Filming of “Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five” promotional video

End of August 1974

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From Club Sandwich N°78, Summer 1996:

Unless you count B-sides it wasn’t even issued as a single, and it has never been performed on stage by Paul. All the same, there is a video for the song ‘Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five’ (henceforth, for reasons of sanity as well as abbreviation, to be called ‘1985’ here).

It may even be that this ‘1985’ promo has never been publicly seen, which makes for a certain symmetry, really, because it was filmed when Paul and Wings were shooting a TV project that, also, has failed to see the light of day (this was called One Hand Clapping) and when Paul shot a charming vignette of a movie titled The Backyard which is also still under wraps (although it was the focus of this column in Spring 1992). The weirdest thing is, all these unreleased films are good – any notion that they’ve been kept in the dark these past twenty-odd years because they fail to measure up is nonsense. Rather, as Paul says, “Not everything you do is meant for release.” And, as he also points out, like fine wines, such films have a tendency to mature with age.

The ‘1985’ promotional video -or, more accurately, 16mm film – was shot sometime in the last few days of August 1974, in what looks for all the -world like a “wrap” from Wings’ One Hand Clapping duties, almost as if Paul persuaded a cameraman, lighting person and sound recordist to stay on after hours, found a grand piano situated in a far from glamorous quarter of Studio Two at Abbey Road, sat down and played. There’s nobody else on camera, although later on, when the action switches to a different part of the studio and Paul spends much of the time grinning up at the high Studio Two control room window, one gets the impression that Linda, if not the other Wings too, were looking down, watching the action.

But this is to jump ahead. The promo begins with Paul sat at the piano, belting out a great live vocal with the same blend of rawness and verve that marked out the song as very special on the album Band On The Run, issued at the back end of 1973. The piano track was also a real live performance, and quite a virtuoso one at that, the words “whirling” and “dervish” springing to mind when searching for a description of the speed with which Paul’s hands were running over the keyboard, fully meriting the camera close-ups that were spliced into the more panoramic footage. Being that he was really playing and really singing, there are no other instruments audible, at least not until the song’s middle-eight section when the original record’s harmonies were dropped into the soundtrack.

From the middle-eight onwards, through to the end of the number, the setting changed. Paul moved towards the rear of Studio Two, just in front of the huge wall clock, and stood up, singing the song in the style of a solo vocalist, with a microphone and yards of lead in his right hand and, get this, a cigarette in his left. The man was smoking a cigarette while shooting a video – how casual can you be!

Still performing live – although the orchestra, synth, drums, guitars and other instruments were dubbed in from the BOTR version – it looks as if Paul was thoroughly enjoying himself, singing and yelping into the camera, smiling broadly, glistening with perspiration, and puffing away on that nicotine. Incidentally, said smoking caused the creation of two different edits of the ‘1985’ promotional film: a “smoking” version and a “no smoking” version. Actually, if one looks closely enough, Paul has the cigarette in both but, in the specified “smoking” version, he is clearly seen dragging on the weed and exhaling the smoke.

The video ended with Paul, frozen in action, looking up at the control room window, the audio suddenly cutting off before the album version went into the reprise of the ‘Band On The Run’ title cut. And that was it.

Asked around this time by Paul Gambaccini for Rolling Stone if the title ‘1985’ was inspired by George Orwell’s brilliant novel 1984 Paul replied no, that the title was suggested, rather, by the first line of the song, which was the first bit he wrote. “With this it was ‘No one ever left alive in nineteen hundred and eighty-five’,” he said, adding, ‘”No one ever left alive in nineteen hundred and eighty-six’ wouldn’t have worked!”

Now there speaks a true wordsmith!

* Footnote. One is tempted to speculate that this ‘1985’ video has never been screened on TV. Indeed, this is exactly what we have done at the start of this article. Perhaps, however, a spot of caution should be exercised, if a letter from CS reader Robert Wright is anything to go by. He was interested to read in the Autumn 1994 issue about a video for another Band On The Run album track, ‘Mamunia’, which we said was never shown but he clearly remembers seeing on an ITV Wales pop series called (confusingly) The Dave Cash Radio Show, circa 1975. Somehow, somewhere, in the oddest of places, these things can reach the screen. Thanks for letting us know, Robert.

Mark Lewisohn

Last updated on September 9, 2020

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