Big budgets and big ideas: some of pop music’s greatest – and not so great – tracks have carried with them some of the daftest visuals in their promo videos.
While this decade’s pop videos have tended to be a little tongue-in-cheek and knowing in their silliness (yes Minaj, we’re looking at you here), we kind of miss those glorious splash-the-cash narrative-based promos from the music industry’s heyday, which would rock up on children’s TV on a Saturday morning to frazzle young minds.
So here’s a list of the greatest, high-concept, confusing, earnest, ludicrous and just downright odd music videos of all-time.
Duran Duran: The Wild Boys
Gosh, where to start with this William S. Burroughs-inspired madcap blockbuster?
Creepy fire-breathing robot heads staring out of the TV and seemingly into your soul? Check.
Poor old John Taylor tied to a car bonnet, and tortured by being forced to watch images of himself and, for some reason, the words ‘car’ and ‘girls’ on a loop? Obviously.
Whatever that fanged fish thing is? Natch.
But the main image that sticks in the mind is Simon Le Bon stuck on some kind of pool-based steampunk windmill – a scene so dramatic he apparently nearly drowned while filming it.
Le Bon has claimed there was no truth in the story, but according to Arlene Phillips – who choreographed the video’s dancing – divers were forced to rescue him when the windmill stopped working with his head beneath the water.
Cher: If I Could Turn Back Time
‘Cher! Cherilyn Sarkisian! Get down from there this instant.
‘I’ve told you once and I won’t tell you again: this is a multi-million pound piece of military hardware and you are damaging the paintwork with those tights. They are not appropriate attire – you’ll catch a cold out on the open seas.
‘And what are you lot gawping at: get back below deck.’
Bonnie Tyler: Total Eclipse Of The Heart
Nothing to see here.
Just our Bonnie roaming round a mansion haunted by the spirits of ninjas, fencers, American football players, The Bullingdon Club having a food fight, the dancing T-Birds from Grease, an emo swim team, flying choirboys with glowsticks for pupils, and the cast from Duran Duran’s The Wild Boys video.
Should have just spent the night at the bingo instead, Bonnie.
Michael Jackson: Black Or White
Filled with star cameos from Macaulay Culkin, Norm from Cheers and, erm, Bart Simpson, and featuring (at the time) groundbreaking, jaw-dropping special effects, for six minutes and 20 seconds, Jacko’s 1991 promo was, though ridiculous, and filled with all sorts of cultural stereotypes, a grand spectacle.
Then, for reasons unknown, MJ turns morphs into a panther, turns back into himself, and spends the next five minutes smashing up the streets, fiddling about with his crotch and grunting and screaming, with no musical backing whatsoever.
This isn’t strictly speaking a verified fact, but, when this premiered, it was at this point the sound of millions of remote controls simultaneously switching over from Top Of The Pops to The Crystal Maze could be heard across the nation.
Taking high-concept a little too far to the point of inexplicable, the last few minutes were, to the relief of the entire world, removed from subsequent broadcasts.
Lionel Ritchie: Hello
There is no finer image in all of pop history than that of Lionel Ritchie’s big, clay head. Fact.
Guns N’ Roses: November Rain
Oh, the sheer unadulterated, overblown joy of November Rain’s tragi-comedy video.
Here’s a brief play-by-play synopsis:
There’s the arty scene-setting concert footage: Look the band are playing with an orchestra, which means we’re in for some serious sophistication.
Is that Jesus crying blood?
Big church: Axl’s getting married and here comes Stephanie Seymour in a wedding dress that taste forgot.
Flashback warning: The lads having a cracking, perfectly innocent, non-drug-fuelled time playing cards in a dingy bar.
Ha ha, Slash has forgotten the ring, the big oaf, followed by the priest’s comedy face pulling.
Oo, big, sloppy kiss from the happy couple.
Slash is outta here: and strides out of this Tardis church – 20 times bigger on the inside than what it appears on the outside – that seems to have landed through space and time into a dusty field.
And that’s where he delivers a searing, face-burning solo, despite having no means of amplification for miles around.
Then it’s all back to a thoroughly delightful wedding reception, which takes a rather abrupt volte-face with some terrifying rain that sends guests scurrying, including one who goes headlong into the five-tiered cake.
Oh God, back at the gig, Slash is standing on the piano. Things are about to get real.
It’s now a funeral. The bride’s dead? Tell me this wasn’t because of the rain?
And what’s the deal with the mirror in the casket?
Big solo; stonking cut-shot with some flowers. Then Axl’s all wet in a graveyard.
Yup: absolute rock ‘n’ roll perfection.