The 1980s may have commenced with the launch of Pac-Man and concluded with the fall of communism, but for a generation of pop aficionados, the decade is synonymous with the launch of a TV channel that would revolutionise how we enjoy music… MTV.
Famously kicking off with The Buggles’ Video Killed The Radio Star in August 1981, MTV would fundamentally alter how artists presented themselves, as the music video became the medium of choice for musicians seeking fame and fortune.
But for every iconic short such as Thriller or Material Girl, there were no shortage of brilliantly barmy clips – often from reputable artists – that showcase why there was more to the 80s than spandex and shoulder pads.
Here are some of our favourites:
Will Powers – Kissing With Confidence 
We’re still not sure what prompted photographer Lynn Goldsmith to team up with Sting, Nile Rodgers, Todd Rundgren, Robert Palmer, Carly Simon and a host of A-listers to record a ‘comedy self-help album’ at the start of the 80s, but the resulting project, Dancing for Mental Health, is a synth pop masterpiece.
The first single, Adventures in Success, is as good as anything in Tom Tom Club’s back catalogue, if you ask us.
The third cut from the album, however, Kissing With Confidence, features one of the most psychedelic videos of the 80s, with pouting red lips spewing forth images of happy couples, while disembodied purple figures weave back and forth through the matrix.
Billy Ocean – Loverboy 
Speaking of happy couples… Billy Ocean was already a well-established artist by the time he recorded 1984’s Loverboy, and we can only presume that his record label were eager to splash the cash on a suitably over-the-top music video to cement his reputation.
Otherwise, it’s hard to fathom the thinking behind this oddball clip, which borrows from the Cantina bar from Star Wars and puppet-led fantasy Dark Crystal, while Ocean himself ’performs’ from within the confines of a rotating pyramid.
Oh, and like with every phantasmagorical escapade, there’s a happy ending.
Within a few months, Ocean had released Caribbean Queen, taking his career to the next level… we’d like to think the strange occupants of Loverboy’s beachside bar enjoyed that one just as much. [Hat tip to Moo Kid for making me aware of this one].
The Jacksons – Torture 
The best music videos are the ones that haunt your dreams (said nobody ever), and with Torture, off The Jackson’s 1984 album Victory, there are enough surrealistic horror tropes to ensure you won’t be able drift off for days.
The video’s main protagonist is Jackie Jackson, who traverses a dystopian lansdcape filled with strange clawed harpies, disfigured characters, oozing eyeballs, an overszied spider’s web and a sadomasochist figure who’s quite handy with a whip.
Oh, and the best dancing skeletons this side of a Ray Harryhausen flick.
Eagle eyed viewers will notice that two of the Jackson clan, Jermaine and Michael, are noticeably absent in the video, except in waxwork form (cringe) – Jermaine reportedly refused to appear, while Michael was busy on Thriller-related duties.
Lou Reed – No Money Down 
Anything Kraftwerk can do, Lou Reed can take to macabre new levels. At least that’s what we imagine 10cc’s Godley and Creme were thinking when they put together the video for No Money Down, which features an animatronic version of the New York native miming along to the song before… well, we’ll let you watch and find out.
And you thought Nico was the weird one out of the Velvet Underground.
The single was one of few stand-out moments on Reed’s 1986 album Mistrial… thankfully the sunglassed songster returned to form on his following effort, New York; an album that even led to the revival of the Velvets for a short period.
Cyndi Lauper – The Goonies ‘r’ Good Enough 
Directed by Richard Donner, and partly filmed on the set of the 1985 movie that gives the track its name, this two-part video is a rollicking rollercoaster adventure which stars The Bangles as pirates, Stephen Spielberg, a typecast Russian milking a plastic cow, a subterranean sushi bar, a distinctly amateurish-looking octopus, a smattering of WWF legends and… well, just how 80s can you get?
Extra kudos to Cyndi for sporting a yellow smiley on her lapel, a good two to three years before everyone else did. Acid house will never die, Cyn. 🙂
Feel free to share your memories of bizarre 80s videos in the comments below.