"A Whiter Shade of Pale" as written by and Gary Brooker Keith Reid....
We skipped the light fandango
Turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
But the crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
As the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
The waiter brought a tray

And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale
She said, 'There is no reason
And the truth is plain to see.'
But I wandered through my playing cards
And would not let her be
One of sixteen vestal virgins
Who were leaving for the coast
And although my eyes were open
They might have just as well've been closed

And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale

And so it was that later


Lyrics submitted by Psycho_pr, edited by Mellow_Harsher, CrimsonApostle

"A Whiter Shade of Pale" as written by Gary Brooker Keith Reid

Lyrics © T.R.O. INC.

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A Whiter Shade of Pale song meanings
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  • +3
    Song MeaningReid 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 (for example, the chorus focuses on Chaucer's "The Miller's Tale"). 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 -- this to the extent that it has been recognized as a snowclone — a type of cliché and phrasal template.
    alanhuon March 09, 2013   Link
  • +2
    General CommentNot that this could help much but the chorus line "... as the miller told his tale" I believe is referring to Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. In the Canterbury Tales a variety of people on a pilgrimage tell stories, the miller tells his tale which is knid of dirty and raunchy. Sorry this probably doesn't add much to the meaning, just confuses it more.
    beth21on January 20, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentFirst off, most Procol Harum lyrics have something to do with the sea. Thus you get mermaids and such. And a whole lot of death. Personally, I think this song is about the sinking of the Titanic. The whiter shade of pale is what one looks like after drowning. I'd like to nail down specifics a little more, but, hey, let us not over analyze something we recognize as beautiful, even without one iota of understanding :)
    beep54on February 08, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentFavorite Line: "And I Thought My Eyes Were Open, They Might Just As Well Been Closed"
    pabloon June 25, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General CommentTo those who question the lyrics, these are correct. There is another posting for this song with incorrect lyrics. I checked an original lyric sheet and it had the same lyrics. Now, there are two verses that are not listed here but were not on the original recording. You can only find those lyrics performed live. Someone else posted them earlier stating that the lyrics here were not complete, but, they are complete as far as the album version goes. Now, there's a quote over at SongFacts from Keith Reid that reads:

    "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." Reid got the idea for the title when it came to him at a party, which gave him a starting point for the song. Says Reid: "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."

    What that means, I'm not entirely sure. One additional quote from SongFacts:

    The lyrics, "As the miller told his tale" sounds like a reference to "The Miller's Tale," from Chaucer's English novel The Canterbury Tales. This tale is well known to English students as a vulgar or bawdy story, told by the miller. Given this, the line, "And so it was that later as the miller told his tale, that her face, at first just ghostly, turned a whiter shade of pale" is an attempt by a young man, who has just caused a girl to turn pale by telling some vulgar story, to explain away her signs of disgust as due to other things. Such as the dancing, the drinking. Reid, however, disproves this theory. He said: "I'd never read The Miller's Tale in my life. Maybe that's something that I knew subconsciously, but it certainly wasn't a conscious idea for me to quote from Chaucer, no way."
    LividMonkeyon November 10, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI suppose no one felt like reading all the comments and going to the site linked by DanVitale?

    procolharum.com/…

    READ people, only like 3 people who I bet READ before commenting got it right.

    Its about getting Drunk and trying to and finally successfully getting in the PANTS of a Girl.

    Nothing to do with Acid or Coke or Holocaust or any of that.

    Also the writer of the song SPECIFICALLY says that the Millers Tale line has NOTHING to do with Canterbury Tales...

    "Although, Reid reveals, the reference to Chaucer is a red herring. 'One thing people always get wrong is that line about the Miller's Tale. I've never read Chaucer in my life. They're right off the track there.' "

    "And yet the verse is essential to an understanding of the song.(The one that was dropped as has been quoted in the comments Daciples Edit) We at last learn that the drunken seduction is consummated, and the sea metaphor reaches its apotheosis in the oblivion and forgetfulness of sex, with a neat pun thrown in as a punch-line."

    READ people, use your brain the freaking writer of the song out right tells you what its about, trying to get laid while drunk, except done in a vague reference over hauntingly great melody.

    Great Song, no in depth meaning tho....
    Dacipleon July 14, 2011   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningFirst of all to me at least the second verse is written incorrectly as is alot of words throughout the song
    When I have time ill repost the correct lyrics.

