‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ Gets A Nod On ‘House’

During the first months of the year, it sometimes seems like the entire Fox lineup consists of “American Idol” and nothing else. And as Monday night’s (March 15) episode of “House” proved, hour-long dramas can get in on the music-on-TV front as well. On last night’s episode, star Hugh Laurie (the titular Dr. House) sat down at an organ and pounded out Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”

It was an interesting choice for a prime time cover, as the British progressive rock band is not exactly a cornerstone and remain somewhat unknown save for their signature hit. Recorded and released in 1967, where it shot to the top of the U.K. singles chart and stayed there for six weeks. Despite the fact that Procol Harum didn’t have much of a foothold in the United States, the song was a hit here anyway. Interestingly, both the original and cover versions have shown up in a number of different films and television shows (including “The Big Chill” and in Martin Scorsese’s segment of “New York Stories”), making “House” the latest in a long line of visual mediums that borrow the tune’s haunting melody and trippy lyrics.

Along with the Animals‘ “The House of the Rising Sun” (another classic from a British rock band recently resurrected on a TV show), “A Whiter Shade of Pale” made it cool to be an organ player (for a brief window of time in the 1960s, at least).

Despite its relative complexity, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” has been covered hundreds of times by an eclectic batch of artists. One of the better ones belongs to Annie Lennox, who recorded a cover that also happened to appear in the 1995 Sandra Bullock film “The Net.”

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