Friday, June 8, 2012

Whiter shade of pale

John Lennon was rumored to have listened to Procol Harum's 'Whiter Shade of Pale' nonstop for two weeks upon hearing it for the first time. That says a lot, no? Personally I love it too. It came out before I was really into music but my step mother often played this record in our house and so it was what you could call a childhood anthem for me.

I loved the the lonely organ riff, the kaleidoscope lyrics and it's intimacy, all, just lovely. But the coolest thing about this song to me was it's formation. Apparently the starting point, the inspiration, were simply the words 'Whiter Shade of Pale' which came to Lyricist Keith Reid at a party.  He had nothing else at first, not a story, not a mood or any lyric in mind but he had a seed and when he finished cultivating it he'd written an iconic anthem for an entire generation that wrapped all of this together masterfully. 

When Reid wrote it he said: "It's sort of a film, really, trying to conjure up mood and tell a story. It's about a relationship. There's characters and there's a location, and there's a journey. You get the sound of the room and the feel of the room and the smell of the room. But certainly there's a journey going on, it's not a collection of lines just stuck together. It's got a thread running through it." 

I think this is awesome because Reid had the guts and emotional dexterity to allow himself to back into a pure creative process, transparent and personified; which displays personal boldness that's really impressive.  And he created a masterpiece in the process.

Here's what else he said:  "I feel with songs that you're given a piece of the puzzle, the inspiration or whatever. In this case, I had that title, 'Whiter Shade of Pale,' and I thought, There's a song here. And it's making up the puzzle that fits the piece you've got. You fill out the picture, you find the rest of the picture that that piece fits into."   

Seems to me that beauty is bold, and so art, to be authentic, must be as such, bold; in one form or another, subtle or acute. If life is an art and joy its reward, there's a lot to learn here. Peace & roll strong.


  1. The more I write the more I find this to be true. Sometimes the way I thought a piece was meant to be ends up being entirely different. It is probably a gift as a writer to have the ability to remain somewhat detached from the piece so it can find it's authentic destination.