Recently, I been sick. Sicker than I care to acknowledge or talk about, so, I’m not gonna bore you with the details, but in keeping with the Holiday Halloween Spirit I’ve had so much blood drawn that I look a lot like the title of my BATTLE OF THE BANDS choice today. Since I’m never sure how long I’ll be able to hold my head up, let’s get right to it, shall we?
Today’s choice is…have you guessed it yet? ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’. It was originally written and performed by a British group – Procol Harum. Here’s what Wacky-watchee says about them and the song;
"A Whiter Shade of Pale" is the debut single by the English rock band Procol Harum, released 12 May 1967. The record reached number one in the UK Singles Chart on 8 June 1967, and stayed there for six weeks. Without much promotion, it reached No. 5 on the US charts. One of the counterculture anthems of the 1967 Summer of Love, it is one of fewer than 30 singles to have sold over 10 million copies worldwide.
With its Bach-derived instrumental melody, soulful vocals, and unusual lyrics, written by the song's co-authors Gary Brooker, Keith Reid, and organist Matthew Fisher, "A Whiter Shade of Pale" reached No. 1 in several countries when released in 1967. In the years since, it has become an enduring classic. As of 2009, it was the most played song in the last 75 years in public places in the United Kingdom, and the UK performing rights group Phonographic Performance Limited in 2004 recognised it as the most-played record by British broadcasting of the past 70 years. Also in 2004, Rolling Stone placed "A Whiter Shade of Pale" No. 57 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
In 1977, the song was named joint winner (along with Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody") of the Best British Pop Single 1952–1977 at the Brit Awards. In 1998 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. More than 1000 recorded cover versions by other artists are known. The song has been included in many music compilations over the decades and has also been used in the soundtracks of numerous films, including The Big Chill, Purple Haze, Breaking the Waves, The Boat That Rocked, Oblivion, and in Martin Scorsese's segment of New York Stories. Cover versions of the song have also been featured in many films, for example by King Curtis in Withnail and I and by Annie Lennox in The Net.
The original writing credits were for Brooker and Reid only. On 30 July 2009, Matthew Fisher won co-writing credit for adding the organ parts to the original music in a unanimous ruling from the Law Lords.
I admit, I knew none of this until I looked it up. Next Wacky-Watchee goes on to talk about the lyrics and their meaning;
Reid got the title and starting point for the song at a party. He overheard someone at the party saying to a woman, "You've turned a whiter shade of pale," and the phrase stuck in his mind. The original lyrics had four verses, of which only two are heard on the original recording. The third verse has been heard in live performances by Procol Harum, and more seldom also the fourth. The author of Procol Harum: beyond the pale, Claes Johansen, suggests that the song "deals in metaphorical form with a male/female relationship which after some negotiation ends in a sexual act." This is supported by Tim de Lisle in Lives of the Great Songs, who remarks that the lyrics concern a drunken seduction, which is described through references to sex as a form of travel, usually nautical, using mythical and literary journeys. Other observers have also commented that the lyrics concern a sexual relationship.
Structurally and thematically, the song is unusual in many respects. While the recorded version is 4:03 long, it is composed of only two verses, each with chorus. The piece is also more instrument-driven than most songs of the period, and with a much looser rhyme scheme. Its unusually allusive and referential lyrics are much more complex than most lyrics of the time. Thus, this piece can be considered an early example of progressive rock.
The phrase a whiter shade of pale has since gained widespread use in the English language, noticed by several dictionaries. As such, the phrase is today often used in contexts independent of any consideration of the song. It has also been heavily paraphrased, in forms like an Xer shade of Y, to the extent that it has been recognised as a snowclone – a type of cliché and phrasal template.
Seriously? I have to admit that I never got that, but then most of the music of that time was purported to end in a sexual act, (one way or another) eh?
‘Bout now I suppose you’re wondering who I’m putting up against the original Procol Harum version…well, think again. I ain’t using the Procol Harum version. If you want to hear it, you’ll have to go to YouTube yourself (I just ain’t up to making too many links today). It would be no fun in posting the original, cause most of you would probably vote for it based on familiarity. As it turns out this song has been covered by numerous folks (FYI – even my ole pal Willie has a version, but no he’s not in the running today either).
First let’s hear from Slowhand hisself; Mr. Eric Clapton.
Next up, Miss Annie Lennox.
OK, now I sure do hope you guys know what to do and how to do it, cause again, I just ain’t up to too much ‘splainin today. Click yourself on over to the home of TSMOTP Mr. Stephen T. McCarthy and see what he has cooked up for you in his BATTLE and check out the links he will undoubtedly provide to the other participants. If you are so inclined, post you own BATTLE but, please say so in the comment box, so we can all drop by and vote at your space.
I’ll be back on the 21st with my vote and the final tally. Thank you very much for supporting BOTB and please try to visit all of the participants.