Wednesday, July 25, 2012

1000 SONGS - DAY 230 SONG #261

Day 230: A song by my favourite "classic rock" group

I have loved Procol Harum (at least in their prime - 1967 to 1977) from my childhood days on, and I especially did like their live album with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra from 1971. Along with Deep Purple's Royal Albet Hall Concert with the London Symphony Orchestra, in my memory, this was the first time that "Rock Music" was performed in a "classical music" setting. Not to be misunderstood, I do not like the renderings of classic rock tunes by symphony orchestras in a "classical" music arrangement. But, with Gary Brooker, this is something else. A Whiter Shade of Pale is said to be based on some works by Bach (although it is not true that its theme is simply taken from a composition by Bach), and I think it is the most widely known Porcol Harum song up till today. Me, I do like "A Salty Dog". Salty Dog is an expression for an experienced sailor, in slang it also bears a sexual meaning (like in the Zydeco-classic "My Woman is a Salty Dog"). The song by Brooker/Reid shows no ambiguities in that sense, it merely is about a sailor. I add it here in memory of B. J. Wilson, who was the drummer in most of the line-ups of Procol Harum in their first decade. He could have been the drummer of Led Zeppelin, but he refused the offer and chose Procol Harum, so Mr. Bonham got the job with Page & friends. It is said that Wilson called A Salty Dog  the most beautiful song he had ever heard after Brooker played it to him for the first time on the piano. It is indeed a beautiful song, it is grand opera, it is touching, it is simply great. Maybe too melancholic a tune to hit the charts. Gary Brooker sometimes dedicates it to B. J.  Wilson (who died in 1997) during live shows. The way the drums come in on that one has shaped my idea of how to play those slow tunes on the drums....

Three versions: the recordig with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, a live Version from 1977 and a bombastic Version with choir and orchestar and all from 2006, with a bonus track (it is by far not that good a tune as A Salty Dog, but it is not bad).

All hands on deck, we've run afloat!' I heard the captain cry
Explore the ship, replace the cook: let no one leave alive!'
Across the straits, around the horn: how far can sailors fly?
A twisted path, our tortured course, and no one left alive

We sailed for parts unknown to man, where ships come home to die
No lofty peak, nor fortress bold, could match our captain's eye
Upon the seventh seasick day we made our port of call
A sand so white, and sea so blue, no mortal place at all

We fired the gun, and burnt the mast, and rowed from ship to shore
The captain cried, we sailors wept: our tears were tears of joy
Now many moons and many junes have passed since we made land
A salty dog, this seaman's log: your witness my own hand

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