The Song that Blew John Lennon and Paul McCartney Away

There’s no bigger praise for an artist than to impress other artists. Especially when the artists you impress are the very elite of modern music. It’s the true story of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, a song that heavily impressed The Beatles’ John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Procol Harum released their debut single “A Whiter Shade of Pale” in 1967. The song was lyrically written by Keith Reid and musically written by Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher. “A Whiter Shade of Pale” became a massive hit during the 1967 Summer of Love and is regarded as one of the greatest songs ever written. A sentiment the members of the Beatles agreed with.

Paul McCartney remembered he heard the song for the first time the same night he met his future wife Linda. “It was the first evening any of us had ever heard a record called ’A Whiter Shade of Pale’ with words about feeling seasick,” McCartney recalled in his biography Many Years From Now.

“The lyrics were all very strange and poetic and the theme was a famous Bach theme but we didn’t know that. We just thought, God, what an incredible record! It was sort of a marker record. It was a benchmark.”

At the time, Procol Harum was still unknown. It left McCartney wondering who the writers of the song were. “We were all trying to guess who it was,” McCartney continued. “So we had to go to the booth and ask,  ‘What was that one you just played?’ and he said, ‘Oh yes, Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum. ‘Procol what?”

Procol Harum indeed. It is often believed the name is derived from Latin, but in actuality, it is a misspelled name of a Burmese Cat that was owned by a friend of Procol Harum’s manager Guy Stevens.

Paul McCartney’s bandmate John Lennon was equally impressed with “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. In the book Lennon: The Definitive Biography, author Ray Coleman recalled he discussed the state of ’60s music with Lennon at a party.

“He (John Lennon) said there was one ‘dope’ record which he couldn’t get off his mind. He couldn’t remember the title. All other pop music of that period was ‘crap’, one of his favorite words at that time.”

“Next day John phoned me. ‘I remembered after I’d gone what record it is that I can’t stop playing,’ he said. ‘It’s that ‘dope’ song, Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade Of Pale. It’s the best song I’ve heard for a while.”

“A Whiter Shade of Pale” would dominate the worldwide charts in 1967. A feat Procol Harum failed to ever repeat again. Nevertheless, they wrote one of the most iconic songs of all time, approved by none other than Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

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