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Money for nothin’: 10 classic music videos shot on the cheap

I ran. I ran to catch the G.
That’s just mirrors and tin foil, kids.

Nearly every director that was interviewed for the forthcoming book Welcome to the House of Fun: Directors Recall Creating the Golden Age of Music Video says that he/she never had enough time or money to shoot their videos. Many of those turned out to be pretty disposable, but some directors turned budget challenges into creative juice and created great videos. To coincide with our anti-VMA party at Last Exit on Sunday, we partnered with Brokelyn to identify some vintage videos with tighter budgets than David Lee Roth’s spandex pants, to prove that you don’t need a $30,000 Kickstarter to make it happen.

M – Pop Musik

Brian Grant shot this one with no money for editing, so he supposedly shot the scenes on specific pieces of his videotape and eventually filled in all the blanks. One of the first classic “white cyc” videos, a staple for early shoestring-budget music videos since the cyclorama is already painted white when the crew arrives.


Tone Loc – Wild Thing

How it’s possible to look cheaper than “Pop Muzik” I don’t know, but Mr. Funky Cold Medina himself scored the first video hit for Delicious Vinyl with this “Addicted to Love” tribute, borrowing Nola Darling and the “Please baby baby please” line from Spike Lee’s film She’s Gotta Have It.


Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough

Tiny pre-plastic surgery Michael dancing around some jewels is strange, but at least the director had enough sense to just let the camera roll on the King of Pop’s dance moves.


Falco – Der Kommisar

Ah, the green screen, back when it was a blue screen. The late, great Falco hit the international charts with this eurodance classic that set the stage for a hit remake by the band After The Fire as well as Falco’s own megahit tribute to Mozart “Rock Me Amadeus.”  Is he running in traffic? P.S. Visit the Der Kommisar bar on Fifth Avenue and ask for the “Falco.”


Guns N Roses – Garden of Eden

After shooting their epic videos “Don’t Cry,” “November Rain” and “Estranged,” director Andy Morahan collected the band in a small studio to shoot a dirty little punk video to try to capture that “Appetite For Destruction” menace that seemed to have eluded the “Use Your Illusion” clips. Love that big smile moment for Axl.


A Flock of Seagulls – I Ran

Shot for nearly nothing, it’s the Citizen Kane of Cheap Crappy Videos. Director Tony Van Den Ende took fun house mirrors, aluminum foil, and a few girls in alien makeup, and created one of the most popular videos of all time, which gave the Seagulls a top ten hit and crowned singer Mike Score as king of the new wave haircut.


Huey Lewis – Hip to Be Square

Take a medical microscope and attach it to a regular film camera and what do you get? A weird journey into Huey Lewis’s pores. Iconic video directors Godley & Crème put this together with strange results, including another top ten hit for Huey & company.


Prince – Alphabet Street

So Prince’s manager calls local Minneapolis producer/director Patrick Epstein and says, “Hey, want to shoot a Prince music video?” Epstein says, “Sure!” “Okay, but it has to be right now.” Scrambling for some cable access cameras on short notice, Epstein shot this in half a day and Prince took over editing later. Between the Glamour Shots close-ups, crappy caption letters and Prince’s silliest dance moves, one wonders what the Purple One was thinking. Then again, he’d just shelved his dark opus The Black Album and released the lightweight Lovesexy instead, so I guess his judgment at the time was questionable.


Replacements – Bastards of Young

An alt-take on the same themes as Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing”, this continuous shot of a stereo playing the Replacements song was more middle finger than anything. Cheap, yes.  A statement? Definitely. Compelling? Not really.


Pixies – Velouria

It’s just the Pixies climbing rocks in a quarry, which I guess is “rocking”. The critical darlings repeatedly took the piss out of music videos.


*As for the actual dollar costs of these videos, the amounts are hard to verify, often inaccurate, and would need conversion to 2013 dollars anyway. Just assume everyone got a cheese sandwich for lunch, okay?

Stephen Pitalo is founder of the Golden Age of Music Video and will be providing reams of classic music videos, games and MTV ephemera for our I Wanted My MTV part on Sunday!

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