The Music Videos of My Nightmares

Saturday, October 13, 2012
It's nearly Halloween, so a lot of the blogs are talking about horror movies. Me, I'm thinking about creepy music videos. I guess that's just the way my mind works--and you'd be surprised at what gets imprinted on a 12 year-old's brain that gets recalled almost 30 years later. These were the music videos I remember most from my tween and teen years that I thought were creepy for a variety of reasons. I should add the disclaimer that all of these videos were made during the 80s--I realize that there are more modern ones that are probably far more scary and disturbing, but this is a retro blog full of retro memories. OK, here we go...
"Owner of a Lonely Heart" - Yes
An awesome song, one of my favorite rockers of the 80s, and the video always stood out to me because it was so unsettling. It has a very 1984 vibe to it, and band members that change into animals, but I think it was the shots of the lead character covered with a snake while in the shower or washing his face with mealworms that landed this video on my list. He also endures a scorpion and a spider on his face. Too creepy crawly for me to forget it. 

"She's a Beauty" - The Tubes

An adolescent boy is invited to "ride the Beauty" (double entendre there) at an old timey looking amusement park. A dominatrix looking woman holds him in place with a bar as he rides on her lap. One of the women inside the ride is really a man. They travel through a giant boobie. By the end of the ride, the boy has been transformed into an old man. Yep, that's about the gist of the video, but some reason I found it disturbing and it has stayed with me all these years. I am sure the feminist groups had a field day with this one.

"Adult Education" - Hall and Oates
Everyone who knows me knows that I love me some H2O; however, I've always felt that Hall and Oates' videos never lived up to their songs, and "Adult Education" is no exception. It not merely just creepy to me, it's also just plain bad. Since the song is written from a high school girl's point of view, well, naturally I just assumed the video would take place in a school. Instead, it features some weird Raiders of the Lost Ark-inspired set/ancient civilization depicting a human sacrifice...and there appears to be a naked dude in it! And why does Oates look so angry? He's probably pissed at Hall because he had a better idea for the video that got nixed.

"Do You Believe In Love" - Huey Lewis and the News
A few weeks ago I saw a collection of dating videos from the 80s which featured one sorry looking and nervous dork proclaiming, "I will watch you while you sleep." Perhaps this misguided soul watched this Huey Lewis and the News video too many times. It will leave you asking, "Do you believe in restraining orders?"

"Thriller" - Michael Jackson
I'm the first to admit that I never really was a Michael Jackson fan--even before his out-there behavior started--and I'm even less of a fan of zombies. However, there's no denying that the "Thriller" video was a groundbreaking masterpiece and way ahead of its time. Way before Lady Gaga and Beyonce turned their music videos into mini films, Jackson had it figured out first, and this video launched a dance craze and a Halloween anthem that continues to this day. I like it combines a theme inspired by B horror flicks of the 50s with An American Werewolf in London transformation. I think it's amusing that Jackson preceded the video with a statement saying that he didn't believe in the occult, since the video is about werewolves and zombies, not the devil. 

"Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2" - Pink Floyd
If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding! I don't know of any Brit who claims to have had a happy experience at a boarding school--unless you consider concentration camps to be happy places. Technically the music video to "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2" is a clip from the movie "Pink Floyd The Wall." Why is this scary? It's the masks that the students wear, and the fact that they're being marched into a meat processing machine. Hot dogs, anyone?

"Land of Confusion" - Genesis
Forget your clown phobia. Mere child's play compared to The Spitting Image puppets. They were so hideous and scary looking that they deserve their own post before Halloween, but in the meantime you can see them in all their grotesque glory in this video for "Land of Confusion." No one--and I mean NO one--looked good as a Spitting Image puppet and I was a little surprised that Phil Collins and the other band members would willingly subject themselves to be transformed into deformed globs of rubber. Besides Ronald and Nancy Reagan, towards the end you can pick out Prince, Michael Jackson, Bette Middler, Madonna, Paul McCartney and others. I think the worst part is seeing just the puppets' heads on the ground--truly the stuff of nightmares.

