The Secret Life of Arabia – 80s pop Orientalism

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Maybe it’s just a new romantiks thing but in the 80’s everyone seemed to be chasing the Olde Araby dragon.  Top of the Pops was all a-shimmy with kaftans and turbans and bush jackets run twice through a Prophet-5 synth to create some truly delectable nuggets of Arab-themed ‘wrong’.

I’ve collected below a few choice examples of 80’s pop-Orientalism to fan you in your repose.

Should any other examples surface please let me know.

“Dominion” by Sisters of Mercy: Shot at Petra and involving white linen, combination-fencing-sword-walking-stick and Bedu dudes trotting their stallions, this video is more or less The Last Crusade two years early.

“Blue Jean” by David Bowie: I’ve been waiting to *sparkle* for the Starman all my life, but this video shows Bowie in his most grotesque cabaret display ever as a petit, rhythmless creep wearing shadow-makeup. No!

“Egypt” by Kate Bush: Kate is resplendent in red as she flaps against the wind-machine, performing the ancient rite of the deranged Ladyhawk. Meanwhile a pair of goons wait in the green screen to turn her into a beam of light. #GagaB4Gaga

“Nightboat to Cairo” by Madness: Sorry Kentish Town, you love your Madness, I hate my ska.

Of course this didn’t end come wall-felling time, in the 90s Bryan Ferry got all harum scarum in “Mamouna“, Paula Abdul had “My Love is For Real”, Madonna started wearing Henna and making weird air-calligraphy with her fingers… but those are all for another post someday.

Meanwhile, I’d like to share this footage of Sun Ra and his Arkestra LIVING the dream, all caught on Super 8.

Woe to the foolish reader who does not click on this embedded video!

4 Responses to “The Secret Life of Arabia – 80s pop Orientalism”
  1. jt says:

    ‘air calligraphy’ – oh love it.

  2. Neon K says:

    Sublime and otherworldly, and so ersatz too….The riddle of the sands as viewed through the eyes of an inebriated video director, sailing the febrile winds of ’80s coke-induced hysteria…….Both transcendent and absurd!……….

  3. Sarahfenix says:

    Also, check out this live performance of “Egypt” by the God Father of Metal, the late great Ronnie James DIO
    \m/ \m/

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