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The Five Spot: Five Hit Music Videos From The 80's That Wouldn't Fly Today

The Five Spot: Five Hit Music Videos From The 80's That Wouldn't Fly Today

China Girl-David Bowie

David Bowie is one of the greatest artists to ever live and we miss him terribly, especially during a year in which he might have made the greatest artistic curtain call that any musical icon has ever made.

David Bowie also made some highly questionable music video decisions during the eighties, like the oft-mocked “Dancing in the Street” video with Mick Jagger that premiered during the Live Aid telecast. A video that was ridiculous enough to almost make some forget that Bowie absolutely crushed his live set during the broadcast with a band he’d thrown together for the first time with only a couple hours of warm-up before it rocked 100,000+ at Wembley Stadium along with a couple billion watching live on television around the globe.

China Girl, as you can probably glean just from the .GIF that bookmarks this post, is quite possibly the most highly questionable of those decisions.

The song itself is bewildering brilliance in both its original incarnation, which Bowie and Iggy Pop co-wrote for Pop’s 1977 solo debut The Idiot, as well as its 1983 Nile Rodgers-produced and Stevie Ray Vaughn guitar-aided re-imagining, which became one of Bowie’s biggest hit singles off his biggest album Let’s Dance.

There’s debate over what China Girl was originally written about. Conceived during Bowie’s late-seventies “Berlin period” spent principally around Iggy, some have said it was about Pop’s fascination with a French-Vietnamese woman named Kulean Nguyen. Others have said it was about “China White”, the powerful street slang term for the opioid hybrid of high-grade heroin and fentanyl, which was running rampant in 1977 Berlin. Bowie had re-located to Berlin in large part due to being tired of always crashing in the same car while in the midst of cocaine-induced psychosis back in Los Angeles. Bowie would later become romantically involved with his costar in this video, New Zealand model Geeling Ng. Bowie has said the song’s video was a commentary on racism but then again C. Thomas Howell claims the same thing about Soul Man.

We love you David but in this case, oh baby, just you shut your mouth.

As for the rest of us, we'd recommend sticking to the superior live version from the Serious Moonlight tour if you want to watch a video for the song.

Genesis-Illegal Alien

Due to the fact that we are nowhere near as passionate about Genesis as we are Bowie, while this selection is a much harder sell as any kind of actual social commentary, we don’t really feel like this one needs nearly as lengthy a contextual exploration.

This is Phil Collins delivering lyrics in a Speedy Gonzales-esque accent, tossing on a dark mustache, toupee and poncho then walking us thru a variety of stereotypical Mexican-themed scenes.

Let’s just ¡Ándele! ¡Ándele! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! on to the next one.

Dire Straits-Money For Nothing

How do we know one of the biggest war horse hits of the 80’s, quite possibly the biggest song of 1985, wouldn’t fly today?

Because you can’t even find me a version of the original video on YouTube right now.

One that actually contains the retroactively controversial second verse that led to this song being banned by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council twenty-five years after the song’s release was omnipresent on rock radio and (duh) MTV.

As someone who was very young and impressionable at the time of this song’s release, trust us that “the little faggot with the earring and the make-up” verse sung by Knopfler from the perspective homeware delivery, blue-collar ignoramus character, was definitely in there every single time it played.

And it played seemingly twenty times a day back then.

Blame Canada for not understanding satire?

Or just accept that sometimes words will get sacrificed when their power becomes bigger than whatever original point an artist was trying to make?

Ooh-La-Moolah

We’ll leave that for you to decide.

Taco-Puttin’ On The Ritz

The Irving Berlin-composed “Puttin’ On The Ritz” debuted in 1927 and is widely known to be America’s first hit song performed by an interracial ensemble.

Amazing that nearly a full sixty years later in the famously pale-shaded predominance of early MTV prior to Michael Jackson Thriller and Prince’s 1999 breaking through the young cable-television-network’s glass ceiling that David Bowie famously challenged Mark Goodman about, Dutch-based singer/entertainer Taco actually somehow scored a Billboard Top 5 hit and regular music television rotation in 1982 with his synth-pop version of the song, shown here in its original form.

This clip has subsequently been banned in more recent years once common sense took over and they decided the blackface characters you first see at the :42 second mark, then repeatedly through the rest including during the Fred Astaire tap-dance homage, weren’t so “super duper” after all.

Beyond even the bizarreness of Irving Berlin being more racially progressive during the Roaring Twenties than a one-hit-wonder named “Taco” would appear to be during the Cocaine Eighties, there’s something oddly off-putting about this dude’s whole vibe anyway.

The kind of creeper that you would likely feel a bit uneasy sitting next to on the train.

The Whispers-Keep On Loving Me

911, What’s Your Emergency?

“I think I’m being followed around downtown Los Angeles by five impeccably groomed, impossibly cheerful men. The leaders of the pack seem to be a pair of identical twins, both sporting Lamont Sanford mustaches.”

Ma’am, does there happen to be a tall bearded man in a red sports jacket sans tie with a wide-open butterfly collar nimbly dancing along the curbside behind them?

“Yes, I believe so”

How long has this been going on?

“Well it started this morning when I passed them on the street, they were pretending to be reading the paper while staring me down, but it’s nighttime now and they somehow just showed up at the same loft party that I’m attending”

Stay On The Line and Stay Inside, We Will Be Right There!

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