Thirty-six years ago today, August 1st, was the day video supposedly killed the radio star, as MTV hit the airwaves. So here are 10 amazing classic music videos, one per year throughout the ’80s, to honor those groundbreaking early years. And not-so-subtly yearn for their return.
1. “Our Lips Are Sealed” by The Go Go’s (1981)
The video for the first single off Beauty and the Beat was funded using leftover money from a Police video. The low-budget production is just shots of the group driving around town in a convertible and stopping at a lingerie shop, intercut with a simulated live show before they frolic in a fountain. The band was less than thrilled to make the video and had no idea it would launch them into stardom.
2. “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls (1982)
This video is widely remembered for allowing the members of A Flock of Seagulls to show off their new wave haircuts. Haircuts notwithstanding, the concept of the video is not entirely clear. The band appears to be caught in some alternate dimension as lead singer Mike Score (a former hairdresser and mastermind of the band’s look) unsuccessfully tries to escape the advances of a couple of sullen futuristic women.
3. “Beat It” by Michael Jackson (1983)
The King of Pop employed nearly 80 actual gang affiliates including Crips and Bloods in an effort to foster some peace in Los Angeles. The story starts with rival factions squaring off as word of a fight spreads through the city. A knife fight then erupts in a warehouse, which is overlaid with a howling Eddie Van Halen guitar solo. That is, until Jackson arrives. The gangs then joins Jackson in a massive choreographed dance symbolizing that violence is not the answer.
4. “Hot for Teacher” by Van Halen (1984)
Waldo is an anxiety-filled child who is not looking forward to attending school with four mini members of Van Halen. To make matters worse, his teachers do little more than prance around the classroom in various states of undress. At the end of the school day, the four mini Van Halens drive off in a hot rod with David Lee Roth. No one’s really sure what became of Waldo after graduation.
5. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears (1985)
Directed by Nigel Dick, this video features Curt Smith cruising around various Southern California locales in an antique Austin Healy 3000, intercut with shots of the band recording in London studio. Although it doesn’t sound like much of a video, the placid nature of the scenery and music powerfully contradicts the sentiment of the chorus: Everybody wants to rule the world…
6. “Walk this Way” by Run DMC (1986)
Much of America met hip hop through this video, emerging from the first song in the genre to crack the Billboard Hot 100’s top five. The concept? A rock band and Run DMC are trying to outplay each other in adjoining studios. The two finally meld together to create a beautiful masterpiece. Interestingly, it is not the entirety of Aerosmith in the video, as Run DMC could only afford Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. But they’re the only ones who really matter anyway, right?
7. “The One I Love” by R.E.M. (1987)
R.E.M had long been indie darlings and alternative music pioneers before “The One I Love” premiered on MTV. The video propelled them into the mainstream’s consciousness with its beautiful abstract southern imagery, which allowed the audience to interpret the ambiguity of the lyrics: A simple prop to occupy my time / This one goes out to the one I love…
8. “Need You Tonight/Mediate” by INXS (1988)
“Need you Tonight” is the only song by INXS to top the Billboard 100, but it was the “Mediate” element of the video that set it apart, earning it the Video of the Year statuette at the 1988 MTV Video Music Awards. This portion of the award-winning video pays tribute to Bob Dylan’s short film for “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” from D.A. Pennebaker’s 1967 Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back.
9. “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty (1989)
This hit off Petty’s solo debut Full Moon Fever tells the story, in the first two stanzas, of how he left his childhood sweetheart behind in Florida in search of fame and fortune on the West Coast. The song heavily references LA’s San Fernando Valley with mentions of Mulholland, Ventura Blvd and Reseda. The video reflects this storyline with various shots taken throughout the Valley.
10. “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode (1990)
This highly memorable video, directed by Anton Corbjin, is a riff on the philosophical musings of The Little Prince. Lead singer Dave Gahan, wearing royal attire, wanders the countryside of the Scottish Highlands, the coast of Algarve in Portugal and the Swiss Alps carrying only a deck chair. Gahan finally finds a spot he likes, where a king who has everything can finally sit in peace.