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The 50 Sexiest Music Videos of the '80s

I am an online writer who's articles focus primarily on the music industry.

You have probably read a list like this before. Some magazine article on Rolling Stone or Spin where they give you a list of what they say were the "hottest", "steamiest" or "sexiest" music videos ever made. But was Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love really one of the sexiest, or just memorable for the gimmick of having a group of video vixen clones as his backing band? It seems the criteria for getting on those lists is how popular the video was on MTV, how high up the song charted on the top 100, or how popular the artist who made the video was. Never do you get a video from an obscure recording artist who's song peaked in the 90s. Even a lot of videos for top 40 hits by well known artists miss these lists. But do you really think Britney Spears Baby One More Time or George Michael's Freedom would rank among the sexiest? Would you even rank them among the sexiest of their own music videos?

So I have decides to try something different. Instead of ranking videos by popularity, I will pick the top 50 videos from each decade that I actually found sexy. These will come from the 80s, 90s and early 00s because those were the years I matured from a child into an adult, and was the most obsessed with seeking out pictures or videos of pretty girls. The criteria is this: did the video have me obsessively thinking about a girl in it long after it aired? Did I anticipate seeing the video again just to see the girl again? Since these will be my personal choices based on my own tastes, and will include a lot of odd choices, I will explain why each made my list. I will not bother to rank them, but rather list them in the chronological order of their release.

Olivia Newton-John - Physical

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Long before I found the shapely figure of a woman attractive, or when she exposed any additional skin, or wore an outfit that was skimpy or tight, the first thing that had me attracted to the opposite sex was whenever any girl got her clothes wet. I can't explain why. It had to be normal clothing. Swimwear didn't do it for me. A fully clothed woman ending up in a pool or under a shower did. Something about a girl deliberately getting her clothing wet was sexy. Even television shows where the girl tripped and fell offscreen after which you heard the splash, and you never actually got to see her wet, was sexy.

Then all the other things I found attractive about women kicked in. My teenage hormones were set loose, and I discovered a wide variety of things women did or outfits they wore just as sexy as seeing one take a dip in a swimming pool while wearing a gown. Still, the occasional soaking of a fully dressed girl would make my week. This culminated in what was the ultimate wet clothing scenario of the early 80s. The Covergirl commercial had model Kelly Emberg living the fabulous life of a celebrity, showing up at red carpet events, being taken to the fanciest restaurants, and ending up at a yacht party, all in a montage which had her wearing different sexy outfits. The implications here that you too can look this glamorous and be invited to these exclusive events if you slap Covergirl makeup on your face. But for me, the highlight of the commercial was when Kelly took a break from her wonderful life, went into her back yard wearing a white dress shirt top, and sprayed her garden hose up into the air so the returning droplets soaked her shirt. Water + white clothes = transparent. Was this why I found women getting their clothing wet sexy? That subconsciously I knew of the possibility that the dampness of the clothing would give them the appearance of nudity? Despite this only being on screen for a second, and Kelly strategically posed so nothing was actually showing, for me it was the sexiest thing I had ever seen up to that point.

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Which brings us to the first music video I had ever seen that I found sexy. To be fair, I was already primed to find Olivia Newton John sexy when her first single off her latest album was accompanied with this picture:

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I had assumed it was Olivia, after an intense aerobic workout, about to pass out from exhaustion. As a young teen, it seemed like every few weeks I would discover something else women did that I found sexy. I didn't realize yet what that picture really looked like, or why I was responding to it. I must have spent weeks fantasizing of Olivia exercising in a gym to exhaustion. Then the music video for Physical aired on Americas Top 10, and it took place in a gym. She was a sadistic aerobic instructor to a class of overweight men, and it was them that were getting exhausted, not her. Then the song reached the bridge. Olivia abandoned the class and headed to the locker room, looking a bit exhausted. Was she about to reenact the picture on the single? Better than that. She got into the shower still wearing her workout clothes. You only saw this in a couple of very brief shots, and disappointingly from the shoulders up, but you could see she still had her blue top on, and looked exhausted. My imagination filled in the rest. Whenever I heard Physical on the radio, I replayed that music video in my mind, only with the shower scene fully shown.

The Go-Gos - Our Lips Are Sealed

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When the Go-Gos signed to I.R.S. Records in 1980, they had been a hard core punk rock band that was just transitioning to New Wave. I.R.S. felt the band needed an image change, from leather clad badasses to the sweet girls from next door. Part of that image change involved a music video they definitely didn't want to do. It was to involve the girls driving around the streets of California in their convertible, visiting beauty salons, shopping for dresses, and doing other activities you would associate with teenage girls in the 1950s. The Go-Gos saw an opportunity to sabotage the video shoot when they passed a water fountain with a sign warning against swimming, and anyone attempting to do so would be arrested. The girls suggested to the director that they could walk around the edge of the fountain for the video, the surprised him by running into the middle and attempting to swim in it. They had hoped the nearby cop on foot patrol would arrest them, shutting the video shoot down before they shot any interior footage of them in the stores. They were ignored, and instead complained about being wet and cold as an excuse to abandon the shoot. But the director was thrilled with the fountain footage, and used the footage already shot that day, forgetting about the original plan to have the Go-Gos shopping at a mall.

Here were five fully clothed young women who didn't just walk under the spray of a water fountain, but were dunking themselves in the pool of water, rolling around so that every inch of their clothes was fully drenched, then frolicking around in their soaking wet outfits.

Olivia Newton-John - Landslide

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Aside from any girl in wet clothes, I also found girls wearing leather sexy. Not just leather, but vinyl clothing. Or just about any material or fabric which was glossy. Olivia made a music video for every song on her Physical album, which along with new videos for some of her past hits, was released as a music video album. The same album was edited into an hour long network special. Both opened with a photo shoot of Olivia on the beach, wearing nothing but a t-shirt and thongs, and allowing waves to roll over her. For the part of the shoot where she was wearing white, she kept her back to the camera. But not when wearing the red t-shirt. So what could top that? Her red leather outfit in the video for Landslide.

