Massive Attack were at their peak of success in 1991, with the acclaimed LP Blue Lines offering up hit single Unfinished Sympathy and the band being placed at the centre of what would later become known as ‘trip hop’, a catchy if pointless term coined to lump together a variety of (mostly) Bristol-based bands.
In 1992, the track Be Thankful For What You’ve Got was issued on the Massive Attack EP – not as the lead song, but as a Paul Oakenfold remix of the album track. The song was a cover version of a minor 1970s hit from soul singer William DeVaughn, and was not seen by the band as being particularly representative of their sound. Nevertheless, it was decided to shoot a video for the track. However, the video in question had only limited value as a promo piece, as it had very little airplay on TV.
The band were not interested in appearing in the video, so director Baillie Walsh decided to instead shoot a film that fitted well with the retro, almost exotica vibes of the song, setting it in a strip club with the song being lip synced by a dancer as she disrobes.
The video was shot in January 1992 at the Raymond Revuebar in Soho – then long past its prime and under the management of choreographer Gerard Simi, who created extravagant but not especially erotic striptease set pieces (if you’ve seen the film Paul Raymond’s Erotica, you’ll have an idea of his style). Simi was hired to choreograph the performance by dancer Ritzy Sparkle – not her birth name, I’ll wager – who performs impressively and manages to compress the striptease into less than five minutes without making it seem rushed. Claims that she was a transgender performer have yet to be confirmed.
Although a fictional representation of the club (there is no reference to the Revuebar in the video and no suggestion that it is supposed to be set in a real venue) it is still probably the best video recording of the club that exists today.
Interestingly, the performance does seem to be slightly informed by Fiona Richmond‘s appearance in Raymond’s 1977 film Let’s Get Laid – how conscious that was is anyone’s guess.
The video was clearly not going to appear on the usual slots for music promos, but was included in a home video compilation in 2001, oddly only rated 12 by the BBFC despite the extensive sexualised nudity. It would become a mainstay of late night TV music channels in the 1990s like the Lifestyle Satellite Jukebox, where sexy videos could be voted for by nocturnal viewers. It would also turn up on MTV during a brief flirtation with allowing raunchy videos to be shown on a Saturday night.
Erotic music videos are generally a mixed bag, but this is one of the best – a good track mixed with a great performance. It feels even more daring now than it did in 1992 – imagine one of the determinedly Woke bands of the present day doing anything like this. And with the Revuebar long gone, it feels like a vital slice of history.