A Whiter Shade of Pale

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A Whiter Shade of Pale

Xah Lee, 2011-06-13

A Whiter Shade of Pale, one of the great oldie of 1967, has fascinating, enduring lyrics. Read it, and see if you decipher.

• fandango ⇒ «Fandango is a lively folk and Andalusian (flamenco) couple-dance usually in triple metre, traditionally accompanied by guitars and castanets or hand-clapping (Palmas in Spanish and Portuguese). Fandango can both be sung and danced.» Fandango.
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
• vestal virgins ⇒ «In ancient Roman religion, the Vestals or Vestal Virgins (Vestales, singular Vestalis), were priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The College of the Vestals and its well-being was regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of Rome, as embodied by their cultivation of the sacred fire that could not be allowed to go out. The Vestals were freed of the usual social obligations to marry and bear children, and took a vow of chastity in order to devote themselves to the study and correct observance of state rituals that were off-limits to the male colleges of priests.» Vestal virgins
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
She said, “I'm home on shore leave,”
though in truth we were at sea
so I took her by the looking glass
and forced her to agree
saying, “You must be the mermaid
who took Neptune for a ride.”
But she smiled at me so sadly
that my anger straightway died
If music be the food of love
then laughter is its queen
and likewise if behind is in front
then dirt in truth is clean
My mouth by then like cardboard
seemed to slip straight through my head
So we crash-dived straightway quickly
and attacked the ocean bed 

I first heard this song sung by Sarah Brightman in about 2001. Here's her rendition:

“A Whiter Shade Of Pale” sung by Sarah Brightman. amazon

The lyrics originally has 4 verses plus a refrain (all shown here). However, usually only the first 2 verse is sung.

Following in the original recording sung by Procol Harum band. Rather silly.

“A Whiter Shade Of Pale - Procol Harum” amazon

The song has been covered by many singers. Here's one by Annie Lennox (of Eurythmics fame).

“Annie Lennox - A Whiter Shade Of Pale” amazon

Here's a great rock rendition by Hagar Schon Aaronson Shrieve (aka HSAS). Possibly the best here.

“A Whiter Shade Of Pale” by HSAS.

Miller's Tale

What's with the “Miller's tale”? It reminds me a passage from Shakespeare. Titus Andronicus: Act 2. Quote:

• wots the miller of ⇒ More water glides by the water mill than the mill owner sees. (alluding to having sex with a married woman and her husband shouldn't know or loose anything.)
• steal a shive ⇒ it is easy to steal a slice of a loaf that has already been sliced. (compare to virgins and married women)
• Vulcan ⇒ Hephaestus, a god of technology. Hephaestus is married with Aphrodite (Venus), and Aphrodite fornicates with Ares (Mars), among others. See Hephaestus. This passage refers to how problem-free it is to fuck Lavinia despite her marital status with Bassianus.
DEMETRIUS. Why mak'st thou it so strange?
  She is a woman, therefore may be woo'd;
  She is a woman, therefore may be won;
  She is Lavinia, therefore must be lov'd.
  What, man! more water glideth by the mill
  Than wots the miller of; and easy it is
  Of a cut loaf to steal a shive, we know.
  Though Bassianus be the Emperor's brother,
  Better than he have worn Vulcan's badge.

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