5 Unnecessarily Weird Sci-Fi Music Videos From 1984
Upon diving into the subject of 5 Weird Sci-Fi Music Videos From the ’80s, I stumbled on the fact that all five of the videos I was considering for inclusion came from the year 1984.
Maybe it was some Orwellian influence combined with the success of Star Wars and high-concept stuff like Apple’s Macintosh Super Bowl ad, but ’84 was peak Unnecessarily Weird Sci-Fi Music Video time, as though love songs just needed lasers and aliens because everyone else was doing them.
Fortunately, blindly following trends gave us these five videos:
Rick Springfield, “Bop ‘Til You Drop”
The movie Hard to Hold was intended to be Rick Springfield’s jump to the big screen, and the movie’s soundtrack included this synth-pop single with a sci-fi video. Inside a massive metal dome on an unknown planet, dozens of pale-faced, hooded and downtrodden human laborers are forced to push these big leathery balls around. The sharp-toothed alien taskmaster likes to have entertainment while overseeing the slaves, and some poor bastard is on a stage trying to play a tin-can saxophone and failing miserably. The taskmaster presses a red button and a laser cannon vaporizes the sax player. Tough crowd!
Next up, Rick Springfield! He starts singing “Bop ‘Til You Drop,” and the catchy song eventually inspires the slaves to put down their tools, break their chains and start dancin’ the night away. The slavedriver is none too pleased, and he starts randomly blasting into the rebellious crowd. He aims the cannon at Springfield, who uses the laser bolt to break his own chains. It’s on, baby! While haphazardly trying to shoot Springfield, the slavedriver mistakenly (perhaps due to sabotage?) turns the weapon on himself. There is much rejoicing, and Springfield is triumphant! Can’t say the same about the Hard to Hold movie.
Scandal, “The Warrior”
Patty Smyth can really sing, and her group, Scandal, had two hits with 1982’s “Goodbye to You” and 1984’s “The Warrior.” While “The Warrior” hovers somewhere between a kitschy pop curio and a classic rock anthem, the video is a piece of performance-art nonsense that’s like the plot of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” stuffed into a post-apocalyptic Cats production.
Smyth told Yahoo Music in 2020:
Oh, I f***ing hate that video! It was supposed to be funny, but they hired some French chick who was a makeup artist and costumer and she cut all my hair off, covered me up in makeup so you couldn’t recognize me, and put me in weird, hideous clothes. I’m barely in the video, but that’s the only thing that saved my career — that and the fact that it was a good song. That video drives me crazy. It’s so dark. The director was somebody who they found in a gym. I mean, it’s a crazy f***ing story. I begged them to just let me do a performance video, like a concert video, but the label was like, “No, no, you gotta do ‘concept’ now.” There were some really beautiful costumes and makeup — they just weren’t on me. I looked like a bat. I have nothing against bats, mind you. I just thought the video was going to be just a little bit lighter, and it’s so serious. That’s the part that bothers me. But it went top 20 in 1984, so maybe I shouldn’t s***-talk it, really.
Roger Hodgson, “I Had a Dream (Sleeping With the Enemy)”
Supertramp’s Rodger Hodgson went solo and released his first album, In the Eye of the Storm, with “Had a Dream (Sleeping With the Enemy)” as its first single. The video opens with a very Pink Floyd meets 2001: A Space Odyssey vibe, and there’s even a space fetus to ensure the allusion really hits the mark. In a flash of lightning, the space fetus turns into a screaming, naked Hodgson.
The song is a fairly upbeat rock tune about seizing the opportunity and going it alone, so I don’t know why this video had to be so freakin’ bizarre. There’s footage of a circus interspersed with Soviet military parades, and Hodgson is wearing a loincloth while dancing defiantly in the face of a nuclear apocalypse.
Billy Ocean, “Loverboy”
I contend that “Loverboy” reigns over “Caribbean Queen,” but that’s a whole different Billy Ocean listicle. In the video for “Loverboy,” Ocean is trapped in a space pyramid that reminds me of the Phantom Zone from Superman II and is transported through the cosmos. Cut to a camel-faced reptilian dude in Renaissance faire garb riding on horseback along the beach. He arrives at a seaside cave, which conceals a bar that’s a clear rip-off of the cantina from Star Wars. There are even pseudo-Jawas in the place.
So our guy goes inside, orders a drink and eyes up the clientele. Among the sailors and TV-headed humanoids, he spots a lovely young female. But, alas, she’s with some other dude. Feeling aggressive and horny, our guy blasts his seemingly defenseless rival in cold blood (He shot first!) and forces the lady to come with him. She struggles at first, but Billy Ocean is too damn irresistible, even as an alien lizard llama. The murder and kidnapping is praised by three fake Jawas, and the new couple rides off on horseback.
The Jacksons, “Torture”
I remember being excited about the release of The Jacksons’ Victory album. It was going to be totally radical! Michael Jackson and all his brothers! Even Tito! Then I saw the video for “Torture” and was like, “The hell is THIS?” The Jacksons — minus Jermaine and Michael, who were smart and wouldn’t do the video — were being subjected to all sorts of poor-man’s Pan’s Labyrinth torments like goo from a giant eyeball that makes your hand grow its own eye and being stuck in a giant latex condom with freaks trying to break in. That’s messed up.
[Director Jeff] Stein recalls the shoot as “an experience that lived up to the song title”, and that sentiment is shared by others involved in the production. It finished over schedule and over budget. By the end the Jacksons themselves had stopped showing up. Stein says it was so stressful that one of his crew members lost control of her bodily functions. “The crew motto used to be ‘Death or victory’,” he says. “I think that was the only time we ever prayed for death.”
The video was mostly responsible for bankrupting the production company, Picture Music International. On the plus side, it launched Paula Abdul‘s career.