Ritchie Blackmore

Shades of Bach
Ritchie Blackmore on Procol Harum's 'A Whiter Shade of Pale'

I find the interesting element of "A Whiter Shade of Pale" is the descending bass run. It's a progression which gradually goes down the scale but repeats itself on the way, all through the song. It's like Bach's "Air on a G String" in fact it was deliberately based on that. I find Bach fascinating, his music has the drama, the intensity and the hard edge of rock and roll that's what it was to the eighteenth century.

In the Sixties that was a revelation listen to "Lover's Concerto" by the Toys, it's an absolute steal from Bach. This kind of major bass run, which is a very basic chord progression, turns up in other places too. John Lennon was a fan of this record, and you can hear it in the middle of "Imagine".

As for the rest of a "Whiter Shade", well, it's interesting that the organ carries the tune (that was Matthew Fisher, who used to get that big church sound which was unheard of then), and that people don't remember the sung melody, they just recall the vocal drone, the Bob Dylan-type monotone. It's a very complex record and was quite innovative in 1967.

It was a challenging time, music today is too heavily based on fashion, but songs like this can trigger memories for everyone, they never go out of fashion. I sometimes put it on the jukebox in The Roadhouse, my local pub in Connecticut [on Highway 58]. And the lyrics, Ha! they're outstanding. They don't make a lot of sense. It's up to you to make up your own story, just like in life.