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February 14, 2014 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Queen's 1982 dance funk single "Body Language" represented a rare move away from their glam stadium anthems into a more spare, disco-driven beat inter-cut with a moaning Freddie Mercury. The accompanying video, full of exposed flesh and suggestive lyrics, was deemed inappropriate for US TV and was one of the first music videos barred from MTV.
posted by The Whelk (56 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
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Been a while since I've seen one of those.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:08 AM on February 14 [4 favorites]


Is this the video ?
posted by Pendragon at 10:11 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]


The first one works for me but not the second. Odd.

About halfway through I'm going "this isn't that bad, even for the time period I don't see why-" and then Freddie Mercury is in Tom Of Finland drag in a bathhouse full of writhing men and you go "oooooooh".
posted by The Whelk at 10:14 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


Hmm, that sounds the same.
posted by Pendragon at 10:17 AM on February 14


It was a more innocent time.

About halfway through I'm going "this isn't that bad, even for the time period I don't see why-" and then Freddie Mercury is in Tom Of Finland drag in a bathhouse full of writhing men and you go "oooooooh".

But they threw in some writhing women to make it OK!
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:21 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


It was a more innocent time.

One year later.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:22 AM on February 14 [5 favorites]


(Which is to say, less "innocent" than "sanitized.")
posted by Sys Rq at 10:27 AM on February 14


I had forgotten about that rickshaw....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:27 AM on February 14


This had a spare, disco-driven beat too (stolen from Chic). And Freddie Mercury in a tight yellow muscle shirt wearing an amazing pornstache.
posted by blucevalo at 10:33 AM on February 14


Don't underestimate the importance of Body Language, ha!
posted by maryr at 10:40 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


You know - and I say this as someone who can state without hesitation that Queen are my favorite band, and have been for decades now - I can't help but wonder if the conversation at MTV didn't go something like this:

"Well, we got the video for Body Language. We've all seen it, and I'm sorry but we just can't air it."

"What? Is it really that much worse than the Olivia Newton-John video?"

"No, but it's fucking terrible."
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:47 AM on February 14 [5 favorites]


"No, but it's fucking terrible."

I am not sure these words were ever spoken at MTV. I remember when that channel was about 65% Little River Band and Air Supply concert footage.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:53 AM on February 14 [10 favorites]


All music videos were terrible in those days. Pull up any random MTV 1982 video and show me one that's not only terrible, but jaw-droppingly so. That's part of the joy.
posted by blucevalo at 11:15 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]


Well, let's be honest: the so-called videos for LRB and Air Supply were just (faux) concert footage, and they released them. At the time, there was a need for videos, so they got what they could.

I heard you on the wireless back in sixty-two
Laying awake in hopes of tuning in on you
If I was young it didn't stop you coming through...

posted by mephron at 11:15 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


All music videos were terrible in those days. Pull up any random MTV 1982 video and show me one that's not only terrible, but jaw-droppingly so. That's part of the joy.

I'm with you right up to the 'joy' bit, but then I remember that Billy Squier made some videos that I STILL can't unsee.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:23 AM on February 14 [5 favorites]


Those are so unwatchable that they fall into a separate category of unholy joy.
posted by blucevalo at 11:27 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Rock the Casbah was 1982. I don't know that it's a good video, but it's certainly different from the norm in those days.

This was 1982 also... the 80s focused to the intensity of a white-hot sun.
posted by Huck500 at 11:32 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Billy Squier made some videos that I STILL can't unsee.

I think I know what you mean. If you can imagine a spectrum between Jim Morrison and Richard Simmons, Billy Squier was exactly centred on it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:34 AM on February 14 [10 favorites]


Ah Freddie, even your overbite had a sexy twang to it...

*still swooning after all these years*
posted by infini at 12:00 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute...why am I hearing fireworks outside the window? Really, they just started.
posted by infini at 12:01 PM on February 14


To make this a bit more queer, the video reminds me of Kylie Minogue's Slow from her album Body Language.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:07 PM on February 14


I would watch for hours waiting for the occasional Bowie video.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:24 PM on February 14


I would watch for hours waiting for the occasional Bowie video.