Fleetwood Mac - Hold Me

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Stevie Nicks was considered a sex symbol long before she or Fleetwood Mac began making music videos, even though photos of her were limited to two albums and one band poster. The arrival of music videos allowed fans to see even more of her, but those early videos were performance clips of her in concert or in the recording studio. Fleetwood Mac's Hold Me was her first concept video. The theme was the band in the desert, mixed with a little Salvador Dali inspired images tossed in. John and Mick were archeologists digging up buried musical instruments. Lindsey was a painter with Stevie as his model, and Christina played no character in particular, but sort of looked at the others through a telescope. Typically nonsensical imagery you got in a typical 80s music video.

The artist and model portion of the video had Stevie in a red dress, lying across a chaise lounge. She was posing sexily, making constant "exhausted" facial expressions when running her hand through her hair. She wasn't wet, wasn't wearing anything glossy, wasn't wearing anything skimpy, and for most of the video was draped in a red wrap which covered everything. What made her sexy was her performance. Just her, on a chair, posing. And it worked. In the video Lindsey is so overwhelmed by Stevie's appearance that he can't even begin painting her, and ends up walking away. And I knew exactly how he must have felt.

Motels - Take The L

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It was just a few seconds of lead singer Martha Davis. Since part of the video takes place on a cruise ship, I assume the footage was her in the middle of the ocean, although it looks a lot like it was shot in a hot tub. It was Martha, appearing to be nude, just her head and shoulders above the water. While she mournfully sings the lyrics "Take the L out of lover; and it's over; Over!" she grasps her forehead with one hand, and with her head tilted back, sinks beneath the water. I am not exactly sure why watching Martha disappeared beneath the water was sexy. Perhaps it was the way her head was posed.

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Motels - Only the Lonely

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Here was another Motels video with a brief moment where Martha was in a sexy pose. This time taking place at the end of the video where Martha is inexplicably spread out over a table top.

Fleetwood Mac - Gypsy

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Fleetwood Mac must have realized that they needed to get their videos to air on the new MTV if they wanted success. Performance videos didn't cut it. They would need concept videos with exciting images. For their second concept video, the group broke the bank. At the time Gypsy was released, it held the record for most expensive music video ever made. Hard to believe as some of it resorts to stock newsreel footage of the Great Depression. But it had a couple of impressive sets. Of course Michael Jackson would break the record for expensive music video about a year later.

The video jumps from a street during the Great Depression, to a 40s era nightclub, to some sort of slightly fantasy woodland landscape. Framing these scenes is Stevie in a set dressed to look just like her own bedroom, complete with identical clutter. Stevie was doing a split on the floor, singing in front of the mirror that would display the various other locations in the video. I am not sure if it was the way Stevie just sat there in a split, or her attractive white dress with the bow, or maybe the fact this was the first time I had seen her again since the Hold Me video. But her in that room, wearing that dress..... I felt like she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.

Duran Duran - Hungry Like The Wolf

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Duran Duran were the first band to introduce video vixens that didn't look like the director cast the first girl he could find. They looked like, and probably were, models. Could you expect less from a band named after a character from the movie Barbarella? Much like Olivia had done with Physical, Duran Duran made music videos for every song on their Rio album, inexplicably shooting most of them in Sri Lanka instead of Brazil.

Hungry Like The Wolf had an Indian Jones style theme with Simon hunting for an elusive jungle girl. The song as recorded for the album ends with a girl moaning over the band singing. In this moment in the video Simon finds the elusive scantily clad Jungle girl ( who despite face paint and dirt looks like a model, ) and begins wrestling her, all while the sound of a moaning girl plays in the background.

Pat Benatar - Anxiety (Get Nervous)

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The video for the title track off of Pat Benatar's album Get Nervous had her in the waiting room of a sadistic dentist. The video would frequently cut away from Pat to show various bandaged patients being lead out of the office, and the next patient in the waiting room being lead in to see the dentist. Each time the camera cut back to Pat, another button from her shirt was undone, until by the time it was her turn, her shirt was draped down exposing her slip underneath. I suppose Pat was so nervous about the dentist that she unintentionally began stripping?

Toto - Africa

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So why the video for Africa and not the video for Rosanna, which has Cynthia Rhodes dancing around in a tight red dress? My criteria for this lists was any video that had me fantasizing about a woman I had seen in it long after the video aired. Rosanna just didn't do that. Africa did. The video had lead singer David Paich in a research library, looking for a book that matches a torn page he has in his possession with a picture of a shield. Meanwhile the librarian, played by backup singer Jenny Douglas-McRea, occasionally lowers her glasses and glances at David suggestively. David continues looking for the book, oblivious to the beautiful librarian who is attracted to him. Rhodes in the Rosanna video was being a tease. The librarian in the Africa video was legitimately libidinous. I was still discovering nee things women did that I found attractive, and actresses simulating that emotion was one of them.

Duran Duran - Rio

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After Simon LeBon pounced on and wrestled with a video vixen in Hungry Like the Wolf, I was eager to see what happens in the band's next music video. Maybe Jungle Girl will make a return? She did. Or at least the model who played her did, along with a bunch of other attractive models. One of them was leaning with her back to the tree, looking very exhausted, her hand on her head. All the things that triggered emotions in me. And to top it off, her dress appeared to be see-through. Most likely soaking wet, which caused the transparency. I mean, she was right next to the ocean. She was only on screen for a brief time, but wow. At this point you may be wondering why no other Duran Duran videos made this list. Specifically The Chauffeur and adult version of Girls On Film. Those videos were so over the top that to me they were more of a curiosity than sexy. And, since they never aired on American television, I didn't see either until I rented the home video release from blockbuster in the late 80s, by which time I had seen a lot of R rated movies and was use to seeing stuff like that.

