The 1980s brought us many delightfully tacky memories, and music videos are definitely near the top of the list. When MTV launched in 1981, they brought music videos to the forefront by promising 24-hour programming of innovative sounds and visions. That promise came with a crapload of videos that would scar and amuse us for years to come.
As a kid, those ’80s videos creeped you the hell out — and in some cases still do. Here are some of our favourites.
Rockwell – “Somebody’s Watching Me” (1984)
Perfectly disturbing from start to finish, the video begins with Rockwell coming home to a dismantled house, and it’s obvious that he is not alone (because somebody is watching him… ‘natch). From there it gets super weird — floating heads, graveyards, and pigs reoccur to confuse and terrify us. Then, there’s the whole thing with the mailman, which we’re still trying to figure out.
The Cure – “Lullaby” (1989)
We have to begin by asking: when is Robert Smith not creepy? It’s kind of his thing and we dig that, but the video for “Lullaby” brings it to new heights. During a dream sequence, the Cure singer is seen in bed with cobwebs in his hair while his band mates strum along as tin solders — also full of cobwebs. By the end, Smith is eaten by a giant spider. Needless to say you’ll want to skip this one if spiders and red lipstick without liner freak you the hell out.
Genesis – “Land of Confusion” (1986)
The video for “Land of Confusion” is noted as one of the best of its time. It features the scariest looking puppets from the British television show Spitting Image, which were all made to look like popular public figures and musicians, including the members of Genesis. It begins with Ronald and Nancy Reagan heading to bed, Ronald having a nightmare, and then spiralling into all sorts of weird directions. Near the end it incorporates a spoof of the music video for Michael Jackson’s “We Are the World,” including puppet versions of Jackson, Bill Cosby, Tina Turner, Hulk Hogan, and Madonna. You really do have to see it to believe it.
Bonnie Tyler – “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (1983)
It’s one of the least creepy videos on this list, but that doesn’t make it any less important. The song itself is eerie and after it was used during a scene in the movie Urban Legends, it solidified itself as one of the scariest songs to hear while driving. The video is mostly just bizarre, but those children with the “bright eyes” are what scared the crap out of us as kids.
Laura Branigan – “Self Control” (1984)
Nothing starts off a disturbing music video (or anything, really) like a freaky looking doll. There is also a whole Phantom of the Opera vibe happening — or maybe it’s V for Vendetta. Either way it’s a man in a white mask attempting to lure the female lead down a path we assume is dark and dangerous.
Corey Hart – “Sunglasses at Night” (1984)
It’s not exactly terrifying, but there’s a creepiness to the song that allows the video to feel out of sorts. Corey Hart finds himself in jail for not conforming to the notion of having to wear sunglasses 24/7 like all the other civilians (actually never mind — that is creepy af). Because of his badass ways, he soon finds himself locked behind bars.
A fun fact for Canadians: the officer that puts him behind bars at the end is Laurie Brown, who would later join MuchMusic as a VJ and host The New Music.
Ozzy Osbourne – “Bark at the Moon” (1983)
When you watch it back now it doesn’t seem as scary, but as little tykes, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark at the Moon” was enough to give us nightmares. It shouldn’t be surprising, since Osbourne is known for being an unusual human in addition to being a bizarre artist. Yet, still we find ourselves questioning the quality and the storyline of this ’80s gem.
Herbie Hancock – “Rockit” (1984)
You’re probably still asking yourself what in the hell is actually going on in this seriously odd music video for Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit.” We are. It’s filled to the brim with strange DIY robots, and by the end, it still feels like there is no explanation for what you witnessed. Only in the ’80s would such a weird wonder be appreciated by the masses.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – “Don’t Come Around Here No More” (1985)
It starts off kind of cute by paying tribute to our beloved Alice In Wonderland, but it quickly takes a turn for the worst when poor Alice is duped by Tom Petty disguised as the Mad Hatter. After being terrified and confused by all the characters in the video, Alice somehow turns into a cake and Tom Petty and his heartbreakers begin to eat her. It’s the type of thing that can scar a child well into adulthood.
Michael Jackson – “Thriller” (1983)
“Thriller” needs no explanation — it single-handedly changed the way artists make videos. And if you don’t remember the days when MuchMusic would air the making of the video on Halloween night, then we hope you were doing something worthy of missing it.