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Flashback Video: 'Rapture' by Blondie

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 "Rapture" by Blondie. It was released in January of 1981 as the second single from their Autoamerican album. "Rapture" would spend two weeks in March 1981 at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, their fourth and last single to reach the top ten. It was the first #1 single in the U.S. to feature rap vocals. The music video for "Rapture" actually made its U.S. television debut on Solid Gold on January 31, 1981, and then not only became the first rap video ever broadcast on MTV, but was part of its first 90-video rotation on the cable channel when it launched in August of that year.

The music video for "Rapture" was directed by Keef. Keef‏‎ is actually the working name for director Keith MacMillan and producer John Weaver. In addition to Blondie, they have worked on music videos starting in the late-70s for Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Queen, Motorhead, KISS, Culture Club, Pat Benatar and Foreigner among many others into the mid-80s.

The video was set in the East Village section of Manhattan, New York City. Because they couldn’t execute their vision on the actual streets of New York, an Upper East Side soundstage was decorated to substitute for the Lower East Side. A guy in a white suit and top hat called the Man from Mars appears to be the central figure. That dancer is William Barnes who also choreographed the video. The video also features lead singer Debbie Harry at a house party before dancing down the street passing by graffiti artists and several other characters. Fab Five Freddy (who is specifically mentioned in the lyrics) and graffiti artists Lee Quiñones and Jean-Michel Basquiat make cameo appearances. It is reported that Basquiat was only hired when Grandmaster Flash (who also was specifically mentioned in the lyrics) was not able to participate, that is why he is playing the DJ. Here is the music video for "Rapture" by Blondie...

In an early era when most music videos only featured a band lip-synching to their own music on a soundstage, this video was certainly different. It told a story and displayed the urban culture also providing some initial exposure to hip hop music. MTV wouldn’t air a video by an actual rap group until Run-DMC’s “Rockbox” three years later.

Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!



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