1967: A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum

Composed by Gary Brooker, Keith Reid and Matthew Fisher of English rock band Procol Harum and first recorded by the same band for their self-titled debut studio album. Co-composer said he got the title and starting point for the song at a party. He had overheard someone at the party saying to a woman “You’ve turned a whiter shade of pale”, and the phrase stuck in his mind. Keith Reid went on to say “I was trying to conjure a mood as much as tell a straightforward girl-leaves-boy story. With the ceiling flying away and room humming harder, I wanted to paint an image of a scene. I wasn’t trying to be mysterious with those images, I was trying to be evocative. I suppose it seems like a decadent scene I’m describing. But I was too young to have experienced any decadence, then. I might have been smoking when I conceived it, but not when I wrote. It was influenced by books, not drugs.” In 1977, the song was named joint winner (along with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody) of The Best British Pop Single 1952–1977 Award at the Brit Awards. In 1998 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. There are over 1000 covers of A Whiter Shade of Pale by other artists and both the covers and original recording have been featured in many film soundtracks. The first music video for the song was filmed in the ruins of Witley Court Mansion in Worcestershire, UK. It was directed by film director and producer Peter Clifton, whose insertion of Vietnam War newsreel footage caused it to be banned from being shown on the BBC’s Top of the Pops television programme in the UK.

Originally there were two credited composers, Gary Brooker and Keith Reid, for the song. In 2005, former Procol Harum organist Matthew Fisher filed a law-suit in the High Court in London, UK against co-composer Gary Brooker and his publisher. Matthew Fisher claimed that he co-wrote the music for the song. Matthew Fisher won the case on 20th December 2006 but was awarded just 40% of the composers’ share of the music copyright rather than the 50% he was seeking and was not granted royalties for the period before 2005. Gary Brooker and publisher, Onward Music, were granted leave to appeal and a hearing on the matter was held before a panel of three judges. The decision, given on 4th April 2008 by Lord Justice Mummery in the Court of Appeal upheld Matthew Fisher’s co-composer claim but ruled that he should receive no royalties as he had taken too long (38 years) to bring his claim to litigation. Full royalty rights were returned to Gary Brooker. On 5th November 2008, Matthew Fisher was granted permission to appeal this decision to the House of Lords. The appeal was heard in the House of Lords from 22nd – 23 April 2009. On 30th July 2009, the Law Lords unanimously ruled in Matthew Fisher’s favour. They noted that the delay in bringing the case had not caused any harm to the other party. On the contrary, he had benefited financially from it. They also pointed out that there were no time limits to copyright claims under English law.

Weekly Chart History (1967)Peak Position
Australia1
Austria4
Belgium1
Canada Adult Contemporary Chart1
Canada Top 100 Singles Chart1
France1
Germany (West)1
Ireland1
Italy1
Netherlands1
New Zealand1
Norway3
Poland2
South Africa1
Spain1
United Kingdom1
USA Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart5
USA Billboard R&B / Hip-Hop Songs Chart22
Year-End Chart History (1967)Final Position
Australia14
Canada Top 100 Singles Chart27
South Africa19
USA Billbaord Hot 100 Singles Chart38
Weekly Chart History (1972)Peak Position
Netherlands1
Year-End Chart History (1972)Peak Position
Netherlands18