Stevie Nicks - Stand Back

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It would be a year before I saw another music video that earned it's place on this list. At the time there was a cycle recording artists went through. First, the publicity phase where they did interviews, performed on television shows, and released music videos. Most record companies only budgeted for two videos. An expensive one shot on film, followed by a cheaper one shot on video tape. The norm was albums only produce two top ten hits, so why bother promoting the other singles? With the rise of MTV and similar channels across the globe, record companies were just beginning to reconsider that strategy. Then Michael Jackson released Thriller which put all seven singles released from it in the top 10. Only two music videos were released for the Thriller album, forcing Jackson to finance the video for the title song himself, recouping the cost by selling it on home video. By the time his next album Bad was released, all but one of the nine singles released got a music video. By the 90s recording artists were releasing more music videos than singles, often releasing multiple videos for the same song.

The promotional phase lead up to the album release. After which the artist went on tour to promote the album. With a hectic schedule that had them in a different city every night, they had no time for television appearances or music videos. After the tour the artist went dark, a time during which he/she/them returned to the studio to write and record the next album. During this phase they disappeared for a year or more, unless they decided to become actors and landed movie roles. But otherwise the cycle came full circle as they reemerged from the shadows to promote their latest singles and upcoming album.

Every recording artist previously mentioned was either on tour, recording their next album, or simply taking a break. This included Olivia Newton John who decided to follow up her successful Physical album by starring with John Travolta in the box office flop Twist of Fate. Meanwhile the television landscape was about to change. For the past couple of years the syndicated Americas Top 10 and MTV was the only place in the United States to see any music videos. Then in the spring of 1983 it finally kicked in with the rest of the television industry that music videos were popular. TBS launched Night Tracks, NBC debuted Friday Night Videos, syndicated shows like New York Hot Tracks and Top 40 Video arrived, and struggling UHF stations across the country adopted all music video formats, hoping to one day be as popular as MTV itself. With such a flood of outlets for music videos, they were no longer a novelty, but as essential to music artists as singles. Americans were anticipating music videos for every song they heard on the radio, and soon even the holdout recording artists who had refused to film videos, were forced to do so.

It was the summer of 1993 that Stevie Nicks cycled into the promotional phase of her next solo album, and had an accompanying music video for the single Stand Back. I hadn't seen her since the Gypsy video stopped airing 11 months earlier. I guess a lot of what made the video sexy was getting to see Rock music's most popular sex symbols again after a year's absence. But with Madonna's first video not yet getting airplay and Olivia Newton John still a couple of months from her music video return, Stand Back was the sexiest music video getting airplay that summer.

Eurythmics - Love Is A Stranger

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Technically this is a 1982 video, but didn't air in the United States until after the success of Sweet Dreams ( Are Made Of This ). Annie Lennox was one of the few female singers of the music video era not to resort to sexualizing her image with very few exceptions. This video is the only time I know of where she did anything specifically sexy. For a moment, there she was lying on the floor in a leather overcoat, rubbing her hands over herself and looking rather bothered. Madonna, who's Burning Up video was finally getting airplay, didn't give us such a libidinous performance in her early videos. For a split second Annie was among the hottest girls on MTV. But then it was immediately back to portraying a male persona in the very next edit. Perhaps the idea of such an asexual singer momentarily being hot made her seem more attractive.

Adam Ant - Strip

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Adam Ant is one of those singers you remember being a lot more successful than he actually was. He never got any single into the American top 10, only had three top 40 hits if you include the ballad Wonderful which briefly peaked at #39 in 1995, and who's biggest stateside hit, Goody Two Shoes, peaked at #12. Yet you remember him being one of the biggest recording acts of the 80's, right? This due to his videos getting a lot of airplay. Partly due to Adam Ant being one of the costumed themed New Age recording acts that were perfect for music videos. Partly due to his videos having interesting 17th century era visuals and themes. But mostly due to him hiring supermodel, actresses and other known celebrities to be his video vixens. For Strip it was former Mrs World winner Mary Stavin. And if she wasn't attractive enough, part of the video had her soaking in the shower wearing a petticoat.

Kim Carnes - Invisible Hands

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Women in mortal peril seemed very attractive. Not actual women in actual peril, but women characters in movies and television shows. The screaming damsel hanging from a cliff, cornered by a monster or about to submerge in quicksand, who gets rescued by the hero at the very last moment. There have been scientific theories as to why this happens, mostly suggesting our most primitive instincts are being manipulated. If a female caveman was threatened by a predator, the males needed incentive to protect her. Finding her attractive overrides their fear of getting mauled by the predator. The female is saved, and can continue producing babies, which insures the species will continue. As for the male who dies fighting the predator, he was expendable. You only need one surviving male in a tribe to impregnate all the females.

But something I discovered that made female characters extremely attractive was the fate unknown scenario. The hero is unable to grab the hand of the girl hanging from the cliff, and she falls away screaming. You don't see her hit the ground below, but instead drop out of view while the sound of her screams fades away. The hero just assumes she is dead and walks away. But since the girl's fate has not actually been established, it is possible she is still alive and in even more danger than before. For example, perhaps she caught a ledge on the way down and is once again hanging for her life. Or something broke her fall, but she is still injured. As it is a movie, most likely the screen writer meant for the character to die from the fall. But that doesn't trigger your emotions from thinking she is possibly alive, therefore inflating your attraction to her as all the other character have given up rescuing her. You still care about her fate, and feel the urge to rescue her yourself. A useless urge to have as the character is fictional and you have no way of entering the film to rescue her. But you do have your imagination, so can think of a new scenario where you would have successfully rescued her if you had been there.