Yeah, the essentially top-down nature of music video channels is something foreign to anyone under age 30 or so, I think. You could no more see a Talking Heads or Bluebells video when you felt like it than you could will it to be sunny tomorrow. In Canada there was MuchOnDemand or something, where you could write a letter (!) to MuchMusic and watch on Sundays at 4:00 PM (!!) or whatever the time was and see if your request was played.

From my teenaged point of view, this whole internet thing would be just frippery around the true purpose of it -- being able to watch a specific music video or Bugs Bunny cartoon whenever I damn well please.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:41 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


It was always (still is?) a tossup for videos between "band frolics on a cheap set" "band playing at a concert/fake concert" and "nonsensical narrative slapped onto song that forces band to reveal lack of acting chops."

Though I think Chrissy Hynde did a pretty good job in the Brass in Pocket video.

Scandal and Patty Smythe's The Warrior still wins for hitting the cheap set/bad artistic aspirations/dystopia trifecta though. (and the video is harder to find than last time I looked; wonder why?)
posted by emjaybee at 12:50 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Though I think Chrissy Hynde did a pretty good job in the Brass in Pocket video.

My fifteen year old self in 1979 agrees. Amusingly part of my crush was that I thought that she was an exotic brit when of course, she's from Akron, OH. Still awesome.
posted by octothorpe at 1:01 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


a tossup for videos between "band frolics on a cheap set"

My wife stumbled across this one the other day -- they weren't even trying to phone it in.

Peter Gabriel made some half-decent videos, though.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:12 PM on February 14


My wife stumbled across this one the other day -- they weren't even trying to phone it in

Oh, that's awesomely terrible. I'd forgotten that they were so far into a sad self-parody even by 1980.
posted by octothorpe at 1:32 PM on February 14


That Stones video is almost redeemed by Charlie Watts' recurring "can you fucking believe this shit?" smirk.
posted by COBRA! at 1:48 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


I honestly did not know Freddie Mercury was gay until he announced he had AIDS the day before he died. Looking back on...pretty much everything about him and everything he did, it's hard to believe I didn't figure it out, but my life as an adolescent was extraordinarily square.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:48 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


I swear early MTV was all Doug and the Slugs videos. I just assumed they were a parody filler act so MTV didn't have to repeat videos, but they were for real.

That said, this is not my cup of tea, Queen-wise. Give me Freddy Mercury in full opera singer mode with Brian May's trebly guitar any day.
posted by tommasz at 1:49 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


I recall at my school (admittedly small and rural) the video for Yes's "Owner of a Lonely Heart" was considered so "intense" people weren't able to watch it all the way through.
posted by lagomorphius at 2:11 PM on February 14


Anyone who had MTV and cable back in 1982 will probably recognize the Queen video is referencing the Aerobicise videos that ran constantly on HBO starting in 1981. This is the difference between paid cable and basic cable channels.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:13 PM on February 14


1970s Queen and 1970s Bowie were the first music I was into as junior high school kid in the early 1980s, so I bought the Hot Space album when it was new. Apart from “Under Pressure” the album was such a disappointment. (Same with Bowie’s post Scary Monsters output.)

I don’t think I knew at that age that Freddie was gay (or bi?), but then again I was raised in a family where no one would care and it wouldn’t have been a big deal.

[Sheer Heart Attack is the best Queen album everrrr.]
posted by D.C. at 2:24 PM on February 14


I swear early MTV was all Doug and the Slugs videos. I just assumed they were a parody filler act so MTV didn't have to repeat videos, but they were for real.

Did you happen to live close enough to Toronto that you might've been getting MuchMusic over the air? Because, yeah, Doug and the Slugs' "Makin' it Work" is one of those ones that certain radio stations up here have been playing every two hours for the last 30 years. I bet Much probably had it playing on a loop in 1984.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:51 PM on February 14


We're gonna do a few songs in the black/funk category – whatever you call it. That doesn't mean we've lost our rock 'n' roll feel, OK? I mean, it's only a bloody record. People get so excited about these things. We just want to try a few sounds.
Given we now know Queen as a band that wasn't afraid to experiment, it struck me as weird when I first heard Freddy pre-apologize for playing a little funk. Then, I remembered, oh, yeah, human nature. There's a cost for exploring.

