Classic ABC Filler Music Videos

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 23rd November 2010.

In my column last week, I took a trip down memory lane, or in my case, Olola Avenue, Castle Hill, and reminisced about my favourite ABC kids afternoon programs from the eighties. That little adventure awoke another remnant of a memory.

During the late seventies and eighties, the ABC wasn’t the slick operation it is today. There were no promotional ads for upcoming shows, and so the couple of minutes left between programs were filled with early music videos. These videos ran repeatedly whenever there was time, and so I guess over many viewings, they became the basis of my love for music, or at the least, one hit wonders.

All of these music videos are burnt into my brain. I remember the tunes, the words, and pretty much every detail of the music videos. If only I knew the names of the songs.

A little research online gave me the names and artists of each music video, with the exception of one elusive clip. This one was an instrumental, kind of a sea shanty, and the video featured a bunch of women doing some sort of traditional dancing in a white room, while the musicians looked on. Ten points to you if you already know the answer.

And now, direct from 1980 or so, via my rather poor memory, are those pesky music videos that eluded me for so long.

Bright Eyes was the theme song from the 1978 animated film Watership Down, based on the Richard Adams book of the same name. Art Garfunkel, of the little known musical duo Simon and Garfunkel, performed the song in his famous falsetto. The song was composed by Mike Batt, who was also responsible for discovering Katie Melua and writing The Wombles hit novelty albums.

Even today, Bright Eyes haunts me. The book is depressing and sad. The tune is depressing and sad. The video, which features cute animated rabbits happily hopping around fields and then being caught in snare traps and dying, is depressing and sad. As a six year old, the sombre nature of the music video was certainly not lost on me, and I’d often be found sitting in silence, thinking about “those poor Bright Eyes rabbits.”

Love Is All was a popular single from the rock opera concept album, The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshoppers Feast, which was composed by Roger Glover, of Deep Purple fame. With glass shatteringly high lead vocals from Dio frontman, Ronnie James Dio, the animated music video features a cavalcade of animals singing and dancing.

On review, the video is not just animals singing and dancing. The video has serious psychedelic overtones. That’s not just a frog playing a guitar leading the animal parade. That’s a frog that turns into a shrub which then sprouts five singing frog heads. I’m sure some serious drugs were involved in the making of the album and video. Not that I’m complaining. Anything is better than the dead rabbit song.

OK, so I’m sitting in a car with a close friend chatting about these mysterious videos. I mention the elusive mystery one and she pops up with the answer immediately. “Oh that’s Portsmouth, by Mike Oldfield,” she says. Sure enough, there was the video on YouTube, just as I remember it, except for the multiple musicians watching the dancers. Only Mike Oldfield appears in the clip, playing different instruments in different shirts, obviously over multiple takes.

And thus another one of my life’s great mysteries has been solved. If you know of any other music videos from that era, drop me a line via my website. And whatever you do, avoid Watership Down.

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  1. Was just thinking of old ABC filler videos last night, prompting me to Google them (thus finding this page). Nice post, looking forward to reading related ones!

    I still enjoy the “Love is All” clip, and haven’t forgotten it after all these years… but another filler I remember was footage of numerous hang-gliders taking off, in flight and landing; with the backing music of Mark Knopfler’s “Going Home”. Haven’t found that video yet.

    And if memory serves, there was another video comprising of prototype aeroplanes and/or flying vehicles (obviously filmed prior to the Wright brothers attempt) set to the music of “Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines”. Would like to see that one again too!

    And of course there was the one with aerial footage of massive waterfalls, set to either “Superman” or “Star Wars” (memory starting to fail now!)… and another I just thought of, which used various NASA videos (including rocket launches, moon landings, and astronaut and buggy footage) set to another piece of orchestral music. Wish I knew what it was!

    In conclusion, I’m wondering if perhaps I used to watch too much ABC as a child 🙂

    • I definitely remember the hang gliding one! I haven’t been able to find a clip of that one. I also remember the waterfalls, and the NASA one. I can remember the music from the latter so clearly, but I can’t think what it is.

    • I too recall the clip for “Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines” and amazingly, it is online!

      The orchestral piece you’re referring to with the NASA footage I think is, “On the Beautiful Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss. As I recall, it showed footage of the Apollo mission from launch to lunar landing, including the astronauts enjoying the lighter gravity on the moon, bouncing about on foot and in their rover right up to re-entry and water landing. Unfortunately, I have not found the clip for that one. But keep checking back online occasionally. That was how I found this page which finally answered my own desire to know what the hell that animated guitar playing frog and dancing snail and butterfly clip was I remembered from childhood! Had been searching for its identify on and off for years!

  2. For the NASA footage, try http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wBRPepP3bM. It is another Mike Oldfield tune, Incantations part 4. It seemed like it was on every second night just before the news.

  3. Glad to see I’m not the only one who has these clips fried into memory.
    The other space filler was based around Saturn V rocket launches and
    moon landings. It was, I think, a mashup of various mission footage.
    One thing I remember was the high quality of the video. The music was classical. Like a Strauss waltz or something.

  4. Another is Blue Peter by Mike Oldfield where the clip is of people in a race using different machines (mini hover craft, ultralights, trikes). The video is online but it’s not utube, just search blue peter mike oldfield in google videos. I am in desperate need of knowing one abc filler clip that was an animation of a paper plane going down a river and through a Forrest. That’s my vague recollection.

  5. I remember many of these fillers. Others included Kermit the Frog singing ‘Rainbow Connection’, footage of a steam hauled train on a mountain line, a woman painting garden gnomes, a strange piece about a girl and boy playing with toy soldiers (filmed from the toys perspective) at the end of which they run off hand in hand leaving all the toys behind and footage of a large model railway (I think there was a wurlitzer organ playing a waltz behind this one). I’d love to see any of these again. Anyone else remember them? They would have been from around ’79 – ’84.