"Don't Come Around Here No More" - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Without a doubt, I think that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' video to "Don't Come Around Here No More" must take the top honor for the creepiest video ever made--not just for making me uncomfortable, but because it's also so spectacularly done. It's twisted and sick but you can't help but laugh. This interpretation of "Alice in Wonderland" is more nightmarish than Lewis Carroll's story, with Dave Stewart as the Caterpillar, and Petty playing The Mad Hatter presiding over a tea/dinner party where Alice is eventually transformed into a cake. Trapped, she lies on the dinner table wigging her hands and watches in horror as Petty and the other band members cut into her and hack her to pieces--a twist on the "Eat Me" cake from the story. The inspiration for the video came from Stewart, who said that after Stevie Nicks broke up with Joe Walsh she told him, "Don't come around here no more." 

An actress named Wish Foley played Alice. She dated lead guitarist Mike Campbell for a while after making the video. I reached out to Foley via YouTube a few years ago to interview her for Go Retro and she initially seemed enthusiastic, but then never answered my questions. Maxim magazine named her one of the Foxiest Fairy Tale Ladies for her role in the Petty video. 

Did I leave out any from the 80s that would make your list?


  1. Wow! I had forgotten all about those creeptastic puppets!! Only in the 80's! lol. I have to say that the video for "Somebody's watching me' by Rockwell was a video of my nightmares from childhood. It's been stuck in my mind since I was 5 years old. Creepy faces, masks, dead stuffed animals, sickly skinny men in subligars, tombstones and a creepy stoned mailman…yikes! And it was always cool that Michael and Jermaine Jackson did the chorus and backup vocals.

  2. David Bowie "Ashes to Ashes", I think it's the weird 80s film tricks! Still makes my skin crawl

    And The Cure "Lullaby". Robert Smith being eaten by a gigantic wasn't until 5 years ago that I could actually listen to the song again...eeep!

  3. VoyagerG -- You know, I don't think I've ever seen the video to Rockwell's Somebody's Watching Me. The guy in the cemetery is is the mailman (as himself.) Thanks for sharing!

    phairhead -- I've never seen either of the ones you mentioned (I didn't have MTV or VH-1 growing up, but the local network version of a music video channel.) Thanks for the heads up -- I will check them out!

  4. I like "Don't Come Around Here No More" a lot myself. I think Tom Petty is one of the few rockers who makes good videos; the one for "In To The Great Wide Open" with Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway is one of the few vids that really adds something to the song.

    In general though, I am not much of a video fan; I think that they often ruin the songs they are trying to sell. "Adult Education" is a great example of this (maybe that's why John Oates looks so angry in it). I prefer the Theater of Imagination when listening to music.

  5. I agree - Tom Petty had made some unique honorable mention for this list would be the one to "Mary Jane's Last Dance"--that one is just sick with Petty in love with Kim Bassinger's corpse! Also, the actress who played Alice was in another TP video where he and the band climb inside her ear and they're rocking out in her brain.

    I should have also added "Self Control" by Laura Branigan to this post. She cavorts with a guy wearing a Phantom of the Opera-esque mask. I guess masks in general are just creepy.

  6. Somebody's Watching Me and Owner of a Lonely Heart were also ones that scared me as a kid.

    But I also was terrified by the video for "Dog Police" and weirdly Billy Idol's "White Wedding", not sure what my issue was with those.

  7. Judging by the tone of your last few posts I think you would like the two Dr. Phibes movies that Vincent Price did in 1971 and 1972. Very campy and very Vincent Price as a scary figure - in a weird way. While they are set in the 1920s you will note the 1970s influence in costume and hair styles.

  8. For me it was a song called Maria, I think. I can't remember the band. It was about an Israeli woman who taught children and was put to death for it by hanging. They showed her kissing the noose. Tremendously haunting.
    Veronica by Elvis Cosetello. Veronica is alone in her big house with her memories. The video shows the passage of her time from young girl to old woman. I think about it even now and it made me so sad. Alone, thinking about your life not being able to do anything but remember. I would turn the t.v off. Sometimes cry. The thoughts that video first brought up haunt me even now.

  9. Sheesh.

    A whole thread about creepy videos without one mention of Devo? For shame.

    And you can't forget the talking heads video, once in a lifetime:

  10. Anonymous - OK, what the heck did I just watch? LOL. I've never seen this Devo video before; that was just wild!


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