Procol Harum: “A Salty Dog” (1969)

The brilliant title track from A Salty Dog didn’t seafare so well on the charts, disappearing after one week. Hmph, landlubbers.

Kronomyth 3.1: A salty dog and a cat in a hat.

Despite being what many consider the band’s magnum opus, “A Salty Dog” was a failed single. It didn’t breach the Top 40 in the UK and, after a week, was gone. On the opposite shore, “A Salty Dog” was uncharted. None of this, of course, detracts one iota from the song’s success as a perfect marriage of poetry and music. It simply underscores the reality that the radio isn’t an ideal showcase for art.

“I would never think of [changing or rejecting Keith’s lyrics]. I knew that he had thought carefully about every single word. Every “V” and “N,” there wasn’t anything—I mean, if I tried to take even a small adjective out of a line, it would be strongly resisted by Keith, because that would take away the sense that he had.” – Gary Brooker, in a 2010 interview with Songfacts.

The B side was a nonalbum track, “Long Gone Geek,” that prominently featured Robin Trower’s raunchy electric guitar. Lyrically, it’s not so perfectly paired as le chien salé. It seems to be about a jailbreak gone bad because of a cat in a Stetson hat. Yes, I know, there must be a deeper meaning, but I don’t have all day to study the B side to a 50-year-old single. The song was included on the expanded reissue of A Salty Dog, and was wisely left off the album since it’s not nautical in nature and, honestly, is a cut below the material on the proper album.

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Original 7-inch single version

A1. A Salty Dog (Gary Brooker/Keith Reid) (4:35)
B1. Long Gone Geek (Gary Brooker/Keith Reid/Matthew Fisher) (3:13)

Original 7-inch single version (CAN)
A1. A Salty Dog (Gary Brooker/Keith Reid) (4:35)
B1. Homburg (Keith Reid/Gary Brooker) (3:55)

Original 7-inch EP verison (AUSL)
A1. A Salty Dog (Gary Brooker/Keith Reid)
A2. Juicy John Pink (Robin Trower/Keith Reid)
B1. Too Much Between Us (Robin Trower/Gary Brooker/Keith Reid)
B2. Wreck of the Hesperus (Matthew Fisher/Keith Reid)

7-inch maxi-single version (1972 NET)
A1. A Salty Dog (4:28)
B1. Quite Rightly So (3:35)
B2. In the Wee Small Hours of Sixpence (2:58)

Back-to-back hits 7-inch single reissue (1972)
A1. A Whiter Shade of Pale (Gary Brooker/Keith Reid) (4:10)
B1. A Salty Dog (Gary Brooker/Keith Reid) (4:28)

Back-to-back hits 7-inch single reissue (1982)
A1. Homburg (Keith Reid/Gary Brooker)
B1. A Salty Dog (Keith Reid/Gary Brooker)

Back-to-back hits 7-inch single reissue (1987)
A1. A Salty Dog (Gary Brooker/Keith Reid) (4:35)
B1. Conquistador (Gary Brooker/Keith Reid) (2:36)

The Plastic

Released on 7-inch single on May 30, 1969 in the UK (Regal Zonophone, RZ 3019), the US (A&M, 1069), Canada (A&M, AMX-323), France (EMI Stateside, 2C 006-90.260), Germany (Polydor, 59 293), Italy (IL, NIL 9017), Japan (Polydor, DP-1654), the Netherlands (Stateside, 5C 006.90260), New Zealand (Festival, FK-3072) and Spain (EMI Stateside, 1J 006-09.260) with regional picture sleeve; reached #44 on the UK charts. Also released on four-track 7-inch EP in 1969 in Australia (Festival, FX-11635). Also released as promotional 7-inch single in 1969 in the US (A&M, 1069) feat. A only.

  1. Re-released with “A Whiter Shade of Pale” on back-to-back hits 7-inch single in 1972 in France (Polydor, 2121 200), Germany (Fly, 2016 013) and Portugal (Cube, 2016 013) with regional picture sleeve.
  2. Re-released on three-track 7-inch maxi-single in 1972 in the Netherlands (Cube, 2016 039) with picture sleeve.
  3. Re-released with “Homburg” on back-to-back hits 7-inch single on August 27, 1982 in the UK (Cube/Katoa, BAK 2) with picture sleeve.
  4. Re-released with “Conquistador” on back-to-back hits 7-inch single in 1987 in Germany (Cube, 6.14934) with picture sleeve.

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