Strangest (Opening) Song Lyrics

There have been a number of articles written about what may possibly be the best first sentence of a novel, but I haven’t read much about songs, especially if those opening lines are different or bizarre. I know there are many songs out there with great lyrics, but what I’m looking for are lyrics that make little or no sense when you first hear them.

For me, it has always been, Whiter Shade of Pale, by Procol Harum.  Released in 1967 it has been named as the most played UK song of the last 70 years and one of less than 30 singles to have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. And yet, no one has a clue about the song’s meaning. I’ve read everything from a drug overdose death to a male female relationship that, after some negotiation, ends in a sexual act. To my knowledge there is no definitive answer.

Unknown

For me the first lines have always  been among the most bizarre I’ve ever heard, but the rest of the song is just as confusing. Then again, it was the 60’s so my guess is drugs were part of the song writing process.

We skipped the light fandango
Turned cartwheels cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
But the crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
As the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
The waiter brought a tray

[Chorus]
And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale

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 leaving for the coast
And although my eyes were open
They might have just as well’ve been closed

[Chorus]
And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale

She said, I’m home on shore leave,
Though in truth we were at sea
So I took her by the looking glass
And forced her to agree
Saying, you must be the mermaid
Who took neptune for a ride.
But she smiled at me so sadly
That my anger straightway died

[Chorus]
And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale

If music be the food of love
Then laughter is it’s queen
And likewise if behind is in front
Then dirt in truth is clean
My mouth by then like cardboard
Seemed to slip straight through my head
So we crash-dived straightway quickly
And attacked the ocean bed

[Chorus]
And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale

What about you? Have there been any songs for you whose opening lines, or lyrics in general, haven’t made sense?

 

29 thoughts on “Strangest (Opening) Song Lyrics

    1. George Post author

      Yeah, that really is a strange one. I swear I think serious drugs are involved sometimes. Or people just pull out words and phrases and put them into a song with no rhyme or reason.

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  1. vanbytheriver

    I knew about the very graphic ‘Miller’s Tale’ when I first heard this…so, there’s that sexual innuendo. As you say, it was the 60’s, and the Beatles were writing things like “I Am the Walrus”. They later admitted they did it to confuse, and it had no real underlying meaning. Try to make sense of “there’s a bustle in the hedgerow”…Led Zeppelin,Stairway to Heaven. ???

    All that said, I absolutely adore this song. Thanks for sharing. Van

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  2. Pistachios

    I’ve always liked “The Animal Song” by Savage Garden. It probably makes (a lot) more sense than that Procol Harum song (don’t even know where to begin with that one!) but it has an interesting opening line: “When superstars and cannonballs are running through your head; Television freak show cops and robbers everywhere”

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  3. granmato5girls

    Reblogged this on granmato5girls and commented:
    Just thanks for bringing up old memories, music does that a lot for me, one song can take me back to high school or an old boyfirend some can make me cry just thinking about a person who’s gone. My Dad’s favorite him was Amazing Grace and I still after 9 years cannot hear it without holding back the tears and sometimes you can just smile thinking of fun times with old friends. Whiter Shade of Pale never made sense to me but I still love it ! It’s on several cd’s that I made for my car. Music is funny like that.

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    1. George Post author

      I think people thought lost songs were drug induced In the 60’s, except for maybe Motown..:) it’s still a very cool song.
      Thank you for the reblog.

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      Reply
  4. Matthew Wright

    Slabs of the lyrics in early “Yes” albums didn’t particularly make sense. Not so much hippie drug haze but some sort of philosophy, as I understand it. That said, I have a feeling a lot else of what we suppose to be ‘drug induced’ in songs from the 1960s-70s was actually deliberate and pandering to an audience that was probably on them. “A Whiter Shade of Pale” is particularly cool given its musical origins – Bach’s ‘Air on a G-string’, mostly.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. George Post author

      You’re probably right, so much of the music during that period caters to a specific demographic, assuming you can apply the word demographic to that group.

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      Reply

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