Shine On Brightly

The chandelier in sinful swing
as gifts for me the three kings bring
of myrrh and frankincense, I’m told,
and fat old Buddhas carved in gold

Google the lyrics of the title song of Procol Harum’s second album, Shine On Brightly, and see how many sites have the second verse starting with “The chandelier is in full swing.” That is not what Gary Brooker is singing! The song is from the point of view of a decadent, half out of his mind, probably from over-indulging various appetites. The chandelier is in sinful swing. The narrator imagines himself as the Baby Jesus, being smiled on by the Magi. A blasphemous fellow.

OK, maybe it is “in full swing.” I’ll e-mail the lyricist, Keith Reid.

At any rate, many bands tried to fuse rock & roll with classical music, but Procol Harum’s joyously transcendent sound is unique and enduring. They were like a British version of the Band in that they distilled disparate influences into songs that were oddly soulful and somehow grand.

Question for fans: Why does this band usually sound so Christmas-y, even though hardly any of its songs mention Christmas? Yes, I know organist Matthew Fisher is a factor, that Brooker and Fisher borrowed heavily from Bach and other composers who wrote church music. But there’s more to it. Nostalgia, I guess.

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