The song was a #1 US hit in 1985, the same year VH1 went on the air. The video got steady airplay on the nascent network and was also in rotation on MTV. Like the song, the video tells a transcendent tale, complete with a desert road trip, tango dancing, and a hawk.
Oley Sassone, who directed the video, tells the story.
Oley Sassone: It was shot in Los Angeles. Specifically the oil fields near LAX along Sepulveda Boulevard, along the Pacific Coast Highway in Palos Verdes. And the church and performance was shot at the historic San Fernando Mission.
Songfacts: Can you talk about the concept?
Oley: I would always pay attention to first impressions the moment I hear a song. I immediately saw a bird flying, leading our hero, Richard Page, on a journey of self realization - how to tie a story to that through line was the challenge.
I wanted to see a man and a woman together, then in conflict, then separation, and didn't want the usual drama of seeing two unknown actors going at it. So to avoid that cliché and simplify the idea I thought of tango dancers, due to the bass beat in the song. Also, I think I just watched Last Tango in Paris at that time!
The subtext of the story and what I wanted the audience to feel was our hero's own backstory in his mind. The tango dancers, juxtaposed with the images of him getting lost while driving, tossing a map and instead following the hawk overhead was, symbolically, his own soul, his own voice deep inside telling him to carry on - to lead him to a new path, a new beginning.
I had originally wanted to show him running low on water, which I had established: the car (a Thunderbird of course) breaking down, a feeling that all was lost. We see Richard in his final moment of defeat walking over a sand dune and revealing that he had found the ocean. Water being symbolic to survival, life, a new beginning. But alas, we ran out of time on that day of shooting and we found the spot on the side of the road where we set up and shot the last scene overlooking the ocean. We found a branch stuck in the ground and did the shot with the hawk giving Richard one last look and a little tilt of its head as if to say, Carry on!
Songfacts: How did you end up working on the video, and what was the experience was like for you?
Oley: I was at the time one of the top music video directors in the business. I got a copy of the song from the record company and pitched my concept to them and the band and that was that.
It was a great shoot. The band were the coolest guys, had a good crew, locations were right. And of course we had to have a trained hawk to fly in the church window and down onto the pew. I originally envisioned the hawk flying in the church in the wide shot, but the bird was not cooperating and would land too far away from Richard, so I had to do it in two shots.
Being in a church and keeping a spiritual feel to it, I had Richard lie back in the pew while sitting, making a cross with his arms (the iconic shot of James Dean in Giant, with his arms over a Winchester rifle as if hanging on a cross came to mind when I was shooting) and we back lit the hawk flying in the window, revealing the shaft of heavenly light that hits Richard along in the pew. The hawk landing near him and staring into his eyes to give him strength to continue the journey.
Songfacts: How did it impact your career, and what did you do next?
Oley: Obviously it was a hit video, but it was also a hit song! A really great song. You can't make a good video with a bad song. So it boosted my standing in the business at the time and kept me in demand for the next year. I believe I did Bonnie Raitt and John Lee Hooker together for the "In the Mood" video.
July 9, 2015
More Song Writing