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 "Life in a Northern Town" by The Dream Academy. "Life in a Northern Town" was released in March of 1985 in the UK and then in November of 1985 in the U.S. from The Dream Academy's self-titled debut album. It became an international hit peaking at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February of 1986 while reaching #2 on the Adult/Contemporary chart. It is reported that the song was a tribute to Nick Drake, the British singer-songwriter who tragically died of an antidepressant overdose in 1974. I have always loved this mellow song with an outstanding chorus and beautiful lyrics.
There were actually two different versions of the music video for "Life in a Northern Town". The first one was made in 1984 and was directed by Tim Pope and filmed in Hebden Bridge near Halifax in Yorkshire, UK. Pope was quite prolific when it came to music video directing. In the early '80s, he created several videos for Soft Cell and The Style Council as well as almost every video for The Cure. He also came over the U.S. and created videos like Hall & Oates "Adult Education", The Cars "Magic" and later The Bangles "Eternal Flame". His work now exceeds 100 videos. The second version was filmed in 1985 and was directed by Leslie Libman and her husband Larry Williams. It was filmed in and around Newcastle upon Tyne with some scenes filmed in Manchester in the UK and even in the U.S. (near Pittsburgh, PA). The video featured footage from one of their first TV appearances, on the British music show The Tube. Libman was quite prolific in her own right also directing other '80s hit videos like Chicago "You're the Inspiration", Chicago "Hard Habit to Break", The Bangles “Manic Monday”, Belinda Carlisle “Mad About You”, Rod Stewart "Every Beat of My Heart" and Michael McDonald “Sweet Freedom” among many others before moving into television. I had the pleasure of an interview with Gilbert Gabriel of The Dream Academy and here is what he shared about why there are two music videos for "Life in a Northern Town": Our first video was a bit of a disaster really. Tim Pope, the director of the wonderful Cure videos, made his first failure with us in the middle of winter on a particularly cold day in Halifax. Although laughable now, it was expensive. So the combination of a video made for the program The Tube and found footage ended being the better video.
He disliked the original music video so much that he didn't even want me to include that version as part of the interview. The experience of making it must have been worse than the result because I don't feel the original music video is all that bad. Here is the original music video for "Life in a Northern Town" by The Dream Academy...
Both are solid efforts in my opinion. You can compare for yourself because here is the second music video created for "Life in a Northern Town" by The Dream Academy...
Also as part of my interview with Gilbert Gabriel, here is what he had to say about MTV and the impact it had on music back at that time: We were blessed to be part of a new Warner Brothers operation that invested heavily in video promotion inspired by the success of their videos for Madonna, Talking Heads, Prince and Dire Straits. Some were corny, but it was a time of exploration and innovation and now adults that were youthful at the time look back at them with fond memories! MTV had an enormous impact how records were promoted in the '80s and gave us a visual accessibility to our stars that we never had before. Yes, somehow "video killed the radio star" and now many years later I think the industry suffers from the volcanic ash from its initial eruption of "style over content". You can read much more about Gilbert and The Dream Academy in that interview.
Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!