Rock Out at Home: 10 Rock Music Videos You Need to See
Published on 23 April 2020
Since the dawn of MTV, music videos have been a huge factor in the success of a song, often propelling lesser-known tracks into rock history. Nowadays, while the channel's dominance may have subsided, videos are possibly more important than ever, giving bands the chance to go viral and be seen the world over. SO, we thought we'd run through a few of our favourite rock videos! While by no means an exhaustive list, there are some cracking videos in here that we reckon every rock fan should see. Check out our rundown below:
Guns N' Roses - November Rain
Now, we're not simply going for the most obvious ones here but what list of rock videos would be complete without November Rain? Cementing the group as so much more than just a screeching hair metal band, this track was essential to their evolution and the video has become the stuff of rock legend. From Axl on the piano channelling his inner Lennon (who knew that was lurking in there!?) to Slash's unforgettable solo outside of the chapel, this video is just epic. We don't know how Slash got such a great tone with no amp in sight but just go with it... The cinematic video takes us through Rose's marriage to Stephanie Seymour, his girlfriend at the time, and features a live string section - costing around a whopping $1 million to produce. Woah! Take a look below!
Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Pretty much every Nirvana video ticks the box for being edgy, out-there and at times straight-up crazy enough to feature on this list. However, it would be a crime to look past Teen Spirit, a track and video which set the tone for a whole generation of music. We've no doubt you've seen this plenty of times but the band's chaotic 'pep rally from hell' performance made its mark on music and rightly so. What starts out as a straight forward performance quickly becomes utter madness as the hall erupts along with the music. Cheerleaders dressed in all black (aside from red anarchy symbols on the chest) provide a kind of insane rhythm to a crowd of kids turning the gym hall upside down as the band begin to trash the place.
Many scenes were cut giving the video a slightly disjointed feel but one that remains is a Janitor we often see sweeping in the background. He was added as a nod to Kurt mopping the floors at his old school during a low point before the band made it big (we reckon he did a better job as a frontman...). Director Samuel Bayer absolutely nailed the feel and energy of the track here, despite frontman Kurt Cobain being unsatisfied with the final cut. It's more than a little chaotic but... That's what grunge was all about right? The first time you see this video it makes you stand up and pay attention, -even so many years later it still has the same effect.
The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony
Richard Ashcroft - one guy you don't want to walk down a busy street next to! Massive Attack's Unfinished Symphony served as inspiration for this video which tracked Shara Nelson walking down a busy street. Director Walter Stern took this a step further by sending the unflinching Brit Pop terminator down the middle of Hoxton Street in London, shoulder checking everything in his path without apology. Despite nearly being hit by a car and knocking over one unfortunate woman, Ashcroft's path never wavers as he strides along to the iconic Rolling Stones' sampled strings. This track became something of an anthem for the brit-pop era and was a huge part of why it will always be remembered as a defining track of the '90s. Just maybe don't try it out for yourself, we have a feeling this is a quick way to get punched in the face...
Queen - I Want to Break Free
Yes, we know, Bohemian Rhapsody... BUT the video for I Want to Break Free is utterly iconic and absolutely loads of fun. Directed by David Mallet, this unforgettable video came from the brain of Roger Taylor who wanted to prove that the band were able to laugh at themselves after a run of far more serious videos. I Want to Break Free acts as a parody of British soap Coronation Street and features the band dressed in outfits inspired by the show's leading female characters. I mean, Mercury in high heels and a skirt doing his best Bet Lynch impression... Who doesn't want to see that!? Well, a few conservative folks in the USA apparently who didn't get the soap reference and gave it a slightly frosty reception... But it rightfully went down in history as one of the band's most memorable videos and tracks.
Fun fact, Wayne Eagling who helped out with the choreography of Bohemian Rhapsody also played a part in this shoot, bit of a different vibe huh?
Blur - Coffee & TV
Blur's videos were always a bit of a spectacle but Coffee & TV and more specifically, the cute little milk carton dude kind of steal the show. Despite the laid back vibe of the track, it was actually written about guitarist Graham Coxon's struggles with alcoholism. Coxon's face is on a missing poster on the side of our unlikely heroes carton (known as Milky) who is searching for him throughout the video. Fresh off directing Fatboy Slim's smash-hit video for Right Here, Right now, British director and producer duo Hammer & Tongs came up with this masterpiece, essentially creating two of the UK's most memorable videos within the same year. Milky may fall on some hard times throughout the video (did that alley scene freak anyone else out or just us?) but he rallies to find Coxy and return him to his folks, all's well that ends well right?
