A WHITER SHADE OF PALE by PROCUL HARUM Story by Jenny Mitchell

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A WHITER SHADE OF PALE by PROCUL HARUM Story by Jenny Mitchell

Jenny Mitchell
Ibiza, Spain, 1967

It was a long, lazy summer with endless blue sky, sangria, paella, music and free love.  I was 20 years old and had fled the grey Yorkshire city which was my hometown for a two week adventure in Ibiza off the coast of Spain.  Captivated by the warmth, the sea, the beaches, the language and those mysterious Spanish boys, I immediately took a job in a nightclub, and let my English boss know I wasn’t coming back.

The club was hewn into a rock face and was a magnet for the hippies dropping out on Ibiza.  There was a dark, smoky atmosphere, with candles dripping down rock shelves, and the smell of patchouli.  There was dancing and smooching until the early hours of the morning and one of the favourite songs that wended its way through each night was A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum with its reference to the Spanish Fandango.

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

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…

Some nights we worked at a shack on the beach, where tourists gathered to watch the gypsies performing flamenco as we served them paella and sangria.   When the tourists had left in the wee hours of the morning, we lay on the beach in the moonlight, listening to the plaintive and passionate flamenco music.

I was living in a commune of twelve English and Spanish boys and girls, hardly men and women, where I shared a small outhouse with Pedro, a handsome Spanish waiter, who told me he came from a famous bull fighting family in Madrid.  Each afternoon all twelve of us would lie on a big communal bed to while away the afternoon siesta before working through the night.  But this was Franco’s Spain.  The military dictator had brought in laws to limit freedom of association and groups of more than two people were not allowed to gather.  We were in constant danger of armed police dropping in but we had a warning system which allowed us to scatter before they arrived.

We were in danger of arrest in the nightclub, too, working without the correct documents.  Many a time I had to hide in a cupboard while the police strolled through looking for foreign workers.

Our days off were spent on deserted beaches where we caught and cooked fish over an open fire or on the neighbouring, tiny island of Formentera where there was no electricity or running water.  Its one town was called San Francisco which made Scott Mckenzie’s hit about the other San Francisco popular with us all.  We were against the war in Vietnam, and we would have placed flowers in the guns of the soldiers if we had been at those demonstrations in America.  As the song suggested, we wore flowers in our hair and there was many a summertime love-in.

Of course, it had to end.  I ran out of money, Pedro left for Madrid and his fiancée, the commune disbanded.  My winnings from the summer’s Miss Ibiza competition bought me my bus ticket back to England and at the end of the summer I returned to London, never to go back to the grey industrial north.  I was a converted hippy by then and the swinging 60s had taken over London.

Jenny is a member of the Newport Fiddle & Folk Club, in Melbourne’s west.

By | 2017-08-14T20:01:32+00:00 July 30th, 2017|Pop, Rock|4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Laura July 30, 2017 at 10:41 am - Reply

    What an unforgettable summer. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Colin Ritchie July 30, 2017 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    One of the all time great songs! Great times, great people, great story and the memories are everlasting.

    • Stereo Stories Admin July 30, 2017 at 5:12 pm - Reply

      And we have another Whiter Shade Of Pale story in the queue. Not set in Spain, though. Or in 1967.

  3. Di W-R August 14, 2017 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    I went to Ibiza with Jenny. It was intended to be a holiday of a couple of weeks but we both stayed on, Jen longer than me. I boringly went back to college. The songs bring back those carefree days. Love the memories Jen!

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