Music videos were a new frontier back in the 80s. The launch of MTV and other channels like it meant that artists had a new way of reaching audiences, in which the music alone wasn’t always the primary selling point. In the hopes of hooking viewers, some acts went to great lengths in their promo videos – and as a result, a lot of them look thoroughly absurd today. Here’s our pick of the 10 most memorably ridiculous music videos the 80s had to offer.
10. We Built This City – Starship
It can be a bit hard to believe now that pioneering 60s psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane eventually metamorphosed into Starship, one of the most stunningly cheesy 80s rock bands of them all.
And of all Starship’s air-punching anthems, none are so unforgettably cheesy as We Built this City, which even vocalist Grace Slick has since declared the worst song of all time.
9. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
One of the catchiest songs of the 80s, Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger is burned into the consciousness of 80s kids thanks to its use as the theme song of blockbuster movie Rocky III.
It’s a bit weird seeing the band themselves, though, as for all their talk about “the thrill of the fight,” they look like they’d hit the ground after one punch.
8. Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler
This bombastic power ballad has always been a big favourite at weddings, school discos and karaoke bars. Yet as memorable as Bonnie Tyler’s gravel-throated performance of the song itself may be, the video takes it to another level entirely.
Young viewers in the 80s gawped in disbelief at the flying schoolboys with glowing eyes, wondering what in the world it all meant – and all these years later, we’re still none the wiser.
7. You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) – Dead or Alive
Liverpool synth-pop band Dead or Alive had their biggest hit with this incredibly catchy 1984 dance anthem, which we still can’t stop singing all these years later. The video left heads spinning too, appropriately enough; sadly missed singer Pete Burns thrilled youngsters and alarmed old fogeys with his androgynous looks and attention-grabbing moves.
Fun fact: You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) was the first number one hit from production team Stock Aitken and Waterman, who went on to produce many of the biggest UK-based pop acts of the 80s.
6. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go – Wham!
We may wonder sometimes why the late, great George Michael was so insistent on shunning the mainstream and striving to be taken seriously in his later years. However, as soon as you watch the video for Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, it all makes perfect sense.
Michael and Andrew Ridgeley fully embrace their cheesy pop star status in this hilariously daft video. We have to imagine they were falling about laughing the second the director said ‘cut.’
5. Safety Dance – Men Without Hats
This synth-pop classic is one of the greatest floor-filling dance tracks of the 80s. And how could it not be with a video that so thoroughly radiates cool? Really, what’s more hip and edgy than renaissance-era clothing, dwarf jesters and Morris dancing in the English countryside?
Another fun fact: the blonde woman seen dancing in the video was not a member of Men Without Hats, but was a British journalist named Louise Court, who went on to be the editor of the UK edition of Cosmopolitan magazine.
4. Physical – Olivia Newton-John
Australian singer, dancer and actress Olivia Newton-John was already a confirmed legend by the 80s thanks to her performance in Grease (and, to a far lesser extent, Xanadu), but this 1981 pop anthem only further cemented her superstar status.
The hilariously cheesy video summed up the body beautiful workout culture of the 80s, and hinges on some visual gags which would almost certainly be deemed objectionable today.
3. Dancing in the Street – David Bowie & Mick Jagger
Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger and solo superstar David Bowie were (and remain) two of the biggest names in rock history, and they decided to put their combined fame to good use in 1985 by recording this cover version of the Martha Reeves classic in support of Live Aid.
All we can say is, it’s a good job they were doing it for a good cause, as otherwise we’d wonder why two such respected musical icons would choose to humiliate themselves with such a laughably stupid video.
2. Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) – Journey
Another band whose name alone is synonymous with 80s rock at its cheesiest, Journey were never more over the top than in this jaw-achingly madcap video, bursting at the seams with rock star power poses and weird camera angles.
Also, what on earth is going on with that oil barrel drum kit, and the wall-mounted keyboard?
1. Rock Me Tonite – Billy Squier
Billy Squier might not be the most well-remembered 80s rock star today, but he had a few big hits back in the day – and, as can be seen from the video for Rock Me Tonite, he was very much a product of his era.
This uber-corny video, directed by future Hocus Pocus and High School Musical filmmaker Kenny Ortega, has been voted one of the worst ever made.