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Music Videos Before MTV

Al Jolson, good old Al Jolson, committed the first musical performance to film. It was 1927 and the movie was The Jazz Singer. Jolson’s and film’s first performance was a song called Dirty Hands, Dirty Face.

Fast forward a number of years and there were other musical performances committed to film. Some guys named Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby happened. But those performances were a part of a bigger whole and owed more than a passing nod to musical theater.

Wikipedia says that the first music video, in terms of what we have come to know, is Elvis Presley’s 1957 song Jailhouse Rock.

The Beatles were interested in film as were a lot of groups in the 60s. More so than any other decade, the groups were interested in the visual aspects of their music. Obviously for The Beatles, there was Help and A Hard Day’s Night. In Help, the two greatest examples were

Ticket to Ride

and You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away

The group also released promotion films for


Strawberry Fields Forever

and the verbal masterpiece I Am The Walrus

Not to be outdone was Bob Dylan. From the DA Pennebaker documentary of Dylan’s jaunt to England, we get one of the most famous examples of song being translated to film – Subterranean Homesick Blues

Pink Floyd were a very visual oriented band. Starting with the Syd Barrett lead version 0f the group, they dabbled in the more experimental aspects. From the Live at Pompeii film, there is the masterpiece Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun

This was a quick look into the marriage between film and music until MTV stepped in and F-ed the whole relationship up. We still have these pieces to understand how imagery can aid and enhance the music, so long, of course as MTV keeps their hands off.

Tags: Al Jolson Bob Dylan Elvis Pink Floyd The Beatles

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