After running through a few of the best 80s videos, it’s time to remind ourselves that there’s a wide base of mediocrity supporting the top. Here’s a very remarkable, if not especially good, video that uses a song with some history.

In 1972, Elliot Lurie wrote and sang Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl), which became a huge #1 hit for his band Looking Glass. Trouble was, the ballad wasn’t a typical song for the group, which used a different lead singer for most of its work. Looking Glass is often called a one-hit wonder, but that isn’t quite accurate. A year later, Lurie wrote and sang Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne, another ballad with a similar tone, and it peaked at #33.

A decade later, the singer Josie Cotton picked up Jimmy Loves Maryann (with improved spelling) to follow her few minor hits. This cover was even more minor, peaking at #82 and completely escaping my notice in 1984. I only noticed it a few months ago after a note that the song had been covered. But what a video! It contained so many 80s video cliches:

  • Motorcycle, with helmet-off reveal
  • Jugglers
  • Tumblers
  • Snake-handlers
  • Mimes
  • Guy with a whip
  • Gratuitous flame-breathers
  • And a circle of candles

Most of which were whizzing by in the background, as if to distract us from the singer. And oh yes, absolutely none of which had anything to do with the song. That’s a pet peeve: If you have a good story already in your song, why not make a video of that story?

Anyway, for a concentration of pure 80s-excess fever dreaming, check this out:

When you think of famous Madonna videos of the 80s, Borderline isn’t near the top. It’s not her first US hit; Lucky Star hit #4 on Billboard, while Borderline later peaked at #10. It was her first US gold single (how did Lucky Star miss?), but it was soon eclipsed by Like a Virgin and Material Girl, and it all snowballed from there.

What I see is a Madonna who’s still playful, if not innocent, and what I hear is a nice tune with a good bass line. It’s a video that tells a story with not a lot of posturing or dance numbers. If you haven’t seen it lately, see what you think.

Michael Jackson would have turned 54 this week, and in honor of his birthday, here’s my favorite MJ video. Not only is it a great example of dreamy, abstract 80s music video awesomeness, it opened doors at MTV.

At the time, 30 years ago, MTV didn’t want to air this video. Reports at the time suggested that the executives worried that the suburbanites who subscribed to cable didn’t want to watch African-American performers. CBS Records insisted, MTV relented, and the rest is history.

Whenever anyone does a countdown of the best 80s music videos, or of music videos period, this is what I expect to be at the top. It won nine MTV Music Video Awards in 1987, and its style of animation, including work from the Wallace and Gromit folks, has never been topped. The powerful song helps too.

Got a better music video in mind? Leave a comment. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

Looking at a bunch of successful blogs, I see that some of them have a topic that doesn’t have much to do with anything else. This blog is going to start including some music videos from the days when MTV played them. Here’s the long version of a song from Mr. 80s video: Huey Lewis. If you want to skip forward to the music, it starts at about 2:14.