Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Seen Your Video: The Black Dancers in “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 5, 2009


Tears for Fears were always a band out of time. Oh, they were 80s through and through, from the hair cuts to the synth horns to the overly-emotive vocals. But despite being a band permanently associated with a time period, they were an oddly peerless group. Think about it–who, if pressed, would you say was Tears for Fears’ closest point of comparison? What other bands would they have hung out with then? What do their fans tend to look or act like? Who today would cite them as an influence–either ironically or sincerely? It’s hard to say with any of these, because their appeal is such a jarring one–a mixture of the brazenly commercial (huge hooks, anthemic choruses, immaculate production) and the unapologetically insular (obscure lyrics, obsessions with Primal Scream therapy, being named Roland Orzabal) that just isn’t found much anywhere, let alone the top of the charts. It’s that quality that makes their biggest hits so indelible, I think–the way the songs manage to sound and feel so familiar, and yet totally singular.

This quality extends to their music videos, as well. These were traditionally big, widescreen productions, from the sweeping cinemtagrophy of “Shout” to the mini-drama of “Head Over Heels” and the integrated animation–after Peter Gabriel was doing it, but before EVERYONE was doing it–of “Sowing the Seeds of Love.” But they were still videos with mysteries, with ambiguous plots and elements you just couldn’t put your finger on. Prime example would be their biggest hit of all, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” The song was intended as a “driving song,” meant to appeal to us simple Americans and our highway-blazing ways, and the video certainly features no small amount of actual hitting the road to drive that point home (pun semi-intended). But that concession to populism aside, the video’s weird–like a Duran Duran video directed by Jim Jarmusch, featuring lots of open, sparse landscapes and strange characters given little story or background.

The weirdest of all, of course, has to be the two black dancers. They show up from nowhere during the song’s instrumental break, at the gas station where much of the video takes place, both handsomely dressed in the exact same fashion, like two of the remaining Drifters or Platters. In front of the gas pumps, they perform a perfectly synchronized dance number as Orzabal’s guitar echoes on in the background. It’s my favorite part of the song, actually–where after having built the song’s intensity for the last two and a half minutes into that booming chorus, everything drops out but the drums and that brilliant, shimmering guitar line that introduced the song, as gradually the bass and keyboards add to the melody until it just explodes into Orzabal’s piercing (albeit not terribly virtuosic(?)) guitar solo. The build-up for that last, biggest chorus is absolutely incredible, so tense and emotional…and here it is being soundtracked by this borderline-offensive synchronized dance bit.

And it works. It works so beautifully. I can’t possibly explain it. I hesitate to even try. But something about it–maybe its just the combination of music and fluid motion, maybe its something disquieting and sad about the dance routine, maybe its just the fact that you put just about anything over that instrumental break and it’ll look brilliant–something about it I find ridiculously compelling, almost moving. I have no idea who these guys are, what Tears for Fears or director Nigel Dick (who, by the way, also went on to direct another of my all-time inexplicable favorites, Oasis’s “Champagne Supernova,” and a whole bunch of other classics) saw in them, how or why they ended up being in this video. But they made it a classic, they made it absolutely unforgettable. No amount of additional highway driving (or plane flying, or dune buggy riding, or any number of the other transportational methods featured in this video) could have made up for that.

Tears for Fears. What a great band.


9 Responses to “Seen Your Video: The Black Dancers in “Everybody Wants to Rule the World””

  1. billy said

    what were the names of the two guys dancing in front of gas pumps…as a singer/songwriter i too felt that this portion of the video really made a statement within the song…
    who are they?

  2. Zlazz said

    Those dancing darkies were the absolute highlight of the film clip and indeed the only worthwhile part of it. Such a shame that they weren’t the whole clip rather than just a few brief but memorable moments. Bands come and go and you can’t really remember who was who in them unless they’re about for a fair while but those two darkies cast an indelible image on memory. So cool, such enjoyment, so distinctive!

  3. I agree…. in 2014. Was looking up on google who were the dynamic dancing duo – who brightened up this video? I am trying to mimic their dance routine but is hard because really cut up and edited. Still – they say a picture is worth a thousand words. I think the black dancing men, if you have ever lived in the desert of southern california – which I have – is the antithesis of what we would call a desert rat. There is life in the desert! It sings! It dances! It smiles. It has great sunglasses. It is unaffected by time and space – which is exactly the point too. At least for me, the desert had the effect of making time stand still, its changes from season to season and from day to nite, were subtle. They were modulated. So there ya go. During my time in the desert, of all the characters on the video, my feelings about being there and feeling like a passerby, or out of place – well, I just danced to it!

  4. Christian Freeman said

    Eddie Thomas, the lead singer in Mancrab’s 1986 song ‘Fish For Life’ was one of the tuxedo dancers in the Tears For Fears ‘Everybody Wants To Rule the World’ video – The big question is who is the other dancer? From what I have been able to determine he is the other member of Mancrab but for some reason I can’t find a reference that names the entire ‘group’ – all they list is Roland Orzabal, Ian Stanley and “Eddie Jnr” (Eddie Thomas) but no mention of the other fellow except that he previously danced with Eddie Jnr in the EWTRTW video. I LOVE that scene in the video! Who is this mystery dancer? See Mancrab Fish For Life 1986 single video:

  5. Dean James said

    Tears For Fears, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”
    featuring The Steppin’ Brothers: Eddie Thomas & ?

    Two angels welcome you through the gas pump gates of heaven.


    med l/s – gas station doorway, Valvoline & Coca-Cola signs
    – SBs step in from each side
    med c/up – SB right looks right, SB left looks left
    med l/s – SBs in front of gas pumps
    – back step left, rise & turn to face front
    c/up – guitarist’s face
    med l/s – SBs marching in place
    – back step left, turn to face front
    c/up – gloved hand on dirt trike throttle
    med l/s – SBs wheel hands, back step right, bow to right, turn to front
    med c/up – dirt trike rider’s face
    med l/s – SBs wheel hands, step right, bow to right, stand & turn to front
    med c/up – kid with white framed sunglasses & two beers
    med l/s – SBs wheel hands, back step left, bow to left, turn & face front
    l/s – dirt trikes riding on dunes
    med l/s – SBs rocking side to side from hips, hands up, palms forward
    – rock 7x, cut on the way to the eighth
    l/s – dirt trikes
    med c/up – drummer
    med l/s – SBs bend to right at waist, flowing egyptian arms, right forward, left up
    – SBs bend to left, reverse egyptian arms
    – SBs bend to right & dip, reverse egyptian arms
    – SBs maintain dip, bend left
    – SBs rise & turn right, reverse egyptian arms
    l/s – dirt trike riders
    med l/s – SBs snap fingers & cross
    – snap fingers again, cut halfway through snap

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