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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

The making of Paul McCartney's 'Pipes of Peace' video


Mark Hone

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The launch of the Sainsbury's Christmas Truce ad caused me to watch again the video for Paul McCartney's 1983 Christmas single 'Pipes of Peace'. Setting aside the merits or otherwise of the song and the fact that the video is remarkably similar in many ways to the Sainsbury advert, does anyone know anything about the making of the 'Pipes of Peace' video? There does seem to have been a real effort to give it an early war feel and to my inexpert eye the uniforms and equipment of the soldiers looked pretty authentic. Who were the advisers and costumiers? The Mollos perhaps?

All that the fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, records is that it was filmed at Chobham Common in Surrey, involved 100 extras and was produced by Hugh Symonds. I had forgotten that the single did in fact get to Number One in early January 1984. I advise anyone to watch the video (with sound turned down if necessary Mr Broomfield) to appreciate the incredible similarities between the two films.

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It is a serious enquiry. Whatever the merits of the song and Macca's acting in the video the storyline and many of the individual shots bear a remarkable resemblance to the current Sainsbury's ad. The opening distribution of letters, the cautious approach of the men across No Man's Land, the handshake, the exchange of gifts ( including chocolate), the football match and the disruption of the truce by artillery fire are all very similar. Several sequences in the Sainsbury advert are almost shot for shot remakes. As I state in the original post, the 1983 video seems to have been the result of careful research into uniforms, equipment etc and I am genuinely interested as to who acted as technical advisers.

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I agree, Mark, I've always liked the look of the video, and given that it is an 80s pop video I think I would forgive it rather a lot, but never found the need - it looks pretty good all told. Unfortunately can't add anything to the making of, although I think now would be a likely time for a re-release...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Interestingly the idea came from a earlier film shot in 1981 which more or less told the same story ,the morning shoot had all the actors dressed as Germans ,there was a interplay with their officer who is forcing his men forward ,the lads then turn the rifles on him and shoot him,camera then panned across the faces of the Germans ,after lunch we all dressed as British and went through the same shoot this time shooting the British officer ,camera panned across the faces of the British ,film spliced together and shows both sides in action stopping ,officer shouts we all shoot the officer and yes faces of Germans and British are all the same.

All kit was original including working rifles using blank .303 or 7.92 ,all the lads received £56 for a days work which back in 1981 was not all bad ,the film was shown at various festivals and the idea was expanded and used on the video ,the original film had around 20 reenactors involved.

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I think it is great! Thanks Mark. I had never seen it before, and the sound took me back to the sixties. Maybe those were the days before McCartney turned me off. One has to admit that he is/was very talented.

H.C.

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It looks like Taff Gillingham thinks a football match took place Daily Mail

" The letter of a British soldier to his family corroborate claims enemy forces enjoyed a game of football on Christmas Day, a historian who advised Sainsbury's on its controversial advert has claimed.

Taff Gillingham said he was 'sceptical' about helping the supermarket reconstruct scenes from the trenches for its festive commercial, fearing there was not enough evidence to prove soldiers laid down their weapons to wish each other a happy Christmas 100 years ago.
His mind was changed however by a 1915 newspaper article which quoted letters from a British soldier to his family, describing the moment each side 'finished up kicking a football between the firing lines'.
'At first I was very sceptical about it. Football has hijacked the truce over the past few years,' Mr Gillingham said.
'There is a danger that all of the true history is going to be lost because people think it was nothing more than a big game of football.'
The historian had previously come across an account by Sergeant Frank Naden of the 6th Cheshires describing a game of football against German soldiers in Wulverghem, Belgium, but had never found anything to support his version of events.
But an article from the Lynn Advertiser in January 1915 revealed a letter, written by Corporal A. Wyatt, of the 1st Norfolks, who fought alongside the Cheshires, in which the very same account is given.
In his letter home, the soldier wrote: 'We finished up in the same old way, kicking a football between the two firing lines. So football in the firing line between the British and the Germans is the truth, as I was one that played.'
The letter, said Mr Gillingham, was enough to convince him of the story portrayed in the emotive advert.
'In all the years that I have been doing stuff about the truce I have never come across this account by Corporal Wyatt.
'There are several accounts of people who claim to have played football but a lot of them don't stack up. Just by complete fluke it just happened to arrive just at the right moment so we could actually corroborate it.
'So we could say, hand on heart, there was actually a game that the Norfolks and Cheshires played in.
'I was really chuffed with it because it is something I had looked for for years.'
'I knew quite a lot of First World War veterans and they would have been more than happy with it.' "
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I agree the bit of a kick about seems more plausible than a match and had forgotten that Paul McCartney could actually sing in those days - as for now........................ :blink:

Anne

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Did 'Pipes of Peace' use any of the same people who were in the 1981 short? What intrigues me about the McCartney video is that there was a real attempt at authenticity: Germans in 'pork pie' hats, British in an assortment of realistic looking kit (no tin helmets!) etc.

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Did 'Pipes of Peace' use any of the same people who were in the 1981 short? What intrigues me about the McCartney video is that there was a real attempt at authenticity: Germans in 'pork pie' hats, British in an assortment of realistic looking kit (no tin helmets!) etc.

At least 1, and what a great experince ,the other rock video we did was Avoid The Call Up by the Clash which seems to get more cudos as had a great time with Joe Strummer and shared some herb! It was a long time ago , i recall after the Pipes of Peace McCartney got in to some issues over filming on the heath?
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It would be interesting to read a comment by a veteran of the McCartney video.

Is it known if anyone ever posed the question to a veteran about entertainments depictions of the great war in film, tv or this video?

Some many thousands must have still been around in 1983.

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