Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Film and TV featuring Procol Harum's music

Contributors: Jane Clare, Patricio Duran, Mattias Gidlöf, Dave Knight, Joan May, John Moris, Niels-Erik Mortensen, NN, John Overall, Beverly Peyton, Mirek Plodzik, Jose Luis Pomar, Pynkfreud, Gary Shepard, Greg Smith, Jonas Söderström, Sheila Tarleton. Additional movie information links provided courtesy of the Internet Movie Database.

Patricio Duran writes to BtP from Argentina (November 2011) to say that 'I was watching the film Luna de Avellaneda (read more here) and look what I found! Ricardo Darin and Eduardo Blanco characters are talking, with two Procol Harum posters in the background'. He attaches a still from the movie:

A Whiter Shade of Pale

As the World Turns
On Wednesday, 15 May 2002, AWSoP was prominently featured as background music on this popular American soap opera. As "Mollie" drops a quarter into the juke box and pines over the recently-departed "Jake," on comes the tune of tunes. About 2/3 of the song plays, looming prominently as Abigail, Kim, Lillie and Holden enter to lend support to Mollie. The powerful Matthew organ grows louder as the scene meshes into the theme song for the show. (Robert Moselle)

Baby, It's You (1983)
Get data from the Internet Movie Database on Baby, It's You

Best of the Prince's Trust
Read all about it here

Breaking the Waves (1996)
Good article about the music in this movie [Get data from the Internet Movie Database on Breaking The Waves]

China Beach
… in a two-part episode in which the main character (I forget her name ... it's been a while) is contemplating going AWOL. She takes some veterans from the veterans' hospital out partying all night with her friend and winds up sitting at picnic table talking about the war. One of the veterans is in a wheelchair and asks the main character to dance. They begin to dance and it is to A Whiter Shade of Pale. In many ways, this is very appropriate. However, it is most appropriate in a symbolic sense in that she is contemplating losing her 'vestal virginity' by going AWOL. It is a very moving scene. (Jay Boisseau)

Come Dine with Me
Sunday 18 April 2010, UK's Channel 4 TV: the opening section of Kaleidoscope and then shortly afterwards the AWSoP introduction were used as background music when it was the turn of a 'hippy' contestant (Neil Whitney)

Kröniken ("The Chronicle")
was the final song in the 15 January 2006 episode of Kröniken, a smash-hit TV Series on National Danish TV-station DRTV with more than two millon viewers to each episode. The series, which will soon be broadcast in many other European countries, chronicles a family from the 50s to the 70s and the episode in question took place in 1967. Unfortunately, though, a cover version was played and the singer was not at all hitting the high notes in Gary Brooker fashion. I have been unable to locate the name of the singer. The organ work was good, though. Anyway, it's nice that AWSOP was chosen as THE song to characterize this particular year.
(Jesper Frigast Larsen)

Cold Case Files
This top-rated show on CBS, broadcast 20 June 2004, featured the song from the beginning through to the end of the first chorus. 'AWSoP sails musically over a 60's flashback of two counter-culture women immersed in a shadowy world, the subject of a homicide unit investigating an old unsolved crime: one woman passes an envelope with $400 to a revolutionary type who enters the room with threatening demeanor. Serious and ominous vibes accompany the music. The scene is actually supposed to be taking place in 1969, but the song sounds like it is supposed to be emanating from an AM radio,' writes Robert Moselle.

The next scene is set to "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud" by Mr James Brown: Procol Harum and James Brown: La crème de la crème of that, and this era. Okay: now we're on to White Rabbit for the next scene. The proverbial envelope is now being pushed !

Dennis' coffin, or Dennis's coffin. The genitive of 'Dennis' is punctuated both ways on the Coronation Street page from which this picture comes. BtP favours Dennis's.

Coronation Street
On 7 January 2002 A Whiter Shade of Pale was used as funeral music for the character Dennis Stringer, during an hour-long episode of the veteran UK soap-opera, scripted by Susan Wilkins and Peter Whalley and directed by Ian Bevitt. It seems that Stringer was a biker of some sort. The episode is storyboarded in full here should you wish to know more: scroll down the page until you encounter the funereal illustration opposite, or use the search function to find the words "the sad sight of Dennis' coffin comes into view".