The fate unknown scenario came into play in Kim Carnes Invisible Hands video. Kim is pulled into a haunted house and is chased by various spooks. I didn't take it seriously that Kim was in any real danger as it was a music video. But then it ended with a terrified Kim backed up against a wall, suddenly vanishing without a trace. Did the house just absorb her? Suddenly Kim became very attractive. And since there were ample outlets for music videos, I saw Invisible Hands many times, watching the house take her over and over again with out any idea if it destroyed her or spirited her away to another dimension.

Heart - How Can I Refuse

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The fate unknown scenario showed up again for Heart's How Can I Refuse. While performing at a club, Heart is assaulted by a magician who uses his magic to take them from the stage to another dimension. The magician shows Ann and Nancy that he has trapped the rest of the band in a crystal ball, and threatens to destroy it unless they do his bidding. Choosing death over whatever the magician was demanding they do with him, Ann and Nancy simultaneously touch the ball, sending them both inside as well. So he fires energy at them, presumably destroying the ball and everyone inside, when the video cuts back to them performing at the club. Exactly what their dates would have been is never explained.

Carly Simon - You Know What To Do

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Carly Simon was one of Rock music's biggest sex symbols, and one of the last major recording stars to hold out against making music videos. Her change of heart on making videos changed in 1983 when her children began to complain that she wasn't on MTV, while everyone else was. Odd that she would choose to make such a sexualized video when the whole point was so her kids could see mommy on MTV. No doubt the director convinced her MTV would never play the video unless she was sexy. This video had everything. Carly emerging from a pool. Carly laying seductively on a bed in lingerie. Carly standing in a well lit doorway so her dress became transparent. All classy instead of trashy, yet very effectively sexy. Ironically MTV gave this video very little airplay.

Naked Eyes - When The Lights Go Out

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The video obviously being inspired by the movie Time Bandits, a girl in a white nightgown wakes up in bed to discover dwarves in her room. They pick up her bead and carry it to the window. The whole time the girl seems amused by her little kidnappers and makes no attempt to get out of the bed, even after it is halfway through her bedroom window. But just before the Dwarves get her and her bed outside, her boyfriend shows up for the rescue. I am not sure why exactly I find this sexy. The girl is attractive, but mostly covered by blankets. Perhaps the idea of a girl gleefully allowing her to be kidnapped by dwarves was kinky.

Agnetha - I Can't Shake Loose

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Although Sweedish supergroup ABBA had not officially broken up, their last attempt at recording an album resorted in only three songs before being abandoned. And by 1982, the members began embarking on solo careers. Frida ( Anni Frid Lyngstad ) had a huge solo hit with There Is Something Going On. Agnetha Fältskog was waiting in the wings with her solo album. In the year since Frida's solo single, music videos had taken in a greater importance. Record labels were now releasing videos for almost every single they distributed, no matter what genre the song was. Agnetha had too much competition. And there was a good chance MTV would pass on her for the double tag of being a 70s recording artist, and ABBA having recorded Disco songs. The pressure was on for her to sexualize her video so that it would at least stand out, and possibly get the coveted heavy rotation on MTV. Most of the video was not what MTV wanted, which was slow paced and very little editing. But the final scene had a restless Agnetha nude in bed covered only by silk sheets. The man she had been giving the cold shoulder to the entire video enters. Agnetha stares at him with a worried but lustful expression on her face, and he yanks the sheet off of her. No nudity is actually shown other than a few shots of Agnetha from the shoulders up. That was enough to make the video a viewer favorite on MTV despite the slow pace.

Bon Jovi - Run Away

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Bon Jovi hates this music video. Despite it getting heavy rotation on MTV and giving the then unknown band their first hit, they thought the entire thing was corny and not a fair representation of their band. By the next album they would size creative control of their music videos, limiting them to montages of Bon Jovi on tour. So what exactly didn't the band like about this video? The director had seen a trailer for an upcoming Steven King movie called Firestarter which showed Drew Barrymore using telekinesis to set fire to soldiers and destroy some sort of base. So he decided the teenage girl in the video for Runaway would do exactly the same, going completely off message from the song's lyrics. And if having cheap special effects was not enough, the director threw in footage of the girl running through a rainstorm while her white dress shirt gets soaked. In one Incredible shot from her waist up, she faces the camera, breathing heavily from all that running, with her entire shirt now transparent. The fabric of her shirt was strategically altered so the nipples weren't visible, but everything else was. And that was why the video got into heavy rotation.

Ratt - Round And Round

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Rock bands may have hated the music videos they were forced to make, but those silly videos were often entertaining enough to earn heavy rotation on MTV, earning unknown bands their first hit singles. The manager for the band Ratt was related to comedy legend Milton Berle, and talked him into doing the video where he played himself and his wife. A dinner party with wealthy guests is disturbed by the band Ratt, who have taken residence in the attic. Their loud music drives off Milton and his wife, causing the hostess of the party, played by model Lisa Dean, to storm up to the attic to get rid of them. On her way up the stairs her dress snags on something and completely rips off, leaving Lisa in just a slip. Lisa and her slip inexplicably becomes wet, and she begins to rip and peel it off. The band would later explain what was happening was Lisa transforming into a rat. Or at least the ripped slip and war painted girl that she became by the time she reached the attic. The production had the money for Milton, just not enough for proper rat makeup. The novelty of such a big celebrity as Milton Berle doing a music video got it heavy rotation on MTV. But Lisa Dean peeling off her dress was what most teenagers were interested in seeing.

