It's hard to fathom a time before music videos, and it's even sadder to remember when channels like MTV and VH1 were wall-to-wall music videos. In between there was a golden age, when with every clip that you watched could spark a revolution in you, or at least change your fashion sense. It's sad to say, but the age of music videos as we knew it has largely been over since The Real World premiered, although when YouTube took over it at least made it possible to see most any video on demand on your computer or phone.
One of the first videos that we ever loved was Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" from 1986's So album. Being three to four years old and growing up in a musical household, music videos were just like cartoons and live-action kid shows. We didn't know a boundary between Pee-Wee's Playhouse or "Sledgehammer"; later we would find out they were directed by the same person, oddly enough.
Gabriel is in The Woodlands tonight for a date with his New Blood Orchestra, touting a show with no guitars or drums, which after a year of metal, punk, and indie, is a welcome change, especially in the hands of Gabriel and company. The guy has been in our lives since we could remember, and tonight we see him live.
Here are 25 of the most influential music videos of all time. This is not an authoritative list, and nothing is order, though we did put "Thriller" at the end just in case anyone skips this paragraph and decides to throw a fit. Anyhow, what are your favorites?
Peter Gabriel, "Sledgehammer"
The effects, the effects, the effects.
Talking Heads, "Once In A Lifetime"
Weirdo David Byrne comes to your living room.
Guns N' Roses, "Welcome To The Jungle"
There was hair-metal, and then these dudes show up from Planet Scum to slay us all.
The Beatles, "Strawberry Fields Forever" (Peter Goldman)
Trippy visuals, and some of the first tastes of psychedelia for the straights.
2Pac & Dr. Dre. "California Love"
Two of the best rappers of any generation, plus Mad Max. By they way, happy 40th, Pac, if you're out there.
Bruce Springsteen, "Dancing In The Dark"
All you needed to know about Bruce's image is contained in these few minutes.
ZZ Top, "Gimme All Your Lovin'"
From Texas blues-rock legends to bad and worldwide within three minutes. Plus, chicks, man.
Herbie Hancock, "Rockit"
Creepy robot things, and industrial bent, and a music visionary gains a new audience.
Sonic Youth, "Dirty Boots"
Before Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Sonic Youth was already spinning tales of grunge woe.
Sure, "Enter Sandman" was kinda scary, but imagine being trapped in your own body like a dead star?
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Duran Duran, "Girls On Film"
Decadence for the '80s, plus you know, boobs.
Bob Dylan, "Subterranean Homesick Blues"
Yes, that's Allen Ginsberg chilling in the back.
Dr. Dre & Snoop Doggy Dogg, "Nuthin' But A G Thang"
Every rapper afterwards had to show you his crib and how he partied.
Dire Straits, "Money For Nothing"
Computer graphics reigned, and without this video, you would have a big hole in UHF.
Britney Spears, "...Baby One More Time"
Every pop act, male or female, would be influenced by this one. The only thing that would change would be the setting and the faces.
Van Halen, "Runnin' With The Devil"
The hair-metal video template in its purest form.
Buggles, "Video Killed The Radio Star"
Green Day, "Longview"
A nation of couch-sitters sat up and realized they weren't alone.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, "Into The Great Wide Open"
Hello Johnny Depp, and some of the most spot-on '80s fame fairy tales.
Bauhaus, "Bela Lugosi's Dead"
Bringing goth to the teens of America and spawning a black-clad global army.
Midnight Oil "Power and the Passion"
Few people hit so hard on consumerism as Midnight Oil did. Influenced videos from Rage Against the Machine, Neil Young, and System of a Down in the decades to come.
Madonna, "Like a Prayer"
Hello Britney, Gaga, and any other number of gals taking a hit at the Man Upstairs. Madonna made blasphemy sexy.
Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
And the gates of Seattle flew open like a dress on prom night.
Beastie Boys, "Sabotage"
Who else was making fun of '70s cop shows before this? Who hasn't been since?
Michael Jackson, "Thriller"
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Zombies, Vincent Price, an epic running time, and this .gif file are all that matter.