Behind-The-Scenes Stories From Beloved '80s Music Videos

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Vote up the behind-the-scenes stories from classic '80s music videos that grabbed your attention.

The 1980s heyday of MTV programming was a golden age of music videos. Here was a burgeoning art form blessed with a dedicated channel willing to play nothing but music videos that spoke directly to the youth culture of the day. And although you can certainly lament MTV's eventual move away from the "music" aspect of its moniker, the videos of old still deserve to be celebrated.

What better way to do that than to run through stories behind some of the biggest videos of that time, including Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer," A-ha's "Take on Me," and Michael Jackson's "Bad?"


  • Cyndi Lauper burst onto the scene in 1983 with her debut album She's So Unusual and the single "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." A cover of Robert Hazard's 1979 song of the same name, "Girls" introduced Lauper to the world in a big, peppy way. If those involved with producing the music video had foreseen the song's success, perhaps they would have thrown more money into it.

    A 2018 Auralcrave article lists the music video's budget somewhere around $35,000. The team skimped and saved where they could, hiring friends and family for many of the needed roles. The woman who plays Lauper's mom in the video, for example, is her actual mom. It's easy to tell she isn't a professional actor when she looks directly into the camera for a momentary glance during the video's opening. But kudos to her for helping out her daughter.

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    Tom Petty's 'Torso Cake' Cutting Scene In 'Don't Come Around Here No More' Led To A Cannibalism Controversy

    Tom Petty's 1985 music video for "Don't Come Around Here No More" is themed around Lewis Carroll's novels Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. The scene from the video that got the most notice was the so-called "torso cake" moment, where Petty, dressed as the Mad Hatter, cuts pieces from Alice's body as if it were a cake.

    Director Jeff Stein said in a 2020 Yahoo interview that the scene led to significant controversy at the time:

    I was cited for promoting cannibalism by a parents/teachers group. I thought, "Well, this has to be a career-high, if you can bring back cannibalism as a fad!"

    Stein also said the crew had only one custom Alice cake, which meant they had a single take to get it right. Petty got it right.

  • You might know Peter Gabriel for his song "In Your Eyes" from the 1989 cult-hit movie Say Anything, or as the guy who sang the credits song for WALL-E. But "Sledgehammer," the lead single from his 1986 album So, was an even bigger hit than "In Your Eyes." Much of that success came on the back of the music video, which is reportedly MTV's most played music video of all time.

    Although the creative team behind the video deserves a lots of credit for coming up with the idea to use stop-motion animation for the whole thing, Gabriel deserves a shout-out, too. He apparently spent 16 hours lying under a glass sheet during filming of the video, all for the sake of art.

  • CGI is ubiquitous now, but for people of a certain age, the first revolutionary use of CGI they remember seeing was Dire Straits' 1985 music video for "Money for Nothing." The video fades in from black, guest star Sting sings "I want my MTV," and viewers feast their eyes on a television set in a living room that is entirely computer-generated.

    The video goes on to feature multiple CGI people and a CGI dog interspersed with footage of the band performing. It's not the most impressive thing you'll see today, but this was a full 10 years before Pixar's Toy Story was released and convinced everyone CGI was the way of the future.

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    The Lead Singer Of A-ha Dated His ‘Take On Me’ Co-Star For A Year Afterward

    The "Take On Me" music video's story doesn't make much sense, but it doesn't have to. It turns out the magical, romance-fantasy music video genre doesn't need to adhere to traditional storytelling structure. 

    "Take On Me" works in part because of the wondrous visuals and chemistry between actress Bunty Bailey and A-ha lead singer Morten Harket. And, wouldn't you know it, said chemistry led to some fireworks off-set. Bailey and Harket ended up dating for a little while after filming the video.

    Bailey also starred in the music video for another of A-ha's 1985 singles, "The Sun Always Shines on TV," where Harket's character from the "Take On Me" video reverts back to animated form and runs away. So much for the happy ending.

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    The Chickens In Peter Gabriel's ‘Sledgehammer’ Were Animated By ‘Wallace & Gromit’ Creator Nick Park (And They Smelled Awful)

    In Peter Gabriel's music video for "Sledgehammer," from his 1986 album So, the stop-motion work by British animator Nick Park of Aardman Animations is key. You're probably a fan of Park's work even if you've never heard of the man. Do you like Wallace & Gromit? Do you like Chicken Run? Do you like Shaun the Sheep? If you said yes, you're a fan of Nick Park, who helped create those franchises.

    Park, who has four Academy Awards, also spearheaded the dancing, headless chickens from "Sledgehammer." The reanimated poultry may lack the overall technical quality of later Aardman Animations work, but it's an endearing effect nonetheless. There's nothing like seeing a skinned chicken emerge from an egg on stage and begin dancing.

    The chickens, despite not being alive, caused some problems during filming: Park used real chicken carcasses, and eventually they began to stink.