Animation in music

Jackie Wilson made his US chart debut with the finger-popping classic, ‘Reet Petite’, on this day in 1957. The video that triggered its re-release, with its unforgettable stop-motion animation, now so well known thanks to the likes of clay-modelled Wallace and Gromit (do you remember Morph before them, also a product of Aardman Animations?), deserves watching again. It helped make the song an international smash hit in the years following Wilson’s death, in 1984.

The tragic entertainer, who spent his final eight years in a coma following a heart attack during one of his concerts, is one of my favourites: a dynamic singer and showman, hailed ‘Mr Excitement’ for his energetic on-stage performances. How about the vocal gymnastics on ‘Reet Petite’ and its amusing Claymation representation?

Thinking about how animation has been used by musicians down the years, it’s hard to think initially of anything beyond the many memorable backdrop films used by Pink Floyd, projected onto a circular screen behind the band as they played, successfully shifting focus away from them. Do you have a favourite? The various ‘Time’ films, not least the 1974 Ian Emes original, are worthy of special interest.

Of course, we all know The Wall well – Gerald Scarfe’s satirical artistry enhanced the project in all its formats greatly – and The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine can’t be far from thought (particularly if, like me, you’re a Liverpool fan dreaming of a team of Carraghers on match day); neither can Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’, still performing admirably whenever called to represent the Eighties in intermittent Best Music Video polls and held up against examples of much more advanced technological and multimedia wizardry. Yet the one that I always loved most of all was Michael Jackson’s ‘Leave Me Alone’, with its clattering teeth, dogs in suits and the man himself tied down like Gulliver by the weight of media expectation.

There are plenty more besides; I’ll offer up the following five, each incorporating different animation techniques which you may, or may not, have seen, recall or even care for. Do tell. Can you think of any others?

– Gnarls Barkley, ‘Crazy’
– Red Hot Chili Peppers, ‘Californication’
– Nina Simone, ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’
– Talking Heads, ‘Road to Nowhere’
– Tears for Fears, ‘Sowing the Seeds of Love’

The chatroom will be open tomorrow, by the way – from 3pm (UK). All welcome.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour's official blog, The Blog ('Features' previously being its rather naff title), affectionately - or lazily - shortened to 'FEd'.

55 thoughts on “Animation in music”

  1. Why do I find the Jackie Wilson video a bit scary? :!

    – How about A-Ha, ‘Take On Me’? Great and clever animated video. I love it, especially the end.

    – Also The Rolling Stones, ‘Harlem Shuffle’, which combines perfectly well live action and animation. Great fun.

    – Dire Straits, ‘Money For Nothing’
    – INXS, ‘What You Need’

    It was nice to visit Ian Emes’ website, I never heard of him before.

    1. How about A-Ha, ‘Take On Me’? Great and clever animated video. I love it, especially the end.

      ‘Tis a good one.

    2. How about A-Ha, ‘Take On Me’? Great and clever animated video. I love it, especially the end.

      Me too Michèle.

    3. How about A-Ha, ‘Take On Me’? Great and clever animated video. I love it, especially the end.

      You can count me in on this one too. The end indeed gives me the goosebumps. 😉

  2. Frank Zappa did some amazing claymation and not just City of Tiny Lights.

    My 4 year old grand daughter loves to watch P.U.L.S.E and the flying bed. Took her to see a tribute band and she was gutted they did not have one.

    You are her favourite. She wants a guitar for birthday to play like you.

  3. Our favourite is the opening sequence for ‘Time’ from P.U.L.S.E with all the antique clocks and skeleton… brilliant.

    Best wishes
    Heather

  4. Not a genre that I expect many of those reading to like, hip-hop, but this one moved me in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election. The video is unforgettable.

    ‘Mosh’ by Eminem.

    1. Another example that proves that Hip Hop/Rap is not always crap music:

      ‘Handlebars’, by Flobots.

      Powerful video, very touching story, strong socio-political message. This song can’t leave anyone indifferent. (Hi, Julie, I think you previously mentioned it in another post.)

      I can hand out a million vaccinations
      Or let ‘em all die from exasperation
      Have ‘em all healed of their lacerations
      Have ‘em all killed by assassination

    2. I have always been a fan of Eminem. I have to admit that I have not seen or heard ‘Mosh’ before, but it certainly is illuminating. Especially since I have been liaising with some of my American friends. They tell me what it is like over there these days. I noticed the introduction of the kids reciting: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…” I used to say that every morning at school when I lived in Texas, even though I was a British kid.

      Yes, Michele, ‘Handlebars’ is a moving video too and very powerful too.

  5. One of my favourite animation film had to be Welcome to the Machine. The intro is great.

    Another is Shine On and The Court Scene of The Wall. Poor Pink, he had a rough go in that one. 8|

  6. Ian Eames, “French Windows” featuring “One of These Days” as its soundtrack. (Was this ever shown on Mr. Screen?)

  7. Did Beavis & Butt Head make an appearance on any video??

    Love the blinking eye at the start of DSOTM at Earls Court.

