Leaping Ahead Project 2016 #319: 161114
Song with a good video (10)
The short film for “Billie Jean” is considered the video that brought MTV, until then a fairly new and unknown music channel, into mainstream attention. It was one of the first videos by a black artist to be aired regularly by the channel, as the network’s executives felt black music wasn’t “rock” enough. Directed by Steve Barron, the video shows a photographer who follows Jackson. The paparazzi never catches the singer, and when photographed Jackson fails to materialize on the developed picture. ‘Billie Jean’ was the second single from Jackson’s sixth studio album ‘Thriller’ released in 1982.
Though some artists had made video clips to accompany songs (including Queen themselves,it was only after the success of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in October 1975 that it became regular practice for record companies to produce promotional videos for artists’ single releases. These videos could then be shown on television shows, such as the BBC’s Top of the Pops, without the need for the artist to appear in person. A promo video also allowed the artist to have their music broadcast and accompanied by their own choice of visuals, rather than dancers such as Pan’s People (Top of the Pops).
According to Brian May, the video was produced so that the band could avoid miming on Top of the Pops, since they would have looked off miming to such a complex song. He also said that the band knew they would be set to appear at Dundee’s Caird Hall on tour and unable to appear on the programme anyway. The video has been hailed as launching the MTV age.
Released in April 2001 as a double A-side with ‘Star 69’, ‘Weapon of Choice’ is perhaps best known for its accompanying music video, which was filmed in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel (now the LA Hotel) in Los Angeles in December 2000. Directed by Spike Jonze and featuring actor Christopher Walken, who trained as a dancer in musical theatre before his acting career, it features Walken dancing and flying around in the empty hotel to the music.
The video won six awards at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards. Walken was awarded one of MTV’s “Moonmen” for Best Choreography. The clip was also ranked number one in a list of the top 100 videos of all time by VH1 in April 2002 that was compiled from a music industry survey. Walken has cited the involvement of Jonze as one of his main motivations for appearing in the video, which he also welcomed as a chance to do “something different”.
As I’m away these next few days, here’s ‘Leaping Ahead’ parts #130 – #135 all in one go.
Appearing on his 1986 album ‘So’, Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” had a widely popular and influential music video commissioned by Tessa Watts at Virgin Records, directed by Stephen R. Johnson and produced by Adam Whittaker. Aardman Animations (of Wallace and Gromit fame) and the Brothers Quay provided claymation, pixilation, and stop motion animation that gave life to images in the song. The video ended with a large group of extras jerkily rotating around Gabriel, among them: Gabriel’s own daughters Anna and Melanie, the animators themselves and director Stephen Johnson’s girlfriend. Also included were six women who posed as the back-up singers of the song. Gabriel lay under a sheet of glass for 16 hours while filming the video one frame at a time.
Two oven-ready chickens, headless and featherless, were animated using stop-motion and shown dancing along to the synthesised flute solo in the middle of the song. This section was animated by Nick Park, of Aardman Animations, who was refining his work in plasticine animation at the time.
Originally released in 1983 as the lead single from the band’s debut album, it has gone on to become their best seller. So much so that in August 2015, the song was acquired by BMG Rights Management for £10 million, along with all the other songs written by Kimberley Rew and Katrina and the Waves.
In 1996, Dolly Parton included a bluegrass version of “Walking on Sunshine” on her album of covers, Treasures, stating in interviews to promote the album, as well as her CBS TV special to promote the album, that she had long loved the song. In 1997, a dance remix of Parton’s version was released.