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A Whiter Shade of Pale (Deram, 1967)

What a one hit wonder this song was! A Whiter Shade of Pale was the debut single by British rock band Procol Harum, released in May 1967. It reached the top spot (and stayed there for six weeks) in the UK in June 1967 (it also reached the top spot in Canada and 9 other countries). Without much promotion, it reached #5 in the U.S. A Whiter Shade of Pale became a Summer of Love anthem song in 1967, is one of fewer than 30 singles to have sold 10 million copies worldwide, is one of the most played song in the last 75 years in public places in the UK (as of 2009) and is recognised as the most played record by British broadcasting of the past 70 years. Wow! How about some more? In 1977, A Whiter Shade of Pale was named joint winner (along with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody) as the Best British Pop Single 1952-1977 at the Brit Awards. In 1998 A Whiter Shade of Pale was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. More than 1000(!) cover versions have been produced. Originally the song writing was credited to Gary Brooker and Keith Reid. In July 2009 Matthew Fisher won co-writing credit in a unanimous ruling from the Law Lords.

How could Procol Harum possibly eclipse (or at least match) the success of this baroque rock hit? Well, they couldn’t. The closest they came again to a hit was with Homburg (also in 1967); it reached #6 in the UK (#15 in Canada and #34 in the U.S.) No other single has peaked in the top ten. And they attempted the feat with 17 other singles chart appearances.