aren't to be taken literally. For years I kepy trying to figure out Desolatoin Row. It and A Whiter Shade of Pale are the Finnagan's Wakes of music lyrics. Peace.
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    • U
      + 8
      Unregistered
      I was a teenager in the '60s and as my son told me recently, most of the songs of your day, mom,... Read more →
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      I had always assumed like Richard Wilson that it clearly borrowed from The Miller's Tale (sorta... Read more →

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