Olivia Newton-John - Livin' In Desperate Times

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Olivia never recaptured the level of sexuality from her Physical videos. That album has been released after the movie Xanadu had failed, and her other movie projects had fallen apart. Her career had been a careful buildup to actress/performer. Which would have been spectacular had Hollywood not stopped making musicals. A taste of what she could have been is the movie Grease. Xanadu was a well intentioned attempt at a musical that failed due to the plot not actually being developed and still in flux while it was being filmed. The same could be said for Can't Stop The Music ( which she bailed out of when the studio added the Village People to the cast, ) and Two of a Kind, which was her second film with John Travolta. While Two of a Kind ended up being one of the worst films of the 80s, it at the least had Olivia back in the studio recording a soundtrack album. The videos from that album were Olivia's last chance at being a sex symbol. She was very pregnant for the videos shot for her next album Soul Kiss, and made a valiant attempt at sexy while hiding her pregnant body. By 1988 she had given up on sexy and moved on to adult contemporary in her next album.

While Olivia didn't go for the steamy videos of the Physical album, there was a brief moment on the video for Livin' In Desperate Times that had me thinking of her again. It was a choreographed routine where two dancers have wrestled her to her knees and are attempting to feel her up while she fends them off. And as much as the whole thing was meant to be interpretive as part of a choreographed music video, it was kinky.

Joan Jett - Do You Wanna Touch Me?

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I never thought flashing would be sexy. Mostly because it is something you associate with men. But here was Joan Jett in a leather trenchcoat, throwing it open to expose her black bikini underneath. Joan wasn't the kind of recording artist who bared her skin. The closest she got to that was skin tight leather pants and a t-shirt. Unexpectedly flashing the bikini was a pleasant surprise that had me thinking about that video days after it aired.

Juice Newton - Can't Wait All Night

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Country music stars didn't make sexy music videos. Sure, Olivia Newton John had been a Country artist in the 70s, but had been pop since she starred in Grease. It would not be until 1995 when Shania Twain turned up her sex appeal in her music videos that other country artists began to do the same. But in the 80s, even female country artists who had released pinup posters like Tanya Tucker and Dolly Parton, released G rated music videos. There were a few rare exceptions. One of them came from Juice Newton, who at the time was sort of transitioning into pop music at the behest of her record label, but her songs still qualified as country, and by her next album would completely drop the pop component and stick strictly to country rock. As RCA wanted her to appeal to the viewers of MTV, they had her doing a sexy music video, where she wore a skin tight wetsuit, and also a cut off t-shirt and short shorts. And she did the wet dress thing, emerging from the ocean in a soaking white dress.

Laura Branigan - Self Control

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Music videos had changed the music industry. Since record sales now depended on music video airplay, record labels began putting priority over the appearance of their recording artists. The more attractive the artist, the better. There is no better example of these priorities than what happened to the band Romeo Void. In 1984 they had their first top 40 hit with the song Girl In Trouble, and their record label responded by cancelling their contract. Romeo Void had been an alternate rock band with a small but loyal fan base which generated modest record sales, and had a cult following on MTV from their 1982 video for Never Say Never. Because of the success of the single Girl In Trouble, executives at Columbia Records realized for the first time that Romeo Void's lead singer, Debora Lyall, was overweight, and immediately dropped the band. record executives wanted sexy. They wanted more of Madonna. For female recording artists already signed, they had to prove they could be just as sexy as Madonna in at least one music video.

By 1984 Laura Branigan was an established recording artist, having had two solid gold albums in a row, and three top 40 hits, two of which were in the top 10. And that didn't stop the record executives from worrying that she was not sexy enough. Academy award winning director William Friedkin was brought in to film the sexiest music video that had been made up to that date. So sexy that MTV executives who previewed the video demand several cuts before they would air it. Even though censored, it was very effective in transforming Laura into another sex symbol.

Pointer Sisters - I'm So Excited

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Who can forget in the summer of 1984 when June Pointer flashed her nude crotch during the music video for I'm So Excited? It was a pleasant surprise for the millions who saw the music video, and a nightmare for every television show and video channel who aired it. Somehow every network censor had missed it. And no one realized they were broadcasting the big V until the complaints rolled in. Some immediately pulled the video. Some continued to air it, but started it at the chorus, which was past the point June flashed. Music Magazine extended the length of their VJ talk up, having them pitch the song beyond just giving the title and artist, so the pop-up window the VJ was in covered up the offending shot.

Friday Night Videos had the Pointer Sisters themselves as guests to explain what had happened. It was another case of a director shooting way too much footage for a four minute video, and trying to jam it all in with rapid fire editing. The video had the sisters getting ready for a night out. One putting on makeup in front of a mirror, one trying on dresses in her closet, and June taking a bath. Presumably nude in a bubble bath, June actually had a black bikini on which was hidden by the suds. The payoff gag was to have June rise up from the tub to reveal she had bikini bottoms on, then to drop the rest of the towel to reveal the bikini top. But the gag reduced to a quick edit had the bikini bottoms on screen for a brief moment, and the surrounding soapsuds making them appear to be hair. Shown in slow motion on Friday Night Videos, you could easily see she had bikini bottoms on. But for a few weeks one summer, I and millions of other Americans were convinced we saw something else.


Styx - Music Time

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In the video Dennis DeYoung arranges for prostitutes to visit his apartment. One in a tight leather strapless dress, and the other in an old fashioned little bo peep style dress. And believe it or not, it was the girl in the old fashioned dress I was attracted to. I can't explain why. Sometimes I found those vintage dresses very attractive. Sometimes. I guess it depended on the context of the video and the woman who was wearing it.

Motels - Shame

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Martha Davis, playing a hooker in a motel room, wearing nothing but undergarments. A combination of performance, outfit, and the idea I could go all the way with this version of Martha for $20 made this her sexiest music video. Also the band's best music video by far. It was also the last time most Americans saw Martha Davis for decades. The album Shock generated two more music videos, but neither single entered the top 40, so they got little to no airplay. Shortly after Martha announced she was breaking up the Motels to pursue a solo career. As a solo artist she failed to have any hits, so once again her videos got little to no airplay.

