'Whiter Shade of Pale' a bit clearer

Sunday 18 September 1994 00:02 BST

A MISSING verse has been discovered to the celebrated Sixties song 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' which explains its meaning, according to the music writer who tracked it down.

This may be the greatest - and most useful - piece of clarification since the cryptographers of Bletchley Park broke the Nazi Enigma code during the Second World War.

For although the song, sung by the group Procol Harum, was the biggest hit of the 'Summer of Love' in 1967, and is indelibly imprinted on the memory of a generation, its lyrics have remained an impenetrable puzzle: thousands know the mysterious storyline by heart without the faintest idea of what it means.

She said there is no reason

And the truth is plain to see -

But I wandered through my playing cards,

And would not let her be

One of sixteen vestal virgins

Who were were leaving for the coast

Such enigmas, however, can all now be explained, according to Mike Butler, a Manchester- based music writer, who says he has teased out the song's meaning through conversations with its authors, lyricist Keith Reid and singer Gary Brooker, and through the eventual discovery of a final climactic verse which has never been sung, but which is revealed in today's Sunday Review.

Despite the song's mournful elegance it is, says Mr Butler, the account of a drunken seduction. 'The song explores what it means to be wrecked, in more than one sense of the word,' he says, adding that it uses the sea as a metaphor, and the final missing lines are the giveaway:

My mouth by then like cardboard

Seemed to slip straight through my head:

So we crashed, dived straight way quickly

And attacked the ocean bed

They show, Mr Butler says, that 'the drunken seduction is consummated, and the sea metaphor reaches its apotheosis in the oblivion and forgetfulness of sex'.

Sunday Review, Page 36

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