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, george1037

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

Lyrics © T.R.O. INC., Onward Music Limited

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A Whiter Shade of Pale song meanings
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  • +4
    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 10, 2013   Link
  • +4
    My InterpretationThis song is about the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic (April 15, 1912) and the band that played on the deck of doomed ship. Note: Ships were often referred to by feminine names such as "Her", "Lady" and/or "She".

    Here is my interpretation:

    We skipped a light fandango,
    (Unsure about this line)

    Turned cartwheels 'cross the floor.
    (It was reported that children were doing cartwheels across the "deck" during the day light hours and adults were afraid that they would fall overboard)

    I was feeling kind of seasick,
    (Just as it says)

    But the crowd called out for more.
    (The Titanic hit the iceberg on April 14, 1912 at approximately 11:00 pm ship's time and sank at approximately 2:20 am on the 15th of April. The passengers knew their fate and that they were going to die. To take their minds off of their pending deaths, they played cards, got drunk, or just listened to music).

    The room was humming harder,
    (The Titanic's crew keep the lights on and the light bulbs back then made noises when the lit)

    As the ceiling flew away.
    (There was a glass and steel dome over the "Grand Ballroom" on the Titanic. The Titanic was sinking bow first and when the water got over the dome, it could not support the extra weight.)

    When we called out for another drink,
    The waiter brought a tray.
    (The waiters knew they were going to die too, so they gave out all of liquor.)

    And so it was that later,
    (The Titanic hit the iceberg at 11:40 pm and sank at 2:20 am)

    As the miller told his tale,
    (I believe that the correct line is "As the Mayor told his tale". He was just trying to divert attention from his pending death).

    That her face at first just ghostly,
    Turned a whiter shade of pale.
    (What color does your face turn if you KNOW you are going to die? A whiter shade of pale!!!)

    She said there is no reason,
    (The correct line is "HE said there is no reason. The ship owner Joseph Ismay kept telling passengers that the ship was unsinkable)

    And the truth is plain to see
    (Despite that fact that Ismay kept telling passengers that the Titanic was unsinkable, the truth was plain to see)

    That I wandered through my playing cards,
    And would not let her be
    (Maybe by some miracle, the boat would STOP sinking)

    One of sixteen vestal virgins
    (Correct line - "One of sixteen vessel virgins" There were 16 new ships making their first voyages in 1912)

    Who were leaving for the coast.
    (Coast of United States from Europe)

    And although my eyes were open,
    They might just as well have been closed.
    (The narrator could see that the ship is sinking but did not want to believe it)

    And so it was later,
    As the miller told his tale,
    That her face at first just ghostly,
    Turned a whiter shade of pale.
    DNungesteron July 15, 2013   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 09, 2011   Link
  • +2
    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
  • +2
    General CommentI suppose no one felt like reading all the comments and going to the site linked by DanVitale?


    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
    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 21, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commentso many songs in the late 60s /early 70s meant nothing at all. although i love many
    of them, some songs just had "catchy lyrics" to a great sound track, nothing more
    nothing less. I knew a few roadies back then who worked with some of the
    top groups. some of the stories they told me were mind blowing.
    fermin1049on December 26, 2014   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningI really endorse the cryptic reference to a young Patti Smith
    sexobscuraon September 27, 2016   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 CommentBeing born inthe 50's, raised int the 60's and college in the early 70's, I can relate to the use of symbology in songs. I was first into folk music... Dylan, PP&M, the Spinners, etc. and then moved into a broader range including Procol Harem (still basically a folk song, but so much more) English Lit was a mandatory class in HS so I'm familiar with Chaucer. My music studies, of course, includied the classics (theory, figured bass,etc.). I did write some songs back then. They had references to things I had read or done and it made perfect sense to me at the time. Looking back on them now , some of them seem to be the end result of a stoner weekend. I never intended that, I just used references to things that meant something to me, I told the tale from a personal point of view [doesn't every songwriter?] The lyrics could seem cryptic now, but at the time it was plain to me. I think every writer at that time was doing the same thing, telling it from a personal point of view with references that had special meaning at the time. Those references may not carry over 40+ years later. WSoP is a classic. It captures a moment in the life of the songwriter and it still endures like any good work of art. Accept it, don't tear it apart looking for some hidden meaning. The words have been in my head since I first heard it, like so many other great songs. The music is much deeper down.
    carlton73on April 24, 2013   Link

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