The song became a Number 1 hit in several countries after its initial release in 1967, and during the years since, it has become an enduring classic. It was the most played song in the last 75 years in public places in the UK (as of 2009), and in 2004, the United Kingdom performing rights group ‘Phonographic Performance Limited’ recognised it as the most-played record by British broadcasting of the past 70 years. 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’. Many hundreds of recorded cover versions by other artists are known to exist. The song has been included in many music compilations over the decades and has also been used in the soundtracks of numerous films.
With its Bach-derived instrumental melody, soulful vocals, and unusual lyrics, Keith Reid says he got the title for the song at a party when he overheard a comment by a man telling a woman who had presumably taken some form of drugs that ‘she’d turned a whiter shade of pale’; a phrase that Reid states stuck in his mind. In February 2008 in an issue of ‘Uncut’ magazine, Reid was quoted as saying: ‘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 was 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 was influenced by books, not drugs!’
The original writing credits were for Brooker and Reid only, but on 30 July 2009, Matthew Fisher won co-writing credit for the music in a unanimous ruling from the Law Lords. It has always been a song which has remained forever mysterious in message content to me.
I grew up listening to this song and after looking for its meaning long and hard, I concluded that the song must have been written and composed while the songwriter had clearly been under the influence of LSD or some other hallucinogenic drug that produces psychedelic images of the mind.
This is for me a song that will remain forever memorable for its haunting and beautiful tune more than its story content. The most memorable thing about the words of the song is the unforgettable nature and mysterious meaning of the song title, 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' that is repeated throughout.
Another image which this song title always conjures up for me whenever I hear it is one of the Geisha; the Japanese hostess trained to entertain men with conversation, dance, and song. I have always thought that the made-up faces of a Geisha could be said to represent ‘a whiter shade of pale’.
Love and peace Bill xxx