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 "Walk Like an Egyptian" by The Bangles. They had previous hits with "Manic Monday" and "If She Knew What She Wants", but this surprising smash hit took The Bangles to another level. "Walk Like an Egyptian" was released as a single in September of 1986 and quickly reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in December and held the top spot for four weeks. This was the first song by an all-female group playing their own instruments to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100. It was also the #1 song on the Billboard Year End Chart for 1987. "Walk Like an Egyptian" was a worldwide smash hit which also reached the top of the chart in at least six other countries and the Top 10 in six more.
Liam Sternberg, who wrote the song, said he got the idea when he was on a ferry boat and saw people struggling to keep their balance. "The way they held out their arms and jerked around made it look like they were doing Egyptian movements, and if the boat moved suddenly, they would all topple over." It came to The Bangles and they agreed to record it, but never thought the silly song even would get released. In my interview with Vicki Peterson of The Bangles she said, "I really didn't think the label would release it, but I did have a feeling that if they did, it wouldn't be ignored." They did release it and it certainly was not ignored. The music video for the song and its heavy rotation on MTV certainly helped propel its popularity and earned a nomination for Best Group Video at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards. Here is the music video for "Walk Like an Egyptian" by The Bangles...
One part of the music video that stood out to me (and to countless others) was a close-up on Susanna Hoffs' eyes as she looks side to side. I also had the pleasure of an interview with the video's director Gary Weis, who had worked on Saturday Night Live and created some other very popular music videos of the decade including "You Can Call Me Al" by Paul Simon and "Got My Mind Set On You" by George Harrison. Here is what he had to say about that iconic shot:
Susanna apparently suffered from a little stage fright and to overcome it she would often focus on individual audience members. We did not even have an entire audience, just a small group to stand near the stage with their arms up to make it look like it was a concert. We had cameras focused with close-up shots on each of the girls and that's when we captured Susanna looking at an audience member on the left and then switching to another one on her right. It was just sort of luck, but when I saw it I knew we had to put that in the video.
The fake concert footage was mixed with the girls dancing in Egyptian costumes as well as what seems like ordinary people on the street. In my interview with Vicki Peterson, here is what she had to say about the video in general and working with Gary Weis:
I just ADORE Gary Weis. The Rutles was a big favorite of mine and I was so excited to be working with its director. I enjoyed working on his videos in particular, although the video for "Egyptian" was sort of smashed into a tour schedule and was a bit chaotic. We worked with a choreographer in Florida and then shot the performance bit in New York City. The way I remember it, Gary just went out into the streets and grabbed people and had them "walk like Egyptians" all while we were getting into costume for the performance/dance bits.
It all worked together and made "Walk Like an Egyptian" one of the most memorable songs of 1986. Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!