Dalziel & Pascoe
AWSoP was used in an episode of this English series, where the setting was a university 60s party: the writers/director certainly revealed knowledge of Procol Harum. The song is first heard in an interior dancing scene, but during the first verse, the camera follows some of the young students outside at night. We catch a glimpse of a peeping Tom (a gay university professor and perhaps the nasty murderer!) trying to conceal himself in a doorway when a black cat suddenly appears at his feet, thus threatening to draw the youngsters' attention to him. The best "video clip" of AWSoP I've seen. (Niels-Erik Mortensen)

Denti ('Teeth'). The name of the director has unfortunately slipped my mind. AWSoP is the theme tune. (Niels-Erik Mortensen)

Eastenders (April 1999)
At the long-awaited wedding of Peggy (played by Barbara Windsor!) in the BBC TV soap Eastenders, AWSoP (the Fisher part) was played on the church organ while the bride exercised her right to turn up late. Barbara Windsor of course was a star of the Carry On films whose heyday was the 1960s, so perhaps that's why the directors thought it was appropriate to use AWSoP

Gazon Maudit (French Twist) (1995)
Norwegian title: Kvinnen med slips
A band at a dance hall plays a terrible version of AWSoP.
Get data from the Internet Movie Database on Gazon Maudit

Heartbeat (full listing here)
On the English TV-series, AWSoP was played in a greenhouse in one episode. When Nick asked the owner of the greenhouse (an old lady): 'Do you play this music?' (it came from a radio), she answered: 'Yes, the plants like it'. Whereupon Nick answered 'Especially Procol Harum?'

Greg Smith adds: I was watching a recent (in Australia) episode of Heartbeat (the one where the new boss takes over from the one that went to Canada – my partner is the regular viewer) and much to my surprise PH songs occured three times during the show. In an early scene with young girls being stalked down a dark lane Kaleidoscope was the backing music. I presume a programmer figured the organ work was the nearest 60s thing he / she could find to mimic the traditional horror movie gothic organ piece. Kaleidoscope was repeated in a later scene – again a dark lane in the woods, girls screaming etc. Again not really a good fit – music or lyrics.

During the episode there was also a dance at the local hall. The final number of the night (ie the one to which all of them danced a waltz cheek to cheek) was AWSoP. Whilst being one of my all time favourite songs it is not quite what I would normally waltz to. But then again – perhaps I should try it.

In the Hearbeat episode Playing With Trains, AWSoP was played during the opening scenes of a train arriving in Aidensfield.

Also used was Conquistador: see below

Get data from the Internet Movie Database on Heartbeat

Heaven & Earth (1993)
A long Vietnam story featuring Tommy Lee Jones.
Get data from the Internet Movie Database on Heaven & Earth

House (2010)
Season 6, Episode 14, Black Hole: (with A Whiter Shade of Pale)
" ... a popular American TV series called House. The star is playing AWSoP then it segues into the original PH version, which is proudly played on the show's soundtrack all the time" (thanks, Gary Shepard)

I Cento Passi
('The 100 Steps'), directed by Marco Tullio Giordana ... in which the protagonist's favorite song is AWSoP. I don´t know if the film got a US or UK release, but it´s definitely worth seeing it especially because of its social and political context, totally atuned with the times AWSoP was written and its mood. It´s a great touching flick about the 60s and 70s generation. The most moving scenes had AWSoP and other great tunes in the background. Out of all the films listed on this page, I Cento Passi seems to be the best although The Commitments and New York Stories do live up to PH's tune... (John Moris, Brazil)

Looking for Clancy
was used in a party scene in this drama back in the old days of black-and-white tv (at least in my house). This shocked the nation at the time ... the show ... Robert Powell got the clap and gave it to his wife: I think he got it off one of his daughter's friend. Earlier as a young fella he was inveigled into sex with a woman so her hubby could watch through the two-way mirror. Obviously this guaranteed he would get to be Jesus.

