When I started this blog, it was so I could mostly go on about old cartoons and game shows that people might have enjoyed like I did when I was younger. But recently I have decided to try and discover a little more about 80s pop music and share it on here. This includes watching the Top Of The Pops repeats from 1986 on BBC4, and listening to Sounds Of The 80s on BBC Radio 2, and Forgotten 80s on Absolute 80s.
Recently a song was played on Forgotten 80s that I was pleased to hear again, not just because it’s one of my favourite hit singles from that decade, but it reminded me that it had a pioneering and somewhat odd music video. I have always enjoyed videos that have been rather creative and used computer graphics and strange effects, perhaps the most famous example of this from the 80s is “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel, but I decided to track down this equally fascinating other video on YouTube and review it here.
“Hyperactive!” by Thomas Dolby originally entered the singles chart in January 1984 where it reached no. 17, but I remember the video first caught my attention after a remix entered the chart almost exactly a decade later in 1994. Even though I think I only saw it about once or twice on TV at the time it must have made an impact with me as I’ve never forgotten it.
How do you make a good music video? You’ve got just four minutes to create a memorable masterpiece that will get shown endlessly on the TV and stand out among the others. It seems that in the 80s this mostly consisted a lot of bluescreen technology, and making people stand in a white void for days on end, as special effects were added around them. Although it could probably be bettered in about five minutes at home now, “Hyperactive!” definitely made the most of what was available at the time.
I suppose the first thing that struck me about the video was the idea where there was a cube on Dolby’s head with his face on it, and to show his changing facial expressions, he tore a page off the front which had a different face underneath. The other very bizarre image that really stayed with me was when a tinier version of Dolby was on his own hand who played the trombone through his nose. Even he began to look rather confused by this point.
There were also lots of visual effects such as flipping the picture round, split-screen and so on, I wonder how many computers had smoke pouring out the back of them by the end of all this. There is then a moment that I have seen a lot of people describe as “nightmare fuel” where Dolby is holding a ventriloquist’s dummy with his own face that performs the end of the song.
Oh, and his head explodes at the end, I nearly forgot to say that.
But wait… because there’s more! There was also a 12″ version of “Hyperactive!”, and a video made for this too, which contained about an extra minute of equally odd moments, and it’s no surprise that the video was nominated for some awards. Dolby had lots of other hit singles in the 80s and I should check those out too (“SCIENCE!” and all that), and in more recent years it seems that he has become an innovator in how to use modern computer technology to create music.
I might take a look at some more of my favourite music videos soon.