Procol Harum

the Pale

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The Dead Man's Dream

from the Robin Copping video

In a recent interview Keith Reid says he can't remember attributing the composition of the Dead Man's Dream to having seen the movie, Midnight Cowboy. In fact this revelation dates from 1970 and the film, The Procol Harum, made by Chris Copping, and formerly available (though now out of print) from Shine On. Sam Cameron writes to BtP:

The discussion of The Dead Man's Dream follows the section on The Winds are Raging (Piggy Pig Pig) just after Keith has claimed that he reads books in his sleep because he can't stand all the black print running together when he is awake. The passage occurs at about 34 minutes from the start of the tape: (YouTube has a copy with very shoddy sound so poor, in fact, that some of the comments dispute the very identity of the band!)

(Keith is with the horse in a field and a guitar passage from In Held 'Twas in I plays in the background).

Keith Reid:
A song from the new album, The Dead Man's Dream is ... I went to see a film Midnight Cowboy and it y'know impressed me y'know, it keyed me up and...and y'know I wrote a song which came from the experience. The song hasn't got anything to do with the film, it doesn't bear any relation to it y'know. There was something in the film that affected me...

Video begins


Keith discusses the origins of the song in the film, Midniht Cowboy

"I'd been to see Midnight Cowboy and the song resulted from that ... it's not got anything to do with the film as such."

The Horse, whose eye is just visible, appears in many other segments, suggesting there was one long outdoor interview about the songs on the new album which was then spliced up through the feature.

The (by and large very literal) video for Dead Man's Dream starts, to a backing track which is not the album take but an earlier version produced at the American sessions overseen by (ex-member) Matthew Fisher.

Gary begins his impersonation of Lemmy from Motorhead which continues

until he acts out being the protagonist of the song by lying down under newspapers on the stairs and so forth.

When the song heads toward the graveyard sequence a variety of abstract semi-surreal paintings is shown.

This is shown when the choral effects, absent from the album version, occur.

Is this painting by Dickinson? I have no idea. She seems not to appear in the feature.

Brooker appears in a circle at the top left of an abstract landscape which gradually zooms in to his image

Despite the literal nature of the video, we do not get to see any real-life corpses [sic] with crawling maggots, being offered instead the quasi-Egyptian temple woodblock-style artwork, by MC Escher

The graveyard used in the film is attached to a church where we see long distance shots of Copping on the organ


Brooker is then head shot at length in red and is shown vigorously hacking at a grave with an axe.

Real life burial footage concludes the song with the final shot being a wrought iron gate coming down presumably over the dead man who is now finally laid to rest.

There then follows some more discussion of the origins of the song.


Keith Reid
Dead Man's Dream ... is it's somebody who's died. Y'know coming back from ... speaking beyond the grave (... can't decipher word). It's supposed to be quite a literal thing. Its supposed to be what he's been through and hence the title Dead Man's Dream

Gary follows this on by saying

Gary Brooker:
This one, we just sat there. I play a bit to go with ... (?slyly?) he just said 'yeah yeah' ... went on to the next one and as it happened at the time, I mean, I wasn't singing it. I'm just talking the words, and part of it we left it like that in the end.

The clip is followed by still photo of Brooker on stage with guitar passage of Skip Softly playing. There is then a long shot of a screen with only
a little bit of colour in it and nothing happening at all sound-wise, followed by some stills of the current line up with the introduction of Boredom
playing in the background.

1. The song appears to quote the first two lines of one of Blake's Songs of Innocence (The Angel?)
2. A different song of this title was later recorded by Australian band, The Church.

Words of The Dead Man's Dream

Keith Reid interview relating to the above

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