Procol Harum

the Pale

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The World’s Best Music Lyric?

Phillip Gary Smith, Minneapolis, Minnesota, America

This submission comes from a chapter titled The World’s Best Music Lyric? extracted from the book HARMONIZING: Keys to Living in the Song of Life. As a thought-provoking inspiration, it is doubtful any song can approach the serene sounds and mystic lyrics from A Whiter Shade of Pale. I authored and published this volume in 2010. Phillip Gary Smith, Minneapolis, Minnesota USA.

The World’s Best Music Lyric?

Growing up surrounded by and loving music, a kid discovered a world created with a major invention – portable radios. Plenty of ballads and a lot of beautiful music played, such as Perez Prados’ orchestral version of Apple Pink and Cherry Blossom White, one of the most melodic songs of the mid-Twentieth Century. Mountain country music, having a twang that isn’t heard much today, sitting in a radio audience while new music was performed by musicians live, listening to The Grand Ole Opry on a Saturday night broadcast, singing in high school choir, playing piano and organ for church services – all combined for an appreciation of music.

Like most experiences I have had in life, learning to play the piano would set the stage for what would become a life-long method of learning: I would have little ingrained talent for whatever the interest but would launch right in, make mistakes, learning from them, while making progress in measured steps. My brother Paul, older by six years, learns in much the same way so genetics must play a role as well as the environment our parents developed for us. The difference: Paul acted like an empty freight train roaring down the tracks at fire-burning speed, gathering cars at every crossing so by the time the trip was over, his train would be miles and miles long. I piloted a choo-choo by comparison.

I did have the advantage, though, of being able to ride along in his train and learn from his experiences. This had enormous advantages by witnessing my future six years early, though not really recognising it at the time while adjusting behavior to edit certain outcomes.

Paul learned and became quite proficient at playing the accordion, receiving lessons from prominent musician, Tony Musco of Knoxville, Tennessee. Proficient on several instruments, Mr Musco was decades earlier involved at the very start of the country music and entertainment programs that emanated live. He mostly played piano at that time.

Parents Kyle and Pauline gave me the opportunity for piano lessons at an early age, around seven years old. Acquiring a piano became a major undertaking at that time.

With two daughters now, I watch the younger, Angela, benefit from Amanda’s foray in figure-skating by watching her at the arena and then beginning her own training – similar to my early life in music – making changes to suit her own style.

Participating in high school choirs and studying music theory served as terrific training although, once again, not recognised at the time. I really focused on the melody at the time, as playing in church both the piano and organ required, but in later life came to enjoy and appreciate even more the skills of the lyricist.

Seemingly in a third phase now, the mind is inventing songs and verse out of the blue; it pleases me no end, a key for ultimate success in any artistic or business venture. It is in the lyric phase I really began to understand the meditative lyrics of one of the best singles of all time. Though created by an influential rock band, but not the divas of Elvis or Beatles or Rolling Stones, this lyric opens Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Pale, a mystic song of loss and neglect. The initial words, with solo organ and quiet drums, launched a fantasy like no other, literally jumping off the vinyl or radio speakers:

We skipped the light fan-dan-go
turned cart-wheels ’cross the floor

Later in the verse, we find the domineering crooner lived in such a way that greatly displeased his mate.

She said, ‘There is no reason and the truth is plain to see …

When realising the lost love even though he had been in her life all this time and in a moment of crystal vision and realisation he admits

… although my eyes were open
they might have just as well’ve been closed.

One can recollect many times in our own lives, whether in love or business or whatever pursuit, one visualised the clues but missed them all. Our eyes appeared open but, no matter, the clues at the scene of the crime failed to register. Therefore, the joy of skipping the light fandango – this wild, passionate flamingo-type dance adorned with flashes of psychedelic color, melded with the youthfulness cartwheels imply – suddenly vanishes.

The trick for life, of course, means minimising turmoil while never losing the ability to recover when turmoil attacks. Life on its own creates challenges, and the odds of experiencing failure ratchet even more likely.

What the final message commands, though, motivates one to go find life again. Suffer, but move on. A big world of opportunity whirls by like a daily movie, or as a concert version of the song would say,

If music be the food of love then laughter is its queen.

Find your own best lyrics from Procol Harum, adding other artists’ songs where the writer’s intent offers life-long lessons. Compile an ever-growing list over the years. Or, said another way, get on the last train for the coast by riding those signature lines. Enjoy the genius of lyrics that may boost understanding; experience new and creative ways of looking at hackneyed and chagrined ways. Skip and cartwheel with near abandon.

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