The 1980s were a golden age for music videos, mainly due to MTV’s ceaseless promotion of its artists and its need for content.
Bon Jovi used this opportunity to showcase its live performances in “Living on a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name”, while Duran Duran constructed elaborate set pieces upon which they performed enigmatic songs such as “Wild Boys”.
And then there were the more edgy, somewhat less savvy, rock bands that opted for videos of elaborate dinner parties featuring guests with extremely bad table manners.
Take Australian Crawl, for example. Unlike their contemporaries INXS they did not achieve international success and remain practically unknown outside Australia
Nonetheless they were popular in the early 80s and are perhaps best remembered for a dinner party video that accompanied one of their biggest hits “Beautiful People”.
This surreal vocal extravaganza begins with band members and their girlfriends sitting at a dinner table replete with fancy plates, cutlery, champagne glasses, and flower arrangements.
Lead vocalist James Reyne lurks behind his guests and sings about the pitfalls of beautiful people while they eat cheap pies — presumably this implies that under a person’s sophisticated veneer lurks an uncivilized bogan.
In the next scene, Reyne is in a derelict, two-storey building buried to the waist in a sandpit. This reminds me of a scene from the notorious 1970s film Caligula. The Roman Emperor buried his enemies up to their neck in sand so he could cut off their heads with something that looked like a golf stick.
Anyway, James Reyne gradually sinks and by the time the song concludes he vanishes beneath the sand as his bandmates and their girlfriends dance around him.
Where has James gone? Did he hurt himself falling between floors? Has he found a meat pie with sauce for dinner? And what the hell was the video about anyway?
In an equally surreal dinner party set piece, INXS performs “The One Thing” with lead singer Michael Hutchence sitting alongside his bandmates and their girlfriends at another elaborate feast. Before long, Hutchence is also lurking behind his dinner guests as they gorge on treats bought with a food budget obviously much higher than Australian Crawl’s.
The camera then lingers on a woman eating a fig. She sucks at the vulva-shaped fruit before leaving it spread suggestively on the table. This behaviour would be unremarkable at a night out in the 18th Century with the Marquis De Sade, a debauched aristocrat whose dinner guests at least had a higher survival rate than those at Caligula’s soirees.
While there are no random sandpits in INXS’s video, it does feature a couple of miserable felines that appear on the table for no apparent reason and which spend their time dodging food thrown at them by the unruly dinner guests.
And the winner is…..
The lack of a coherent plot in both videos makes this difficult to judge. The food is more appealing for INXS’s guests but they waste it by throwing it around and shaping figs into genitals.
On the other hand, Australian Crawl’s guests eat their meat pies with gusto and waste nothing.
I must also take into account the rather callous behaviour of James Reyne’s band members who leave him to perish in the sandpit or to fall between floors. Michael Hutchence is at least able to eat dinner before leaving the table.
Therefore, when it comes to Australian Crawl vs INXS for Rockstars with the Worst Table Manners in a Music Video, the winner is: