These are some of the most iconic music videos of all time

Music videos can take a popular song into the stratosphere – whether they introduce a new dance craze, feature cameos from popular actors, or influence fashion trends for years to come. 

 

Here are just a few of the most iconic music videos of all time: 

 

“Thriller” – Michael Jackson 

A short film directed by American Werewolf in London director John Landis, the 1983 video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” gave the world an enduring dance craze that still reawakens every Halloween season. 


“Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen

The music video for “Bohemian Rhapsody” is credited as being one of the first music videos (as we know them) ever. It was released in 1975, seven years before the inception of MTV, to promote the song on BBC’s Top of the Pops.

 

“Single Ladies” – Beyonce 

The simple, yet cinematic black-and-white video for “Single Ladies” introduced a new dance to the world and won Beyonce three 2009 MTV Music Video Awards. 

 

“November Rain” – Guns ‘n Roses

The music video for “November Rain” is based on a short story by writer Del James called “Without You”. The video is a nine-minute rock opera that stars the band and Axl Rose’s girlfriend at the time, model Stephanie Seymour. In 2018, it became the first video created before YouTube to surpass one billion views on the platform. 

 

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana 

The music video for 1991’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” featured the band playing at a high school pep rally that ends in a riot. The music video, the first ever for director Samuel Bayer, was inspired by films like Over the Edge (1979) and the Ramones’ film “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979). A former MTV executive said that the music video changed the entire look of MTV and gave them a new generation to sell to. 

 

“Goodbye, Earl” – The Chicks 

The video for “Goodbye, Earl”, The Chicks’ 2000 murder ballad, follows the song’s narrative of best friends Wanda and Mary Ann, who dispose of Wanda’s abusive husband Earl with some poisoned black-eyed peas. The end of the music video features a “Thriller” parody, with zombie Earl joining Mary Ann and Wanda, the band, and the rest of the town in a slightly unhinged dance sequence. 

 

TLC – No Scrubs 

In 1999, at the verge of the new millennium and Y2K craze, TLC helped usher in a sleek, futuristic aesthetic which would be echoed in the fashion, technology design, and other music videos of the next few years. 


You Belong With Me – Taylor Swift 

Taylor Swift played two opposing characters in the 2009 music video for “You Belong With Me” – a nerdy girl and a cheerleader. The video won “Best Female Video” at the 2009 MTV Music Video Awards, prompting the famous moment when Kanye West interrupted Taylor’s acceptance speech. 

 

Fell in Love with a Girl – White Stripes 

The video for “Fell In Love With a Girl” is made out of Legos – literally. The video was shot frame-by-frame as the bricks were rebuilt to give the illusion of motion. Since The White Stripes weren’t able to strike a deal with the Lego company, they had to buy all of the Legos themselves. 

 

Take On Me – Aha 

One-hit wonder Norwegian synth-pop band A-ha achieved huge success with their 1985 hit “Take On Me” – largely thanks to the song’s creative music video, which featured a live-action animation sequence. The video took six months to create and took home six awards at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards. 

Learn these Red Hot Chili Peppers songs with Fret Zealot

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the top-selling bands of all time. They formed in Los Angeles in 1982 by singer Anthony Kiedis, guitarist Hillel Slovak, bassist Flea, and drummer Jack Irons, who met in high school. Kiedis and Flea are still in the current lineup of the band. 

Red Hot Chili Peppers’ style of music, which incorporates alternative rock, funk, punk rock, hard rock, hip hop, and psychedelic rock, has influenced many other genres, including nu metal and rap rock. 

You can learn these Red Hot Chili Peppers songs with Fret Zealot. 

 

Californication 

“Californication” is the title track of the RHCP’s 1999 album. It’s also the name of a popular show on Showtime. The band sued the network in 2007 over the show’s name, but the network pointed out that “Californication” had been printed in a Time magazine article in 1972. The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2011.


Under the Bridge

Producer Rick Rubin found a poem called “Under the Bridge” in Kiedis’ notebook while the band was creating Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991). He asked Kiedis to show it to the rest of the band, which he did, even though he felt the poem’s emotional lyrics didn’t fit the vibe of the band. 


Scar Tissue

The video for this 1999 hit featured guitarist John Frusciante driving a car with the band inside down a desert highway, a metaphor for him returning to the band after the first time he quit. But Frusciante doesn’t drive in real life! 


