PROCOL HARUM MADE A VIDEO of their worldwide hit A Whiter Shade Of Pale in 1967. It was shot in some spectacular ruins in Witley Court in Worcestershire, England, once one of the great houses of the Midlands, but by then a spectacular ruin devastated by fire thirty years earlier. It featured the original members—Gary Brooker, Matthew Fisher, David Knights, Ray Royer, and Bobby Harrison—performing and meandering about the ruins.
It was directed by Peter Clifton, who mixed full-color concert film with washed-out color stock of the group in the ruins. These were interspersed with black and white newsreel footage of the Vietnam War. Although there was nothing untoward about the combat scenes, this caused the short film to be banned from the Top Of The Pops television show.
Fortunately, the banning had little effect: the record spent six weeks at #1 in the UK, although it only reached #5 on both Billboard and Cash Box in the US. According to the Guinness World Records it is one of fewer than thirty singles to have sold more than 10,000,000 copies worldwide!
Never quitters, the band made a second video, also using Scopitone technology. By this time, Robin Trower and B.J. Wilson had replaced Royer and Harrison, respectively, so only three of the five musicians on the recording appear in the new video. There was no performance footage, just the five musicians cavorting through London, running across fields, and monkeeing around in a hard day’s nightly manner.
Regarding Peter Clifton’s handling of the “relevant” sections: remember that in 1967, the US was still “winning” the “war” in Vietnam. The footage in this video was shown regularly on the three (and only) television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC). Clifton made a bigger name for himself as the director of Led Zeppelin’s concert film The Song Remains The Same in 1976.
The withholding of such news and such graphic and honest video and photographed images from the American public did not become our government’s MO until President George H. Bush invaded Iraq in 1991. War has not been the same since.