Tom Petty - Don't Come Around Here No More

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Tom plays the Mad Hatter to an adult Alice ( Wish Foley ) who is a guest at his tea party. What begins as a weird dream soon becomes a nightmare, culminating with Alice being turned into a flag cake, and watching helplessly as the Mad Hatter and other partygoers cut her into slices and eat her. A controversial ending to a video that had some groups protesting what they deemed violence against women as entertainment. MTV vowed down to the controversy by editing the video, removing the final ten seconds of footage where Tom swallows Alice's head as she gives off one last scream. Yet kept the rest of the cake sequence. Sure, the ending where Alice dies is gone, but even if we were to assume she survived having the rest of her eaten, she would spend the rest of her life as just a head and partial torso. And that is supposed to be less violent?

Turning Alice into a cake wasn't the only nasty thing Tom did to her. Just prior to that sequence, he miniaturizes her and puts her in his cup of tea, deliberately pelting her with sugar cubes and a donut. I still had a fondness of women getting their clothing wet, and it was combined with Alice in danger, so although played for laughs, I found this sequence very sexy.

Boy Meets Girl - Oh Girl

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The married song writing team of George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam decided that instead of writing songs for other recording artists, they would record their songs themselves as the duo Boy Meets Girl. Their first single peaked at #39, accompanied with a Miami Vice inspired music video. At one point in the video, George is on a beach when he looks into the surf, and for a brief moment sees Shannon standing in the break water, her white dress soaked, and appearing to be completely transparent. But since she was off in the distance, and only on screen for a half second before vanishing like a ghost, you couldn't see much, just knew it was there, if only the camera was closer. George looks at the surf again and once again sees the mirage of a soaking wet Shannon, standing in the surf before quickly fading away. The video has no other footage of Shannon on the beach, nor explains what had just happened. Was she a ghost? A past memory? A hallucination? Trapped in another dimension and trying to break into our dimension? Or just something the director thought would look cool.

Nona Hendryx - I Need Love

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Boy Meets Girl may have teased us by flashing Shannon in a wet dress too fast to be seen, but Nona Hendryx left nothing for the imagination. The shot of her in a soaked white dress shirt, standing under a torrential downpour which can't exactly be called rain as it is indoors, lasts for a good fifteen seconds. Her shirt completely transparent, although I am sure she was wearing some undergarments the color of her skin to hide any parts not G rated.

Kiss - Who Wants To Be Lonely

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It was as if Kiss decided to boycott the 80s. The band was perfect for the era of Music Videos as they all wore costumes and had superhero personas. However, no sooner was MTV a thing when Kiss decided they would remove their makeup, and from that point on record and perform as a regular band. While Kiss had abandoned it's gimmick, they still managed to be successful on MTV, and still managed to sell albums. It was after they had one of their biggest hits since the 70s, Forever which reached the top 10 in 1990 that Kiss decided to put the makeup back on. Who Wants To Be Lonely was shot for the Asylum album with no accompanying single. The set is a room that is almost entirely a swimming pool, and has showers all along it's walls. It is also filled with video vixens, all in various leather outfits, each one either under a shower, ending up in the pool, or sprayed by some offscreen source of water. Of course Kiss are all high and dry on a platform in the center of the set.

Heart - Never

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The easiest Description of this video is "Nancy Wilson's Chest". Those were the words one reviewer used to describe this video. "Four minutes of Nancy Wilson pointing her ample bosom directly into the camera." Between albums lead singer Ann Wilson put on pounds, and was in no hurry to crash diet just for music videos. Nancy was still thin and a blonde. And had large breasts which she previously hid behind baggy stage outfits. This time she wore an satin outfit under her jacket that was practically a corset, uplifting everything front and center as she pranced around the stage and was given far more screen time than her sister. Did the record label's sexualization of Nancy Wilson work? Well, the video did become popular enough that a mediocre Heart song went to #4 on the pop charts.

Whitney Houston - How Will I Know?

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Super models branching out into any other genre of entertainment usually leads to disaster. Think of how many supermodels attempted to sing or act only to fail at it with comically bad results. Model Whitney Huston was one of the rare exceptions. She had perhaps the best voice of all the 80s era singer, was a gifted stage performer, and when she began films in the 90s, proved to be a confident actress. How Will I Know was not her first video, but her sexiest, despite her not doing anything particularly sexy in the video, or wearing an outfit that was particularly sexy. This was all performance, and the addition of Whitney being one of the most beautiful woman of the 80s.

Heart - These Dreams

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Heart reached its creative peak in the 1970s with such classics as Crazy On You and Barracuda. By 1985 they were a pop band, filling the airwaves with bland ballads, owing most of their success to Nancy, who ten years earlier was one of Rock music's best living lead guitarists, was reduced to being the eye candy of their music videos. I have to admit, while I no longer respected their music, l did look forward to seeing Nancy in the videos. This one had a fully clothed Nancy rising up from under the water.

Marilyn Martin - Night Moves

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One would have suspected up an coming recording artist Marilyn Martin to have been above sexualizing herself. She was clearly in the Adult Contemporary genre, which finally had it's own channel with the launch of VH1. A long time backup singer for major recording artists, she made her official top 40 debut in a duet with Phil Collins called Separate Lives which peaked at #1. In a video where she dressed conservatively in an outfit that included a sweater, you expected her to do the same once she released her solo album. So it was a shock when sweet innocent Marilyn made a music video where she is a serial killer who hunts for her victims in night clubs wearing a tight leather dress to attract them. I don't know if it was the dress ( which gets way to little footage ), the way she makes out with her victims before snapping their necks, or just that she surprised us all with the video, but this was another one I looked forward to seeing whenever it aired. She wore a skintight black dress in her next video, which I didn't see until recently on YouTube. The single failed to make the charts, and by 1986 video outlets became so jaded as now every single had a video, that they decided only to air videos for whatever single chartered, with the emphasis on songs that charted in the top 40. None of her other singles charted, so she disappeared.

