Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these videos or songs. I make no money from talking about these videos or using images from them.
1. Big Love-Fleetwood Mac, released 1987.
I’m not a Fleetwood Mac fan at all, but this video was very memorable for me. The viewer gets to go backwards through all of these various scenes, through doors, windows, television screens, etc. Each scene sort of fits in to the next scene in a very fluid way. Then, a little after the 3 minute marker, you get to go forwards through each scene you passed through, only much faster. I loved that fast part! I would anxiously sit through the whole video just to get to the ending.
2. Land of Confusion-Genesis, released 1986.
What can I say, this video was super creepy to watch as a child! It was one of the first I had ever seen (and possibly the only?) that involved puppets. In general, I really had no clue what was going on in the video, but strangely I understood that the lyrics. I knew they were telling adults to be careful of what they do because the children were the ones who would inherit the earth. Even as a small child, I recognized the celebrities that most of the puppets were supposed to resemble and I understood that they were making fun of them (although I didn’t know why). One of the most memorable scenes for me was when the big puppet hands held the little real baby hands inside of them. I remember thinking, “Wow. Those are real baby hands and they need to take care of them.” The directors did a good job of getting the message across to all of the generations watching this video.
3. Material Girl-Madonna, released 1984.
What little girl in the 80’s didn’t love this video? The pink dress, the jewelry, the furs, the men carrying you around, it looked like fun! I already wanted to be Madonna (see video number 4 description) but this video just really solidified how cool it must be to be Madonna. My mother always used to remind me when I would watch it, that it was basically a remake of Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” from the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I think she wanted to make it known that this was not an original idea and that she felt as though Madonna was simply a cheaper, modern version knockoff of Marilyn Monroe..but she was so wrong because Madonna was WAY COOLER.
4. Open Your Heart-Madonna, released 1986.
This is the first Madonna video that really made me say, “Wow, I want to be just like Madonna when I grow up.”. When I was 4 years old, I insisted that my mom chop off all of my hair (which she did) so that it was short, just like Madonna’s and buy me a black bustier with silver nipples (which she did NOT buy). I remember her describing in horror to my grandmother on the phone the silver nipple outfit that I insisted she purchase.
Unfortunately and luckily, I was never able to complete my full Madonna look. Another reason this video also stood out to me was because I thought it was so cool that Madonna blew off all of the sleazy guys at the peep show to befriend an adorable little boy and dance down the street with him into the night.
Awe, see? She WAS a good role model after all! It all looked like an absolutely perfect night to me.
5. Sara-Starship, released 1985.
I remembered this video and knew I had to add it to the list when I was writing this, but needed to see the video again. Looking back on this video as an adult was...interesting. It was SO CHEESY! As a child, only two things stood out to me: 1) It involved tornadoes. Growing up in Michigan, tornadoes were very much a part of my life. Once we knew a storm was coming, my sister, brother and I would sit at the window and watch the skies get darker and the clouds circle. Once the sirens would go off, we’d pack up all of our “important” belongings in our pillow cases and trot down to the basement. My dad had a “Ham Radio” in the basement that he would use to track the storm’s location. My dad would then give us a play-by-play from the reports on his radio of where the twisters touched down until the storm passed over us and it was safe to go upstairs. Then we would all pile into the car, pick up ice cream cones, and drive around surveying the damage from the storm. Weird Michigan activities, right? That’s just life as a Michigander. I was shocked when I moved to Massachusetts and realized that they didn’t have a siren system here. Anyhow, anything involving twisters fascinated me so that’s mainly what stood out to me about this video.
2) The only other thing that really stood out to me was that they released the horses to outrun the storm. As an adult, I now understand why they would have done that. But as a child, I was horrified. I didn’t understand when they didn’t bring the horses into the cellar to protect them. It made me sad. On a side note, the song was catchy and easy to sing so it was a favorite in my household.
6. Got My Mind Set On You-George Harrison, released 1987.
My dad was a HUGE Beatles fan. I probably knew all of the words to all of the songs on Abbey Road by the time I was 5. When George Harrison decided to go solo and release this video, my dad just ate it up (although he didn’t necessarily love George’s solo career). I never understood the song or lyrics as a child, but I thought the video was funny. As George Harrison sat in the chair and sang, all of the objects in the room started to come to life and do all sorts of crazy things, which I found hilarious. My favorite part was the squirrel playing the saxophone! That part cracked me up!
Every time we’d watch the video, my dad would point out that it wasn’t really George Harrison who did the dance and the flip into the chair, it was a body double. I think it made him feel smart to point that out, that the video directors didn’t fool him! He knew the truth! Ah, dad...
7. Legs-ZZ Top, released 1984.
When I was little, the guys from ZZ Top fascinated me. I had never seen men with such long beards! They just seemed so mysterious and cool, especially when they spun their fuzzy guitars around while playing them! Nothing was cooler than that.
But that’s not the part of this video that really stuck in my little brain. Of all the things is this video that could have been memorable, for me it was the pink high heels and ruffle socks. I wanted those high heels and socks SO BADLY. I remember going in to my kindergarten interview and telling the woman interviewing me about how I wanted pink high heels when I grew up. It’s all I could talk about! I never did get those pink heels...
8. Sledgehammer-Peter Gabriel, released 1986.
This video had all kinds of crazy things going on! Claymation, stop motion animation, this video was definitely an original for the mid 1980’s! The two most memorable scenes were the raw chickens dancing and the light suit that Mr. Gabriel wore at the end. Those two scenes stuck with me over the years.
What’s most funny to me about the song is that the lyrics completely went over my head. It wasn’t until my mid 20’s when I pulled out the CD and gave it a good listen that I realized that the lyrics were jam packed with sexual innuendos. Mr. Gabriel was a dirty man, but I love it! This is still one of my most favorite songs of all time.
9. Take On Me-A-ha, released 1985.
Another animated video. MTV was amazing because it was the first time I got to see the songs that I heard on the radio come to life and some of the videos produced stories I wouldn’t have otherwise thought about when listening to the song. Those early videos were like short movies. They really gave the listener/watcher a vivid image of what the song could be about. In this video, I loved the love story between the man in the comics and the girl at the diner. I got worried and upset when there was that moment at the end when we weren’t sure if the comic man was going to be able to escape into the real world. Luckily, all ended well, but the video really took me on a journey with those two. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one taken with this video for it won 6 awards at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards.
10. Thriller-Michael Jackson, released 1983. (I had to really lighten the images because the video is SO dark.)
Everyone knows this song and video so I won’t spend too much time on this one, but I can’t discuss memorable videos from the 1980’s without mentioning it. First of all, the video aside, the song scared the crap out of me. My parents had the album on a vinyl record and used to play it frequently. Every time it got to the end where Vincent Price started laughing, I would cover my ears and go hide in the bedroom. When the video came out, I was in awe. My siblings and I had a thing for scary movies and my parents let us watch them from a very early age (which I don’t recommend) so it didn’t scare me as much as you would think it would. I found some parts to be quite humorous while others were very eerie.
I was mostly impressed with the dancing and sheer length of the video. Talk about mini-movies, this video takes the cake! This is one of those videos that will live on for decades. My son is just as fascinated with it today as I was back then. I know it gets a lot of credit for being memorable, but it really deserves it. Since it came out, I really don’t think there has been a story in a music video that has quite caught my attention like this one (well, “November Rain” was pretty captivating but there’s still no comparison).
So there you have it. If you want to take a trip down memory lane or familiarize yourself with pop culture, I highly recommend you take the time to watch each of these videos. Their stories, characters and images will live on in my memories forever.