Manzil (1977)
This is an Asian 'version' of AWSoP entitled Tum ho mere dil ki dhadkan

My Swedish Meatball (1969: aka Spielst Du mit schrägen Vögeln)
Affectionately mentioned 'Swedish Porno Movie' ... see Reid and Brooker interview here

New York Stories (1989)
... where Nick Nolte and Roxanne Arquette lost each other while Nick plays the song over and over. I remember there is a little part of Conquistador in the same film (NYS), too.
New York Stories is a trilogy of films set in NY – by Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen. AWSoP is featured prominently in the Martin Scorsese film Life Lessons ... (see here for Scorsese's reasons). Scorsese is the producer of the film The Last Waltz, and a big fan of Robbie Robertson – a former 'Platonic' roommate of his in fact. Robertson's music was also in the film – a live version of Like A Rolling Stone with Bob Dylan and The Band. Robertson has been known to diss PH. Maybe Scorsese was trying to bring RR and PH together! Scorsese also used Gary in that Eric Clapton song It's In The Way That You Use It – for the Color Of Money soundtrack – Gary sang backup on that – (writes Joan May)
Get data from the Internet Movie Database on New York Stories

Northern Exposure
A Whiter Shade of Pale was used in one of the episodes of Northern Exposure. Originally Northern Exposure ran in the US on CBS from 1990–95; this particular episode is called Heroes and was aired in 1992. Northern Exposure is currently [May 1998] being shown in the states on the Arts & Entertainment network. It's a quirky, spiritual comedy / drama set in the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska. The episode that uses AWSoP centers around the philosophic DJ of the local radio station who contemplates as to what would be the proper burial for his friend. To make a long story short, he chooses to catapult the body of his pal out to a watery grave to the strains of AWSoP. It was very moving ... Thanks to PynkFreud for this comprehensive account

Writer and co-Executive Producer David Chase is probably a big Procol fan – see The Sopranos below

Oblvion (2013): read a review here

Seventeen Plus
Read here about the film Procol Harum were to make in 1967!

Sling Blade
There's a reference to 'Gary Brooker and the Procol Harum.' In the book of the screenplay, the character says 'Protocol Harum' but it's not known if that was a typo, or if Billy Bob Thornton wrote it that way and it didn't get translated to the film.

Get data from the Internet Movie Database on Sling Blade

The Big Chill
Get data from the Internet Movie Database on The Big Chill

Joan May writes:
To commemorate the 15th anniversary of The Big Chill, the film has recently been re-released in theaters, and the home video is about to be released. The hit soundtrack is also out on remastered CD. This has been getting quite a bit of press lately and the music is often mentioned.

Entertainment Weekly – 20 November 1998 issue – reviews the film in its ‘Movies’ section (p.96) and here are a couple of relevant excerpts: ‘ ... (a decade and a half later, that group hug is imitated, in a whiter shade of pale, by countless young-demo shows on TV) ... ‘ :-) ‘... and there's that perfect soundtrack, jammed with hit after timeless hit by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Aretha Franklin, Procol Harum, the Young Rascals ...’ [author, Lisa Schwarzbaum]

I read that this soundtrack album, in its first release in 1983, stayed on the charts for over three years and was the first of the mega-selling movie soundtracks, starting a trend for more to be released (with Titanic success) ... so let's hope the CD reissue of The Big Chill Soundtrack sells at least as well. I've heard a rumor that the artists' royalties situation for AWSoP has improved since 1983. And it wouldn't hurt for all of us to buy the CD, and also recommend the Westside Box Set and Procol Harum Plus CDs to any fans of this film and its music.

The Boat that RockedThe Boat that Rocked (extended BtP page about the film here)
A full two minutes of AWSoP as the boat starts to sink!  Sounds great in the beefy cinema sound. "We'll put on this really long record and hope we'll still be here when its over"... (or words to that effect). A must-see film  – not as orchestrated/scripted as Love Actually and the others by Richard Curtis but engaging characters, a few good laughs, and fantastic soundtrack. (thanks, Charlie) Apparently this film changed names to 'Pirate Radio' when it was released in North America

(See illustration, right: it appears to show a 12" single of AWSoP on the Deram label ... intriguing!)