Big Audio Dynamite - Medicine Show

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Big Audio Dynamite was the closest we got to a Clash reunion, which is the reason this video got any airplay. BAD would not chart singles in the united States until 1991. There was one vixen in this video I found very attractive. Aside from being pretty, she wore a black vinyl raincoat. I found black vinyl raincoats extremely sexy. As did photographers, as many pin-up models would often pose wearing the coat and nothing else. Strangely enough, it was not often used in movies or television shows, and almost never in music videos. Apparently because glossy material like that was too problematic to light, and often failed to register on film, appearing to be a normal cloth coat. So it was a rare threat when any woman on television did wear one.

Whitesnake - Here I Go Again

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Do I need to explain why this made my list? Whitesnake lead singer David Coverdale was dating actress Tawny Kitaen, and asked her to be the vixen in the band's next video. Wearing a sheer white dress exposing her undergarments, doing gymnastics on the hoods of cars, and passionately making out with Coverdale while he is speeding down a highway in his car. It was such a great performance that the video went into high rotation at MTV, resulting in the song hitting #1 on the Billboard charts.

Sisters Of Mercy - This Corrosion

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Who knows if Goth band Sisters of Mercy was going for sexy, but lead guitarist Patricia Morrison was wearing a leather dress. The video takes place in the ruins of a city block, and while the band performs their song in the rubble, there is a rain storm. Leather is not the ideal fabric for getting wet, as it is more or less waterproof. The raindrops rolled right off Patricia's dress instead of soaking into it. But I still enjoyed watching it.

Lita Ford - Kiss Me Deadly

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On the other hand, Lita Ford was certainly going for sexy with her music video Kiss Me Deadly. She gyrates and poses in a warehouse among blocks of ice, even rubbing her crotch up against the ice. My original attraction to the video was that she wore tight black vinyl pants. However, re-watching the video in recent years, I was shocked to see how little footage of Lita in those pants was actually in the video, as it alternates to her in other outfits, including nylon leggings with kneepads and ripped jeans.

10,000 Maniacs - Like The Weather

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Just like Kiss Me Deadly, what I found sexy about it was the performance by lead singer Natalie Merchant, who spends the entire video dancing around a set resembling an abandoned house. You could say I was maturing in my tastes as to what I found attractive about women. I was beginning to find attitude sexy. But then again, Natalie was very beautiful, so that also factored into it.

Jane Wiedlin - Rush Hour

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I liked wetsuits a lot. Before the arrival of catsuits, they were one of the few form fitting outfits you saw on television. There were occasionally other outfits like them, like Erin Grey's satin bodysuits on Buck Rogers, but those were one of a kind custom made costumes. Wetsuits could be purchased in any sporting goods store, so were less expensive, and therefore turned up on television shows a lot. They weren't used in music videos as much as I would have liked, but were a treat whenever they were used. Jane Wiedlin did so in this video, wearing a Body Glove brand wetsuit while frolicking with dolphins. I found her wetsuit attractive enough to offset her ridiculous bowtie dress she wore during the performance parts of the video.

Afrika Bambaataa & The Family with UB40 - Reckless

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Hiphop artist Afrika Bambaataa went for crossover success by collaborating with UB40, the popular white Reggae band from Birmingham, England. UB40 previously had chart success in England, and had two top 40 hits in America, including their #1 hit Red Red Wine. The single Reckless may have failed to chart, but it resulted in one of the more intriguing videos of 80s. Taking place in a night club, we get to see UB40 lead singer Ali Campbell unconvincingly acting ghetto, while a visual effect was added where one of his teeth kept comically gleaming. The lyrics to the song had Ali attempting to pick a girl up at the club, then loosing her to someone else. And as the video was mostly a literal interpretation of the lyrics, the video had an actress playing the part. ( The actress was originally identified as video vixen Bobbie Brown, who would get her 15 minutes of fame with Warrent's Cherry Pie video, but as lately, the Reckless video was removed from both her IMDb and Wikipedia videographies. She does look a lot like Bobbie Brown though. ) with a beautiful face and an ultra tight red vinyl dress which she spends much of the video gyrating in, she was easily the sexiest video vixen of 1988.

Denise Lopez - Sayin' Sorry (Don't Make Things Right)

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A performance driven video that put singer Denise Lopez on the map, shortly before she vanished from said map. Delivering a sexy dance in yet another sparsely furnished loft, the video won over fans and gave Lopez her one and only top 40 hit. And for the next two years that was it. No more interviews, no more music videos, no more appearances on talk shows or performances on music shows. She returned two years later with another album an another music video, then soon after retired from being an entertainer. For those who remembered Denise's 15 minutes of fame, her music video for Sayin' Sorry ( Don't Make Things Right ) was sexy enough that they still remember her.

Sheena Easton - The Lover In Me

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Sheena Easton had been on my radar. I thought she was very attractive, but her videos were more for the VH1 crowd than MTV viewers. She hit a two year slump with no top 40 hits, and a five episode story arc on Miami Vice where she played Sonny Crockett's wife failed to boost record sales, she looked at the women currently at the top of the charts and realized what most of them had in common was they paraded around in skimpy outfits in music videos. Particularly disheartening was the success of the vaguely talented Samantha Fox, a pin up girl from Britain who's lyrics to her songs were all about asking the listener how much he would like to have sex with her. So perhaps out of panic, Sheena sexualized herself. You got a hint of the new Sheena Easton in the video for her duet with prince U Got The Look. In 1988 the new, sexier Sheena was released. It was Sheena in a tight dress, performing in a club where the model quality patrons are actively hooking up as she sings. When Sheena reaches the instrumental part of the song, she walks off the stage to allow a hansom and muscular saxophone player to take a solo. As the solo comes to an end, he glances off stage to see Sheena adjusting a second dress as if she just finished putting it on, after which she struts back on stage wearing the second dress. For some reason I found the idea of Sheena stripping off her red dress and gloves just out of view of the audience for a costume change very sexy, even if you didn't see her do it.

