Music videos were an essential way of promotion in the ’80s — studios couldn’t release a big-budget flick without a catchy title track they could sell to the MTV-addicted masses. The title track is now a bit of a lost art, and now we’re left with blockbusters that have the nerve to leave the bland pop music until the end credits, when everyone’s butt hurts and they just want to leave. Who can say that THE LONE RANGER wouldn’t have made $500 million at the box office if it opened with ZZ Top singing a ballad about the masked hero? I, for one, would be more likely to go. Or at least watch the ridiculous music video.
But the ’80s were a golden age of ridiculous soundtracks. For every one GHOSTBUSTERS or ARTHUR, there were a dozen YOUNGBLOODs, as musicians tried to jump-start their visibility by latching on to a potentially huge film.
Mistakes were made. Here, we present ten of the most fascinating of them.
10. The Barbarian Brothers
I’m a Wild One
From The Barbarians (1987)
It’s really a shame Cannon didn’t make more music videos for their films, especially with vocals from the films’ stars. Can you imagine Chuck Norris singing a “Missing in Action” theme? Or Michael Dudikoff crooning “American… NIIIIINJAAAAA?” While these may exist only in my wildest dreams, we’ve still got the Barbarian Brothers being proud to be themselves while performing with a bear in the middle of nowhere in an effort to promote their loopy Ruggero Deodato-directed sword and sorcery flick.
9. MC Hammer
From The Addams Family (1991)
It’s not that surprising to see the likes of Christina Ricci and Carel Struycken good-naturedly goofing along with Hammer’s parachute-panted rap cash-in, but then Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia show up in footage clearly created just for the video. STREET FIGHTER was not Julia’s lowest hour, and curiously, this isn’t even the lowest point in ADDAMS FAMILY music videos.
8. Thereza Bazar
From Gotcha! (1985)
They could have just used film clips from the Anthony Edwards/Linda Fiorentino paintball communism thriller for the music video for the title track of GOTCHA!, but thankfully for audiences, director Doug Dowdle went all-out and created a mini spy epic that finds the lead singer in a web of intrigue, guns and people looking at photos of the film’s stars.
7. J. Geils Band
From Fright Night (1985)
Did they really even need to make a music video for J. Geils Band’s title track from FRIGHT NIGHT? Probably not! Did they need to make one in which the band seems to sleep in the same bed and ends up in a similar scenario as Charlie Brewster in the film? Definitely not! But thank you.
6. Michael Sembello
From Cocoon (1986)
The Ron Howard introduction in which he talks about the mysterious disappearance of John Matuszak lookalike Sembello is just the beginning of the ’80s-mad weirdness meant to promote the 1985 sci-fi flick about old people getting young via aliens and Steve Guttenberg. There are clips from the film interspersed with this rocking new age images, but who the hell cares about those when you’ve got singing dolphins?
5. Stewart Copeland and Adam Ant
Out of Bounds
From Out of Bounds (1986)
Anthony Michael Hall tried to get out of the brat pack vacuum with the mostly-forgotten ’80s thriller OUT OF BOUNDS, but the music video overshadows anything the film has going for it. Police drummer Copeland and new romantic star Adam Ant make for an odd team, especially in a video that finds Stewart selling Ant a cruise that consists of him being forced to row his way to the destination, thanks to a sultry lady with a whip. Worse, the onboard movie showing is, of course, OUT OF BOUNDS! In an attempt to provide a soundtrack for a routine thriller, they accidentally made a mini-CABIN BOY, and it’s great.
4. Coup de Villes
Big Trouble in Little China
From Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
I love you, John Carpenter. Know that. Know that as I say, “Good lord, man, what the hell were you thinking when you made this?” Carpenter, Nick Castle and Tommy Lee Wallace could make amazing movies together. They cannot make amazing music. No wonder David Lo Pan tries to destroy the band.
3. Tag Team
Addams Family (Whoomp!)
From Addams Family Values (1993)
Does this even count as a new song? Tag Team just threw in some Addams Family references into their one hit in a song that actually includes the lyric “It’s the Addams Family Movie Theme.” At one point, they just yell, “Family Values,” as though they decided on the title right before they started shooting. It’s honestly the laziest thing that could have ever been written, and it would be jaw dropping for that reason alone. Even more astonishing is that, again, we have cast members involved in new footage. (Thankfully, this time Huston and Julia had something, anything, better to do.) Someone do a music video commentary of this with Jimmy Workman so we can know every detail.
2. Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd
City of Crime
From Dragnet (1987)
Chet Haze may be the most noted rapper in the Hanks family, but he was not the first. I’m not sure who’s idea it was to have Hanks and Aykroyd doing an interrogation rap against a group of “pagans” complete with a full dance number, but I’d like to buy them a drink. Because, really, don’t we all just want more money to take home to our honey?
From Batman (1989)
Prince is inarguably the most talented performer on this list, so it’s not surprising that he’d have the #1 spot — nobody who isn’t some kind of mad genius could come up with the epic piece of weirdness that is “Batdance.” What Tim Burton thought Prince had to do with Batman we may never know, but he doesn’t hold back one iota of his Princeness, bringing equal visual form to his batshit song full of random twists and samples that seems like the least radio-friendly thing he could possibly come up with save for just having occasional intervals of Yoko Ono screaming. Prince, as Batman/Joker, cavorts among a group of dancing Batmen, Jokers and Vicki Vales, slinking through purple smoke and firing guns in a spectacle that must have completely flummoxed Warner Brothers executives upon delivery.
Click here for an archive of all of our Grindhouse Grooves column.
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