Almanac Music: ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’


One of the all-time great songs is ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ written by Keith Reid and Gary Brooker, and recorded by Procol Harum in 1967. I loved the song from the very first moment I heard it; that fabulous Hammond organ, the drums, and of course, the fantastic voice of Gary Brooker had me hooked.


There are many clips of the song performed live by Procul Harum in its many configurations over years. I particularly like this version Gary Brooker did as part of The Ringo Starr and His All Star Band So Far in 1997.


Gary Brooker performing ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ a song he co-wrote with Keith Reid for Procol Harum.



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About Colin Ritchie

Retired teacher who enjoys following the Bombers, listening to music especially Bob Dylan, reading, and swimming.


  1. Merv Collins says

    It’s a great song, Col, which I’ve always loved, but what does it all mean and is it really based on a Bach melody? Pleases discuss further.

  2. I too have always loved this song.

  3. Colin Ritchie says

    Thanks for the comment Merv. I believe the tune was based on a Bach theme, ‘An air on G’ I think. But all music is influenced by what has gone beforehand, the ‘folk process’ in a sense is utilised either consciously or subconsciously by composers in creating new work. Like a many canny and worldly wordsmiths of that era their influences were many, most likely poets such as Rimbaud and the ilk but I’m no expert. I suppose the interpretation of the song is the one you want it to be, or the one you believe it should be.

  4. Dr Rocket says

    Hear hear!!!

  5. Peter Fuller says

    Col, Thank you for this. My ignorance of popular music is profound, so it’s effrontery for me to comment. However, this song has always spoken to me.
    I dug out a quote from Keith Reid which cast some light on the meaning of the lyrics, while still leaving much of it a mystery.

    I was writing all the time. ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ was just another bunch of lyrics. I had the phrase ‘a whiter shade of pale,’ that was the start, and I knew it was a song. It’s like a jigsaw where you’ve got one piece, then you make up all the others to fit in. I was trying to conjure a mood as much as tell a straightforward, girl-leaves-boy story. With the ceiling flying away and room humming harder, I wanted to paint an image of a scene. I wasn’t trying to be mysterious with those images, I wasn’t trying to be evocative. I suppose it seems like a decadent scene I’m describing. But I was too young to have experienced any decadence, then, I might have been smoking when I conceived it, but not when I wrote it. It was influenced by books, not drugs.

  6. Great song. I had it on an EP (ask your grandparents) along with “Conquistador” another moody but more strident song of theirs. Always thought they were 2 hit wonders. But the good was timeless.

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