Procol Harum: “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (1967)

Procol’s first single proved to be a fantastic stroke of luck, topping the UK charts with its quintessentially English stateliness.

Kronomyth 0.1: Wight place, white time.

Procol Harum’s most enduring song always sounded like a pale copy of Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves A Woman” to me, but what on earth do I know? I suppose you could argue that The Moody Blues ripped off Shade with “Nights In White Satin,” so what goes around, comes around. Anyway, the world would be a poorer place without “A Whiter Shade of Pale” in it, so let’s not bicker and argue over who stealed who.

Proving that the single was dumb luck, Procol Harum concocted the terrible “Lime Street Blues” for the B side, an R&B original better suited to an Elvis Presley soundtrack than a prog rock band. Despite some sublimely surreal imagery from Keith Reid (credited as “Reed” on Deram #45-7507), I don’t hear “A Whiter Shade of Pale” as a harbinger of prog. Rolling Stone ranked this #57 on their list of Top 500 songs of all time which, by a strange coincidence, ranks #57 on my list of Top 500 reasons why I don’t have the time to read Rolling Stone.

Original 7-inch single version

A1. A Whiter Shade of Pale (Keith Reid/Gary Brooker)
B1. Lime Street Blues (Keith Reid/Gary Brooker)

Three-track 7-inch single reissue (Fly)
A1. A Whiter Shade of Pale
B1. A Salty Dog
B2. Homburg

Back-to-back hits 7-inch single reissue (A&M)
A1. A Whiter Shade of Pale (Keith Reid/Gary Brooker) (4:10)
B1. Conquistador (live) (Gary Brooker/Keith Reid) (4:16)

Back-to-back hits 7-inch single reissue (Cube/Old Gold)
A1. A Whiter Shade of Pale (Keith Reid/Gary Brooker) (4:06)
B1. Homburg (Keith Reid/Gary Brooker) (3:52)

The Players

Gary Brooker (vocals, piano), Bill Eyden (drums), Matthew Fisher (Hammond organ), David Knights (bass), Ray Royer (guitar). Produced by Denny Cordell; engineered by Keith Grant.

The Plastic

Released on 7-inch single on May 12, 1967 in the UK, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands (Deram, DM 126) and France (Deram, 17.000), in June 1967 in the US (Deram, 45-7507) and Yugoslavia (Deram/Jugoton, SDE-8138); reached #1 on the UK charts and #5 on the US charts (charted on June 24, 1967 for 12 weeks). Regional versions feature picture sleeve.

  1. Released on 7-inch single in 1968 in Japan (Deram, D-1012) with picture sleeve.
  2. Re-released on three-track 7-inch single on March 30, 1972 in the UK (Fly, ECHO 101) with picture sleeve; reached #13 on the UK charts.
  3. Re-issued on 7-inch single in December 1972 in the US and Canada (A&M, AM-1389) with picture sleeve.
  4. Re-released with “Conquistador (live)” on back-to-back hits 7-inch single in the US (A&M Forget Me Nots, 8559).
  5. Re-released with “Homburg” on B2B hits 7-inch and white vinyl 12-inch single on March 10, 1978 in the UK (Cube, BUG/HBUG 77) with picture sleeve.
  6. Re-issued with “Homburg” on B2B hits 7-inch in 1979 in Germany (Cube, INT 111.307) with picture sleeve. Also released on three-track 12-inch picture disc in 1979 in Germany (Cube, INT 136.300) with “Conquistador.”
  7. Re-issued with “Homburg” B2B hits 7-inch single on August 27, 1982 in the UK (Old Gold, OG 9225).

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