Working from home? No boss watching over your shoulder? A perfect time then to wade through the archives and examine 12 music videos that pushed the boundaries of censorship, taste and sexism, no?
Duran Duran – "Girls On Film"
The early ‘80s saw MTV become a force as important as radio in breaking acts in the US, with Australian director Russell Mulcahy’s videos for artists such as UK New Romantics Duran Duran being a key element in their breakthrough success. “Girls On Film” (1981) might be the granddaddy of all soft porn clips, but it wasn’t the only time Duran Duran and Mulcahy offered up tits and arse in their video collaborations. “The Chauffeur” (1982) features more young ladies cavorting in underwear and topless, while an uncensored version of Mad Max rip-off “The Wild Boys” also includes bare breasts.
David Bowie – "China Girl"
While it’s been argued Bowie’s late ‘80s output was a load of arse, it was a literal load of arse causing the Thin White Duke issues with MTV at the beginning of the decade. "China Girl" was a big hit single from 1983’s Let’s Dance, but a recut video was required to remove the Bowie buttocks from the closing scenes. The uncut butt scene, recreating a moment from 1953 flick From Here To The Eternity, finds Bowie looking more ‘engaged’ with his co-star Geeling Ng than he’d been in most of his actual film appearances.
The Cars – "Hello Again"
The video for The Cars’ 1984’s “Hello Again”, the opening track of 1984’s Heartbeat City, was directed by pop art provocateur Andy Warhol. Warhol, who always had a penchant for voyeuristic recordings (he once asked The Doors’ Jim Morrison if he could film him having sex), created a version featuring model cars ‘driving’ over shirtless models’ chests. How very meta. A G-rated cut where the breasts were swapped for a studio audience debating screen violence proved far more popular at TV stations. Watch it here.
Grace Jones – "Slave To The Rhythm"
Never fearful of getting her kit off in the name of art, model/actress/singer Grace Jones was captured in various states of undress in 1985’s “Slave To The Rhythm” music video. Yes, there are boobs and a male appendage, but it’s not so much titillating as Frenchy, arty, colourful and creative. Directed by Jones’ boyfriend Jean-Paul Goude, the clip included a shot later recreated for Kim Kardashian’s ‘Break The Internet’ image. The 1985 video remains visually enticing and even features Deadwood/Game Of Thrones/John Wick actor Ian McShane narrating the introduction; he was roped into the recording after producer Trevor Horn bumped into him in the local fish and chip shop.
The Prodigy – "Smack My Bitch Up"
While he’s often cast as the naughty boy behind censor-baiting videos from The Cardigans, Smashing Pumpkins, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams and Madonna, Swedish director Jonas Akerlund has an eye for dynamic and amazing visuals. His video for The Prodigy’s 1997 single “Smack My Bitch Up” was one of the first to bring him widespread attention, since the clip featured violence, drug use and nudity and was blacklisted in many territories. 'I think it’s terrible if I make a video which is censored or not shown,' Akerlund told Q magazine in 1997. 'I don’t want to get that kind of reputation.' While it’s still debated whether “Smack My Bitch Up” is a male fantasy given form or an absorbing short film with a ruthless soundtrack, at the very least it’s one of the most memorable videos ever made.
Madonna – "Erotica"
Few artists have turned heads like Madonna. Even fewer have included scenes of themselves nude hitchhiking in an arty, confronting music video. Paired with the release of her sexual fantasy coffee table book Sex, 1992’s “Erotica” seemed like a shocking move even from a rabble-rousing artiste such as Ms Ciccone. “Erotica”’s video finds Madonna engaging in S&M scenes, cavorting naked with Naomi Campbell and showing more boob than her infamous 1985 Playboy and Penthouse spreads put together.
Ultravox – "Visions In Blue"
Ultravox are best known for the stark and shimmering synth sounds of 1980 single "Vienna", but it seems they also liked to pimp up their later New Romantic output with some soft porn. The 1983 video for their single “Visions In Blue” features two young females in an arty soft focus bathing scene in between performance shots of frontman Midge Ure singing with an incredibly pained look on his face (cheer up son, you’re still a year away from working with Bob Geldof on “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”!).
Alice Cooper – "Poison"
Wa-hey! This slinky version never made it to Saturday morning video shows in Australia, let me tell you. Alice Cooper didn’t need a saucy clip to sell his excellent 1989 comeback single “Poison”, which made it to number three in the Australian chart, but it seems he made one anyway. Like an old VHS copy of sleazy porn series Electric Blue, shots of topless models were intercut with Cooper’s torture routines for the more open-minded television markets. It’s all a bit ropey, but the song is still a ripper.
Belouis Some – "Imagination"
Best known for designing ‘70s album covers for Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, British creative Storm Thorgerson moved into directing music videos in the early ‘80s. It’s no Houses Of The Holy or Wish You Were Here, but “Imagination”’s raunchy clip certainly sparked controversy for 25-year-old UK singer Belouis Some. ‘It wasn't done to cause a stir,’ the artist suggested after its release. ‘It was done for artistic reasons and we put a lot of our own money into it.’ So is it a comment on the privileged yet sexually stifled upper class or just a chance for a bit of tit-groping and arty full-frontal nudity? ‘Some’ of column A and column B, perhaps.
The Dandy Warhols – "Bohemian Like You"
If you love hipster tits and slacker wang, you’ve come to the right party. While most of the above entries have been unbalanced towards the female form, here we have male genitalia making a play for parity. Following its release in 2000, “Bohemian Like You” became The Dandy Warhols’ biggest commercial success, although admittedly it probably had more to do with the ad campaigns it ended up soundtracking rather than some waiter guy showing off his ballbag in a bar.
Mötley Cre – "Girls, Girls, Girls"
It seems a little too obvious for Mötley Cre to film a video for a song called “Girls, Girls, Girls” in a strip club, but you can’t knock the LA sleazeballs for knowing their demographic. The uncensored version of the “Girls, Girls, Girls” clip is practically Amish compared to some of the band’s forays outlined in their autobiography The Dirt, but there are still plenty of barely dressed exotic dancers for voyeurs to enjoy here.
Painters & Dockers – "Nude School"
Here’s a local video to finish us off and bring it back Down Under, if you’ll pardon the puns. Melbourne’s Painters & Dockers’ flaunted rude bits might not equate to more than a bum or two, but that doesn’t stop “Nude School” from being the weirdest entry on this list. Cheerily flaunting ‘80s dad bods and singing along without a care in the world, the members cavort topless in a muddy sty filled with pigs. Is this what passed for entertainment back in the years before COVID-19, Daddy?
Phew! Looks like we reached the end of the list without having to resort to any confrontational hardcore rubbish from Rammstein or Placebo. Let us know any other favourites we missed out on the I Like Your Old Stuff Facebook page.