What does that song mean?

Forgotten Weird Music Videos of the Ancient 80s | vol 2

Posted Apr 24th, 21:47 by Penguin Pete

The hipster joke of the 90s went, “I’m so old, I watched MTV back when it played music!” The inevitable march of reality TV devoured hour after hour of cable programming time, and series like MTV’s The Real World helped kick off the trend.

Eventually music videos recovered their popularity and we know the rest of the story. But we’re looking back past that era, when MTV was committed to playing almost nothing but music videos – live concerts and news lightly sprinkled in. And play music videos they would! Bands of the 80s quickly learned that if you wanted exposure, tape yourself a video with your band in it and run it over to MTV; they were desperate for content.

This gave us a golden age of the music video as art form. We all remember the peaks of that era because they get steady replay to this day. But we’re here to unearth the more obscure, and downright weird, videos of that era, continuing from last volume.

This volume we’ll call “videos by bands you know from entirely other videos.”


Thomas Dolby – “May the Cube Be With You”

“Boss, I can’t come to work today. Aliens from space accosted me in front of my home and force-fed me drugs.” Everybody knows Thomas Dolby for “She Blinded Me With Science,” but forget that he piled on a couple more follow-ups that were equally loony. We in the US know Dolby as a one-hit-wonder, but Dolby actually continued to chart well past 1982 in the UK alone, not to mention his follow-up hit “Hyperactive!” cracked charts worldwide. Beyond that, video music blogger Todd in the Shadows has an excellent retrospective of Dolby’s career, which I’m including because I very much follow his work and I might even try my own hand at video music blogging just like I do weird movie reviews now. Anyway, take it away Todd!

But I digress. Dolby never made an ordinary music video in his life, so his archive is worth checking out. Note to self: Rockula, co-starring Toni Basil, weird enough to review? Oh, and since Todd name-drops Parliament/Funkadelic there, next up we have…

George Clinton - “Do Fries Go with that Shake”

Nowadays, George Clinton is more associated with the 1970s. Truly, that’s where he first staked out some serious territory, but it’s not like he was content to retire in the 80s. Here he is in 1986, popping up in a maiden’s magic mirror to assure her that she’s the fairest of them all – and then swings into a fast-food metaphor to describe how fine she is. He even name-checks the then-current McDonald’s jingle “you deserve a break today!” Honestly, is this how you want to express your romantic sentiment, comparing her to a supersize meal? Anyway, it’s classic George Clinton, albeit he strained just a little too hard trying to blend his Funkadelic days with 80s pop.

Robert Palmer “Change His Ways”

You all very well remember Robert Palmer and his power-pop videos like “Irresistible” which chiseled his place in music video fame. So I ran across this silly little bit where they replaced Palmer’s normal venue (machine-gun hooks, monochrome identical models marching to his beat) with this cartoon about a lovelorn bird thinking of settling down. A folk-pop, indie-style song where he yodels the chorus in front of a line of cartoon bird-women. Cringe as he actually checks over his shoulder as if wondering on the spot how he’d sunk so low. But if you know Palmer’s broader works, you know the man had a sense of humor and experimented with lots of oddball genres. He just had fun being Robert Palmer.

And if you thought the cartoon birds were goofy…

BEE GEES - We're The Bunburys

If artists like George Clinton found it tough to adapt to the MTV age, spare a thought for the undisputed stars of disco, the Bee Gees, whose day had passed so long ago that they were like an unearthed ancient mummy exhibit in 1986. So here they are doing a relatively sleepy and subdued song to a video about cartoon rabbits and koala bears playing baseball. Here’s how this went down: Former Bee Gees manager David English wrote a children’s book released only in the UK called We’re the Bunburys. To coincide with the project, the brothers Gibb recorded songs for the accompanying album with the proceeds to go to a cricket club charity. So OK, it’s still light years from their Stayin’ Alive years (but not so far from Cucumber Castle). At least you know how they got here.

Until next time...

Look for at least one more volume of weird 80s videos to come – because how could the 80s possibly run out of weirdness?



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