Video Killed the Radio Star

If you remember Total Eclipse of the Heart, Physical, She Works Hard for the Money and Freeway of Love then sit down. Video Killed the Radio Star is back with more insights into the makings of pop.

I’m a bit reluctant to tag this documentary as its second season. Online info seems to suggest anywhere between 1-4 series, or alternatively: S1: The Artists, S2: The Directors.

“Directors and Divas” airs on Sunday December 30 and “Rock and Alchemy” follows on Tuesday January 1st. At just two episodes I suspect these are possibly interstitials that have been packaged together as episodes for overseas broadcasters. In any case it’s new content for the ABC and nonetheless entertaining.

In Directors and Divas, music video directors who worked in the 1980s reflect on some of their stand-out work and talk about the shoots that delivered such memorable results. The Directors include Russell Mulcahy, David Mallet, Andy Morahan, Brian Grant and Tim Pope. They are complemented by interviews with Olivia Newton-John, Bonnie Tyler, Kim Wilde, Kim Carnes, T’Pau’s Carol Decker and Mick Fleetwood (is he supposed to be a Diva?).

Other clips are detailed but the stars are nowhere to be seen: Madonna, Donna Summer (ok fair enough) and Aretha Franklin.

Surprisingly, it’s actually Aretha Franklin who emerges as the biggest diva in terms of her collaboration, on both Freeway of Love and I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me). The implication here is that her “old school” ways involved all the trappings of minders, limousines and tantrums.

Director Brian Grant talks about securing an entire car factory in Detroit for an elaborate shoot for Freeway of Love. But at the last minute Franklin snubbed the idea and refused to work outdoors. As a director he had to dig deep to rescue the project at the last minute. Another tale behind I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) details how Franklin was completely disinterested in George Michael and refused to give him any eye contact. Who knew?

In other reflections, a choreographer on She Works Hard for the Money had dozens of dancers ready to rehearse a full day’s work -but Donna Summer wanted to go shopping for new shoes.

But there are those such as Kim Carnes who had complete faith in their directors, such as Russell Mulcahy, even though the latter admits he was making much of it up as he went along. Bonnie Tyler is a highlight recalling Mulcahy’s Total Eclipse of the Heart, including some sensual ideas that were so progressive at the time she accused him of being a “prevert” (and no, that’s not a typo).

There are quite a few laughs as Olivia Newton-John recalls the racy, semi-naked men of Physical, balanced only by the comedy of its overweight men in now-famous gym scenes. She expected to be run out of Utah for the closing shots of oiled-up muscle men pairing up together.

Kim Wilde recalls her fears in working with snakes on Cambodia. Another director remembers turning down a young, rising star called Madonna for her clip Burning Up until he saw her in concert and sensed her talent.

The second episode includes videos for AC/DC, Queen, Guns N’ Roses, Black Sabbath, Motley Crue, Skid Row and Judas Priest.

Video Killed the Radio Star is an enjoyable look back on early music clips that helped propel songs to fame, and the haphazard way many made it to the edit suite.

Video Killed the Radio Star airs 7:30pm Sunday December 30 and Tuesday January 1 on ABC2.

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