'Taking Notes and Stealing Quotes'
The Truth Won't Fade Away
This stomping song, in a driving four-four time, uses predictable chord-changes in a slightly surprising F major – rock songs like this are often written on guitar, which would lend itself to E rather than the present more keyboard-friendly key. Nevertheless it does feature Fisher playing the rhythm guitar part as a keyboard sample, which was also featured in early 90s live shows. Henry Spinetti is the drummer here, perhaps suggesting that the rhythm track survives from a demo session, which might also explain the anomalous and slightly curious, compressed percussion sounds.
It features a rare musical pun inasmuch as the song stops dead, rather than 'fading away', then features a reprise heralded by the return of the opening drum beat whereupon the 'fade away' refrain finally does fade away. There is a further irony in the fact that the final syllable of 'fade away' doesn't fade away naturally: it has been prolonged digitally throughout.
The song's conventional AOR rock styling resembles latter-day Genesis to some extent: perhaps the piano phrasings between the vocals in verse two, and going into the chorus, are the only real Procol stamp to the music, apart from the one-off inverted chord in the final verse, under 'we had so much to say' before the music halts.
A promotional video was made for this number (for which there was also a promo single release) with the band miming, including new addition Geoff Whitehorn on guitar; it featured such visual elaborations as the horse that had featured in the Black Beauty children's TV drama, rising out of the ground.
The song was performed regularly up until about 1995; and from about 1993, when Procol Harum toured supporting Jethro Tull, it acquired the rabble-rousing audience-participation coda (in which from time to time Gary Brooker has exhorted the crowd to sing like Fairport Convention or like Les Voix Bulgares). This was one of two songs Matthew Fisher rated as favourites from the The Prodigal Stranger album, according to Mike Ober in Then Play On (1992): the other was (You Can't) Turn Back The Page: "They're great songs," he said.
- Title: 'Fade Away' may recall, to some listeners, the Rolling Stones' chart song Not Fade Way, originally by Buddy Holly and Norman Petty. Gary actually referred to it as Not Fade Away, when exorting his fellows to sing 'like the Bee Gees' then 'like Fairport Convention' on a 1995 US gig (mp3 here).
- 'We were young, we were brave, we were true, we were strong': an unusually assertive and powerful litany to find on a Procol Harum record. Opening Procol Harum's second career as it does, it is probably taken by most listeners to refer back to the band's own history. Much of the album certainly seems very retro- and introspective – but Keith Reid himself has reported (here) that this song in fact grew out of his thoughts about vanished civilisations.
- 'Far away the bombs and the buildings exploding ... there was no way out': not many vanished civilisations were destroyed by bombs, unless volcanic eruption could be so described. Many listeners to this line will recall the Vietnam footage that accompanied A Whiter Shade of Pale in its first film promo, which was found too shocking to be shown on British television.
- 'It was black, it was white': the commonplace remark often divides an issue into either black or white: paradoxically this song claims that it was both. This notion is further investigated here.
- 'Right or wrong ... The truth won't fade away'; it's not easy to see how the 'truth' could be 'wrong'; however 'the truth' is a recurrent motif in Keith Reid's works: 'the truth is plain to see,' 'in truth we were at sea', 'dirt in truth is clean,' from A Whiter Shade of Pale; 'still sees truth quite easily' from A Christmas Camel; 'I know in truth they envy me' from Shine on Brightly; 'He only speaks the truth,' from Rambling On; 'the truth was writ quite clear,' from Look to Your Soul; 'tell the truth ... in truth it's just as well,' from Crucifiction Lane; 'the truth is leaking out,' from A Souvenir of London; 'Nothing but the truth ... harder than the truth,' from Nothing But the Truth; 'the truth and the word,' from As Strong as Samson; 'Falsehood for truth,' from New Lamps for Old; and 'the truth of this story,' from The Worm and The Tree.fade away
- 'we were young, we were old': another unresolved paradox, unless it is understood to mean 'we were young men but we had an old sound' … perhaps alluding to the 'timeless' Baroque feel, or the non-trendy blues voicing, of A Whiter Shade of Pale.
- 'We saw our future self-destructing': Reid offers many songs in which an interest in seeing the future is apparent: perhaps Nothing that I didn't Know is the locus classicus of this tendency.
- 'there were roles that we played': it's interesting to compare this line with 'I did think I'd be an actor' in Crucifiction Lane. Whereas 'role' used to refer only to the part taken by an actor in a drama, modern usage includes the sense of 'performing in conformity with the social pressure of others' expectations'. This meaning, which seems to be intended here, originates with the American sociologist George H Mead (1863–1931).
- 'Some were good, some were bad': listeners can decide for themselves what the good and the bad roles were. Interestingly this song is often used by Gary Brooker in concert to give the audience a role, singing over a drum beat. When they sing 'Fade away', however, the phrase is divorced from its negative context, and the chant appears to affirm that the truth will fade away.