Following the dissolution of Southend R&B band the Paramounts, pianist / singer Gary Brooker formed a songwriting partnership with Keith Reid, who sent him lyrics by post. Included in the first batch were those for A Whiter Shade of Pale, around which Brooker stretched an improvisation based on Bach's Air on a G String. It took him about half an hour.
With his new band, Procol Harum, he recorded the song live in the studio. A sublime, ethereal record, it floated in from the pirate radio ships and unexpectedly tore to No 1, signposting new directions for rock music, movements which would later be categorised as flower power, classical rock and art rock.
Although the single benefited from the ill-defined mono sound, most of the subsequent album suffered from Denny Cordell's hands-off production style, the archaic technology and the muddy mix. Unlike follow-up albums Shine on Brightly and A Salty Dog, it has never [sic] been regarded as a classic. But, for more than thirty years, punters have pondered on the meaning of A Whiter Shade of Pale. For earthbound listeners, Reid's own explanation - 'It's like looking at an abstract painting' - has never been valid.
More about A Whiter Shade of Pale