Dire Straits - Money for Nothing
This video may look pretty basic nowadays but when it was first released, this was some pretty space-age stuff! Utilising early computer animation, the Money for Nothing video was groundbreaking and became an absolute smash the world over. Knopfler wasn't actually keen on the idea initially, feeling that it detracted from the live performance of the track; however, Director Steve Barron, Mark's girlfriend at the time AND some bigwigs at MTV loved the idea and eventually persuaded him that it was the way to go. Their reasoning was that there were hardly any videos at the time which really stood out and this would certainly do that. Well folks, it's safe to say they made the right call because this video, along with that sweet, sweet guitar tone, has taken its place in rock history and it ain't going anywhere.
The Smashing Pumpkins 1979
There is no greater throwback to your teens music video than 1979 - fact! Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris who later went on to create black comedy Little Miss Sunshine put together this stunning video and if you ever turned on MTV 2 in your life (gone but not forgotten...) you've probably clocked it. Corgan himself actually came up with the concept of capturing the innocence, recklessness and boredom that comes with suburban teenage life and did so perfectly with this hazy view of teenagers cruising around in a Dodge Charger. Billy was obviously impressed with the results, going on to call the video "the closest we've ever come to realizing everything we wanted". It didn't come easy though and they actually had to reshoot parts of it after some of the tapes were left sitting on top of a parked car which then drove away. All band members appear but only Corgan is present throughout, taking his place in the backseat of the Dodge.
Hijinks in a convenience store aside, this video is an idealistic look back at your youth that almost everyone can find a way to relate too. It goes hand in hand with the track perfectly and sometimes, that's all you need.
Weezer - Buddy Holly
'What's with these homies dissing my girl?' - A line that would not even for a second be featured in an episode of Happy Days but one that thanks to Weezer will always be synonymous with Arnold's Drive-In. Dropping the cheeky chaps right into the position of the band in the show, this video was amazingly achieved without any computer-generated graphics, just some tricky camera work and editing from legendary director Spike Jonze. Despite heavy rotation on MTV and a slew of awards, the big break for this video actually came when it was featured on the Windows 95 CD-ROM, giving it unbelievable exposure. The band were a bit miffed at this being done without their permission until they realised just how many people saw it as a result! The only downside? That's not actually Fonzie dancing, the band's stylist came in as a body double... Yep, we were gutted as well. Anyone try the fish? Not so good Al...
R.E.M. - Imitation of Life
R.E.M. have never shied away from a cracking video and a few of theirs made our shortlist but we settled on Imitation of Life for the pure weirdness of it. So if the track is around 4 minutes long, how long do you reckon they shot the video for? Well, the entire thing took a solid 20 seconds. What we see is an extravagant pool party in a California mansion, occasionally zooming in to different characters, including the band themselves. However, this is actually created by playing the 20 seconds, reversing it and using pan and zoom techniques to pick out individual people to focus on. Getting your head around that is pretty mind-boggling and still doesn't explain Michael Stipe's dancing or Peter Buck having a monkey on his lap for that matter but it's a pretty cool end result from director Garth Jennings all the same. Like all too many R.E.M. songs, we don't really know what it's all about but it's seriously captivating and impressive nonetheless!
My Chemical Romance - Helena
Get those fringes glued to the side folks, we're getting emo on this one. There isn't a single video which quite sums up the theatrics of the mid-2000's emo scene like Helena and we absolutely love how over the top and epic it is. Mourning the death of main character Helena, Gerard Way is, of course, the most distraught at the Funeral and is joined by both the band and a visually stunning array of dancers. This video is a total spectacle that just seems larger than life, or indeed death with Way at the helm, dressed in all black and rocking a token smear of eyeliner. It's only right that the dancer and actress Tracy Phillips rises out of the coffin to become our main focus before collapsing back into it to be carried outside into the rain by the band. By the way, as fitting as it seems, the rain wasn't planned and simply added to the perfect chaos of the video much to director Marc Webb's delight (November Rain anyone?). Made it tough to carry that coffin though... watch your feet boys!
So there you have it, some of the most visually spectacular and utterly unforgettable music videos ever created in the history of rock. There are so many to choose from and while we missed some utter classics out of this list, we're sure you'll have a blast perusing through these belters. Get the speakers turned up, get your feet and enjoy. Oh, and don't forget to tell us your favourite videos in the comments!