Reel Toronto: Music Videos of the 1980s
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Reel Toronto: Music Videos of the 1980s

In this special edition series, and inspired by a reader’s suggestion, Reel Toronto looks at just a few of the classic (and less-classic) music videos filmed in our fair city over the years.

The Pursuit of Happiness’s indie-shot video for “I’m an Adult Now” is just a stone classic. You can see seedy-era Yonge-Dundas (watch for the old World’s Biggest Jeans Store and the old Eaton’s frontage), the bus terminal, and City Hall.
But the bulk of the video takes place in the parking lot at the corner of Queen West and Soho. During the first, long shot down Queen you can see the Citytv building, the Black Bull Tavern, and a few other locations that have survived twenty-odd years of change (the “Cooper’s” seen in some shots is now a Gap, natch.) If you look quickly we think you can even see the then-alive Hug Me Tree.
Ain’t it always the way? The re-recorded song and video just don’t hold a candle, even with the strobe lights.

Ah, “Subdivisions.” It opens with a helicopter shot of the intersection at King and Bay Streets, and only gets better from there. You can see the Scarborough RT, the DVP-401 interchange, and what looks like the PATH system (or at least the generic bowels of some downtown offices). The Warden-Finch neighbourhood has the honour of playing the seventh circle of cookie cutter suburban hell.
What Toronto high school gets to play the role of the soul-crushing monster that is education in suburbs? If Wikipedia is to be trusted (and if you can’t trust them, who can you trust?) it’s Scarborough’s L’Amoreaux Collegiate. You can see the bland, grey exterior just short of the two-minute mark. Just look at those cool dudes with all their chicks, probably on the way to have a rockin’ good time at Bridlewood Mall!
At about 2:45 we take a Goin’ Down the Road-style trip down Yonge Street at night. And towards the end we see our oppressed hero playing video games at the now-defunct Video Invasion. The Bathurst-Wilson landmark has since changed hands a few time, most recently serving as a What a Bagel.
(Other Wikipedia trivia? That bad-ass synth is an Oberheim OB-X.)

Okay, arenas look pretty much identical once you shut the lights off but the video for Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” was shot at Maple Leaf Gardens, way back on March 5, 1984. If you’re old enough and lucky enough, you might know someone soaked by the CGI waterfall. (Actually, the close-ups were shot separately, but you still get the idea…)

Speaking of needing to be old enough, the Parachute Club broke through right around the same time as Duran Duran, thanks in large part to this video. Its music and lyrics perfectly capture the era of legwarmers and aerobics, and the video features a massive conga line parading through downtown, past landmarks like Roy Thomson Hall. Note how shiny and white First Canadian Place was, and the absence of Metro Hall (it was still a parking lot, as seen in Police Academy).

The video for Blue Rodeo’s “Try” isn’t especially dynamic when viewed today, but it was a big part of breaking the band way back in 1988. It basically features the band playing in a generic industrial location while a girl walks around under the Bathurst Street bridge, barefoot. The actress in question is actually Michelle McAdorey, who dated Greg Keelor and sang in the band Crash Vegas. (Keelor started the band with her and Colin Cripps, who is now sideman for and husband of Kathleen Edwards.)

We’ll end up with a couple for the TTC nerds—we know there are a lot of you out there.
“Spadina Bus” is not only a great song, but a great way to see what Spadina Avenue looked like before the huge streetcar makeover. The Shuffle Demons are jamming at the St. Andrew intersection, hanging out in the Sullivan Street shelter, and in front of the Queen Street CIBC, but shots cover the whole stretch from Spadina Crescent down to King Street.
(On a barely-related note, we’d like to hope that Toronto staff have since caught and corrected this incorrect street sign. Tsk tsk.)
Is there any point using this opportunity to, for the umpteenth time, hammer MuchMusic for having changed from the kind of place that used to play this stuff? Probably not.

We’re ending with The Spoons’ “Romantic Traffic” partially because—having had your fill of buses—we know you’ll enjoy seeing the old, red subways and pre-reno stations like Sheppard and Bloor.
But mostly it’s because we know you’ll now have that “doo doo doo de doo doo de doo,” chorus stuck in your head the rest of the day. Don’t try to extricate it, you’ll just make it worse.

Got a video we should include in this series? Email us at [email protected]!