1983 4Ever: Aztec Camera meets Rider-Waite


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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  1. Far From Over by Frank Stallone.

  2. Good LORD Punky Brewster!! Where do I even begin with the jingle-jangle horrors that 1983 wrought??!!
    Occult goodness everywhere, spilling out from the sides - scarred me for life it did:


    "Telegram force and ready
    I knew this was a big mistake
    There's a fine line drawing
    My senses together
    And I think it's about to break..."

    Then of course there were the Police bringing in Jung and Synchronocity...Dylan citing INFIDELS, and the Stones going UNDERCOVER, as dark as they would ever be again, singing about South American revolutions and Too Much Blood. Bowie saying 'Let's Dance!' and U2 declaring WAR; and even all this is only scratching the surface. Tears For Fears singing about Pale Shelter in a Mad World...ELO had Secret Messages and somebody named Madonna was on the Borderline somewhere.

    Then there was this that Ti West used to awesome effect in House Of The Devil -- the jeans, the hair, the Walkman, where's my Time Machine??:

    All to your excellent point that '83 was a line of demarcation that you seldom see -- from this point on it all changes. And boy howdy, didn't it. Funky little jive demon named Prince broke even bigger on the scene too, firing warning shots that he'd soon make the entire decade his own. And of course we can't get past any occult mentions without the landmark that THRILLER was, good, bad or indifferent.

    It was life lived in the shadows -- exciting, on the edge, dangerous. Heck, even the Stones UNDERCOVER didn't sound the same when you played it in the daylight. Lots of stuff like that back then. It all needed the night and the darkness.

    LOVED this by you -- once again, you hit the target. That happens a LOT with you I've noticed. Haha!
    Rock on funk soul brotha!!

    1. You will be very happy as this series progresses, sir. Mark my words, man.

  3. At the behest of the Supreme Commander of these here parts, view another flare from '83 all you Millennials!! Look upon my works and despair!! Haha!

    & while we're at it, let's just go ALL IN & present that Stones edition that was as weird & pissed off as they ever got: (Charlie's out of his mind and hey, still Wyman!!)

    (Only viewable after midnight on Friday Night Videos.)

  4. And hey, check this burner out CK!!

    Dylan kept that '83 vibe alive well into the first quarter of '84 when he made this 'State Of The Union' breaking transmission with a fiery hat-trick from Infidels live on Letterman. We could all do much worse in learning about the times right now than by parsing what the man had to say then, that's for sure -- from the 19:00 minute mark til the end:

    Punk-ish & invigorating as it excoriates the veils of time & space....Cheers mate!!

  5. Alright Chris, I've got something that might interest you from 82'. Not quite 83', but close enough.

    This is an extremely rare performance by Van Halen in Italy in front of a dinosaur statue, and yes, Dave practically f*cks the statue.

    Feast your eyes on this... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfxG7BRn7xs


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