Music Video

5 Visual Jukebox 2: Music Films and Promotional Films for Television

The basic possibilities for visual presentation of music within the framework of a (short) film were exploited almost entirely in the soundies. When the French visual jukeboxes dubbed Scopitones (from scope a tone) were developed in 1960, color was added as an artistic means. Beginning in the mid-1960s, the Beatles were already using short music films, which required such jukeboxes to show them, to promote their music on television.

Examples include the short films directed by Peter Goldman in 1967 for the double-A-side single featuring Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane. That same year saw a fifty-minute-long music film, Magical Mystery Tour (UK 1967, dir. Bernard Knowles and The Beatles), about a psychedelic bus ride that the Beatles directed themselves. The Beatles also played the main roles in a series of feature films such as A Hard Day’s Night (UK 1964) and Help! (UK 1965), both directed by Richard Lester, and in the animated film Yellow Submarine (1968), directed by George Dunning.

The music films by the Beatles were in part a result of their decision not to organize lavish concert tours and thus represented a way to replace live performances—a concept that was taken up by other musicians in the 1970s (ABBA’s Waterloo, 1974, by Lasse Hallström and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, 1975, by Bruce Gowers). These promo films were shown, for example, on music shows like the extremely popular Top of the Pops, which was launched by the BBC in the United Kingdom in 1964.