Updated: Mar 3
Ever since the dawn of MTV and Friday Night Videos, the music video has significantly impacted musical tastes and pop culture. It might not be as extreme as when the Buggles declared that "Video Killed the Radio Star", but there is no arguing that the music video certainly could make or break a song's popularity. So this regular Flashback Video feature will serve to remember some of the music videos from the great '80s decade that made an impact on me in one way or another. This issue we will cover "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" by The Human League. The band includes lead singer Philip Oakey, female co-vocalists Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall as well as Jo Callis, Ian Burden and Philip Adrian Wright. After the huge success of "Don't You Want Me" and the "Mirror Man" in 1982, "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" was released as a single in the UK in April of 1983 and went to #2 on the UK pop chart. It was released in the U.S. about a month after the UK release and it reached #1 on the Billboard Dance chart and #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 that summer.
The music video was directed by Steve Barron who is one of the most prolific video directors of the decade. He would go on to direct such music videos as "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson, "Money For Nothing" by Dire Straits and "Take On Me" by a-ha. Barron came up with the concept of having the video take place in the "You Are Here" spot on a map. In order to do this, he wanted to paint an entire building and the surrounding street red. And that is exactly what he did. The video starts with an aerial view of a map and then zooms in on the "You Are Here" spot and passes into a window to find the band performing the song in a small grey room. To create this very cool effect, the entire building was painted red as well as the surrounding street and even a car parked nearby. It has been told that the house was actually still occupied by a family during the painting and filming of the external scenes (even though it was scheduled for destruction). You can see it here in the music video for "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" by The Human League...
Can you believe they painted the entire house including the roof and street red? Nowadays, they could've changed the color digitally with very little effort, but in the '80s they went the extra mile to get the effect they wanted. In Steve Barron's 2015 autobiography entitled Egg n Chips & Billie Jean: A Trip Through the Eighties, he discusses the "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" video and the legal troubles it caused for him:
We paint a giant red circle over a large area so that when you film it from above it looks like one of those You Are Here poster maps. That shouldn't be too difficult. We've got a bit of a budget because it's The Human League again and "Don't You Want Me" went o number one in about nineteen countries. We search for the house to paint and the street to paint to complete the giant red circle. It has to be derelict - has to be a house they're going to knock down. We find the perfect spot in Peckham [East London]. A four story house in a great position at a three-way road junction and they're going to knock it down, so we can paint the whole exterior and roof red. The council have gingerly agreed to the red road but we have to return it back to normal after filming. Of course, that's very reasonable, we'll use a vegetable dye red paint and wash it right off straight after. From up in the helicopter that giant red spot looks just great. Makes a very cool transition from the You Are Here graphic.
Now it's been a few weeks and the Peckham Council is on the phone. They want to know why the streets are still red. It's still red because the vegetable dye paint was more dye than vegetable, but we can't say that. They're not happy. In fact, Southwark Crown Court and Her Majesty's Council for Peckham is very angry. A few months after we were unable to remove the red paint, the Peckham Council wrote to me and banned me for life from their streets. It was specified on official Borough of Southwark letterhead: "At Her Majesty's bequest, Steve Barron is hereby banished from the borough of Peckham." They were still in the 1880's.
It is reported that both the house and street remained red until being demolished in mid-1983. I think it was all worth it for the sake of creating this cool visual effect in this music video for a cool song. Quite fascinating.
Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!