Rock Flashback: Music Videos Come Of Age In 1984

tv screen Rock Flashback: Music Videos Come Of Age In 1984

Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

MTV went on the air in August 1981, but it didn’t change the world right away. It took a while before a hit record required a video — and before a hit video could help make a performer into a radio star. But by the spring of 1984, the video age was firmly underway.

During music video’s prehistoric age — before MTV — directors, cinematographers, and performers made it up as they went along. But once music video became commonplace, it developed its own grammar, its own particular set of rules and expectations — and eventually, its own cliches. Videos in the mid-1980s frequently began with an acted-out prelude to set the scene for the song. [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Cyndi Lauper[/lastfm]’s “Time After Time” is just one semi-random example.

A downside to this particular cliché is how it reveals that being able to sing is not the same as being able to act. ([lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Steve Perry[/lastfm], I’m talkin’ to you.) Sometimes, the material the star was given — whoever scripted the video for “Oh Sherrie,” I’m talkin’ to you — didn’t help. However: “Oh Sherrie” scores a few extra points for attempting to subvert the dominant paradigm, even as it fell into it.

But even as some video artists were creating new clichés, a few were creating material that was truly new. Joining Cyndi Lauper and Steve Perry in heavy rotation on MTV and on the radio during this week in 1984 was “You Might Think” by [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]the Cars[/lastfm]. Its video, which was not just cutting-edge but bleeding-edge by the standards of 1984, is one of the most famous in history. It would win MTV’s first Video of the Year Award.

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