It’s the Halloween season, one of my favorite times of the year! What better way to celebrate than with an 80’s video countdown. While there are some music videos out there that are totally creepy and/or downright terrifying (see anything by Aphex Twin, NIN, or Tool), videos from the 80’s were mostly campy and corny when they were trying to be creepy or spooky. They were TOTALLY entertaining though and some were even big budget productions. Here are my top then 80’s videos with a modicum of creep or spook to them. Enjoy!
10. “Peek-A-Boo” by Siouxsee and The Banshees
The music was built on the sample of another song played backwards so it has an odd, droning feel to it. Pair that with Siouxsee’s unique voice (and the fact that she sang every line into a different microphone) and lyrics that are a little dark and vague and you’ve got the makings a song that’s weird and a little creepy. The video is where the true weirdness is that lands it on list. Close-ups, quick cut shots and men bird stepping in plague masks. I couldn’t name another song by this group if I had to but I was always a fan of this song.
9. “Send Me an Angel” by Real Life
OK. So this video had great creepy potential. A mysterious woman lost in a dark forest? Check. A wolf man on horseback roaming said forest? Check. Spooky fog rolling in? Check. Even the background vocals during the chorus are a little creepy (and, for some reason, remind me of the movie Excalibur). What kills it, though, is the happy, smiling band. Wut? I mean…the “story” in the video doesn’t match the song lyrics (not uncommon for the early 80’s) but the shots of the band don’t match AT ALL. By the end of the video, the band clips are almost comical. The song still has a great, spooky vibe though.
8. “A Nightmare On My Street” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince
There’s not a single creepy or spooky thing about this song or video. But it’s based on A Nightmare on Elm Street so how can it not be on the list, right? Jeff and the Prince were actually sued by New Line Cinema for copyright infringement forcing the label to destroy a music video produced for the song and the duo to have to claim no association to the movie franchise. The song samples Charles Bernstein’s musical motif from A Nightmare on Elm Street.
7. “Dream Warriors” by Dokken
Unlike “A Nightmare On My Street”, this song was actually associated with the Elm Street franchise as the theme song for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Along with the band, it stars Heather Langenkamp and Freddie Krueger himself. George Lynch, guitarist for the band, said it was the corniest videos he had ever been a part of (you can see him smiling and smirking in several shots) saying “we help this chick defeat Freddie with heavy metal? I mean, c’mon.” While Dokken was one of my favorite bands (and Lynch one of my guitar heroes) I have to agree with him. It’s a great song though. The movie was a little “meh”. Not near as good as the first two.
6. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler
Where do I start with this one? The dark, spooky building? Ninjas? The dude with feather arms? The flying kids with glowing eyes? Take your pick. The creepiest part has to be a thirty-something year old woman spending all that time with impressionable young men. But that’s none of my business…
5. “Torture” by The Jacksons
The video was probably best known for Michael not being available and the use of a wax dummy in his place throughout. Incredibly cheesy and totally noticeable. The creepiest part of the video, however, might be the sheer amount of rhinestones and spikes on all their outfits. All kidding aside, Michael or no Michael, it’s filled with PLENTY of creepy sets and images. And I do love this song. And the album.
4. “The Wild Boys” by Duran Duran
This song is, hands down, my favorite Duran Duran song of all. It’s based on a novel of the same name by William Burroughs. In the book, packs of adolescent humanoids ravage the civilized nations of the Earth. When wholesale slaughter erupts, the battle continues underground where the survivors evolve into The Wild Boys. The video had a million-dollar budget (the largest ever for a video at the time) and a heavy Mad Max feel. Lead singer, Simon Le Bon, had a near death experience during filming when his head got stuck underwater while he was strapped to the windmill apparatus.
3. “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell
This video is creepy from start to finish. The camera angles and POV, all kind of creepy imagery, multiple references to Alfred Hitchcock and a zombie-like creature at the end. It’s a creepy song, to boot. The video speaks for itself. Just give it a watch.
2. “Bark at The Moon” by Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy’s first music video ever. It was partially filmed at a sanitarium outside London (creepy in and of itself) and Osbourne’s wolf man makeup and hair took 6 hours to apply. This is easily one of my favorite songs from the Ozz man. Two songs in this list feature guitar heroes of mine. Earlier in the list we had George Lynch of Dokken and here we have Jake E. Lee playing for Ozzy. It took me FOREVER to learn all the guitar parts in it and, quite frankly, I still don’t have them all down.
1. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson
I mean, c’mon. Like this wasn’t going to be number one? Jackson’s record company refused to finance the video because they felt like the album had peaked and it would be a waste of money. The song and video were an absolute smash and doubled the sales of the album. The day this video debuted on MTV, it showed every half hour. A million copies were sold on VHS making it the best selling video tape of all time. If you’ve never seen it I question your life choices. If you have let’s watching it again, shall we? For an added bonus (and a chuckle) look up Vincent Price’s outtakes from his part of the song. They’re fantastic.
Honorable Mention: “Don’t Pay the Ferryman” by Chris De Burgh
This was one of my favorites from the early 80’s when I first started listening to mainstream music and watching videos. The song is the story of a man trying to cross the river Styx on a boat manned by the Grim Reaper. How much more Halloween can you get than that? If I could have found the video this song would easily be #2 or #3 on my list. Alas, it was not to be. You can find the song online, though, if you want to give it a listen.
So…which one was your favorite? Leave a comment and let me know. Happy Halloween, everyone!