  8. The Time animation from the Division Bell tour has gotta be one of the best, I particularly liked that the Division Bell heads were featured in it.

    I would have said Sledghammer if you hadn’t Fed. Fellow bloggers have come up with some I’d forgotten and some I’ve never seen before, thanks for that.

    Here is one which is not old, I was looking for one of their older ones but this one is good because of the driver (who is great, as ever) of the red car whom we’d been talking about last week in chat. 🙂

    ash

    1. I heard one of their songs on the radio earlier. The guitar riff was decent enough, but all that whining and wailing is enough to bring on an instant headache.

    2. LOL. Like I’ve said before, it’s like putting needles in your eyes.

      The only song I can tolerate by them is Creep.

      Thanks.

      Andrew

    3. well yeah, they are boring for listening… but I think they had a good video director.

      look at this (you can watch it without sound, hehe).

    4. well yeah, they are boring for listening…

      OK. So somebody please explain to me why I would want to be entertained by boring music?

      I rather count the grains in a tea bag.

      Thanks.

      Andrew

    5. OK. So somebody please explain to me why I would want to be entertained by boring music?

      Well, maybe somebody will explain it to you. It is the theme for another discussion.

      But I don’t speak about music. And I don’t try to make somebody to listen to boring music.

      I mean that even boring music can have good video.

      For example, there are many songs that have amazing lyrics and bad music. And it’s no reason to speak that the lyrics are bad too.

    6. Michèle,

      Yes, very funny. Thank you for that. You always know how to make me smile.

      Thanks.

      Andrew

  9. I’ll offer up the following five, each incorporating different animation techniques which you may, or may not, have seen, recall or even care for. Do tell.

    Well, you did ask.

    I’ve heard all these 5 songs but I’ve never seen any of the clips before.

    I’ve never heard or seen the Michael Jackson song.

    I have seen Sledgehammer many times.

    Maybe I shouldn’t be admitting this. :/

    1. Forgot, the Jackie Wilson song and clip are new to me as well.

      Thanks, I enjoyed all the clips.

  10. Sledgehammer is one of my favorite videos from Peter Gabriel and I love the song too.

    OK. Here is my contribution to this topic. As typical for me, not the run of the mill contribution.

    First, check out this video from Primus called Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver.

    We have Green Jelly, doing Three Little Pigs. Originally this band was called Green Jello and then there was a corporate America lawsuit. Also, at one point MTV did an edit on the second little pig stanza editing out ganga smoking. Here is the original. And make sure you listen to the moral of the story at the end of the video.

    And of course there is the band that is just animation on stage, GWAR. I never cared for them but they certainly had a unique stage presence.

    Thanks.

    Andrew

  11. Please, come to France, where you want… but come to France. We need you, to listen to the best music we never had.

  12. I think my favorite music animation was from the Genesis video for “Land of Confusion”.

  13. I love the way Liam walks in this video. :))

    Some Beatles references too.

    I usually can’t stand Oasis, but ‘The Masterplan’ is not bad at all, I think, especially the lyrics.

  14. Innuendo is also a good example of animation video (due to Freddie final stage illness, at the time.) It won a prize (which one I can’t remember).

    1. That’s an excellent example. I don’t think I’ve seen it before, certainly not in full. (Here it is, if anyone else missed it.)

      One of Queen’s best songs, I think. Freddie wrote some unbelievably beautiful lyrics towards the end, bless him.

  15. Peter Gabriel – Digging In The Dirt (superior to Sledgehammer, IMO.)

    White Stripes – Fell In Love With A Girl (stop motion animation with nothing but Legos. Brilliant!)

    Paula Abdul – Opposites Attract (okay, why am I putting this on here? Well, MC Scat Cat is pretty cool!)

    I’m sure I could come up with many others, but these were the first 3 to pop in my head.

    1. Paula Abdul – Opposites Attract (okay, why am I putting this on here? Well, MC Scat Cat is pretty cool!)

      :)) I bought the single. Ssshh, don’t tell anyone.

      Well remembered, Rob.

    2. Paula Abdul – Opposites Attract (okay, why am I putting this on here? Well, MC Scat Cat is pretty cool!)

      I was going to mention that one too. It was an OK video and personally I enjoy watching Paula dance. I think she is very talented with respect to dancing.

      Thanks.

      Andrew

  16. Sorry I was away for a long time, glad that I’m back.

    One of the reasons was this band; Unitopia from Australia who did a European tour (with Ian Ritchie who played sax with Roger Waters) and a fabulous, hilarious animation (at least that is my humble opinion).

    Have a nice day,
    Nick

  17. I’m not sure this could suit the “animation in music” topic, but did you hear about Hatsune Miku, the new virtual Japanese pop star? I heard about it today.

    “She” is a 3D hologram and her voice is produced by a synthesizer called Vocaloid.

    She does not exist, but she sings and dances on the stage, along with a real band playing and her audience behaves just as if she were true.

    Here is a video, if someone is interested.

    I can’t decide: is it an innovative technology, or just madness?

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