Yesterday, Bob Dylan’s website released a bonkers interactive music video to “Like a Rolling Stone.” Its media player, concocted by a company called Interlude, lets you experience a few minutes of flipping through a satellite TV hookup on which everyone is lip-synching to the 48-year-old classic. A BBC newscaster, some History Channel talking heads, the insufferable stars of The Bachelor, a bunch of kiddie cartoon characters, Drew Carey and the Price Is Right models–they all want to know “how does it feel?”
While the interactive angle is new, the reason for releasing something like this isn’t: Music videos have always been equally modes of artistic expression and big, shiny advertisements for records you can buy. On Dylan’s site, now flooded with traffic, a banner ad announces that that his 47-disc omnibus boxed set is now available (just in time for Christmas). Sometimes, when a greatest hits album or soundtrack needs pimped, or someone just gets a weird whim, a new video is created for an old tune, defying the usual equation of new single = new video. Though “Like a Rolling Stone” is by far the most awesome, here are 11 other music videos for classic songs you might not know existed.
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band – “Night Moves”
Song 1976, video 1994
A tale of teen lust oozing with nostalgia for the early ’60s, Seger’s breakout hit is full of descriptive detail, so it was a natural choice when Capitol moved to make a video to promote his greatest hits album. Laced with scenes of Seger performing at a derelict drive-in, the video flashes back to its Kennedy-era prime, and features a pre-Friends Matt LeBlanc eyeing a pre-Melrose Place Daphne Zuniga at a concession stand. Neither could apparently be bothered to lose their distinctly ’90s haircuts for the shoot.
Paul Simon – “Me and Julio Down by the School Yard”
Song 1972, video 1988
Like Seger, Simon dusted off an old hit to promote a best-of compilation, but “Me and Julio Down by the School Yard” takes a more surreal turn. Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie, representing the then-novel art of hip-hop, deliver a 25-second rap intro. Then Simon hangs out with a bunch of kids on an inner-city playground and teach them a valuable life lesson: Paul Simon is mean. The short, white, middle-aged singer/songwriter is an unlikely ruler on the basketball court and then, unmerciful, he strikes out a few kids in stickball. Spud Webb and Mickey Mantle show up for a while and John Madden yells at children. Still, no clue as to what mama saw.
James Brown – “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine”
Song 1970, video 1988
Propaganda Films was one of the first production houses for music videos and it entered the feature film market in 1988 with the crime caper The Blue Iguana, starring Dylan McDermott and, in a small role, Flea. Propaganda got its hands on Brown’s funk classic for the soundtrack and created a blazing visual cacophony of street dancers, disembodied heads, Day of the Dead figures and wiggly lines. Oh, and Flea pops up a few times, grooving out. (Something I learned while searching for the YouTube video of this one: Don’t Google “Sex Machine” while in a public library.)
David Bowie – “Space Oddity”
Song 1969, video 1972
Though “Space Oddity” came a good decade before MTV, there are actually two videos to it. The first is a segment from Love You till Tuesday, a short promotional video his manager created to get him signed. It’s awful, with Bowie in spandex, an oversized “space” visor, and–just in case there was any confusion–the words “Major Tom” written on his chest. The second video, which is pertinent to this list, was directed by Bowie’s in-house photographer Mick Rock in 1972, after his new label, RCA, got the rights to his older material and rereleased “Space Oddity” as a single. (The song burnt upon entry in the U.S. when first rush-released to coincide with the Moon Landing.) It’s a much simpler affair, with a glammed-out Bowie playing the acoustic guitar. Both versions, of course, suck when compared to this.
Chris Isaak – “Wicked Game”
Song 1989, video 1991
The black and white video of Isaak and a topless Helena Christensen frolicking on a Hawaiian beach is one of the most iconic of the early ’90s, but the song is from the late ’80s. Isaak’s third album, Heart Shaped World, went nowhere until “Wicked Game” was used in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart. The music director at Atlanta’s Power 99 heard it in the film and put it in rotation. The song soon spread to other stations. Lynch directed a bare-bones video for “Wicked Game” featuring film clips, but when the movie left theaters and the song continued to climb the charts, Warner Brothers sprang for the now-famous video. By that time, “Wicked Game” was nearly two years old.
Roy Orbison – “In Dreams”
Song 1963, video 1987
Speaking of David Lynch, his Blue Velvet provides one cultural point of separation between Baby Boomers and Generation X. If you’re a boomer, you probably know Orbison’s “In Dreams” as a hit from the innocent, pre-psychedelic days of rock and roll. For gen-X-ers, the song’s opening words are utterly nightmare-inducing, impossible to disassociate from Dean Stockwell sashaying around a drug den and lip-synching into a cord-socket light bulb as young Jeffrey imagines an impeding beating and disembodiment at the hands of Dennis Hopper’s sadistic Frank Booth. Orbison was apparently uncomfortable with his song in such a disturbing movie, but even Roy Orbison likes getting paid, and a year later, he released a new anthology, titled In Dreams, and allowed for a music video featuring a smoky atmosphere and clips of the infamous scene.
The Doors – “L.A. Woman”
Song 1971, video 1985
The keepers of The Doors’ legacy offered something to fans for their newfangled VCRs with Dance on Fire, a compilation of TV appearances, concert footage and this bonus, a newly made music video for “L.A. Woman,” directed by keyboardist Ray Manzarek. It has a vague storyline in which an actress is murdered–after she unwisely asks for a light from a creepy dude hovering outside a topless bar–and is stuffed with stock footage of L.A., not from The Doors’ time but very noticeably from the mid-80s. Stay tuned for an interpretive dance sequence during the song’s bridge.
The Doors – “L.A. Woman”
Song 1971, video 2012
Warner Brothers, looking for ways to ensure The Doors get passed to yet another generation, filmed a second video for “L.A. Woman” featuring millennial skateboarders Kenny Anderson, Alex Olson and Braydon Szafranski, and tossed it onto YouTube. Once again, there are current scenes from the City of Angels, and just as with the ’85 video, the haircuts will probably look ridiculous in a decade or so.
Song 1988, video 1993
MTV passed on the first video for this heavy metal classic, probably because of a scene in which Glenn Danzig appears to rip apart a live chicken with his mighty, demonic arms. In 1993, a new video was cut to coincide with the release of the live EP, Thrall: Demonsweatlive. It is just black and white performance footage, but is still terrifying because Danzig is probably terrifying sitting at the breakfast table eating Frosted Flakes. MTV put this one into heavy rotation under its Buzz Bin label for new and cutting-edge artists, an odd place for a five-year-old song from a guy who had been around for 15 years.
Iggy Pop, “Lust for Life”
Song 1977, video 1996
A few years before it became the unlikely advertising jingle for Royal Caribbean, Pop’s ode to drugs and earfucking became the theme to Trainspotting, Danny Boyle’s gut-wrenching adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel. Pop shot a video to promote the soundtrack, with movie clips intersecting the ever-shirtless punk icon doing a goofy dance.
? and the Mysterians, “96 Tears”
Song 1966, video 1997
Though ? and the Mysterians took garage rock to number one with “96 Tears,” the band’s music was out of print by the mid ’90s and there were too many legalities surrounding the original recordings to rerelease them. So, in 1997, they reentered the studio and cut a few note-for-note remakes of their old songs. They also shot a video for their signature song. Like everything else the band produced, it is simple, charming and rudimentary, with breakup scenes acted out by what look like generic K-Mart equivalents of Barbie’s.