Billy Idol dancing with himself.

Billy Idol’s Steampunk bolt of lightning. I do not own this photo.

I have loved music since I was thirteen, perhaps much younger.  And I grew up in that weird time when MTV was getting started. Strange fact: MTV, like Steampunk, brought weirdness to the rest of the world partway through accident and partway through force of will. When the financial forces behind MTV created the now-iconic channel, they had no money at all, and a lot of space to fill.

What DID they have?  A bunch of experimental films, mostly created by experimental bands whose record labels were, to put it kindly, desperate for attention. So they made whatever the bands felt would fit their artistic vision..within their tiny, tiny budgets and the laughable video low-budget special effects technology of the times.

Who knows what would have risen to the top in the age of autotune and an ability to make amazing things happen with no more than a laptop and a few hundred dollars in software?  But that wasn’t the world they lived in.  So music videos could be weird and experimental…and they succeeded.  And suddenly, major record labels wanted in on the act, and, as major franchises do, they said, “Wait, what’s selling now? Let’s do that!”  What was selling was weird… so artists were suddenly free to be weird.  QED: The music of the 1980s.

And that spirit continued, and it’s why so many music videos could take so many odd artistic chances, and why so many artists could do peculiar things.  I’m going to give you a mixed bag of three of my favorites.

#3.  Pete Townshend’s “A Friend Is A Friend”.  To be honest, I love rock operas, and I love Pete Townshend, and I’ll admit that I love everything he’s ever done.  But you have to figure: Only a rock start with major clout could get a record company to let you write–and then film!–an entire rock opera about a misunderstood giant robot who needs to save the earth from an evil giant bird.  That being said, that robot is massively Steampunk, and if you haven’t seen it, you owe yourself the pleasure:

#2.  Will Smith’s “Wild Wild West”.  This video is actually the reason this article isn’t entitled “the top three Steampunk appearances in classic rock videos”.  That being said, I could watch this video forever.  It’s become less common these days, but when I first got started in Steampunk, the way we used to explain it was, “You know ‘Wild Wild West’?  Yeah, with Will Smith.  Steampunk’s kind-of like that, only with less dancing.”

I’d like to think that now Steampunk is still like that, only with more dancing.

#1. Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself”.  There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who think that Billy Idol singing semi-gibberish while using clearly Frankenstein-inspired machinery to destroy zombies in some sort of post-apocalyptic London is awesome and totally Steampunk

….and those who are wrong.

Watch the video and decide for yourself!

~Jeff Mach


Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.

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