Can’t Stop

The video for this 2003 hit includes Frusciante playing an orange Toronado and a silver Fender Stratocaster, both under five years old – but in real life, he doesn’t own or play any guitars made after 1970.

 

Want to learn how to play guitar like John Frusciante? Check out this player study course! 

 

History of recorded music

Have you ever wondered how music started being recorded? Today, there are many ways to record music – including simply using the recording feature on your phone. 

 

Music recording has evolved along with technology in waves over the centuries. Here is a brief history of sound recording: 

 

Pre-1877 

Ancient Christmas Carol in Galician-Portuguese.

Before Thomas Edison’s 1877 invention of the phonograph, people had no way of recording music except for musical notation. Thanks to musical notation (which dates back as far as 1400 BCE in ancient Babylonia, now Iraq), we have access to musical pieces written before 1877 – from Mozart and Bach to ancient Greek compositions. However, it was impossible to know exactly what they sounded like until.. 

 

1877 

In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, which could record sound and play it back. Earlier inventions were able to record sound but not play it back, including the phonautograph. The first audio recording Edison made was himself reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. Those first recordings were made on tinfoil, and could only be played a couple of times. However, it was revolutionary for the time period. Soon, other inventors including Alexander Graham Bell and Emile Berliner were also experimenting with sound recording. The Smithsonian National Museum of American History has about 400 of the earliest recordings ever made, from about 1878 to 1898, using materials like rubber, beeswax, glass, tin foil and brass. 

 

Acoustic Era (1877 to 1925) 

Part of a series of pictures depicting Frances Densmore at the Smithsonian Institution in 1916 during a recording session with Blackfoot chief Mountain Chief for the Bureau of American Ethnology.

The first wave of sound recording technology was purely mechanical. Rather than using microphones or other instruments, instrumentalists, singers, and speakers would play/perform into a bell-shaped horn that gathered the soundwaves toward a thin film at the horn’s small end. The soundwaves would cause the film to vibrate, which moved a stylus that etched the soundwaves into a rotating disc of wax. To play back these recordings, a mechanical reproducing machine reversed the process. A needle was attached to a film known as a sound box or reproducer, which was attached to a tube called the tone arm. The needle running over a recorded disc would make the film vibrate and create soundwaves. 

 

Electrical Era (1925 – 1945)

In 1925, Bell Telephone Laboratories lead by Western Electric engineers Henry Harrison and Joseph Maxfield changed the game by inventing an electrical phonograph recording system that used Condenser Microphones to record. The microphone would connect to a tube amplifier which fed the amplified signal to an electromagnetic disc cutting head to produce records.  This new recording system expanded the range of frequencies that could be recorded and greatly improved how recordings sounded. Sound could now be captured, amplified, filtered, and balanced electronically. Records began to be mass-produced. Starting in 1927, sound started to be used in film. 

 

Magnetic Era  (1945–1975)

The tape recorder aboard Mariner 4 spacecraft, on a mission to Mars, used for data storage.

In 1930s Germany, a new form of recording – magnetic tape recording – was developed. It was used for broadcasting in Germany but was restricted to the country until the end of WWII, when Allied Forces obtained and distributed it. The use of magnetic tape meant that recorded programs were nearly indistinguishable from live ones – the sound quality was that much better. Magnetic tape was used for the development of the first hi-fi recordings for consumers, as well as multitrack tape recording. It made editing sound easier for sound and movie engineers. 

Magnetic tape recording made possible a range of new sound recording implements – including 12-inch LP discs and 7-inch singles, cartridge and compact cassette tapes, and cassette tape players. 

 

The Digital Era (1975–present)

Promotional CD single of the radio edit of the 1997 song “Let Down” by English rock band Radiohead./Capitol Records

The Digital Era has transformed the way we listen to music. Compact discs (CDs) were introduced during this timeframe, but by the beginning of the 20th century, they were rendered nearly redundant by the popularity of digital audio files. Commercial innovations like iTunes and Apple’s iPod made it easier to download and take music with you. Unfortunately, this internet-based method of distribution led to unlicensed distribution of audio files, causing headaches for copyright owners. Since the late 2000s, streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora have outpaced the download of digital music.