NPR logo Did German Disco Groups Make The Best Music Videos Ever?

Did German Disco Groups Make The Best Music Videos Ever?

Dschinghis Khan Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the artist

I first got turned on to classic Euro disco when a friend sent me a video for the song "I Wanna Be Your Lover" from the Italian band La Bionda.


After a little digging, I stumbled upon German disco. The Germans really ran with the cheesiness, with flamboyant costumes, synchronized dance moves and sweet jams. They eventually incorporated different, multi-cultural elements such as steelpans and feather headdresses. Check out the West German pop outfit Dschinghis Khan, a group that came together solely to compete in 1979's Eurovision Song Contest, a televised event. They didn't win and the mystery of why remains.


Admittedly, my appreciation of German disco videos was initially ironic. But gradually, I grew to actually respect and admire the decadence. They were dressed in ridiculous costumes while doing ridiculous stunts to a ridiculous song and made no efforts to hide that. I wonder if anyone else thought this at the time. It wasn't so much about a ploy to gain street cred as it was to simply entertain. And while they were really more like live performances (and less like the kind of scripted videos MTV would eventually give us), German disco ultimately produced my favorite era for the music video.

Article continues after sponsorship

Boney M. had a revolving roster of members from places like Aruba and Montserrat. But it was German producer Frank Farian who grouped them together and they were based out of Germany, so it counts. The trio of back-up singers decorate themselves like angelic warriors of some imagined paradise, complete with majestic plumage. Silver palm trees and heavy gyration melt into clouds of smoke. It's a spectacle and they know it. Check out this video from their 1979 hit "Gotta Go Home."


The all-girl trio Arabesque takes a simpler approach than the others on this list for the song "Midnight Dancer". But they still manage to incorporate tassels and plenty of lens flare, proving that sometimes less really is more.


This is perhaps the finest example of the music video to date: Goombay Dance Band's "Sun Of Jamaica." It has all of the previously mentioned elements... then tosses in fire-swallowing, limbo contests and fuzzed-out overlays.


What do you consider the finest era for The Music Video?