Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Where are they now? The abandoned backdrops to 80's videos

Empty buildings seemed to be a common backdrop for music videos in the 1980s. So I thought it would be interesting to look at a few and see what's happened to the buildings now.

The video for the Human League's Fascination was filmed on the empty streets of Plaistow in East London in 1983. The area was then under the control of the Docklands Development Corporation  a QUANGO tasked with regenerating London’s Docklands. The Victorian houses had been emptied out by the corporation prior to demolition.  As the video starts we see a map of the area with an orange blob indicating “You are Here” As the camera moves in it turns into an ariel view, and it becomes apparent that area covered by the blob really had been painted orange. In fact to make the video, a whole house (No.1 First Avenue), the immediate area of the streets, and an old Austin 1800 car parked outside really were covered in orange paint. The house along with the rest of the houses in the street were demolished a couple of weeks later. Some rather anonymous 1980s semis were built in their place and stand there today. Unfortunately the identikit semis couldn't fit in the triangular shape of the corner plot and so the site of No.1 remains vacant to this day.

Is there a better one than this? The Smiths (or rather Morrissey and a group of lookalikes) cycling through the New Barracks Estate in Salford in 1985. The estate is one of the earliest council estates in the country, built with private patronage in the early twentieth century. Even in its rather forlorn state in the 1980s you can see the quality of the architecture and the layout. The Salford Lads club which appears about half way through is still going strong, and the big houses in the magnificent Regent Square which we see towards the end of the video were renovated, some of the other boarded up houses were demolished and new houses are standing there now. OK I think this video was actually made for "Stop Me if You Think You've Heard this Before" But this song is even more sublime.

Not from the 1980s, but Coldplay's Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, was filmed in the vast abandoned Millennium mills building in West Silvertown in East London. This incredible 10 storey art-deco mill was once Splillers' biggest flour mill, but with the closure of the Royal Docks the mill closed in 1981. It has remained empty ever since. In the 1990s it was briefly considered as a site for a huge aquarium for the Zoological Society of London. As recently as 2009 it was going to be converted into 400 flats under an interesting Terry Farrell scheme. As far as I'm aware there are no current proposals on the table. The mills were also the location for the video for the Arctic Monkeys excellent single "Fluorescent Adult", which regrettably, I deem a bit violent for this blog.