Music Video of the Day: Hammer Horror by Kate Bush (1979, dir. Keith MacMillan)


Welcome to October on Through the Shattered Lens. I’ll try to do my best to find 31 October-related music videos.

It is about an actor and his friend. His friend is playing the lead in a production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a part he’s been reading all his lfe, waiting for the chance to play it. He’s finally got the big break he’s always wanted, and he is the star. After many rehearsals he dies accidentally, and the friend is asked to take the role over, which, because his own career is at stake, he does. The dead man comes back to haunt him because he doesn’t want him to have the part, believing he’s taken away the only chance he ever wanted in life. And the actor is saying, “Leave me alone, because it wasn’t my fault – I have to take this part, but I’m wondering if it’s the right thing to do because the ghost is not going to leave me alone and is really freaking me out. Every time I look round a corner he’s there, he never disappears.”

The song was inspired by seeing James Cagney playing the part of Lon Chaney playing the hunchback – he was an actor in an actor in an actor, rather like Chinese boxes, and that’s what I was trying to create.

At least that’s what you’ll get when you go to a page that includes an article which appears to have been sitting out there since 1990. It is from “Kate’s KBC article Issue 3 (November 1979)”. Back in the day, there was a fan magazine called The Kate Bush Club. The page linked to above contains that excerpt from it where Kate talks about the song and video.

Surprisingly, despite the title, that same article begins with Kate saying the following:

The song is not about, as many think, Hammer Horror films.

She goes on to describe the making of the video:

Making the video of Hammer Horror was the first time I had worked with a dancer. I wanted to do something different with it, using a dancer, and I was sitting in a hotel room in Australia when it suddenly came to me–the whole routine happened before my eyes–and the next morning at 9 a.m. the dancer turned up to start work. We’d never met before, and in ten minutes we were having to throw each other around. He was so inspiring that we did the video that same afternoon.

She continues for a bit after that:

I did it again in New Zealand, when we arrived late, so I went straight into the routine with a dancer I’d never met before who had learnt it from the video. It was the strangest experience–I got to the chorus and suddenly this total stranger appeared behind me doing the routine perfectly. I just couldn’t stop laughing, and we had to do about three takes.

In the show I wanted to use the same routine, but I couldn’t possibly sing it and dance at the same time, and I thought it was important not to mime it, as I wanted it to be a dance number, totally dedicated to dance, so I could let rip more. It was important that everyone should know that it wasn’t a cheat, so I decided to dance to a backing track, and it was the only number in the show that wasn’t live.

I’ve already done two videos that director Keith MacMillan worked on, but I haven’t talked too much about him.

Keith MacMillan appears to be his real name. When he directed music videos he used the name Keef. It encompassed himself as the director and John Weaver as a producer. However, he was a photographer and designed album covers as well. There, he used the pseudonym of Marcus Keef. One particularly noteworthy cover is the one he did for Black Sabbath’s debut album:

He did the cover of Paranoid as well. He worked with numerous artists, such as David Bowie and Rod Stewart. There’s a short article that features some of his work here.

This song was on Kate Bush’s second album called Lionheart.

I’m not sure if he did the cover art, but it wouldn’t surprise me based on looking at his other album covers. In addition, according to mvdbase, he directed all of her early music videos as part of Keef.

Enjoy!

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