The Cover Girls - My Heart Skips A Beat

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By the end of the decade there was a new trend with Freestyle girl groups. They were of mixed races, but usually Latina, usually were trios, and quite often didn't even sing on the actual album or singles they made the videos for, because a producer owned the group and was constantly firing and hiring members. The Cover Girls was one of the more successful Freestyle girl groups, who went by the theme that they were all fashion models, and often did videos that had them in fashion shoots. Which was the theme of this video as well. At one point they are all wearing oversized white dress shirts and nothing else. This was when I first discovered how sexy women looked wearing that outfit. And here were three of them at the same time posing in them.

Aerosmith - Rag Doll

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While writing songs for their comeback album Permanent Vacation, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry came up with a riff that Steve Tyler thought sounded like it was from the early 1900s, and proceeded to begin writing a song for it called Ragtime. Collaborating with songwriter Jim Vallance, Ragtime became a song about a movie starlet in the 1920s who is having a torrid affair with the person singing it. A record executive wasn't thrilled with having an old fashioned song on the album, and hired songwriter Holly Knight to rewrite the lyrics to remove most of the 1920s references. It was her idea to change the title from Ragtime to Ragdoll, and the song ended up being about an underaged prostitute. Meanwhile producer Bruce Fairbairn modernized the music with additional guitar riffs and the addition of it's distinct drumbeat. The video, which either takes place at a brothel, a sorority party, or the bedrooms of various promiscuous women living on the same block, features various video vixens playing prostitutes. But the best was the vixen in pigtails who showed up first. In keeping with the theme of the lyrics, she is costumed like a pre-teen girl, dragging around a teddy bear an oversized lollypops as props. It is obvious the girl is in her 20s, but looks very sexy as she does her innocent little girl act for her creepy client. And then as she walks off, she strips the costume off, dropping it like it's a bathrobe so she is wearing nothing but satin bra and panties. With the constant cross cut editing she is barely on screen. But what we see of her is very memorable.

Shelleyane Orphan - Shatter

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It had actually been a while since there had been a video where either the singer or an actress in the video had gotten their clothing wet. There had been plenty of frustrating videos taking place at the beach where a fully clothed recording artist ran through the wash, but then darted back to shore before the next wave crashed. Or laid down in the sand a few feet shy of the surf line. Or in some other way came in close contact with water but avoided getting wet. There were a lot of videos where the entire floor of the set was covered with a couple of inches of water, which at best resulted in a dancing singer getting her kneecaps wet. But for a couple of years every video I saw was a tease. Until this. Lead singer Caroline Crawley in a full gown, floating on her back in the middle of a pond. Based on a famous painting of Ophelia's drowning in the play Hamlet, this would not be the last time it would be reenacted in a music video.

Madonna - Cherish

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You have probably been wondering why I have avoided Madonna so far. Yes, she specialized in sexy videos. While Open Your Heart and La Isla Bonita were considered, her videos just didn't stay with me after they aired. Had the rules allowed her performance of Like A Virgin at the MTV awards then it would have made this list. But live performances are not music videos. Her one video from the 80s that did get my full attention was Cherish. A fully clothed Madonna at the beach, fully soaked while playing in the surf.

Paula Abdul - Cold Hearted

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The last video on my list earns its place via performance. Paula Abdul came out of nowhere to become one of the recording industries biggest stars. Her platinum selling debut album generated five top ten hits, four which reached #1. So it was strange that she felt she needed to put out such a sexy video midway through her successful album run. As already mentioned, sexualizing established recording stars was an act of desperation, either by record executives or the artist herself. And was almost always in response to slumping record sales. But with Paula, her record sales were only increasing.

That is it for the 80s. The decade I had my sexual awakening as I grew from a kid to a teenager to a young man. And the music videos were there the whole time, giving my generation their version of the pin-up girl to fantasize about. Next up...the 90s.

Comments

teskainzenjerija on August 24, 2020:

Quote: "There was a video in the eighties in which a girl keeps changing bikinis in a cabana and showing them to her uninterested boyfriend. Also, there is a blonde girl skateboarding in a black bikini. Great video, great song - but I cannot find it anywhere...was hoping to see it here...."

@ Polo I remember this video and I can't remember the name of the song or the singer.

Does anyone know which video it is?

Iren@ on August 24, 2020:

@Polo I know the video what you are talking about, and I also looking for it, but never find it.

B on March 05, 2020:

What about "Wicked Game" Chris Isaak?

Softy on May 03, 2018:

No Samantha Fox? Really?

T on April 11, 2018:

Belouis Some - Imagination

Polo on December 22, 2017:

@ There was a video in the eighties in which a girl keeps changing bikinis in a cabana and showing them to her uninterested boyfriend. Also, there is a blonde girl skateboarding in a black bikini. Great video, great song - but I cannot find it anywhere...was hoping to see it here..

Me too my friend. I've been trying to find that video for a long time.

Bess on October 15, 2017:

There was a video in the eighties in which a girl keeps changing bikinis in a cabana and showing them to her uninterested boyfriend. Also, there is a blonde girl skateboarding in a black bikini. Great video, great song - but I cannot find it anywhere...was hoping to see it here....

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