Prior to the 1970s, a promotional clip might be prepared if the artist was shooting a movie for cinema release, Elvis Presley and The Beatles being amongst the artists in the 1960s with short films made to accompany particular songs, similar to the modern music video. Despite The Buggles’ pronouncement in 1979 that Video Killed The Radio Star, the sentiment was not (yet) true, although some artists debuting at around that time were, from the outset of their careers, considering the visual presentation of their work at the same time as the audio: for example, Kate Bush, all but one of whose singles had a music video. Although simple, her first few films – directed by Keef Macmillan and featuring dance, lighting effects, dry ice and performed in infinity coves – stood out amongst the typical promos being made of a mocked-up ‘live’ performance of a track with a singer in front of a mic backed by his band. For Bush, ‘miming’ did not mean ‘lip-syncing’ – she acted out the entire song, her interpretive dance mocked and celebrated in equal measure. For an artist as peculiarly ‘English’ as her, music videos were not thought to an essential marketing tool at the start of the 80s; they were the preserve of internationally established acts such as ABBA who needed to be in several places around the world at once to promote their work.
But when MTV arrived in 1981 (The Buggles’ aforementioned single was the first clip shown), the demand for innovative, memorable short movies suddenly went up. If an artist already had a unique look or a striking sense of style (Adam Ant, for instance) half the job was already done, but it was when established directors such as John Landis who directed Michael Jackson’s Thriller became involved that the clips became something that people might actually want to purchase and retain as long as the music itself. By the end of the decade, directors were making names for themselves as well known as the acts they made promos for.
Later entries in If You Were There will look at specific video clips in detail…
NEW SINGLES on sale from Jan. 31
DEPECHE MODE Get The Balance Right! (Mute 7BONG2)
INXS (Michael Hutchence) This Time (Mercury INXS4)