Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Salty Dog, Procol Harum (1969)

One of the little mysteries of my life is why I have complete recall of every lyric of certain Procol Harum songs, particularly the very ornate ones. I'm not that good of a memorizer ordinarily.  But that doesn't get in the way of me being able to sing, verbatim, the words to A Salty Dog (and A Whiter Shade of Pale ... and Whaling Stories).

I have this ridiculous fantasy that someday I'll run into one half of the composing team for A Salty Dog, Gary Brooker, and sit on a stage singing it in unison with him, causing him to marvel that there should be anyone in the world other than himself or Keith Reid, who wrote the lyrics, who could accomplish this feat.

Well, enough of that fleeting look into my fragile hold on sanity. Why I would know all these words, when I don't even listen to the song all that often, needs some examination.  What could the reason be? 

  1. I've always loved the sea, although sailing generally makes me quite seasick.  I suppose the idea that a rock group would develop an entire song around the seafaring motif could have been quite romantic to me at the age of 15, but still ... all those words. 
  2. And then there's the fact that the first boy I ever loved and I were mad for Procol Harum.  We saw them in concert whenever we could.  It was our thing. I see from my archives of memorabilia, which includes a concert flyer with the A Salty Dog artwork, that we saw them on Sunday, Nov. 14, 1971 at 8:30 at the Columbus, Ohio, Agora, tickets $4.00 advance, $4.50 at the door. 
  3. I was especially smitten with the lead guitarist Robin Trower, but his specific talents - which did not lean toward the classical - were not showcased on this particular song, so that can't be it. 
  4. The album cover, which was a knock-off of a Player's Navy Cut cigarette box, was pretty darn exotic, and in fact the boyfriend went scavenging on his own initiative to find an old box and mail it to me while I was away at a different college.  But that wouldn't explain it. 
  5. Could it have been that I was a sucker for a song that went to all the trouble of using seagull and wave sound effects, just to make the experience more authentic?  Not bloody likely.
  6. What about the fact that it's a magnificently well-crafted song with beautiful vocals and piano from Brooker that build and build and break my heart, supported by the otherworldly master drummer BJ Wilson, to an emotional pinnacle that reverberates throughout my body?   
Yeah.  That might be it.

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