The Commitments (1991)
... from around the same time The Prodigal Stranger was released (articles here and here)
Get data from the Internet Movie Database on The Commitments

The Falcon and the Snowman (1984)
Get data from the Internet Movie Database on The Falcon and the Snowman

The Net
The Annie Lennox version: Get data from the Internet Movie Database on The Net

The Tenth Kingdom
Procol's inclusion in this miniseries was mentioned in Matt Roush's column in the Feb 26, 2000 issue of TV Guide (page 16): "Not without charm but seemingly without end, this insanely indulgent revisionist fairy tale gives us birds that talk, mice that gossip, mushrooms that bob along to Procol Harum -- how trippy -- and trolls that groove to the brothers Gibb (a nifty running gag)... ...."

About 15 minutes into the last 2-hour segment of this 10 hour miniseries (shown on NBC, March 2000 and repeated in August 2000), Tony (John Larroquette) and his daughter Virginia (Kimberly Williams) enter an eerie, green-lit swamp. AWSoP begins.

Tony: Uh -- is it just me, or can you hear A Whiter Shade of Pale?
Virginia: It's just you.
Tony: Uh Uh - no no - that's Procol Harum. That organ is unmistakable. Listen, listen, listen.
(As the vocal portion of the song begins, an animal can be faintly heard to howl in the distance).
Virginia: No, that's an animal howling.
Tony: I don't think so! What animal can skip the light fandango and [begins to sing along] "turn cartwheels 'cross the floor." Boy, you don't get lyrics like that anymore!
Virginia: You know, it's not too late to turn around and go back.
Tony (Flustered): No, come on, wait, no, let's just, we're this far, let's just, let's continue on to at least the end of Side One! It's Good. It's Great Stuff. Come on [sings along again, this time in exaggerated soul style]: "The room was humming har-derr, as the ceiling flew away-hay." Aw, come on. You Gotta be able to Hear that!
Virginia: What are those lights? Too big to be fireflies ...

The story continues with Tony and Virginia becoming separated. As Virginia searches for her father, she encounters a small forest dweller named Acorn, and in the course of their conversation she asks him:

"...You haven't seen my father walking around anywhere here, have you? Oh -- he might have been singing Whiter Shade of Pale?

Acorn, in his Cockney accent, says "ehh---no" but Virginia manages to find Tony herself, in a field of talking mushrooms, where the two of them drink some intoxicating swamp water and become drowsy, gradually falling asleep.

AWSoP begins again, at the 2nd verse, this time distorted by choral voices and the mushrooms singing along. Tony smiles and sings too, unaware that vines are beginning to engulf him and Virginia. AWSoP sounds more distorted and sinister, while Tony and Virginia have surrealistic dreams as they are choked by the vegetation. The song continues to the end of the vocal portion and fades out.

As with The Commitments (probably Alan Parker), Northern Exposure and The Sopranos (probably David Chase for both), there's a MAJOR Procol Harum fan in this production, but I have no idea who it could be.

Here are some possible candidates:

Executive Producers: Robert Halmi, Sr. and Robert Halmi, Jr.
Producers: Brian Eastman, Jane Prowse, Simon Moore
Writer: Simon Moore
Directors: David Carson, Herbert Wise

And John Larroquette was extremely convincing in his enthusiastic praise -- perhaps he wasn't just acting ... (thanks, Joan May)

*There's been a lot of speculation about why AWSoP was substituted for a Pink Floyd song in "10th Kingdom". The scriptwriter, Simon Moore, is the younger brother of Stephen Moore who played Marvin the Robot in Douglas Adams's Hitchhikers' Guide To the Galaxy … would anybody see a thread there?!*

The Sopranos

Joan May writes: From the new critically acclaimed HBO drama / comedy series The Sopranos – second episode, January 1999. (The series isn't about music but rather a family of mobsters named Soprano):

Lead character / gangster Anthony Soprano enters kitchen where wife and son are having breakfast.

