The influence of the music video may have waned since the heyday of MTV, but they can still play a pivotal role in how we enjoy, discover and define our musical tastes. Reasons may vary, but not every hit or game-changing track comes equipped with a clip to match.
Artists can work miracles with shoe-string budgets, and sometimes the simplest videos are the best. Today we take a look at seven iconic clips that managed to worm their way into our hearts with nothing but charm, a simple idea or even a little bit of silliness.
There’s a special charm to low budget film clips, but only when done right. Celebrate the greatest clips concocted in a lower tax threshold with these 7 picks.
PJ Harvey – 50 Ft Queenie (1993)
50 Ft Queenie embodies PJ Harvey to a tee. Reinfusing the stagnant rock genre with the swaggering bravado of hip hop, the track was a pivotal point in ‘90s culture. A statement of detached femininity sure, but on a less intellectual slant Polly Jean is sort of just… rolling around on the floor.
But you can’t help but love her for it.
Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (1979)
The king of pop and high budget films clips, Michael Jackson has a menagerie of thrilling videos to his name. While this green screening was innovative at the time, by modern standards loftier overheads would probably come from dry-cleaning the tux.
This early clip shows Jackson at his finest – occupying a stage by himself, and flying high on naught but his bottomless charisma.
Madonna – Holiday (1983)
Madge’s high budget music cinematography would come to dominate the 80s and the better part of the 90s. Clips for Die Another Day, Express Yourself and Bedtime Story rank second, third and fourth respectively in the top five most expensive music videos of all time.
Despite the millions she would later spend, things were pretty bare bones at this stage. As far as set design goes, there’s little to see aside from an inexplicably slumbersome rococo gentlemen at the back. Still, there’s no cause to deny the sheer charisma the artist possessed in her formative years.
AC/DC — It’s A Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll) (1976)
The opening track of T.N.T., AC/DC’s 1975 single is one of rock’s most iconic fist pumping pounders. Sadly the clip may not have had the lavish budget the rock stars of the ‘80s would later come to expect. Then again, it’s a little unsettling to think about what Bon Scott would have gotten up to with a million dollar budget.
In spite of adverse budgetary concerns the group still managed to pull together this killer truck-back tour of the 1970s Melbourne CBD.
The Smiths – This Charming Man (1984)
Notions of auteur post punk filmmaking to one side, it’s just Morrissey swinging some flowers about the place. Placed within its historical context (a reaction to the normativity of the early 80s pop) it’s actually pretty good.
If you count yourself amongst Morrissey’s devout following, you probably already had this pinned as a favourite.
The Replacements – Bastards of Young (1985)
The Replacements had troubled relationships with their label, each other, the record buying public, and just about everyone else. Still, they were one of the greatest underground 80s acts to ever come close to cracking into the mainstream.
Given that the group were known for wholesale destruction of musical equipment and lighting cigarettes with hundred dollar bills on a nightly basis, it might not come as a surprise that they were never given the biggest budgets for MTV clips. Here they employed one continuous shot of a speaker playing their latest single. In true Replacements style, they still found something to destroy.
Watch this one until the end if you want to see some hi-fi get splintered.
Pixies – Velouria (1990)
The Pixies’ clumsy geological parkour here is actually a cute little protest. The video was hastily cut to satisfy a rule requiring all singles performed on the Top of the Pops to have been released with an accompanying film clip.
To counter this, a cheap video was made filming the group running across a quarry. To their credit, the group saved money by not hiring a director; they’re actually running towards the camera to turn it off.
Editor’s note: A list of low budget clips without Cat Power’s Lived in Bars is a damn near travesty! Here it is: