It Happened Here: 80′s Music Videos

We here at GVSHP spend a great deal of time pouring over archival records and buildings department files to document the history of our neighborhoods — when buildings went up, when they came down, how they once looked, how they changed, etc. (click HERE to learn more).

However, a less dusty (and frankly more fun) tool for peeking into our neighborhoods’ past — at least its recent past — is the golden age of music videos, rife with scenes of the Village and East Village in the 1980′s, providing some very real visual insights into what has changed — and what’s stayed the same — over the last 30 years.

Some of these nuggets answer some perennial questions about Village and East Village history, such as:

  • What did the High Line look like when it was still abandoned, and under attack from a band of chainsaw-wielding musicians and a mohawked six year old?
  • How did pre-reconstruction Seravalli Park in the West Village look with a gang of neon spandex-clad dancers descending upon it?
  • And if you were the greatest rock and roll band in the world, where would you wait for a friend, and then go for an impromptu jam session afterwards?


The Art of Noise’s “Close (to the Edit)” was shot entirely on the High Line in 1984 back when it was nothing but a disused elevated railway line (the last train ran along the tracks in 1980).  In fact the video appears to have been shot entirely in the section of the High Line going through 450-456 West 14th Street, a structure built in the early 1930′s by New York Central Railroad in conjunction with the construction of the High Line,  (a glass addition to the building was constructed a few years ago).  At the end of the video you can see the view from the 14th Street section of the High Line down to the West Coast Apartments (formerly the Manhattan Refrigeration Company building) at Gansevoort Street.  At that time the High Line continued through that building all the way down to Westbeth (the Westbeth-to-West Coast section of the High Line was torn down a few years after this video was shot, while the southernmost original section of the High Line — from Wesbeth to the St. John’s Building at Houston Street — came down in the late 1950′s).

Watch it here:

Tina Turner’s 1984 comeback hit, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” was also shot around the West Village, albeit a little closer to the ground than “Close (To the Edit).”  After a brief foray along the Brooklyn waterfront, at around 1:oo Ms. Turner emerges from the Christopher Street station into the heart of the West Village, and in no time she is joined by her dancers for a game of dice and a strut down St. Luke’s Place and along the iron fence surrounding adjacent J.J. Walker Park.  They next appear outside the chain link fence surrounding Seravalli Park on Gansevoort Street (before the years of reconstruction work related to the Third water Tunnel project underneath — read more about the park in our upcoming Memorial Day post).  Then they have a dramatic moment in front of one of the West Village’s most picturesque sites, the twin houses at 39 and 41 Commerce Street (more precisely the wall separating their two gardens), followed by a quick dance-off in front of the Cherry Lane Theater just around the corner, also on Commerce Street, where at the time Sam Shepard’s now classic “True West” was first playing.

Watch the video here:

Finally, as referenced in a previous post, The Rolling Stones used 96-98 St. Mark’s Place, between 1st Avenue and Avenue A, as the setting for their “Waiting On A Friend” video in 1981.  Mick Jagger can be seen waiting for an (unsurprisingly) late Keith Richards on the stoop.  Some nice scenes of East Village street life are interspersed throughout, and at the end of the video they join the rest of the band at what is now known as V Bar, just down the block at 132 First Avenue, at St. Mark’s Place, for a little jam session.

Watch it here:

If you have any other favorite videos in the neighborhood, let us know!


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avatar Andrew Berman has been the Executive Director of GVSHP since 2002.