Procol Harum

the Pale

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' ... one of the most amazing songs ever written  ... '

Laura Lougheed on AWSoP

There's clearly two ways to look at it and I can explain both ...
FIRST WAY: It's drugs-related ... anyone who's been as high as a kite would be able to relate to the whole first verse ... then the chorus kicks in where the story teller ODs (written as a woman who OD'd) and going a whiter shade of pale is how a dead face does ... ever seen one? It's the weirdest colour!
Second verse is about choosing that fate. You dabble too much in drugs and you're asking for it really ... and so it goes on ...
Also take into account that to write the first verse about being high so accurately they might have been high during the writing, which would explain some of the odd parts like 'the miller' and the 'vestal virgins' that could have come from a number of places ... . [NB in February 2007 Keith Reid told BtP that he had never written under the influence of drugs]
SECOND WAY: it's about a guy trying his luck with a young girl, or not even a young girl, but one that he feels is out of his grasp ... the first verse can relate to being smashed at a party that's wild and loud and then the second is the singer trying his luck and eventually getting somewhere ... the chorus suggests the aftermath of these actions where she's not looking so great in the morning either ...
All in all it's one of the most amazing songs ever written and I have spent a long time trying to encourage other people my age to listen to it (I'm a mere 21). I am sticking with the first meaning of the song 'cause I see more sense and meaning in it, being a reformed addict myself.
Allow my to break down my interpretation ...
VERSE 1. First four lines are how you feel as you're 'coming up' then you go a bit too far and you feel a bit shit and you trip a bit ... the room 'humming' is EXACTLY what it's like to be mashed ... But you carry on regardless 'cause party people do. VERSE 2. 'She' can be either death or the deceased ... and she's right, there is no reason and the truth is pain [sic] to see, we all have to die, it's not a punishment, but the cause was the drugs. Playing cards is about fate, and not letting her be is questioning fate and reasons for dying. Vestal Virgins heading for the coast always seem to me like Greek mythology but these guys were high and poetic so I'm never sure but now that 'she' is dead she's on her afterlife journey ... but eyes that are open that may as well be close refer to the cold open eyes of someone who is dead and clearly doesn't see much. CHORUS. Keeps going back to the moment 'she' dies ... cause that's the haunting part. The trip would make you go pale but when 'she' died it's a whiter shade of pale.  

And 'the miller' ... ever thought that it may relate to someone that the band knows? I know an old man in a pub who never shuts up by the name of Brian Miller ... don't analyse it so much, find what it means to you and enjoy.

Thanks, Laura

More 'meanings' of AWSoP


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