To wind up this Summer of 80s Music Videos, I want to turn to another theme that developed after a couple of years. You saw it in Money For Nothing, profiled here last week, but it was more obvious in several other videos – they were music videos specifically about making music videos.
One of the first examples of this form of navel-gazing was Oh Sherrie by Journey lead singer Steve Perry. It’s the most unintentionally ironic of the form; after complaining that a Renaissance-style wedding in the video was too over-the-top and serious, Perry performs a very serious, over-the-top ballad.
The song written for Perry’s then-girlfriend Sherrie Swafford, who was also his love interest in the music video. Other co-writers included supporting musicians Bill Cuomo and Craig Krampf, who had also performed on Kim Carnes’ Bette Davis Eyes, and Randy Goodrum. It peaked at #3 on the Billboard chart in June 1984.
Money for Nothing by Dire Straits beat out Take On Me and three other nominees to win the 1986 MTV Video of the Year award. The video was one of the first uses of computer animation, intercut with rotoscoped concert footage and just a little T&A parody.
Ian Pearson and Gavin Blair created the animation, and the studio they later founded was responsible for another milestone in computer animation, the Saturday morning cartoon ReBoot.
Composer and lead vocalist Mark Knopfler said the lyrics were transcribed from, or at least based on, what a real electronics store customer said while watching music videos on the televisions there. It’s use of an f-word (six letters, not four) later caused it to be banned by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. Like offensive stereotypes in some 1940s cartoons, that slur can be heard as what some loser might mutter in the 80s, even though we know better now.
How do you make a video for a band that (at that point) doesn’t perform live and doesn’t want to appear on camera? For the song Don’t Answer Me by The Alan Parsons Project, the answer was to create it all with animation, and to throw every style in the book at the project.
This music video took 23 days to film, using 40 animators at the Broadcast Arts studio. (Broadcast Arts later worked on the first season of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, another place to find multiple animation styles under one roof.) Framed as a comic book set in 1930s Florida, The Adventures of Nick and Sugar primarily uses the unusual combination of hand-drawn cells mounted on figures that move through stop-motion animation. There’s even a touch of clay animation thrown in with the moon. The band appears only in drawnings near the end.
Despite what its Wikipedia entry says, this video was not a finalist for MTV Music Video of the Year. It was entered for Most Experimental Video, along with You Might Think, but the winner for that category was Rockit.
We’ll close with a behind-the-scenes look at the making of this video. Enjoy!
Here’s another another iconic 80s video that arrived too early for the first MTV Video Music Awards, She Blinded Me With Science by Thomas Dolby. Did you know that the old dude who hollers “Science!” was real-life British TV presenter scientist and all-around good sport, Dr. Magnus Pyke? He was probably as recognizable in the UK as Bill Nye would have been in a US 90s video. (Come to think of it, Nye included a science-themed parody music video in each Science Guy episode; here’s one called Smells Like Air Pressure. But I digress.)
According to a great interview in SongFacts, Dolby said he wrote the song just so he could direct the music video. That site’s got a wealth of fun details about the song. Remember “Mutt” Lange, the guy who wrote Huey Lewis and the News’ first hit? Lange sang backup on Science. You know that line, “Good heavens, Miss Sakamoto, you’re beautiful”? Dolby wrote it just because he wanted to include a beautiful Japanese woman in the video.
Was this the first video where the idea for it came before the song? I don’t know, but it’s fun to watch this catchy, deliberately silly video.
As we continue the summer of music videos, let me present the video I promised you last week. At the first MTV Video Music Award show, here’s the video that beat out Rockit, Every Breath You Take, Girls Just Want To Have Fun, and even Thriller, the most expensive music video ever made.
You Might Think by The Cars was not a cheap video to make either; this early computer-enhanced work cost $80,000, more than double a typical 80s video budget. Like the Nintendo Entertainment System, which came out around the same time, You Might Think looks a bit crude now but was state of the art in 1984.
There were some pretty good videos before the VMAs started. My favorite for videos that appeared on MTV too early to qualify for this first award would be The Clash’s Rock the Casbah, but Eddie Money’s I Think I’m In Love had better production values, and I Ran by A Flock of Seagulls is more iconic of that period. (Don’t You Want Me was a gorgeous video, shot on film actually, but I was always disappointed that it didn’t match the vivid word-picture of the song, since I heard that before I saw the video. Shouldn’t it have included a waitress at a cocktail bar? But I digress.) Enjoy!