If any one song sums up the sense of limitless possibilities that suffused English pop music in the mid-60s, when its exponents felt joyously free to decorate their creations with borrowings from the ancient past and an imagined future, it is A Whiter Shade of Pale. Coming out of nowhere, the first release by an unknown band, it skipped across centuries with its infallibly seductive Bach-goes-to-Muscle Shoals organ lead and chord progression and a wonderfully dippy lyric which could be taken to mean anything or nothing, seemingly constructed (by Keith Reid, Procul's non-playing lyricist) from acid visions and snatches of misheard party conversations. Gary Brooker, the band's singer, had grown up singing R&B covers with the Paramounts; his blue-eyed soul voice proved oddly perfect for this eternally enigmatic masterpiece.
The best No 1 records: Procul Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale
Richard Williams is a former chief sports writer for the Guardian