Remember watching some music video on TV and wondering which city that is? Which street compose the sweet motion picture, wherein there is something unique, provoking, authentic. That without the video footage of the urban city district, the song would just be the usual, maybe even non-sense, losing at least half of its meaning. That it is the city that gives the full beauty of the video and the song altogether. Well, in this issue at This City Knows, we pick on three ground-breaking videos of their own time – blasts from the pasts. Moreover, some intriguing stories lurk behind how these three videos were produced.
How was Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy filmed
Filmed with Steadicam, Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy was ultimate hit when it was released in 1991. Not only the song made into the hearts of millions around the world but also the video was so good and ground-breaking that you can’t be bored by watching it over and over again.
It was Dan Kneece, best known for his film Blue Velvet from 1986, who operated the Steadicam, and this person was one of the main reasons why the band filmed the video in none other city but Los Angeles. “There aren’t many people in the UK who have the expertise to hold a Steadicam on their back for five minutes”, have commented from Massive Attack who have traveled all the way to LA to film. Plus, “the light, because you can’t get that kind of golden light anywhere else,” was another of their statements.
The video of Unfinished Sympathy follows Nelson walking down a pavement, quite careless about the surrounding. The first sequence of the video portrays a gang, and that is a real gang that is there by accident. Nelson moves past them and goes from the 1311 South New Hampshire Avenue to 2623 West Pico Boulevard. This was filmed in a single continuous shot and it was all according to a plan of movement created by video director Baillie Walsh.
Other band members, 3D and Daddy G can also be seen randomly walking somewhere behind Nelson in other sequences of the video. The video concludes with Nelson walking past down the camera and off down the road in the distance. Originally, the end was supposed to be enclosed with an overhead shot of Los Angeles. Aesthetic and beautiful work anyways, or as Sean O’Hagan of The Guardian had it written: “Benchmark in modern video direction, more a breathtaking short film than a mere pop promo”. What The Verve did with their 1997 Bitter Sweet Symphony was paying off tribute exactly to the work of Massive Attack.
As a very young child, I would somehow keep thinking that it is New York in the video. Even now, for years after I’ve known it is really LA, I would re-imagine the video as if it was filmed in New York. It would just give me the feeling that yes, I belong there, in the video, on those streets. But no, it’s not really New York on this one – New York is for the next one.
Björk at the back of a truck in the music video for Big Time Sensuality
“Big Time Sensuality was more like a personal statement, it has to be very in-your-face. Then he called up, a little later, with something he thought was even better, basically to get a truck and drive up and down Manhattan as long as the light would last. I guess the idea to put someone on a truck, and kinda drive the truck, and you have to dance really intensely, and just the elements of danger at the top of that, do it in a city like New York. I think the policeman, very aggressive, asking us to try to stop to do it and we were kind bit like, we were kinda like anarchists not stopping, the police were after us [sic]. Then, you get all those people who actually want to jump on the truck and take part like, Are you doing a movie? Can I take part of it? We had very big speakers and were blasting the song, everybody was kinda listening, and you know how New York people are, they’re very sort of open anyway, they were clapping and dancing along, it was a bit of a performance statement. It was a great day, we had great laughs”.
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Beastie Boys’ Sabotage made a perfect homage to ’70s cop dramas
There were many cop drama movies produced during the 1970’s and of course the movie niche was just too much to stand on the long run. Crime drama shows featured titles like The Streets of San Francisco, S.W.A.T or Baretta, and it was all way too much pumped with testosterone.
But there is one good mission those cop dramas that have fulfilled unintentionally two decades after. If it wasn’t for them, Spike Jonze’s would had not created the extremely exciting music video of Sabotage from the Beastie Boys. In the music video, MCA, Ad-Rock, and Mike D take on police personas of the likes of Sylvester Stallone’s Rookie and make an awesome homage to those cop dramas.
The hot action of the music video takes place in none other city but San Francisco. Some scenes of it had to be omitted as for the MTV criteria, like scenes including knife fight sequence and a falling-off from a bridge scene. The video is by far influential for various aspects. For instance, Danny Boyle have credited Trainspotting‘s opening credits to those used in Sabotage.
Interested to explore San Francisco further on? We have our own time capsule of San Francisco. Open it here