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Greatest Music Videos of the 1980s

November 14, 2011

In part II of our music videos series, we examine some of the greatest music videos of the 1980s; that age when the music video had just killed the radio star and MTV was buzzing in living rooms across America.

Land of Confusion — Genesis

Hot off their 1986 album Invisible Touch, this single is a staple of Cold War era, politically-infused rock. Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks united for a twisted parody of humankind, borrowing grotesque puppets from the British television series Spitting Image for their infamous music video. The story, which takes place within Ronald Reagan’s nightmare, is a disconcerting glimpse at our priorities as Americans and more so as humans. More over, the song is one of Genesis’ finest.

Take on Me — A-ha

Norwegian pop doesn’t get too many shots at the American music conscious, but this single and music video left an imprint thicker than practically any of the decade. Steve Barron, who also directed videos by Michael Jackson and Dire Straits, produced the video via the process of rotoscoping, in which live action shots are traced in countless frames to give the images fluid movement. The video won six MTV Video Music Awards in 1986 following its heavy rotation on the network. Notwithstanding the video, the song is one of the 1980s biggest singles; that in itself is hard to replicate.

Sledgehammer — Peter Gabriel

The former colorful frontman of Genesis went out on his own limb by the mid-1980s, but as this video suggests, he didn’t do so bad. “Sledgehammer,” the number one single off his 1986 album So, is heavily-inspired by brass. Recruiting the Memphis Horns, house musicians at Stax Records, Gabriel infused shakuhachi flute and his own British flavor to create an indelible classic. Gabriel had to lay underneath a glass for 16 hours while experts, such as Aardman Animation (of Wallace & Gromit fame) provided the stop-motion materials to build one of the most successful music videos of all time.

Don’t Come Around Here No More — Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Co-written by David Stewart of the Eurythmics, Tom Petty helped cement this single about scorned ex-lovers. The video, which takes a heavy “Alice in Wonderland” theme, in case you didn’t notice, was actually inspired by Stevie Nicks, whom Stewart originally intended the song for. Stewart once woke up one morning to Nicks trying on Victorian clothing, inspiring the video’s theme. The song, however, stems from Nicks’ breakup with Joe Walsh, in which she said the song’s title over the phone.

Thriller — Michael Jackson

Yep. You guessed it. What is widely considered the greatest music video of all time came at a time when music videos were just flourishing. Much of that growth can be attributed to this video and the success it had in displaying expert choreography, story-telling and music, perfectly combined. A spooky rendition of late night horror films and our own personal nightmares, the coupling of Jackon’s zombie makeup and dance moves are pure classic. This 13 minute video is built like a horror film classic.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Peter Gabriel permalink
    November 23, 2011 2:05 pm

    what was i thinking?

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