the Very Very first music video

Does anyone remember “Classical Gas”, by MAson Williams, as it appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show a few times around 1970 or so?

It was a very lively tune, accompanied by a rapidly-changing set of photos which seemed to fit the music really well. I think it ought to count as the first music video, but perhaps there were others even before this. Anyone have any ideas?

I don’t know the date, but “Ice Cream For Crows”, by Captain Beefheart was made in the mid/late Sixties.

I think the small short films the Beatles made for “Strawberry Fields Forever” and also “Penny Lane” could count as music videos.

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I figure the “first” music video was done by The Beatles and shown on the Ed Sullivan show in 65/66. They couldn’t make the show, but instead send two film clips for “Paperback Writer” (The Beatles lip syncing while playing silly buggers in someone’s garden) and “Day Tripper” (The Beatles lip syncing, poorly, while Ringo rides an exercise bike and John plays something–could be a plunger, could be a broom, I forget–like a guitar and sings into a punching bag as if it was a microphone. This was also a swipe at the British law which, at the time, forbid a performer to lip-sync. Hence the intentionally poor lip-syncing performance.) Anyone remember anything that pre-dates this?

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great answers! thanks! seems that Gas made such a big impression on me that i forgot about those others, but yes, now I do remember them.

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I don’t remember the Classical Gas “Video” but I do recall seeing him appear on the Smothers Brothers show. He played a clear acrylic guitar filled with water and it had goldfish swimming inside of it. THAT left an impression on me.

As for first video, I’d put my money on Frank Zappa, who experimented heavily with video tape when everyone else was shooting 8 mm.

How ‘bout "California Dreamin’" by the Mama’s and the Papa’s? It wasn’t recorded before a live audience, but it was just the 4 of them singing on a “mod” stage.

Not sure of the date of this one, but it might predate the Beatles’ one shown on Ed Sullivan.

Seems to me that “A Hard Day’s Night” is just a series of music videos tied together with some humourous Liverpudlian banter and topped off with a TV concert. I don’t think music had ever really been presented that way before (Look at the cricket pitch scene that accompanys “Can’t Buy Me Love”). That’s why that film isn’t really considered a musical. Musicals always show the performers singing the songs in each scene. I think that’s why HDN has the reputation for innovation that it does today.

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I remember hearing about video juke boxes from the 1930s. Can anyone confirm or deny?

I remember the Mason Williams “Classical Gas” proto-video but I rember it on the Smother’s Brothers Show. MW said that each picture was on for some ?? (I forget) fraction of a second and that we should all give our brains a hand for still being able to recognize them.

There were musical shorts made in the 1930’s that could be considered early music videos. Most of them were films of a band or musical group performing their latest hits. However, they were usually shot with one camera, and used very few fast cuts, etc.

Some earlier posters asking about old musical jukeboxes are thinking of Scopitones. From the Dead Medium website (

“The Scopitone was a precursor of the rock video, a visual jukebox introduced in France in 1963. It was a coin-operated large-screen device intended for the bar and nightclub market, showing brief 16mm color films of such period popstars as Lesley Gore, Dion, the Tijuana Brass and Nancy Sinatra. These devices were essentially extinct by 1968 – “victims of slot-machine racketeers and censorial prudes,” according to Request magazine writer James Sullivan.”

I’ve seen some of the films, and they are primitive music videos, with weird storylines, odd settings, and guys wearing V-neck sweaters. They predate “A Hard Day’s Night” (the alleged father of music videos) by a year.

Take a look at the Elvis “Jailhouse Rock” production number. Yes, it was inside the movie, but it was definitely a music video. Also, there was a video of Rick Nelson’s “Traveling Man” tacked onto the end of an episode of Ozzie and Harriet that fits all the requirements.

Those machines were also available in America. I worked at the manufacturer (Rowe) in 1967-68.

But, as another poster said, there were earlier ones made in the 30’s (and the late 20’s, too).

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Disney and other animators based cartoons on popular jazz tunes and classical melodies as early as the twenties.

Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong all made short, one-song featurettes in the 1930s that incorporated animation, special effects, and storylines. They are in all important respects identical to today’s videos, you just had to go to the movies to see them. BET has been showing them occasionally late at night recently.

My personal favorite has to be “Minnie the Moocher,” with an animated Cab doing that oh-so-crazy strut. It was put together by Max Fleisher’s studios, which just goes to show that even producers of tripe like Popeye can sometimes create a real gem.

A ‘music video’, in it’s broadest interpertation, is a film of a musician or singer performing their music.

Al Jolson , in The Jazz Singer was therefore also the first music video performer.

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I saw a video on AMC a couple of years ago that was very much a “music video.”

The name of the song was “Take Me Back, Baby,” by some “blues” artist whom I did not know or recognize.

The vignette showed him in a number of situations trying to win back his lady friend’s love.

This was shown as one of the “padding videos” as I call them–that is, the short clips that they broadcast between the movies.

This one would have been early '50’s at the latest.

BTW, the singer looked amazingly like “Andrew H. Brown,” down to the derby.

I remember seeing a film short with animated lips superimposed over real cows, lip synching to Ella Fitzgerald & the Ink Spots singing “Cow Cow Boogie.”

Clearly the essence of music vidoes had existed long before they became so ubiquitous.

Many of the Betty Boop features were essentially music videos. Some even intercut actual footage of the bands, before and within the cartoons.

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The conventional wisdom has Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” as the first true music video, I believe.

Personally, I don’t think the music video came of age until A-Ha’s “Take On Me”. Any “videos” before that were just stuff to put on the TV while the song was playing -the “Take On Me” video was actually an artistic creation in itself.

It also helped the song to the top of the charts after having failed to set the Thames on fire on a previous, videoless release.