September 30, 2009

Music Videos Waaay Before MTV

Most people date the birth music videos to that infamous August night in 1981 when MTV took to the cablewaves with "Video Killed The Radio Star". However, music videos actually got their start in the late 1950's with something called Scopitones. These were 16mm film clips with magnetic striped sound that played on a large, dimly lit screen planted on top of a jukebox. These early music videos were very popular in France and West Germany then migrated to the US around 1964.

Lately, Scopitones have been randomly popping up in my cultural consciousness. I watched a bunch of them on a's in-flight channel on Virgin America. Then a friend emailed this clip below of a handsome lad named Bobby Vee who had some big surfy hits in the early '60s. These proto-music videos are corny and silly with super-low production value but man, can those kids dance!

If you like this Bobby Vee number, there is a
whole website dedicated exclusively to Scopitone's with some pretty hilarious clips. I'd recommend Neil Sedaka doing "Calendar Girl". He's a very talented singer/songwriter and a pretty cute guy too but man, this white boy can't dance or even move his hands convincingly to the beat. But it doesn't stop him from trying, God bless him.