The Story Behind VAN HALEN's Wildest And Most Controversial Music Video - "One Of The Little People Had On A Black Cape, He Was Nude, And He Was Doing A Mick Jagger Impersonation"
November 16, 2023, 3 weeks ago
Greg Prato, reporting for Ultimate-Guitar.com: Van Halen and David Lee Roth (early in his solo career) were responsible for some of the most memorable music videos of all time. Case in point, "Jump," "Panama," "Hot For Teacher," "California Girls," "Just A Gigolo," "Yankee Rose," and "Goin' Crazy." But one that tends to get overlooked was VH's rarely-seen 1982 clip for "(Oh) Pretty Woman."
With MTV having just been launched the previous year, the station had much fewer videos to choose from (it was not uncommon to see several clips from the same artist the same day - Pat Benatar, Rod Stewart, Devo, REO Speedwagon, Hall & Oates, etc.), with the majority of them merely lip-synched on a soundstage. But for the "(Oh) Pretty Woman" video, a decision was made that it would follow a storyline with all four band members portraying a character - David Lee Roth as Napoleon, Eddie Van Halen as a gun-slinging cowboy, Michael Anthony as a samurai, and Alex Van Halen as Tarzan - and would come to the aid of a "damsel in distress."
While it seemed like a VH conceptual video would be a slam dunk for the fledgling channel, it was allegedly banned by MTV – due to scenes of a woman (who ultimately turns out to be a man) held captive and being molested by a pair of dwarves. In the 2011 book, "MTV Ruled the World: The Early Years Of Music Video," one of the contributors to the video, Pete Angelus, discussed his memories of the controversial clip.
"['(Oh) Pretty Woman'] I did not direct myself. I was on the set with Dave and Van Halen. I think it was kind of a group effort. I think everybody was kind of involved with that. What I remember specifically about that video was that the primary cameraman quit in the middle of shooting it, so that was a problem. I don't remember why he quit. I don't know if we were driving him insane, the subject matter was driving him insane... I don't know what he was appalled by. But I remember him leaving in a huff."
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