Goodbye Keith Reid (A whiter shade of pale)


Senior Stratmaster
Mar 30, 2018
Hamburg, Germany
You all know the organ riff - even if you didn't know it was JS Bach.

I always thought it was a song about a guy taking a young lady to a restaurant as a prelude to an assignation, but Variety says it's about a break-up. I don't see how that fits with 16 Vestal Virgins, but there we are!

He had a battle with cancer, but managed 76. My generation.


Most Honored Senior Member
Dec 14, 2018
RIP, that song freaking haunts me, to this day it brings up a feeling of dread and loss and I can't tell you why. *shrug*


Senior Stratmaster
Mar 30, 2018
Hamburg, Germany
I did a bit more searching and found this:

Keith Reid told Uncut magazine:
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.

and this:

according to Mike Butler, a Manchester- based music writer, who says he has teased out the song’s meaning through conversations with its authors, a final climactic verse which has never been sung, but which was revealed in 1994, despite the song’s mournful echoing of a funereal dirge, it is, says Mr Butler, (journalist for the Independent in the UK) an 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'

Butler goes on to assert: ‘the drunken seduction is consummated, and the sea metaphor reaches its apotheosis in the oblivion and forgetfulness of sex.’

Personally, I've always thought of it as a seduction song - a meal in a restaurant with a few drinks, then holding her naked in front of a mirror, into bed, and she's no longer one of the Vestal virgins.

It may seem strange to younger readers, but even in the 1970s it was not unusual for a girl to remain a virgin into adulthood. (I'm disturbed by what I read in the newspapers about 9-year-olds being taught about "choking" and acts that were illegal in my youth.)

The only reference to the female sleeping around is in The Miller's Tale (Chaucer) where the intoxicated Miller tells a ribald tale about an unfaithful wife. If you don't know Chaucer, it's actually very funny, but you'll need a modern translation! Olde Englishe is a bit difficult.
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