Wife: Did you hear what Anthony Junior just said? Mr Miller's car got stolen.
A.S: Refresh my memory. Who's he again?
Wife: He's your son's Science Teacher?
A.S. (Grins and sings off key): "While the Miller told his ta-a-a-le"
Wife: Maybe you can help him find it.
(Brief conversation ensues wheren A.S. initially declines to help Miller. Then he gets an idea).
A.S. (to his son): What are you getting in Science?
Son: D Plus
A.S. ...see what I can do.
Wife: That's not what I meant. He's got to work for his grades.
A.S. (grabbing her for a little dance around the kitchen while singing off key and laughing): Or first at first a Ghostly Whateverrrrrrr... (then sings almost in tune): Turned a Whiter Shade of Pale.

AWSoP was so incongruous to the storyline that there's got to be a secret Procol fan in this production! Richard Lewis isn't involved in it, so it must be someone else.

Joan May adds – 3 March 1999 – and now I think I know who that is! Today's San Francisco Chronicle (page E5) cites David Chase as the creator and executive producer of The Sopranos and also identifies Chase as the writer and co-executive producer of Northern Exposure (see above). :-)

Third Rock from the Sun (TV Show)
Episode fading out with a shot of the starry night sky, a character saying 'peace' and Matthew's opening strains of AWSoP

VG commercial, on Norwegian TV

Withnail and I
Get data from the Internet Movie Database on Withnail and I

Harry Dean Stanton ...

Thomas White writes from Austin, Texas, in the USA:

Back in the mid-1980s, probably 1985-86, I saw (possibly on MTV) a video version of AWSoP. I'm sure the music was the PH recording. I don't remember a great deal of it, but it showed a man in a large house in the desert, watching the horizon down the road, then going inside to play a game of solitaire, which he kept losing – I think it was meant to be a metaphor for playing a game against death or the devil or such – keep on trying one more time even though there's no way to win.

We believe he is referring to the Harry Dean Stanton AWSoP promo film, and we're not sure why there's no more information about this at BtP. Can somebody please write in with further facts?


In an episode of the BBC series Heartbeat from 1997 (aired in Norway 20.10.01) Conquistador was among the songs setting the mood.
Conquistador was also on the soundtrack of the Heartbeat episode 'Twists of Fate'. Full Heartbeat / Procol listing here

In the popular British sitcom 2 Point 4 Children which ran for eight series during the 1990s. Alan Matthews (writing at BtP's Procol Harum Facebook group) wonder if Series 4 Episode 5 Part 3 (click to view, listen at 36 seconds ff) is '... the weirdest context in which a Procol Harum song has been aired? Someone on the production team must have been a fan.'

'Let's not forget Conquistador was in the film New York Stories, the Scorsese-directed one called Life Lessons. Nick Nolte paints to the tune'. (thanks, Dave Ball)


In the British TV series Heartbeat (full Heartbeat / Procol listing here)

Come Dine with Me
Sunday 18 April 2010, UK's Channel 4 TV: the opening section of Kaleidoscope and then shortly afterwards the AWSoP introduction were used as background music when it was the turn of a 'hippy' contestant (Neil Whitney)

Repent Walpurgis

In the 1999 episode 'Fire and Ashes' of the Yorkshire Television series Heartbeat, Repent Walpurgis sets the mood for one of the sceenes. The scene is where a pregnant Maggie departs in a train with Gina. They are going to the seaside, where Maggie will think over her new situation. This episode has a rather sad ending, because when Maggie returns to Aidensfield, eager to meet her husband, Neil,  and say she really is looking forward to have the child, she finds that Neil has been killed in a fire, trying to resque a child from the burning house. Full Heartbeat / Procol listing here


Salad Days

Separation (1968)
Get data from the Internet Movie Database on Separation (1968 New York Times review of Separation: see also Fisher on the soundtrack)

Shine on Brightly

In the British TV series Heartbeat (full Heartbeat / Procol listing here)

In Held 'Twas in I

Excerpted in the British TV series Heartbeat (full Heartbeat / Procol listing here)

A Salty Dog

In the British TV series Heartbeat (full Heartbeat / Procol listing here)

It was also heard in the final episode (season 3, episode 8) of Lilyhammer, the Norwegian/US television series about retired mafioso Steven van Zandt hiding out in the Norwegian town of Lillehammer. In episode 7, season 2, they played The Devil Came from Kansas (thanks, Are Utvik)

