A Whiter Shade Of Pale

Written by Gary BrookerKeith ReidMatthew FisherUnreleased song

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

“A Whiter Shade of Pale” is a song by the English rock band Procol Harum that was issued as their debut record on 12 May 1967. The single reached number 1 in the UK Singles Chart on 8 June and stayed there for six weeks. Without much promotion, it reached number 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100. One of the anthems of the 1967 Summer of Love, it is one of the most commercially successful singles in history, having sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. In the years since, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” has become an enduring classic, with more than 1,000 known cover versions by other artists.

With its Bach-derived instrumental melody, soulful vocals, melancholic tone, and unusual lyrics, the music of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was composed by Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher, while the lyrics were written by Keith Reid. Originally, the writing credits only listed Brooker and Reid. In 2009, Fisher won co-writing credit for the music in a unanimous ruling from the Law Lords.

In 1977, the song was named joint winner (along with Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”) of “The Best British Pop Single 1952–1977” at the Brit Awards. In 1998, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2004, the performing rights group Phonographic Performance Limited recognised it as the most-played record by British broadcasting of the past 70 years and Rolling Stone placed it 57th on its list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. In 2009, it was reported as the most played song in the last 75 years in public places in the UK. […]

Release and reception

The single was released on 12 May 1967 in the United Kingdom by Deram Records and entered Record Retailer‘s chart (later the UK Singles Chart) on 25 May. In two weeks it reached number 1, where it stayed for six weeks. Writing in 2005, Jim Irvin of Mojo said that its arrival at number 1 on 8 June 1967, on the same day that the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band topped the national albums chart, marked the start of the Summer of Love in Britain. In December 1967, New Musical Express readers voted the song “Best British Disc This Year”, ahead of “All You Need Is Love” and “Massachusetts”.

According to music historian Harvey Kubernik, in the context of the Summer of Love, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was the “one song [that] stood above all others, its Everest-like status conferred by no less than John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who were enthralled by the Chaucerian wordplay and heavenly Baroque accompaniment”. Kubernik also writes that, amid the search for higher consciousness during the flower power era, the song “galvanised a congregation of disaffected youth dismissive of traditional religion but anxious to achieve spiritual salvation”. […]

In April 1967, Procol Harum began recording their debut single, “A Whiter Shade of Pale“, at Olympic Studios in London. The song received an enthusiastic response from listeners of the pirate radio station Radio London, which prompted their record label, Deram Records, to rush-release the single on May 12, 1967. It quickly became a worldwide sensation, holding the No.1 spot on the UK Singles Chart for six weeks and topping the charts in eleven other countries. The single became the fastest-selling record by a new group in just three weeks. Interestingly, Procol Harum played their first live gig at the Speakeasy Club in London on the same day that “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was released.

Also, on May 15, 1967, Paul McCartney met Linda Eastman, who later became his wife in March 1969, at The Bag O’Nails. It was on this occasion that Paul heard “A Whiter Shade of Pale” for the first time.

On May 24, 1967, The Beatles went to watch a Procol Harum concert at the Speakeasy Club in London.

[Paul and I] flirted a bit, and then it was time for me to go back with them and Paul said, ‘Well, we’re going to another club. You want to come?’ I remember everybody at the table heard A Whiter Shade Of Pale that night for the first time and we all thought, Who is that? Stevie Winwood? We all said Stevie. The minute that record came out, you just knew you loved it. That’s when we actually met.

Linda McCartney – From “Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now” by Barry Miles, 1997

Later that night, we went on together to another club, the Speakeasy. It was our first date and I remember I heard Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Pale for the first time. It became our song.

Paul McCartney – Interview with The Sunday Times, April 2008

Last updated on May 4, 2024

Live performances

“A Whiter Shade Of Pale” has been played in 1 soundchecks.


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