We all fall down the YouTube rabbit hole every once in a while. Most of the time, it’s an inane abyss, but every once in a while, you stumble upon something that makes your day. That’s exactly how we came upon the treasure trove of music history you’ll find below — a set of notable TV commercials for some of pop and rock’s most popular and influential albums. What makes these clips so interesting is that they were made before the records in question had been sanctified by critics and/or certified platinum, giving us a glimpse at how legendary albums were introduced to the public. See Kurt Cobain give birth, Michael Jackson in neon, and Blondie go disco after the jump.
David Bowie’s Lodger (1979)
Since Bowie had already cast aside his Ziggy Stardust and Thin White Duke personae, his marketing team apparently tried to make an alter ego out of “The Lodger.” If this commercial is any indication, The Lodger is a guy who DJs, writes graffiti, wears confusingly belted shirts, and succumbs to the advances of wonton young ladies in the street.
Nirvana’s In Utero (1993)
Well now. This is the only album promo we’ve ever seen that features raw chickens in dresses, inflatable butts, and the three members of Nirvana violently birthing tiny babydolls. Frankly, it makes us miss the ’90s.
Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982)
A surprisingly low-budget video for the best-selling album of all time. But the ad certainly isn’t lacking in style — in fact, we can’t imagine a better 30-second distillation of the ’80s pop aesthetic, from the neon to Jackson’s clothing to the mention of cassette tapes at the end.
Pink Floyd’s Animals (1979)
There’s nothing like the image of an inflatable pig flying over an industrial wasteland to remind you that, yes, this next Pink Floyd album will be just as depressing as the last.
Madonna’s The Immaculate Collection (1990)
The commercial for this essential 1990 greatest-hits compilation takes us through the many highlights of Madonna’s first eight years in the public eye — and has the unintended contemporary side effect of making everything she’s done in the past two decades feel like a footnote.
Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ Get Happy!! (1980)
It was a minor stroke of genius to transform the often-cantankerous (especially in the ’70s) Costello into an affable, fast-talking pitchman for Get Happy!! — a soul-influenced album with a lightly tongue-in-cheek title that marked a notable stylistic change for the Attractions.
The Rolling Stones’ Goats Head Soup (1973)
“Your brain’s gon’ run outta your ears when you get a hold of Goats Head Soup.” That’s one way to sell an album. The other way — also employed in this video — is to show pretty Mick Jagger crooning “Angie” into the camera and then hopping around in a tight, torso-baring metallic jumpsuit.
Blondie’s Parallel Lines (1979)
Blondie may have started out as a punk band, but in the promo for Parallel Lines, beautiful Debbie Harry was all disco-queen dresses and heels, with a big pout, no other band members in sight, and “Heart of Glass” blasting in the background. “Take a good look at Blondie,” indeed.
Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)
Some wise soul at Columbia Records must have realized that the best way to attract new fans was to simply show Springsteen rocking out in concert, backed by saxophone virtuoso Clarence Clemons. Over 30 years later, we’re still buying it.
Captain Beefheart’s Lick My Decals Off, Baby (1970)
Here’s one for the Dadaists. There were more famous Captain Beefheart albums (Trout Mask Replica, Safe as Milk), but Lick My Decals Off, Baby arguably marks the high point of his experimental strangeness. So a commercial any less weird than this one would have been a disappointment.