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The Weirdest 80s Music Videos

Photo of Vector MTV Logo from Wikimedia Commons.

Photo of Vector MTV Logo from Wikimedia Commons.

Remember When MTV Actually Played Videos?

Remember back in the 80s when MTV would actually play music videos? We would sit there in front of the TV for hours on end watching video after video. Those days are long gone but not forgotten. There were a lot of really great videos (the short film “Thriller” anyone?) but there were a bunch that were cheesy, or just plain… weird. Let’s take a look at some of those that left their impression on me for being particularly odd for one reason or another.

“Rockit” - Herbie Hancock (1984)

I always found this one pretty disturbing. What was up with the legs walking around at the end of a mechanical arm? It was just creepy. It’s a great song but the whole video is just bizarre; from the dummy in the bed that looked like it was having some sort of seizure, the headless mannequins, to the dancing legs with no bodies. I was 12 when I first saw it – I think if I was any younger I would have had nightmares.

The video was doing something right though – it won five awards at the 1984 MTV Music Awards: Best Concept Video, Most Experimental Video, Best Special Effects in a Video, Best Editing in a Video, and Best Art Direction in a Video.

“Land of Confusion” – Genesis (1986)

A popular video, it won the Grammy for Best Concept Music Video in 1988. The video featured puppets from Spitting Image, a show based in the UK, including puppets of former President and First Lady Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Gorbachev, Gaddafi, and other political figures, as well as Genesis and other celebrities. Bonzo from Reagan’s movie “Bedtime for Bonzo” also makes an appearance. The puppets are creepy looking - Phil Collins looks like a rendition of that creepy murdering doll, Chucky. We see Reagan drowning in a pool of his own sweat and running around in a Superman costume. It includes a spoof of “We Are the World” with a bizarre instance of Madonna’s belly button singing. What was up with that?

“Don’t Come Around Here No More” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (1985)

You know this “Alice in Wonderland” themed video is going to be strange when it starts with Alice coming upon a hookah-smoking sitar-playing Dave Stewart (of the Eurythmics, who co-wrote the song with Petty) with long fingernails sitting on top of a giant mushroom. It just gets crazier from there. Tom Petty is dressed as the Mad Hatter and Alice falls into a checker board room where he’s sitting at the table. The flamingos that are used as croquet mallets in the actual story make their appearance in the video as the backup singers use them as bows for their cellos. The weirdest part is at the end of the video when Alice is turned into a cake and everyone eats a slice of her. That part creeps me out the most, I used to (and still do occasionally) have nightmares about something similar. Yikes.

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“You Might Think” – The Cars (1984)

“You Might Think” won the first ever Video of the Year Award at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1984 and was one of the first videos to include computerized effects. It’s the computer effects that make this video weird. With the top of Ric Ocasek’s head missing, tools and things fall into it, and at the end of the video he pulls his face off and water gushes out, bringing the girl and his band members with it. That was the part that disturbed me the most. Ocasek basically stalks the gal in this video, showing up in her bathtub, as a fly, as King Kong, as her lipstick, among other places, and even runs her down flat in her bed while driving a toy car.

“Close to the Edit” - Art of Noise (1984)

“Close to the Edit” was my introduction to Art of Noise. While I enjoyed the music, this video was a bit odd. A young girl dressed like a little punk rocker is hanging out by the train tracks and leads three men to destroy musical instruments to the beat of the music. Why? Gosh, if they don’t want them I’ll take them. I was getting worried there when the dachshund shows up near the end, but he just ends up following the little girl around the wrecked piano while she’s carrying a piece of sausage

“Let’s Go” - Wang Chung (1986)

The song alone makes me want to get up and get my groove on, but this video ranks up there as both bizarre AND cheesy. Let’s see, there is dancing origami with a human head, then the disembodied head with gloved hands, some cheesy dancing, planets flying around, a skeleton levitating and dancing over a coffin… but you have to love the 80s bolo tie.

Yes - "Leave It" (1984)

This one is just odd. The video starts and at first you might think that there's something wrong with the film since the band members are upside down, but then about 20 seconds in, their bodies stay still... and only their heads rotate. That's it. Now you can't stop watching even if you find it disturbing. You watch the band, resembling flat cardboard cut-outs, as they swing like a pendulum, or fold in half, but one of the most bizarre parts is when their heads stay still, but this time their bodies rotate around their heads, still upside down of course. It was actually one of the first videos to use computer-generated imagery, and the abundant use of it here almost seems out-of-control. There were 18 versions of the video made, and this is the one that became the "official" version.

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