David Lynch’s Music Videos: Nine Inch Nails, Moby, Chris Isaak & More

David Lynch gets sound like few oth­er direc­tors. There’s an unfor­get­table scene in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me where Lau­ra Palmer leads her best friend Don­na Hay­ward into what looks like a den of iniq­ui­ty for lum­ber­jacks. It’s filled with burly men and cheap women grind­ing to music blar­ing from the speak­ers. Lynch lets the music roll right over top the dia­logue. It was a shock­ing choice back in 1992 but it was the right one. The ban­ter was inten­tion­al­ly banal and obscure. The grotesque faces, the omi­nous crim­son light­ing and, most of all, that utter­ly hyp­not­ic music are all you need to tell the sto­ry, cre­at­ing a mood of dread and deca­dence. The scene is a stun­ning fusion of image, sound and edit­ing in an oth­er­wise flawed work.

Since that movie, Lynch became more and more inter­est­ed in the pos­si­bil­i­ties of sound design. He even­tu­al­ly ditched film alto­geth­er for a career in music. So per­haps it shouldn’t come as a sur­prise that, along with cre­at­ing at least three cin­e­mat­ic mas­ter­pieces, one of the most influ­en­tial TV series ever made, and a string of tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials, Lynch has also made a hand­ful of music videos. You can watch them above and below.

Lynch’s first music video was for “I Pre­dict” by the band The Sparks. It was made back in 1982 when MTV was still in its infan­cy and Lynch’s career was just tak­ing off. Per­haps for that rea­son, the video has lit­tle of the styl­is­tic obses­sions that mark his lat­er work. No weird flash­ing lights. No smoke or fire. No hol­low-eyed mod­els. Instead Lynch goes for a more direct, if sil­ly, form of sur­re­al­ism – a guy (band mem­ber Ron Mael) with a Hitler mus­tache in drag doing a striptease. Does it feel Lynchi­an? No, not real­ly. But it’s still kind of dis­tress­ing.

There are two videos for Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Games.” One, which was on heavy rota­tion on MTV, was shot by Herb Ritts and fea­tured Isaak and super­mod­el Hele­na Chris­tensen rolling around half-naked in the Hawai­ian surf. And then there is Lynch’s video made as a tie-in to his strange, Wiz­ard of Oz obsessed noir Wild at Heart, which has much less nudi­ty – which is odd con­sid­er­ing the movie is pret­ty much non-stop boink­ing. Instead, the video is pret­ty straight­for­ward – just Isaaks and the band play­ing the tune inter­cut with shots from the flick.

After Mul­hol­land Dri­ve, Lynch turned his back on cel­lu­loid film, pre­fer­ring the end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties of dig­i­tal. His enthu­si­asm for this new tech­nol­o­gy result­ed in a flur­ry of projects includ­ing Dum­b­land, a crude­ly ani­mat­ed series pre­sent­ed in stark black and white. The video of Moby’s “Shot in the Back of the Head” is a mood­i­er ani­mat­ed work but it is def­i­nite­ly in the same vein. Check it out above.

Lynch’s video for Nine Inch Nail’s “Came Back Haunt­ed” can quite lit­er­al­ly mess with your head. The piece is packed with flash­ing red and white lights and as a result comes with the fol­low­ing warn­ing: “This video has been iden­ti­fied by Epilep­sy Action to poten­tial­ly trig­ger seizures for peo­ple with pho­to­sen­si­tive epilep­sy. View­er dis­cre­tion is advised.” You have been warned.

And final­ly here’s a music video for Lynch’s own song called appro­pri­ate­ly “Crazy Clown Time.” Not only is the video a cat­a­logue Lynch’s obses­sions – Amer­i­cana, naked women, fire – but it also fea­tures Lynch singing, who, after a bunch of effects, sounds like a cas­trat­ed Kee­bler Elf.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Lynch’s Unlike­ly Com­mer­cial for a Home Preg­nan­cy Test (1997)

David Lynch Teach­es You to Cook His Quinoa Recipe in a Weird, Sur­re­al­ist Video

What David Lynch Can Do With a 100-Year-Old Cam­era and 52 Sec­onds of Film

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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  • Ask an Arab: Ra's isn't pronounced "raysh." says:

    And despite what some would main­tain, he did NOT do the Sparks video “I Pre­dict.” A quick look makes it obvi­ous: the video sort of mim­ics the style. but it lacks Lynch’s finesse and cre­ativ­i­ty. Even when Lynch has zero bud­get, his imag­i­na­tion and con­trol come through.

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