Music Video of the Day: Elected by Alice Cooper (1972, dir. Hart Perry)

It is prime time to do this music video now because of the election. That’s why you’ll find numerous videos of Alice Cooper performing the song this year. However, even if this wasn’t an election year, this one is not just a fun election related music video to do. It is important considering this was made in 1972. I don’t mean that there weren’t music videos around then. There most certainly were. But this one is different. It probably would have gone completely over my head had I not stumbled upon a quote on the mvdbase entry for this music video.

“Here’s my take on the whole video history thing. I might have to take a little credit for the bit of attention that the ‘Elected’ video has gotten because I always tried to make a very big deal out of making sure this was always mentioned in all of Alice’s biographical material. Music videos (or promo clips as us old timers referred to them before the advent of MTV) have been around before rock ‘n’ roll even reared its ugly head. Most, if not all of these “videos” were of the artist performing a song — maybe with a backdrop if they got fancy. In the 60’s, the Beatles and a few other bands made some videos that were a bit more like the ones we know of today. They were made specifically as promotional vehicles for the current single. The ‘Strawberry fields’ video was very psychedelic and showed the Beatles running around in a park — frontwards and backwards. There were others by the Who and the Stones, etc. as well.
“The thing that stands out about the ‘Elected’ video is that there was no performance or lip-synching which was very unusual. It also was possibly the first video that had a storyline. And, the most subtle yet significant thing, was the editing. The editing was done in a quick, choppy fashion which ultimately came to be what MTV was most cited for. After people noticed MTV was a force to be reckoned with, commercials and TV shows (Miami Vice) started to pattern themselves to look like MTV with this editing style.” [Brian Renfield Nelson, Alice Cooper band member, Sept. 1995, quoted from Alice Cooper Trivia]

He’s right. If you look at 1970’s music videos by ABBA, then you will see some interesting stuff going on. For example there’s quick cuts, a moving camera, it isn’t just them all by themselves the entire time, etc. However, you’ll notice that while ABBA is lip-syncing, no one is doing that in Elected. Also, even though ABBA videos have artsy stuff going on, there isn’t really a story there. You can see more of one in Take A Chance On Me, but that was 1978. Plus, it is still made up largely of a performance. There’s no performance of the song going on in Elected. The song is played over what could be clips from a film, except there’s no time when it cuts back to Alice Cooper playing.

It is a bit of an unfair comparison in quality because Alice Cooper had Hart Perry and ABBA had famed Swedish director Lasse Hallström, but the differences between Elected and the ABBA music videos highlight why it was so revolutionary. It has the band, it is live-action, it uses real sets rather than just a backdrop, it has a storyline, it has no lip-syncing, and it has no re-creation of a performance. I looked through the 129 music videos I have done prior to this, and I couldn’t find a single one that met all those characteristics. I know there must be one out there, but I haven’t hit another one other than Elected. There were a couple that came close like Self Control by Laura Branigan, but even that had her lip-sync a few lines. The same for Pressure and We Didn’t Start The Fire by Billy Joel.

Probably the most prominent thing that Hart Perry is known for is being the cinematographer on the documentary Harlan County U.S.A. (1976).

That’s the only member of the crew I could find.

I am not sure if the music video is cut short, but I do know the line about him not caring about people’s problems is missing from the music video as it is posted above.


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