    Second this song is written in somewhat old English so words have to be correct to decipher what he's really saying. Long explanation made short for my first post. Ill correct it later and direct it line for line later but here is a quick
    analysis
    The song is basically about a man getting drunk at a sailor tavern listening to a miller tell the story of how his virgin daughter was sacrificed it's written in simi old English so that's why it confuses a lot of people including myself until my father lil frankie and the standells who's a professional musican from this time era1960s explained it to me
    Vs1 he's talking about being on in a party atmosphere somewhere in the 1400s -1700s ad
    Anderson getting drunker and drunker

    Vs 2 is HE SAID not she said there is no reason and the truth is plain to see = his daughters sacrifice was senseless wondering through my playing cards = terreo cards WOULD NOT LET HER BE the death card kept coming up ONE IF SIXTEEN VESSEL VIRGINS LEAVING FOR THE COAST = on her way to be sacrificed AT THE MOMENT MY EYES WERE OPEN THEY MIGHT JUST AS WELL BEEN CLOSED =the miller / father knew his daughter was about to be killed but he couldn't save her

    Chorus : AND IT WAS LATER AS THE MILLER TOLD HIS TAIL SAID HER FACE AT FIRST GHOSTLY TURNED TO A WHITER SHADE OF PALE = the miller told how he watched the life leave his daughters eyes as she died. Whiter shade of pale is an old expression that explains how the human body as it dies the face becomes almost ghostly white

    Ok now that I explained what I believe to be the true meaning of the song I'd love to hear your comments
    Nobody79on February 28, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAlright, here is my take on this song.

    The Miller's Tale By Chaucer.. a paraphrasing..

    It's the story told by a Miller making fun of carpenters. Keep in mind he is VERY drunk when he tells his tale. The carpenter has a young wife and has two young students renting a room with him. They both adore his wife. One day one of the students seduces the wife. They have sex. (while the carpenter is away on a job)The other student sings, and tries to seduce the wife but he fails. Longing for more than a quickie the student and the wife (who apparently enjoys the company of the student) decide to trick the carpenter so that they can have more sex. They create a lie. They tell him that another biblical flood is coming and get him to build tubs on the roof of the building for them to ride out the storm in. The student sneaks down with the wife. They have sex in the carpenter's bed.Now for the punch line if you will of the story. Thinking the carpenter is away the other student tries to seduce her by singing again.. he looks in the window and tells her he wants to kiss her. The wife, sticks her ass out the window, which the student kisses. When he realizes this he gets mad and goes to a blacksmith and grabs a hot piece of metal. He returns, the student decides to be the next one to stick his ass out the window. The second student burns his ass with the hot metal, which causes the student to scream. The carpenter hears this and falls out of the tub off the roof and onto the ground, and breaks his arm. That's how the story ends. (this is a paraphrasing of the story, I don't remember it all.. It's all written by Chaucer, so I am not intending to steal his story.. )
    SO, back to the song, now that I bored everyone. The song is basically talking about making a fool of yourself in front of someone you want to have sex with or already are (which could lead to a break up)
    The beginning part of the song is describing how they are dancing, drinking and having a good time..

    The second part is after he has made a fool of him self.
    And she said " there is no reason, the truth is plain to see"
    So obviously she was embarrassed by his drunkeness (if you say they were together then this causes them to break up, but I personally think they weren't together at the start of the party..)
    Then later when he is alone he's playing with his cards, and hoping that the lady wasn't a nun. This might be the source of the confusion and embarrassment.. IE the guy is drunk and hits on a nun.. So there is my take.. He should have realized she was a nun, but he was too drunk to realize.. so he was as embarrassed as the Miller after he was done telling his tale.. Moral of the story.. DON'T get drunk and hit on nuns.
    (BTW as an aside Gary Booker heard someone at a party say.. "She turned a whiter shade of pale" which was partially inspiration for this song.. you can find out more about it by looking it up on Wikipedia. (same thing for the Millers Tale)
    PTCGAZon December 12, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIf I had to guess he was playing a bar while tripping. They gave it all they had to give but the crowd called out for more. The room was humming harder. Bud that's describes acid to a T.
    And the rest is where your head go's on psychedelics. Seemingly profound stuff that make's infinite sense until the next day.
    It still sounds pretty so why not leave it.
    q1605on December 15, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General Comment2nd best song ever
    Boon January 14, 2002   Link

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