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The Evolution of the Music Video Part 1 – The 80’s

With the start of the 80s came the birth of MTV in 1981, which made the music video more essential than ever and kick started a major music video revolution.

The 80’s; the decade which gave us some of the best music, TV and movies. I myself grew up in the 80s (and 90s) and love everything about it.

I’ll always look back with hapy memories and great fondness for those days. The crazy haircuts, the shoulder pads and neon coloured clothing, the hot endless summers, the awesomeness of Saturday morning kids television (see previous post), synthesizers and having no internet!

With the start of the 80s came the birth of MTV in 1981, which made the music video more essential than ever and kick started a major music video revolution. Artists and bands were striving to be more creative to spice up their videos, using fancy locations, animation and even CGI.

So let’s start off in 1980…

Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads (1980)

Talking Heads had some very bizarre and surreal videos back in the 80s and David Byrne still continues to do so today, and this is one of their best. In the video we see Byrne acting out with flaying arms and legs like a marionette doll and in the background we see clones of Byrne dancing in synchronization to the music.

Who knows what is going on, but you have to love it! The video is now exhibited in the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Hungry Like the Wolf – Duran Duran (1982)

If you had to think of a supergroup from the 80s, then Duran Duran would certainly come to mind.  They were one of the biggest bands of the decade and really captured that 80’s sound. Altough the video today may look a bit cheesy and dated,  back in 1982 it was groundbreaking stuff. This cinematic style music video was directed by Russell Mulcahy and featured Simon Le Bon dressed as new romantic Indiana Jones. There are lots of scenes featuring jungles, big cats, and exotic women. The video was shot on location in Sri Lanka.

Herbie Hancock – Rockit (1984)

I still have nightmares about this video. There is something creepy about those robotic mannequins! This amazing video was by dance music pioneer and synth legend Herbie Hancock. It was one of the first commercial songs that featured turntable techniques like scratching and spinbacks.

Take On Me – A-ha (1985)

Wow! When you mention 80s music videos this has got to be up there at the top. To be honest, if you mention music videos from any decade this should still be one of the top, even to this day. It’s 30 years old but it still is awesome!

When A-Ha first released this track it flopped, but the record label thought the song was too good to let die and re-released it along with this brilliant music video, which was created by Mike Patterson, Candice Reckinger and directed by Steve Barron. The song went on to reach No.1 in many countries and catapulted the little known Norwegian pop group into the stratosphere.

Money For Nothing – Dire Straights (1985)

Okay, so you may snigger at the computer graphics in this video, but in 1985 it was like nothing we’d ever seen before. This state of the art early CGI video was a massive jump forward for the future of music videos. This music video was  produced by Steve Barron of “Take on Me” fame.  The CGI was created using a Quantel Paintobox and a Bosch FGS-4000 system by Gavin Blair and Ian Pearson.

Addicted to Love – Robert Palmer (1985)

Palmer is so cool in this music video I had to type this up wearing gloves! The late Robert Palmer just lives every guys fantasy… having a music band full of sexy female models. The models were Terri Mergurite Ryand, Patty Kelly, Kathy Davies Julie Pankhurst and Julia Bolino. Today, I reckon they would have done it with CGI mannequins and it probably wouldn’t have looked as effective!

Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel (1986)

It is a great song and very catchy, but like A-ha’s “Take on Me”, I feel it may have been forgotten about very quickly if it wasn’t for the amazing animated music video!  It’s no surprising that the video won many awards in its day, including 9 MTV awards and was voted best video in Rolling Stones Magazine Top 100 Music Videos in the 90s.

The stop motion and claymation really brought the video to live and was produced by Wallice and Gromet’s Aardman Animations and Brothers Quay and directed by Stephen R. Johnson. It’s truly magical and eveytime I watch it I see something new each time and who doesn’t love to see a plucked chicken dancing?

True Faith – New Order (1987)

Definately a surreal one this video is. Directed and choreographed by Philippe Decoufle and features some rather bizarre dancers leaping and slapping each other to the beat of the music.

Leave Me Alone – Michael Jackson (1989)

The obvious choice would have been “Thriller”, but I personnaly think this music video for ‘Leave Me Alone” is a much better choice. You may not agree with me.

Okay, it doesn’t have ‘dancing zombies’, but it does have some dogs dressed as reporters which look hilarious and Jackson dancing with the bones of the Elephant Man!

The music video first appeared in the 1988 motion picture Moonwalker and is directed by Jim Blashfield and Paul Diener. The video and song is all about Michael Jackson’s battle with the media and tabloids in the 80s and in the video we seem him being pursued around a theme park by those dogs dressed as reporters. The ending of the video plays homeage to Gullivers Kingdom where Jackson breaks free from a rollercoaster. Jackson created some amazing songs and music videos over his 40 year career before his life was cut short.

Like a Prayer – Madonna (1989)

We’ve reached the end of the 80’s now and this brilliant video by Madonna caused a whole lot of controversy back then.  It’s amazing to think that even in 1989 people would kick up a fuss over this.

I don’t know if it was retarded racist folk moaning about the video because it featured a black Jesus Christ like character, or whether it was to do with some kissing in a church or maybe some burning crosses or all of these. Whatever it was they were pissed about it. I thinks it’s also the first time we actually see Madonna with dark hair too. At the end of the video it turns out it was a play all the time. Oh, you guys!

There you go. My 10 choices for great 80’s musc videos. I might even follow this up with a 90’s top 10!

Written by Jay

A caffeine-based life form with a love of the 80s and pop culture.


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