Monday, February 12, 2007

semi-obscure 80s videos

On Saturday I was practicing my procrastination skills by reading the Download Squad, a handy blog that lists new software and websites. Their description of vodpod caught my eye, and I decided to try out vodpod’s content aggregation capabilities. Ah, but what to add?

In a moment of inspired genius, I searched YouTube for an 80s band. I was surprised at how many results returned and more shocked still to see videos that I never knew existed. So I searched again for something a little more unusual and I received more results.

Emboldened by my success, I wondered: would YouTube have the complete version of Duran Duran’s Girls on Film? After determining that the answer was yes, I started to create my first vodpod pod.

To fill my pod I decided on some rules. First, only “modern” music. Eligible are new wave, post-punk, pioneering rap and almost anything English. This elinimates 80s video stars like: Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Journey, Van Halen and all of the metal bands that would dominate MTV in the later half of the decade.

Second, the groups had to be semi-obscure. I’m not yet ready to proclaim the greatest bands of the 80s (I’m still reeling from the controversy my 70s post created), so I exclude more famous bands like Devo, The Cure, U2, The Clash, The Talking Heads, New Order, Depeche Mode, The Eurythmics, The Smiths, Simple Minds, Tears for Fears, Squeeze, Duran Duran, The Cars, Yazoo, Queen, Bowie, Peter Gabriel, and George Michael and Wham.

Third, it had to be a video I never saw and didn’t know existed. This leaves out anthemic hits from groups that did well on MTV in America like: Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Flock of Seagulls, Thompson Twins, A-ha, The Bangles, Banarama, The B-52s, The Go-Gos, , Blondie, The Pet Shop Boys, The Alarm, Oingo Boingo, ABC, Wang Chung, Animotion, Bronski Beat, Level 42, Psychedelic Furs, Dead or alive, Gene Loves Jezebel, Madness, Men at Work, Men Without Hats, Gary Numan, Tom, Tom Club, Modern English, The Communards, The Fine Young Cannibals, UB40, The Stray Cats, Billy Idol, Thomas Dolby, Howard Jones, Dire Straits, Bow Wow Wow and Adam and the Ants.

So with those 3 rules as filters, I present 60 semi-obscure 80s videos. Most are from the early to mid 80s, although (as I will explain) there are a two from 1979 and one from 1978 selected for their influence.

To show off the slick vodpod controls I have embedded videos with “Solid Style.” The Solid Style category is quite subjective, but these ones that I would have remembered seeing at the time if they had been aired in the US with any frequency. Now that I have found them, I don’t mind watching them again as each has a distinctive visuals stand up well 20 years later.

In addition to the embedded songs, there are more categories for the collection of semi-obscure 80s videos on my main pod. These include:

great hair (must be seen to be believed)
post-punk (for bands like The Stranglers, Shriekback, Killing Joke and Bauhaus)
cool dancing (check out the Gap Band moves and watch for Lawrence Fishburne in White Lines)
British pop (for Aztec Camera, Haircut 100, the Blow Monkeys and others)
better known (including The Church, The Violent Femmes, Berlin and Missing Persons)
very electronic (home to OMD, Freur, CCCP, Chris and Cosey and 6 more classics)
one-hit-wonders (who can deny this status to The Vapors, Trio or Belgian superstar Plastic Bertrand)

Of course, some like Tarzan Boy have the hair, the moves and the one-hit-wonder fame.

Then, there are the 5 you must watch. Kraftwerk’s 1978 The Robots is an easy call for its incredibly influential sound and theme. 1979’s Human League Being Boiled and the Flying Lizard’s Money make the list for similar reasons. The most random pick is the Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight. I added it because I was shocked it had a video. Finally, Front 242 rounds out my selections because the visuals are every bit as disturbing as I hope they would be.

A final note: there were a few other videos which I had hoped to link to. For example, Peter Godwin’s Images of Heaven is a perfect fit for this concept, but it seems to get removed by YouTube as quickly as it is added. My apologies in advance for any broken links that may result from YouTube efforts to comply with takedown notices.


At 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting list, but where is the love for This Mortal Coil, Dead Can Dance and the Cocteau Twins?

fake sj

At 11:18 AM, Blogger paul said...

"Fake SJ"-

Valid points. Others may argue that TMC, DCD and CT failed to achieve even semi-obscurity here in the States, but I would not be one of them. I was considering a 4AD category; however, I abandoned this idea when I couldn't find the right Colourbox or Frazier Chorus videos. How about some Clan of Xymox instead?


ps say hi to "fake jj" and the kids for me

At 12:48 PM, Anonymous Paddle said...

As you feared, Poppy, I had seen your five featured obscure videos on MV3 (with host Richard Blade) years ago. I had never seen the human league or Devo videos, though.

At 4:04 PM, Blogger paul said...

To answer a question posed in email, yes, I have vinyl for all of these songs. In many cases more than one copy, especilly if there was a 12" single released. I guess owning it way back when was a 4th selection criteria.

As I stumble upon more videos, I'll keep adding to the list. This Sigue Sigue Sputnik video based on La Jetée is another interesting one.

At 10:31 AM, Blogger BeckEye said...

YouTube is a beautiful thing.

At 5:02 AM, Blogger France said...

Thanks so much for your "main pod", a trip down memory lane... and great ideas for my mp3 collection!


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