Long Gone Geek

In the British TV series Heartbeat (full Heartbeat / Procol listing here)

The Milk of Human Kindness

In the British TV series Heartbeat (full Heartbeat / Procol listing here)

Too Much Between us

In the BBC TV series The Royal (a spinoff of the acclaimed series Heartbeat), fragments of Too Much Between Us can be heard in the episode called Everybody needs Somebody. Full Heartbeat / Procol listing here

The Devil Came from Kansas

In episode 7 season 2 of Lilyhammer, the Norwegian/US television series about retired mafioso Steven van Zandt hiding out in the Norwegian town of Lillehammer. A Salty Dog was heard in the final episode (season 3, episode 8) (thanks, Are Utvik)

Juicy John Pink

In the British TV series Heartbeat (full Heartbeat / Procol listing here)

Crucifiction Lane


Sheila Tarleton writes to BtP: 'This medical drama series, set in the 60s, uses music from the period as background soundtrack. Someone in the production team is clearly a Procol Harum fan; during tonight's episode I heard, albeit briefly, Robin Trower's opening guitar and vocal of Crucifiction Lane. Nice to know that someone in TV can see beyond the usual tracks offered to evoke the period. Lets hope to hear more!'  Full Heartbeat / Procol listing here

David Knight adds: That same episode had, playing towards the end, Too Much Between Us. The clip of the song lasted a good 90 seconds. I don’t know if this was in addition to Lane because I didn’t watch the whole episode, just the last five minutes.

Keith Barrett confirms: If Sheila had watched the entire programme Procol's music was again featured: the song was Too Much Between Us. I can remember the complete first verse was aired plus a bit of instrumental.

Pilgrims Progress

In the British TV series Heartbeat (full Heartbeat / Procol listing here)

About to Die

In the British TV series Heartbeat (full Heartbeat / Procol listing here)

Pandora's Box
The instrumental section was used as a backdrop to an item on the beneficial effects of maggots on the BBC's children's show Blue Peter in 2001.


The Unquiet Zone

BBC TV Continuity
The opening riff to The Unquiet Zone was used by BBC TV to accompany announcements about forthcoming programmes, around the time of the release of Procol's Ninth. The intro was looped and used with the ending, featuring Mick Grabham's solo.

'This song was also the theme music of a very popular series for youths on German radio station "Bayern 2" in the 70', Matthias Wolfram informs us.


Missing Person

Hitting the Fan (1987)
Originally a Dutch film, with music by Gary Brooker: read the story here


Unknown ...

Look here to read about a movie titled Les Démons de Jésus [France 1996, colour, 35 mm, 117 min., Director: Bernie Bonvoisin, Screenplay: Bernie Bonvoisin, Producent: André Farwagi, Eric Atlan, Production: Clara Films, Photo: Bernard Cavalié, Montage: Scott Stevenson, Songs by: Jerry Lee Lewis, John Lee Hooker, Procol Harum, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin and others, Sound: Michel Brethez, Patrice Grisolet, Starring: Thierry Frémont (Jesus), Nadia Fares (Maria), Patrick Bouchitey (Nene), Fabienne Babe (Mathilde), Marie Trintignant (Levrette), Yann Collette, Martin Lamotte].The movie was shown at the Rotterdam Festival, 1997.


Unspecific ...

Auto Focus, starring Greg Kinnear and William DaFoe: a film loosely based on the brief and somewhat seedy life of Bob Crane, star of TV's hit comedy series Hogan's Heroes.

During the scene where Crane and long time friend John Carpenter (video equipment salesclerk) along with two female guests/strippers are discussing the latest video technology in Carpenters apartment, one of the women inquires if the stereo equipment works to which Carpenter replies, "Yes!" The stripper than asks if he has any PROCOL HARUM. Carpenter responds by saying, "I've got The Four Tops!"

More info can be accessed at AUTOFOCUS - © Sony Pictures Classics (thanks, Beverly)


Zabriskie Point: a lucky escape for Procol Harum?


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