I've talked before about how 1983 was one of those threshold eras, when interesting new ideas and roiling subcultures were being fired by strange forces emanating from the ether. You kind of had to be there to get my full meaning, but suffice it to say the first (meaning "real") Stranger Things does a magnificent job of capturing the flavor.
You know; before the Duffers got "the talk."
Now, if I were to pick the absolute last place I'd imagine occultism to manifest itself in pop music, it would be in the video for Aztec Camera's "Oblivious." But, oh, how wrong I would be.
Aztec Camera was the brand name Scottish singer-songwriter Roddy Frame traded under, offering up a kind of Smiths-jacent folk-pop that went for naif rather than arch. Roddy does have excellent taste in music, but I've never really found his stuff all that compelling.
But "Oblivious" is one of those songs I'm sure he just knew would be the one he'd be remembered for as soon as he wrote it. It's one of those songs even a master songsmith like Paul McCartney or Neil Diamond wish they wrote. Just one of those touched by the gods moments, absolutely bulletproof pop song craft.
There were two different videos made for the song, but let's focus on the one that didn't get much airplay. I have no idea what the connection is to the song here, but it's filmed in a classic New Orleans graveyard with a chap doing the Baron Samedi thing while a bunch of kids run around a treehouse. And apparently someone involved in the production just got their first tarot deck and is all excited about showing it off.
Hey: it was the early 80s. Music video was still a young medium.
Roddy looks like he's either auditioning for Split Enz circa 1977 or a makeup artist did too much blow and went overboard with the mascara. Granted, Roddy was a wee 19 years old and had those fine, delicate features stylists and music industry sex-pests go gaga over, but he's a bit too gangly to pull off the look. Even so, he seems happy enough to be making a music video in New Orleans. Show me a teenaged musician from cold, rainy, recession-ravaged Caledonia who wouldn't be.
Mind you, there's a whiff of something sinister here, especially in the context of a airy, summery pop standard. I'm not entirely comfortable with the presence of children in a film that clearly has overt occult significance, that's for certain. Especially with the, y'know, bondage stuff.
I don't know who directed this clip but I'd like to have a look at his resume and see what his other work was like. Also to see if he's been banned from living less than 2000 feet from any public schools or playgrounds.
"Oblivious" should have been a much bigger hit, but I think a lot of your tastemakers at the time confused Aztec Camera with Aztec Two-Step, a leftover hippie folk duo whose song wasn't a million miles away from what our kid Roddy was serving up.
Got any 1983 favorites you'd like me to look into? Let me know in the comments.
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