They turned out stuff like the FPP song more often than Another One Bites the Dusts or Bohemian Rhapsodies by doing this, but I'm glad they did it, anyway. Even though I'm a guy that loves me some Ogre Battle.
posted by ignignokt at 3:10 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Given we now know Queen as a band that wasn't afraid to experiment, it struck me as weird when I first heard Freddy pre-apologize for playing a little funk. Then, I remembered, oh, yeah, human nature. There's a cost for exploring.

You may remember that Prince got openly booed when opening for the Rolling Stones in 1981. (Prince later brilliantly turned this to his artistic advantage by using a recording of the reaction in the coda to "Pop Life.")
posted by mykescipark at 4:34 PM on February 14 [3 favorites]


Disco punk, dance funk...I'm actually working on a playlist like this, for whenever carsonb organizes the next MeFiSwap. (No rush, though; it's not done!) But the Queen song I chose for it is "Back Chat"—it's got more of that Casbah smack.
posted by limeonaire at 4:51 PM on February 14


I don't know what MTV some of y'all were watching in the early 80's, but this is an example of what I watched:

Sweet Dreams

One Night In Bangkok

Stepping Out

Two Hearts Beat As One

Don't Dream It's Over

Dancing With Myself

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Rock This Town

Twilight Zone

She Blinded Me With Science

99 Luftbalons

Our House

Hungry Like the Wolf

Billie Jean

Thriller
posted by figment of my conation at 9:08 PM on February 14 [6 favorites]


A few of those in the previous comment(s) are from 1982 specifically (Eurythmics, Thomas Dolby, Joe Jackson, Golden Earing, Madness, Duran Duran, The Clash) and here's a few more:
Adam Ant - Goody Two Shoes
Billy Idol - White Wedding
Blondie - Rapture
    1981, but so super-great.
Bow Wow Wow - I Want Candy
    Mediocre video, but included because it's AWESOME even so.
Dexy's Midnight Runners - Come On Eileen
Eurythmics - Love Is A Stranger
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - Do You Wanna Touch Me
Men At Work - Down Under
Peter Gabriel - Shock The Monkey
Pretenders - Back On The Chain Gang
Taco - Puttin' on the Ritz
Talking Heads - Burning Down the House
    1983, but I'm including it, anyway.
The Waitresses - I Know What Boys Like
Tom Tom Club - Genius of Love
Here's a YouTube playlist of all these: 1982 Videos

Some of these are quite good and far from humorously inept, such as Shock the Monkey, Burning Down the House, and Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:04 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Also

Wall Of Voodoo - Mexican Radio
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:14 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


"The uploader has not made this video available in your country.
Sorry about that."

I´m sorry I was born in this damn country.... but it´s not like it´s my fault, right?! If I were to choose, would have chosen Sweden or Normay...
posted by mcajoo at 3:10 AM on February 15


All music videos were terrible in those days.

Sweeping generalisations are rarely correct.
posted by Decani at 3:22 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


I find it sad how much of eighties schlock nostalgia revolves around MTV, when most American households at the time did not have cable (and many could not afford it, even when it was available). This is, of course, why most of my eighties TV nostalgia is actually about UHF television.

That said, the real problem I have with the overwhelming idiocy of eighties videos is that even the "good" ones are basically jumbled, low-grade assemblages of (a) fake band playing with guitars and keyboards not plugged in and (b) the sort of fake-profound completely random images that people pulled out of their asses because they were coked-up and got a thrill from the cold futurism of the eighties-disconnect.

The eighties were when we all got just too cool for such fripperies as an actual narrative or images that had something to do with the music—fire up the smoke machines! Bring on the chroma key! Throw in a bird! Yeah, and smash a TV! Why? Who cares!? Actually, bring in a little girl and make her smash the TV! It was all that sort of look-at-the-wacky-Beatles-being-the-wacky-Beatles, but pulled from the execrable Magical Mystery Tour and the Monkees' middling impersonations rather than the good stuff.

Are we simulating a concert experience, or the fever dreams of advertisers, because music videos were ads that looked like ads which looked like ads?

Of course, in '84, the CVI came out, and then things went even crappier.

