Sunday, October 18, 2009

Procol Harum: Wreck of the Hesperus - Issa's Sunday Service, #25

Keith Reid 2nd from right

As long-time reader's of The Hut know, Keith Reid, the lyricist for the great artrock band, Procol Harum, is one of my favorite little known songwriters. Reid, like Robert Hunter of the Grateful Dead, is a default member of the band and, since neither plays an instrument in performance, both suffer from a deplorable lack of recognition. I've written about the Reid and the band before and, though I was taken to task for calling A Salty Dog, from which today's featured song is taken, a concept album, my post was reprinted on the Procol Harum blog, Beyond the Pale, so I feel I wasn't too far off the mark. In another post on the previous Lilliput blog, Beneath Cherry Blossoms, I placed Shelley's "Ozymandis" and Reid's "Conquistador" side by side for comparison. Reid's homage to Shelley was skilled, dark, and delightful, and one of Procol Harum's biggest hits. The song itself will no doubt be finding its way on to this ever growing list of literature inflected rock songs some time in the future.

Their most famous song, "Whiter Shade of Pale," is perhaps the consummate litrock song, referencing Chaucer's "The Miller's Tale" from The Canterbury Tales, which I will be cantankerously skipping today, saving it for a future post. Today, to celebrate the birthday of the talented Mr. Reid (which is tomorrow, October 19th), the selected song above is the lesser known "Wreck of the Hesperus," which tips its briny hat to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem of the same name. The contrast might serve as an example of the difference between traditional and modern approaches, Longfellow's being a frightful, external narrative and Reid's, in the context of the songs that surround it (that concept thingy rears its noddling noggin again - perhaps I should simply state the songs are thematically related), an internal, metaphoric one.

Ah, too many words, not enough notes, eh? Well, hope you enjoy it.

For a list of all 25 songs so far, check out this website.


From featured song to featured poems, which come from Lilliput Review, #38, October 1992. With the leaves reeling and the snow falling and memories of the nicest summer in these parts (and, I suspect, many others) in quite sometime, here's a little bouquet of two (plus Issa) to spruce things up a bit. Enjoy.

daisies in a ceramic
---swan vase
on a living room sill
---in the sun
---white and yellow
'till the end of time
Michael Estabrook

Somehow it seems true.
Delicate of scent and color,
they hurt one's heart so.
Terria Tucker Smith

all we say or speak about
is autumn wind
translated by David Lanoue

And, because I always spend so time on Mr. Reid, here's the band at its height, showing their talents in the instrumental "Repent Walpurgis."

Walpurgis, after whom Walpurgis Night is named, was a British missionary and saint, who died somewhere in the late 770's. Why or even if she needed to repent I'm not sure.



Charles Gramlich said...

Whiter shade of Pale still has some of my favorite lyrics ever in music. I was listening to the Moody Blues last night though and Knights in white satin is awesome.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks, Charles ... maybe I should have gone with Whiter Shade ... this one didn't go over to well ...