20 Music Videos that Changed My World Forever


Richard Van Camp

Remember that great line in Don Henley's song "Boys of Summer"?: "A little voice inside my head said, 'Don't look back , you can never look back'." Well, folks, these are my pre-Y2K picks for music videos that, I feel, changed our world forever- -especially mine:

  1. Michael Jackson - - "Thriller". Saw this in grade seven as I was training to be a Hockeystick Ninja. When I look back now, it's laughable that I stayed up past midnight just so I could see the "controversial" video, but when I did see it, I was hypnotized by Michael. Even my dad tried doing the "Air Walk" in his moccasins across the kitchen linoleum. Michael ruled the world for a while--even Fort Smith, NWT.

  2. Aha - - "Take on Me". Saw this in grade nine. By then, I had traded in my nun-chucks for hot knives. Aha was a synth band with a lead singer who had the voice of an angel. Pal Waaktaar's voice is right up there with Morrissey's. Gorgeous video. I actually had tears in my eyes the first time I saw it.

  3. Pet Shop Boys - - "West End Girls". For one magical summer, Fort Smith intercepted TV's gift to teenagers: "Night Tracks". Night Tracks was nonstop music videos that started at 8 pm and went until 2 am Fridays and Saturdays. I loved it. "West End Girls" is my all time grade nine favorite. This video, featuring the pretty boys of pop, showed us a world overseas that was just like ours. Synth driven, beautifully written, stylistically shot. Still one of my favorites.

  4. Wham! - - "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go". Everything in this video was so bright (!), so happy (!), so fun (!). George Michael's smile was so contagious and his teeth were so white! Suddenly, the world just seemed so happy. When people talk about "The Eighties", I immediately think of this video.

  5. Peter Gabriel - - "Sledgehammer". Peter's videos fascinate me. From alternative excellence with videos like "Shock the Monkey" to "Games without Frontiers", he graduated to pop video superstar with "Sledgehammer". After "Sledgehammer", we expected more from Peter's videos from any other artist and he came through time and time again.

  6. Technotronic - - "Pump up the Jam". Saw this video and immediately tried to dance like that skinny black guy who looks like he's dancing for his life. I don't know if the director had a pistol trained on him the whole time and is hollering, "DANCE YOU BASTARD! DANCE!!", but that tune launched the world out of its big hair hard rock frenzy and into an era of techno and dancing like it had never seen before. Suddenly, lyrics weren't everything: the beat was. When you think about it, "When your feet are stumpin'"- -what the fuck does "stumpin'" mean, anyways?

  7. U2 - - "With or Without You". Senior High. I finally admitted to myself that music (Thank God) could get me higher than any lame-ass pot. This song was the last waltz on every dance floor on the planet. U2 must have known they had a hit before they left the studio. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! Great video. I hated U2 before I saw this video and have admired their work ever since.

  8. New Order - - "True Faith". I can't remember who or where I was when I saw it, but the world came crashing down around me when I did. Techno with a conscience. I loved it.

  9. Bring the Noise - - "Fight The Power. Grade 12. My family moved to Calgary for my grade 12 year. My brother and I worked at McDonald's and met up with a young lad named Jason Carter. Jason took it upon himself to "educate" us on what we had missed growing up in the NWT. One of the many bands he got me into was Public Enemy. I hated them at first, but, after a while, with Chuck D's "rhyme animal" instincts, their "get wicked" beat and all that "Yeah boyyy" sniping from Flavor Flave, Public Enemy showed me how angry African Americans were in a new way that informed and educated. I have so much respect for these gentlemen and can't figure out if I'm just plain scared or in awe of Flavor Flave. Great band. Can't wait to see what they'll do next.

  10. LL Cool J - - "Mama Said Knock You Out". Grade 12. Saw this video and wanted to run outside and kick someone in the nuts! Talk about a war anthem. LL Cool J kicked ass in this video- -and he was the only man in the ring. Terrifying, what one man can unleash with a song and beat.

  11. The Mission - - "Wasteland". Grade 12. Calgary. In the basement. Black and White concert footage of a band sent from heaven. Had no idea who they were but felt like I had been touched by an angel. I became the first Dogrib goth in history. Hats off, gentlemen!

  12. Nirvana - - "Smells Like Teen Spirit". When I saw the video, I knew the world was in the way of a huge avalanche of gorgeous noise that we could never walk away from, and we never really did, did we? Kurt Cobain. What a voice. What a loss . . . I just noticed, however, no one talks about Kurt anymore. What a shame . . . 

  13. Madonna - - "Bedtime Story". The song co-written with Bjork, this video finally captured for me what artist/illustrator Dave McKean's dreams must be like. Techno with a spirit. Beautiful but neglected, this video deserves more airplay.

  14. Marilyn Manson - - "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)". Saw this one morning over breakfast in my final year at UVIC. I thought someone had rigged up a peep-cam in Hell and was broadcasting footage. "Shocking" is too weak a work to describe this video. Even words like disturbing or raw fail. Check it out yourself if you need meat for your next nightmare. Brilliant!

  15. Tool - - "Track #1". More footage from hell. Who are the blue powdered people? What's the story here? Show this to people who never had cable growing up and listen to them age forty years a second while viewing.

  16. The Wolfgang Press - - "Cut the Tree". This is dark, lovely and mysterious- -everything that has ever mattered to me.

  17. His Name is Live - - "Are We Still Married?" Directed by the Brothers Quay, this video is a strange fable braiding imagery from the nightmares of children. Wow!

  18. Metallica - "Until it Sleeps" A Hieronymus Bosch daydream captured on the silver screen. Metallica cut their hair and they look far more dangerous and sharp here. Awesome. Brilliant. Lovely.

  19. Sting- "The Angel Gabriel" Haunting. It's like the Devil's circling the last pure angel. The perfect video to snuff that Christmas cheer . . . 

  20. Rammstein - - "Du Hast" My God. I just walked into someone else's nightmare. Resurrected through flames by your dangerous buddies while your old lady waits in the car outside the barn and then when you see her after you don't know her after. I love it.

From Gatherings Volume XII, Transformation, Theytus Books
© 2001 Richard Van Camp
Back to the Richard Van Camp Website