At least Taco had that classy Dutch-weird blackface and arbitrary white mice.
posted by sonascope at 4:19 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


Decani: "All music videos were terrible in those days.

Sweeping generalisations are rarely correct.
"

I might be misremembering but I don't think that they ever played The Specials on MTV.
posted by octothorpe at 6:11 AM on February 15


"I find it sad how much of eighties schlock nostalgia revolves around MTV, when most American households at the time did not have cable (and many could not afford it, even when it was available). This is, of course, why most of my eighties TV nostalgia is actually about UHF television."

Putting aside my own experience in small-town America where a) almost everyone had cable, and did beginning in the sixties (CATV stands for Community Access Television and has its origin in the fifties as a means of signal delivery in areas where over-the-air reception is poor or unavailable) and b) when we were too poor to buy milk and I shared a bedroom with my infant sister and an occasional rat we could afford cable, let's just go to some actual numbers:

Over the period of 1980 to 1990, American households with cable went from 20% to 56%. You're technically correct that "most" people didn't have cable during the early eighties, but it was during the early eighties that cable adoption increased the most quickly and by mid-decade, it reached about 50%.

I am second to no one in my hatred of the 80s, but 80s MTV videos were, initially, very far from a monoculture of agency-produced paens to consumption and, instead, reflected a wide variety of often fumbling attempts to produce something interesting. Sometimes they succeeded. The Beatles were not a touchstone.

Furthermore, a lot of the nostalgia for 80s MTV (and Canada's MuchMusic) is motivated by the fact that MTV was necessarily far more eclectic than Top40 radio, exposing many teenagers to music that they'd not heard (and often wouldn't hear) on the radio. For many, when it was available, it replaced the radio as a constant musical presence, at home in the background, at parties, at friends' houses while hanging out. Many of us, male and female alike, were hopelessly in love with Martha Quinn. I love 80s MTV for Martha Quinn alone. But also because while the last thing I wanted to see was a Huey Lewis video, after it ended I might see (hear) something like Nena's 99 Luftballons for the first time.

You are hopeless wrong and out-of-touch when you imagine that nostalgia for 80s MTV is for its schlock and an affectation of those who mostly didn't experience it. Instead, it's an integral portion of a generation's identity, not because it was truly subversive and transformative, or filled with great art, but because it was a suddenly available window to a somewhat wider world of pop musical and youth culture, it formed the aural, musical background to daily life the way AM radio did for the youth of the fifties and sixties. It was all music, twenty-four hours a day, non-stop.

MTV was one of the good things about the 80s and that's why it looms as large as it does in the consciousness of those who came of age during that decade.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:42 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


Also, if it's the mid 90s and you FINALLY get a TV and you're nine and cable TV is a new thing so you watch it ALL THE TIME you quickly realize that VH1 had like four hour blocks of Pop Up Video which seemed to show videos from 1982 exclusively so everything linked above makes me feel weirdly nostalgic and comforted even if it's a good decade and change away from actually being produced in my childhood.

Like a tape delay for culture I guess. I think this collective lag is the cause of the resurgence of 80s synth pop and indie rock in the early 00s because everyone who grew up with TV shows that just played videos from 1982 all day came of age. Also, a lot of the videos shown where for bands and music styles that where not super popular ( cause pop history is written by the losers) but retroactively became popular a decade later.
posted by The Whelk at 8:50 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Also the difference between nostalgia for a time you lived through and reimagining a past aesthetic via picking and choosing cultural elements.
posted by The Whelk at 8:52 AM on February 15


I *know* these songs, I read the title and can hear the song. I guess its because I turned 14 in 1980
posted by infini at 9:17 AM on February 15


Don't Dream It's Over
This video is the only thing of worth that Alex Proyas ever directed.
Blondie - Rapture
...featuring Jean-Michel Basquiat as himself!
posted by pxe2000 at 9:42 AM on February 15


Debbie and Basquiat.
posted by pxe2000 at 9:47 AM on February 15


"I *know* these songs, I read the title and can hear the song. I guess its because I turned 14 in 1980"

Just two years younger than me.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:09 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


I'm going to listen now to those listed just to feel like a teenager again.
posted by infini at 10:36 AM on February 15


Anyone who had MTV and cable back in 1982 will probably recognize the Queen video is referencing the Aerobicise videos

Goodness me *genuinely shocked*
posted by glasseyes at 10:58 AM on February 15


The Beatles were not a touchstone.

