The most iconic '80s videos of all time
Saturday, August 1, 1981, was a day that will live on in infamy for music lovers. It was the day MTV was born, kicking off an era of 24-hour-a-day music on television, and revolutionizing the music business by changing the way artists were unleashed on the masses.
And the first video that was broadcast? Fittingly, it was a tune by British new wave duo The Buggles called "Video Killed the Radio Star."
Over the next decade, big hair, mullets, leg warmers, neon, and hundreds of other fashion crazes would become all the rage.
The success of MTV spawned a whole slew of music TV stations around the world, including Canada's own MuchMusic, which debuted on Sept. 1, 1984 (and for those completists out there, the first video played on Much was Rush's "The Enemy Within").
Here are some of the videos that defined the decade:
Sledgehammer, Peter Gabriel
The elaborate stop-motion animation was ahead of its time, and Peter Gabriel was at the forefront of the craft. It is still MTV's most played video in the history of the station, and is a staple on every best videos of all-time list.
Thriller, Michael Jackson
We all know that this genius John Landis-directed video was the best of the best. So instead, here's some odds and sods about the legendary and scary 13-minute clip:
- the only video to be in the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant.
- the famous red jacket was bought at auction by Texan gold trader Milton Verret for a cool $1.8 million.
- the zombie dance sequence was filmed at the junction of Union Pacific Avenue and South Calzona Street in East Los Angeles.
Take On Me, A-ha
They may have had only two hits in North America, but the Norwegian band were anything but a flash in the pan -- they have sold an astonishing 60 million albums and 15 million singles worldwide. It all kicked off with the groundbreaking video for their first single, "Take On Me." The video used a pencil-sketch animation/live-action combination called rotoscoping, in which the live-action footage is traced over frame by frame to give the characters realistic movements. What resulted was one of most innovative and original videos ever made.
Every Breath You Take, The Police
The beautifully shot video, directed by Godley & Creme, proves that simpler is better in many cases. The minimalistic black-and-white promo was the inspiration for many other ones as well, including U2's classic, "With or Without You."
Like a Prayer, Madonna
Madonna knew exactly the furor this video was going to cause before she even made it. When MTV aired it for the first time on March 3, 1989, it set off a firestorm of controversy from religious groups over what they deemed to be "blasphemous imagery." Madonna incorporated many Catholic symbols such as stigmata and burning crosses, and even a dream about making love to a black saint. Heck, even the Pope chimed in on it - he banned her from Italy. The video was shown a day after Pepsi had aired a commercial flogging their product as well as Madonna's upcoming tour. Boycotts against Pepsi ensued, and the soft drink company eventually dropped its sponsorship of the pop star. We doubt this video would cause the uproar it did now, but at the time, it was a game changer.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Cyndi Lauper
Anyone who has their eyes glued to the TV during the early '80s saw this video an infinite amount of times. The song, the first single/video off her huge 1983 debut "She's So Unusual," was on heavy rotation around the world, and launched Lauper as a global superstar.
You Might Think, The Cars
The quirky video, highlighted by lead singer Rik Ocasek popping out of the end of a lipstick container, was one of the first to use computer graphics.
Relax, Frankie Goes to Hollywood
After the band courted controversy with the first video version for the sexually-charged song which saw them getting accosted in an S&M-themed gay bar, Godley & Creme stepped in and created a second one for them, using their "hit me with your laser beam" line as the basis for it.
Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Wham
When someone asks you about a point of reference for the ridiculous fashion trends of the '80s, George Michael in rainbow-coloured short shorts pretty much sums it up.
Do You Really Want To Hurt Me, Culture Club
The video turned Boy George into a global phenomenon, not just for the popularity for the tune itself, but the ongoing questions regarding his sexual orientation turned into tabloid fodder.
Never Gonna Give You Up, Rick Astley
We had to throw this one in. Why? Because love it or hate it, it is still talked about three decades later. Gotcha - you've just been rickrolled.
The best of the rest:
Walk This Way, Run DMC & Aerosmith; Hungry Like The Wolf, Duran Duran; When Doves Cry, Prince; Physical, Olivia Newton John; Legs, ZZ Top; China Girl, David Bowie; Rhythm Nation, Janet Jackson; Whip It, Devo; (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party), Beastie Boys; Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), Eurythmics; Burning Down the House, Talking Heads; Addicted To Love, Robert Palmer; Sweet Child O' Mine, Guns 'N Roses; She Blinded Me With Science, Thomas Dolby; Money For Nothing, Dire Straits; Land of Confusion, Genesis; Rockit, Herbie Hancock.