Today in 1986

Die-cut 7" sleeveSpotlight Research compiled a weekly chart of music video (VHS and Betamax) sales in the mid-80s and this is the Top 20 for the week ending 19 April 1986:

1 > Alchemy Live, Dire Straits
2 > The Visions of Diana Ross, Diana Ross
3 > Hits 4 Video Collection
4 > Stop Making Sense, Talking Heads
5 > The Single File, Kate Bush
6 > Video Hits 2
7 > The Virgin Tour, Madonna
8 > The Making Of Arena, Duran Duran
9 > Live In Rio, Queen
10 > Live In Concert, Dio
11 > Wham! ’85, Wham!
12 > The Unforgettable Fire Collection, U2
13 > The High Road, Roxy Music
14 > Live After Death, Iron Maiden
15 > Dance On Fire, The Doors
16 > Live In NYC, John Lennon
17 > Mirage Tour, Fleetwood Mac
18 > Live, Big Country
19 > The Video, Wham!
20 > Greatest Flix, Queen

The tapes in the list above are representative of the type of visual material that was available for sale in the 80s, which can be divided into five categories:

>Concert or tour films (positions 1, 4, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18)
A recording of a concert, or a collection of footage from various shows in a tour. The #4 tape, ‘Stop Making Sense’, was unusual. Directed by Jonathan Demme for cinema release, it was a recording of a concert but shot differently to the standard live video, attempting to more accurately capture the experience of what it was like to actually attend a Talking Heads gig. Accordingly the usual establishing shots of the audience were kept to a minimum (when you’re at a show, you look at the stage, not the audience); crowd noise was also removed from the soundtrack as far as possible, to allow cinema and home audiences to react to what they saw on screen themselves, rather than being prompted by what people present on the night of taping had responded to. Close ups of the group members weren’t used (again, you don’t see the group’s faces up close at a concert) and lighting effects were kept as plain as possible. There was also no attempt to conceal stage hands or the movement of instruments and equipment about the stage during the show – what the audience on the night saw stayed in the film; typically in other ‘live’ videos, this type of thing would be edited out.

>Video EPs (positions 2, 11, 19)
So-called ‘video EPs’ were collections of promotional clips, usually from an era in an artist’s career rather than films set to related musical pieces. Ross’s collection included one or two clips used to promote singles from each of her albums Why Do Fools Fall In Love (1981), Silk Electric (1982), Swept Away (1984) and Eaten Alive (1985) – but curiously nothing from 1983’s Ross. The two Wham! tapes featured between them the clips to all their singles to date, except Young Guns (Go For It!) and Bad Boys.

>Various artist compilations (positions 3, 6)
The visual equivalent of the Now That’s What I Call Music! audio compilation series, but usually featuring B-list artists. The #6 collection was your chance to own the promotional clip for Su Pollard’s Starting Together.

>Album accompaniments (positions 5, 12, 20)
Themed collections of promotional clips tied to an album release. E.g. Queen’s ‘Greatest Flix’ was the companion video to their Greatest Hits album and contained all the songs on that album for which a promotional clip was filmed. U2’s collection featured the promotional clips to the singles taken from their album of the same name, but was extra value for money in that it included a ‘making of’ featurette unavailable elsewhere. Kate Bush’s cleverly titled The Single File originally referred to box set EMI had made available in January 1984, containing reissues of all 12 of her UK singles from 1978 to 1982. Bush had made promotional clips for all but one of these singles PMI (EMI’s video arm) had issued this video cassette simultaneously collecting them all in chronological order. The box set contained a bonus, the single Ne T’En Fui Pas, issued in France in 1983 (EMI had issued an injunction against import specialist Conifer in August that year to stop its release in the UK). Similarly, the video contained a bonus clip: Suspended In Gaffa , a single in Europe in place of the UK choice, There Goes A Tenner.

>Archival footage (position 15)
Typically footage from television performances, interviews, extracts from stage shows, etc from across an artist’s career, especially if they were no longer performing and were from before the MTV era (as Jim Morrison wasn’t and was).

That leaves one video that doesn’t really fit into any of these categories, so obscure was its premise: ‘The Making of Arena’ by Duran Duran. ‘Arena (An Absurd Notion)’, a previous release, had subverted the usual concert/tour video format by including a fictitious storyline running alongside the usual stage footage (the visual equivalent of a ‘concept album’, I suppose). The tape in the chart above was the behind-the-scenes story of the making of that film.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Apr. 19
No release scheduled for this date.

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