Procol Harum – Conquistador / Homburg (1967)


“This was on Procol Harum’s first album and was the only song there I even vaguely understood. … What we have here is someone standing by the shore at sunset, gazing down on a dead conquistador and reflecting on the futility of the man’s life. It would make a great subject for a painting. I wonder who the narrator is, but really it could be a Catholic priest, one of the natives, another soldier, there’s no telling. The conquistador has been dead for a while, judging by how the armor is tarnished and the corpse is dessicated, so the line ‘…Your stallion stands in need of company’ is probably symbolic. I don’t see the horse just hanging out with the dead man like loyal Greyfriars Bobby sleeping on his master’s grave. There’s an interesting reference to the Spanish conquest’s religious aspect (although I think gold gold gold was as important a motive, if not more so) in ‘And like some angel’s haloed brow/You reek of purity.’ Purity reeking, that’s something I haven’t seen before. The more I read history, the more I think religion has done much more harm than good. So many people have been tortured, enslaved and murdered over some trivial detail in a fairy tale than have been tortured, enslaved and murdered for more justifiable reasons (like greed). ‘Conquistador, a vulture sits/Upon your silver shield/And in your rusty scabbard now the sand has taken seed/And though your jewel-encrusted blade has not been plundered still/The sea has washed across your face/And taken of its fill’ Wellll, to be honest, it’s not the blade that would be jewel-encrusted. Maybe the hilt, but I doubt it. I might have suggested wording that as ‘your ornate carven blade’ or something but I wasn’t there in 1967 when they were working on the lyrics and it’s a little late now. The idea comes through anyway of the proud made humble. ‘How the mighty have fallen,’ as King David said. The narrator starts off disdainful of the dead conquistador, almost gloating over how the expensive armor and weaponry has become rusted. But he has an epiphany and feels some sympathy by the end because the man’s life was ultimately wasted. ‘Conquistador, there is no time/I must pay my respects/And though I came to jeer at you/I leave now with regrets/And as the gloom begins to fall/I see there is no, only all*/And though you came with sword held high/You did not conquer, only die.’ It’s a subtle transition. …”
LiveJounal
Genius (Audio)
W – “Conquistador” (Procol Harum song)
YouTube: Conquistador 1967 Live At The Bilzen Jazz Festival 1967, Conquistador 1972 (Live), Homburg [50th Anniversary Full Length Stereo]

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