Robert Palmer: The Genesis & Downfall of Music Videos


Like all arm chair pundits, I have a theory. And that theory is that Robert Palmer is both the genesis and downfall of music videos. His late 1980s double punch of Addicted To Love and Simply Irresistible signposted the fact that even if the song was kind of shit, if you made the video entertaining enough eventually people will enjoy it by osmosis.

By one of the models from the former video’s admission, Addicted To Love had originally been released without a video and had “bombed”, so the record company were “…taking a big financial risk by re-releasing it”.


In my mind, I imagine the publicity guys and artist development monkeys sitting around a large oval table listening to Addicted to Love on a Technics tape deck and half-heartedly bobbing their heads in effort to show they’re hip, or at the very least have a semblance of rhythm. Half way through the song an older gentleman abruptly turns it off, turns to the assembled gathering of coked up executives and reasonably asks, “So, how are we going to baste this turkey”?

After much hyperbole, shrugging of shoulders and exasperated denials of ever having been the one to sign him, one magnificently cynical bastard who had remained silently slumped in the back of his Eames chair throughout the meeting speaks up, “I know how to fix this”.

“How”? The remainder of the meeting eagerly reply in unison.

“One word. Titty”.

And the modern music video was born.

Addicted To Love

The video for Addicted to Love features a bunch of girls that looked like they walked straight out of a Helmut Newton photo shoot, masquerading as Robert Palmer’s Band. All online resources state they were based on artwork done by Patrick Nagel who was an American artist who principally drew pictures for Playboy, designed the cover for Duran Duran’s Rio album and in an ironic twist of fate, would later die from a heart attack after appearing in a celebrity aerobathon to benefit the American Heart Foundation. However personally, I feel the look of the women in the video is almost completely and utterly based on Helmut Newton’s much copied fashion photography of the time.

Newton 1 Newton 2

According to an interview done by Marc Nobleman, the models were paid between £250 – £500 each and the clip was shot in a day in a studio in London. In case you think Mr Palmer got his mack on though, apparently his wife was on set the whole time and he was somewhat in awe of the statuesque models and rarely made conversation with them.

Both clips were directed by famed 1960s fashion photographer Terrance Donovan who was a contemporary of David Bailey and supplied the models with both wine (for mood) and a musician (in an attempt to teach them rudimentary music playing techniques). According to one of the girls featured in the video, the brief from Terence Donovan was to look like shop window mannequins.

12. 11. 10. 09. 08. 07. 06. 05. 04. 14.


The marketing department at EMI Records was not the first to make use of window dressing in such a fashion. Oh wait, yes they were… for EMI Records was also responsible for Duran Duran’s groundbreaking video for Girl’s on Film.

GoF1 GoF2 GoF3 GoF4 GoF5 GoF6 GoF7

Girls on Film featured actual titty and various exaggerated fetishes and fantasies, but unlike Addicted To Love and Simply Irresistible was not meant to play to middle America via MTV (having been made several weeks before that station’s launch) and is much better for that fact.


Untimately, what these Robert Palmer videos demonstrated was the song’s quality did not matter. If you put soft core porn in it, people… well guys anyway, will watch it nonetheless and the tune will gain traction via stealth.

As the song itself says, “The methods are inscrutable. The proof is irrefutable”.

The real legacy of Simply Irresistible and Addicted to Love is to tone the Girls on Film concept down and make it acceptable enough to get airplay anywhere in the world and thus create a hit tune in the process. It would soon inspire both parody and plagiarism in almost equal measure.

Indeed, within a year, emerging Delicious Vinyl talent Tone Loc unleashed Wild Thing with the video below.

Tone Loc - Wild Thing4 Tone Loc - Wild Thing3 Tone Loc - Wild Thing2 Tone Loc - Wild Thing

And Madonna, who always knew sex sold, put out Justify My Love

Justify My Love3 Justify My Love

Before you knew what was happening, artists like Sir Mix A Lot were embracing the trend with tracks like Baby Got Back

Baby Got Back3 Baby Got Back2 Baby Got Back

And the East Coast Versus West Rivalry was only so much smoke blown up the asses of the models in Ma$e’s Feel So Good video.



By the late 1990s music executives realised the only way to make any one listen to someone as untalented as Britney Spears was to dress her up as a slutty school girl and make videos like Baby One More Time


Baby1MoreTime_3 Baby1MoreTime_1

And Christina Aguilera possibly sought to reverse that trend with her video for Dirty – but likely did the opposite.

Christina Agulera – Dirty

The fact that this strategy works is borne out in the fact that women don’t seem to give a shit if they’re objectified to get sales. So we get stuff like Single Ladies by Beyonce which on the surface is some oblique tale of female empowerment (albeit dictated by getting married) which is demonstrated by a video showing her gyrating around with two other women while they slap their own asses.

Beyonce I Beyonce 2

Beyonce 4 Beyonce 3

And inevitably, the scale slides back towards baser instincts and we start getting videos such as Ludacis’ Pussy Poppin’.

Ludacris - Pussy Poppin2 Ludacris - Pussy Poppin

And Nelly’s Tip Drill

Nelly Tip Drill

And Eric Pryce’s Call On Me

ERIC PYRZE – Call On Me2 x


ERIC PYRZE – Call On Me3

Until finally, indeed inevitably we reach what all music videos will ultimately become given half a chance…

Doggy Style

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

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