Ah, the '80s. It's a decade of nostalgia for all music fans - even those who weren't fortunate enough to experience the synth-driven revolution firsthand. From Madonna to Wham! and Bon Jovi to Bowie, the 1980's produced countless hits and genre-defining songs that remain playlist staples years on. The visual aspect of '80s music forms an integral part of its lasting appeal, and the music videos generated throughout the decade are some of the most timeless, innovative, and downright entertaining visual accompaniments produced in the world of music. We asked our writers to tell us their favourite music video of the '80s in the first instalment of Mixdown's Best.
Name: Luke Shields
Music Video: 'Never Tear Us Apart' - INXS
This may come as a contentious standpoint, but I am of the firmly held belief that INXS are, were, and always will be Australia’s greatest band. Every time we went to my Uncle Shane’s house we were assured that on the TV, at many and varied volume levels, we would bear audience to a VHS copy of either Live Baby Live, INXS’ sold out Wembley performance, or an exhaustive film clip collection taped with all duty and care from episodes of Rage over the years. My siblings, cousins and I would sit cross-legged on the lounge room floor as dinner was being prepared, eagerly ingesting every frame. Every hip-wiggle, every lyric, every lock of tousled hair was magic to us, far more exciting and influential than watching juiced-up sportsmen wrestle and butt-slap each other into submission every week.
Of all the clips that they ever put out, however, none has had such a profound influence on me in later life than the one that accompanied ‘Never Tear Us Apart’. The slow panning across foggy Berlin captured as romantically as possible in grainy black and white as Michael Hutchens and co. wander around like gypsies pretty much encapsulates my entire set of tastes to this day. I have a boot length, black jacket just like him, I have long, wayward hair just like him, I have loved and lost just like he describes, and I want nothing more than to wander around in the fog trying to ‘…live for a thousand years’ just like him.
Name: David James Young
Music Video: 'Hot For Teacher' - Van Halen
This brown acid nightmare turns poor Waldo’s first day back at school into surrealist soft porn. Sure, ‘Jump’ might be more typically ‘80s as far as music videos go, but how can you go past this pure insanity as Van Halen’s best clip? Check out the hair on offer here. Or what about the intense close-ups on Waldo's ever weakening mind? Have we mentioned the matching suits, or any of Diamond Dave’s killer outfits? That's not even touching Eddie Van Halen’s iconic strut down the library table while shredding on his signature guitar. It's eccentric, it's brilliantly shot, it's a defining pop culture artefact and a gateway for a new generation of heavy metal to storm the mainstream. For many years, ‘Hot for Teacher’ was one of the most picked songs by guest programmers on rage. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why that's the case. Class dismissed.
Music Video: 'Girls Just Want To Have Fun' - Cyndi Lauper
When bringing to mind music in the ‘80s from an aesthetic perspective, one woman in particular is burned into memory - not least of all for her fiery red hair and matching dress. Cyndi Lauper became one of the biggest stars of the ‘80s on the back of this song and video, becoming one of the first major pop acts to impact on the still-developing medium. With the mighty Captain Lou Albano in her corner and enough hairspray to finance a barbershop for a full year, ‘Girls’ is an endearing, technicolour feminist manifesto that's routinely survived. An intersectional blend of working class women travel through telephone lines, ultimately uniting in a parade through the city that ends up back in Lauper’s bedroom. It warrants a mile-wide smile every time it comes on - and if you've ever been near a channel showing classic music videos, you can testify to its high rotation.
Name: Will Brewster
Music Video: 'Billie Jean' - Michael Jackson
Sure, ‘Thriller’ is an incredible video of historical proportions, but at the end of the day, it just doesn't have the funk like ‘Billie Jean’ does. Like most 11 year olds, I went through a huge MJ phase in 2009 when he passed away, and kind of never grew out of it. I still reckon "Billie Jean" is possibly the greatest dance track of all time. Everything about this video is great: the plot line with the creepy paparazzo, the flawless mise en scene, the cinematography, and especially the choreography - the image of MJ boogying down the road with those flashing tiles is constantly burnt into my brain. You can't beat excellence, and no one did it quite like Michael.
Name: Eddy Lim
Music Video: 'Take On Me' - a-ha
Disclaimer: This video’s original release dates way out of my time. I first saw this video somewhere on the TV as a kid in the mid to late ‘90s – probably an MTV throwback. Apart from being an absolute classic synthpop banger, this music video sure used some innovative tech for its time. Directed by the famed Steve Barron, the video combined live action with rotoscoping illustration, which led to some incredible ‘reality meets animation’ scenes (like the revolving picture frame at 1:35). Artist Mike Patterson spent four months creating drawings and illustrations entirely by hand, with more than 3000 drawn for the final clip. Incidentally, the version of the song that we all know and love is actually the second attempt of ‘Take On Me’. After the original version proved to be a commercial flop, the band decided to introduce more energy and pizzazz via a reworked range of instrumentation. It didn’t take long until the second rendition of the track claimed its well-deserved #1 spot in America, and eventually turned into the pop culture phenomenon it is today.
Name: Nicholas Simonsen
Music Video: 'Sledgehammer' - Peter Gabriel
The first music video I have a recollection of seeing was ‘Sledgehammer’. Peter Gabriel is one of my father’s favourite artists and the song was on regular rotation in our house when I was growing up. Before I was old enough to actually understand how incredibly intricate and groundbreaking the video was, I was just captivated by the upbeat sound of the song and the wonder of the stop motion used in the video’s creation. Now, as I look back at the video as an adult, I see just how insane it would have been to create.
Music Video: 'Africa' - Toto
This video is just ridiculous. It’s the perfect example of so many ‘80s music and fashion stereotypes. Not to mention the fact that “I know that I must do what's right / As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti” is one of the most incredible lyrics in existence. There are so many things to pull apart, but at the end of the day, it’s Africa by motherf**king Toto. ‘Nuff said.
Name: Jessica Over
Music Video: 'You Can Call Me Al' - Paul Simon
Is there a family out there who doesn’t watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation every year on December 25th? I doubt it. Chevy Chase has been a familiar face on my television screen for years, and amongst frequent viewings of his role as Clark Griswold, his cameo in Paul Simon’s video for ‘You Can Call Me Al’ has also enjoyed its fair share of repetition. Maybe it’s the comically awful dance moves and lip-syncing or the childishly amusing height difference between Chase and Simon, but there’s something about the clip that always makes me laugh. It’s made better by the fact that the entertaining visuals accompany a great song; an easy highlight of Simon’s 1986 album, Graceland. Bakithi Kumalo’s bass solo that’s impossible to replicate remains brilliant even when being mimed in a ridiculous, but strangely fitting video.
Once you've added these '80s classics to your playlist, take a look at our picks for the best albums of 2017.