I'd be curious as to the origins of video of a band larking about as a motif if not the Beatles/Monkees. I see the roots of virtually every band-larking-about video from the early years of MTV in this, but maybe I'm just hopelessly wrong and such a category was completely the invention of MTV.

Instead, it's an integral portion of a generation's identity, not because it was truly subversive and transformative, or filled with great art, but because it was a suddenly available window to a somewhat wider world of pop musical and youth culture, it formed the aural, musical background to daily life the way AM radio did for the youth of the fifties and sixties. It was all music, twenty-four hours a day, non-stop.

Thing was, MTV was not that. It was for those who had access to it, perhaps, or who could afford it (when my rent was $110 a month and I could barely afford that, I sure as hell wasn't going to pay $30 to watch cable), but we already had a musical background to daily life in the eighties that existed the whole time MTV did, but didn't cost a dime—FM.

Music played on my clunky woodgrain clock radio in the morning, and on my clunky woodgrain Soundesign combo stereo, and on my old Hitachi portable cassette/radio that I kept on the counter at the pizza place where I worked, and on the radio in my Datsun, and on my Toshiba KT-S1 walkman-type player in which you listened to FM with a strange little FM adaptor cassette. Where I wasn't playing it, someone was.

MTV may have been more eclectic than Top 40, but if you lived anywhere near a college, you had far better alternatives. In my area, I had soul/funk stations (MTV notoriously played just the few top selling black musicians, claiming that it was their "rock" orientation at fault, until midway through '88, when they figured out rap existed), pop, country, Top 40, classical, jazz, and our alternative station, the late WHFS, which played stuff you'd never, ever hear on MTV, except possibly on its once-weekly two-hour "alternative" show, 120 Minutes.

The thing about the eighties was that, despite MTV's constant corporate self-aggrandizing propaganda about how they invented everything about the eighties, which is popularly repeated even now, radio was far from dead, and while MTV may have been the only foothold of diverse musical culture in, say, Thomson, Georgia in the eighties, most Americans lived in urban metro areas, radio was ubiquitous, and you didn't need to see a band waving unplugged guitars around and miming through stage smoke in front of slowly-turning industrial fans to discover and enjoy new music.

That said, I became a teen in the eighties, exited my teens in the middle of the eighties, so perhaps I'm not the generation we're talking about.
posted by sonascope at 3:31 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


This was the first real rock video I remember seeing, one that wasn't just a band in concert. One that was a mini movie.

It aired on the Vancouver Show with Pia Shandelle, I think.

Doug and the Slugs - Too Bad

It's still a laugh to watch
posted by drinkmaildave at 8:31 PM on February 15


sonascope: " That said, I became a teen in the eighties, exited my teens in the middle of the eighties, so perhaps I'm not the generation we're talking about."

So did I, and my experience was somewhat different. My step-dad had cable (before he and my mom married, but also after), and he was a public school administrator raising four daughters- far from wealthy. His only interest was ESPN, but it was a strong enough interest that he considered cable a necessity. So, I grew up on MTV and loved it in its early days (I was 12 in 1982 and growing out of my heavy metal phase), but as I became more surly and cynical and fully teen-aged, I became attracted to music that was outside the mainstream, which meant MTV became anathema to my tastes. But that didn't happen for me until about 1986, when I turned 16, and even then I still loved me some Thomas Dolby, David Bowie, Talking Heads, and other musicians who fully embraced the music video instead of deriding it, like many of the aficionados of the then-tired, formulaic tedium offered up by FM radio and the generally overbloated music business. MTV did change the game, and I have mixed feelings about it, but ultimately I feel the music industry needed shaking up. My mom and step-dad mostly didn't get the appeal, until we all watched the full-length Michael Jackson video for "Thriller" together, which changed everything- both the video and all the music on the album- and none of us really considered ourselves fans of the Jacksons at the time. Though they are still produced today, we ended up not needing the music video so much in the long run, though at one time it was considered as necessary as the ubiquitous 45 RPM single was in the 1950s.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:16 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


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