Procol Harum

the Pale 

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I burst into tears the first time I heard AWSoP

says the Eurovision Song Contest Winner 2000

Niels-Erik Mortensen writes to BtP (January 2001):

As BtP readers know a lot of Procol's colleagues have voiced their esteem for the band and especially for A Whiter Shade of Pale.

Last year, one of the two Danish winners of the Eurovision Song Contest – Jørgen Olsen of Olsen Bros. – mentioned AWSoP as his favourite song (see here). His younger brother not only likes the song. He still remembers how it made him burst into tears.

Niels 'Noller' Olsen has been a guest in the Danmarks Radio talk show, Sigurds Ulvetime ('Sigurd's Hour of the Wolf') hosted by pianist Sigurd Barett (not related to Sid B., the ex-Pink Floyd founding father, as far as I'm concerned). This is an edited part of the very cosy and entertaining dialogue from the show in which Noller named The Beatles his All-Time Favourites:
Then I've asked you to mention one record that really meant a lot to you – that´s Procol Harum, A Whiter Shade of Pale. Why exactly that one?

The first time I heard AWSoP, I must've been 10, 11 perhaps 12 years old. By then I'd got one of those tiny transistor radios, which we had bought in Sweden. Stuff like that wasn´t available here in those days. I bought the radio for a small fortune, 40 kroner, I believe. Then one day when I rode my bike home from a swimming hall to our home, I heard AWSoP. Then I burst into tears. I simply cried like the small boy I was, because there was something so beautiful and alluring in that song, and I still think it´s got some qualities that only very few songs have.

Exactly what is it that affected you that much? Was it the organ, the sound or the lyrics?

I really don´t know. First of all, there's that Hammond organ. It's a very beautiful theme, which I think is an old Bach theme [see here and here] Then, there are the lyrics. Well, it's a bit hard making head or tail of it, but of course it makes sense somehow. It all forms a synthesis. Then there´s the sound and the environment of it all. It's got some kind of a melancholic sound which touches you deep down inside. I really hope it´ll go on having this effect on me until the day I close my eyes for the last time."

from Sigurds ulvetime ('Sigurd's Hour of the Wolf'). Broadcast on Danish TV, DR2, 12 January 2001, re-run 21 February 2001

(Sigurd and Noller. Photo: Danmarks Radio)

Some further remarks: Noller and Sigurd were seen sitting by a grand piano, and while the record was played they both joined in, Noller playing Matthew´s organ part – so if Matthew should be unavailable for a Procol gig, just call Noller!

The camera focused upon the portable gramophone (a vintage 60s-model) and the actual record was the re-issue of AWSoP b/w A Salty Dog (green sleeve, Cube 1972). . I might add that though the Noller/Sigurd dialogue seems to be a bit sad, when you read it, this was certainly not the case. Noller is a very jolly spirit and it seems to be impossible to wipe out the smile from his face.

'Hour of the wolf': there is no similar concept in English. The term can have two meanings: (1) the time in which sleepers are having nightmares – a very Reidian subject! or (2) the moment after closing-time when families have come home after work, trying to do the cooking, talking to the spouse and children – all at the same time.

Furthermore, Sigurd has been hosting a series of children's programmes called Sigurds Bjørnetime (Sigurd's Bear Hour: a Danish pun upon 'Children's Hour'). So they continued to find animal names to his shows …

Have a look here for more about the programme

More about Olsen and AWSoP                See Olsen Brothers perform AWSoP here

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