    • I am so glad someone else remembers the garden gnome one. I have been trying to remember what that was for decades! The gnomes were in an English-looking terribly green mossy garden, as I recall. I’d love to see it again. ‘Love is all’ remains one of my favourite clips, thank you ABC.

    • Wow – vague memories suddenly resurface: Kermit, the gnomes and the model trains. I must’ve been about 4 years old! Thought I’d dreamed all of these. The mind is an amazing thing!
      Would love to see them again. Does the ABC have an archives dept?

  6. There was a Christmas one, too, involving a live cat and mouse and using Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. ❤

    • please!!!!! Can anyone help me wirh this one….!!!???
      All i remember was a lone guy walking through a park as he sang the song…..as it got darker..there was a shower of fireworks..like a curtain of fire works behind him as he sang…..then all i remember is that at the end of the song..he goes inside a house…the outside light goes off and then you hear him tripping over something inside the house………..

  7. There was another. A long haired guitarist making a paper plane. He throws it and the plane becomes animated. It goes over fields and floats down a stream and gets relaunched at a small waterfall, to finally return to the guitarist. I thought the guitarist was Mike Oldfield, but it seems not. The music had a classical vibe. Maybe even Vivaldi.
    Does anyone remember that one.

    There was another which was a roughspun guitar track, played quickly, over pencil and paper drawn train tracks – really rough amateurish animation, but matched the music perfectly. Maybe Andrew Pendlebury but maybe not.

  8. There was another of a long haired guitarist who made a paper plane which he threw, turning into an animated paper plane having adventures flying over fields, floating down a creek and flying off a waterfall only to return to the guitarist. The music had a classical feel. All I know it is seems not to be Mike Oldfield.

    There was another of rough train tracks drawn animated on paper, over a rough and ready guitar track – great train vide. Might have been Andrew Pendlebury but maybe not.

    Anyone know who did these?

  9. I remember many of these.. sadly, my memory isn’t what it used to be.. There was one I remember that hasn’t been mentioned yet, where the footage involved labrador pups playing to some sprightly piano music.. I remember some of the tune, but can’t identify it.

  10. Hello! The Morris dancing one described is Portsmouth by Mike Oldfield. http://youtu.be/8CCf7gvmDEU I’m really glad someone else remembers the toy soldiers clip! I thought I must have dreamed it for a while. My earliest memories of television are made up of these filler video clips! 🙂

  11. Great article! thanks, i often think of those clips. There was an art show on abc around the same time, at the end the man closed his studio/apartment building and walked down the corridor. Does anyone remember this show and it’s title? I really liked the music (classical) and I’d love to be able to find it.

  12. My husband and I were both discussing the ABC fillers just this morning while educating our three year old about 80s and 90s cartoons (he loved Bananaman). We remembered the ones of classic disney clips featuring Mickey and Donald but set to disco tunes. Anyone else remember them?

    Oh, and I had forgotten about The Butterfly Ball. THAT IS ONE TRIPPY CLIP :O

  13. They played Tusk by Fleetwood Mac;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfYfd7U8xlo
    And UK instrumental band Sky did a rock guitar version of Tocatta and Fugue by Brahms; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgbgUrp1a70
    I’d like to see the Niagara Falls Superman one again. I wonder if someone can assemble a playlist of all these ABC fillers. The Steam Train one has an old Country music standard called ‘Orange Blossom Special’ playing over it but I can’t find the ABC video anywhere.

  14. “Macho Duck” and “Disco Mickey Mouse” were the Disney songs from memory, the Mickey one had footage from an early Disney film “Through The Mirror”

  15. What was the name of the one with the woman painting garden gnomes, I for the dear life of me have gone completely blank. A friend of mine remembers it vividly ” it was a woman, maybe thirties or so long dark brown hair; painting garden gnomes; she put a handful into a wheel barrow and went walking through a small forest like allotment; filled with hundreds of gnomes; had a pretty catchy background tune”. Any help on locating the name of this or even a video clip would be awesome.

    • Dear god, my mind has exploded. This has explained so many vague memories. I had remembered Tusk, and the morris dancing clip (although I had not been able to find it until reading this page, so thank you soooo much). A friend reminded me of the frog ball a few years ago. But in my head I had merged portsmouth with what I now suspect is the gnome clip that keep’s getting described, as I distinctly remember something that began and/or ended with a mouth harp… I used to walk around the house trying to imitate that sound with my mouth.

  16. I have never forgotten the Love Is All clip (how could anybody?), and Portsmouth has busted my mind wide open, however, there was another piece, classical or at least piano, featuring ballet dancers (possibly just regular dancers) which was always shown either just before or on 8am before Sesame Street, and right after a musical interlude featuring a (for 2015) dated animated clock…

    Any help or ideas what I could be thinking of?

    • Frank Mills ‘Music Box Dancer’ is the classical ballet piece you may be thinking of… 🙂

      • Sorry it’s taken me a thousand years to respond, but this is EXACTLY the piece I remember. Thank you.

  17. I remember one from the mid maybe late 80s that was the saturn v rocket staging, from launch to earth orbit. The same footage you see everywhere from the mercury missions with a mounted film camera. The music i recall was distinctly sounding of a Vangelis track. Does anyone remember this? I have never been able to find it >.<

    • The Vangelis music in the rocket launch clip was Eric’s Theme from Chariots of Fire. I’ve been looking for that clip for a while without success.

      • Thanks for the reply ! For years ive been looking for more obscure vangelis tracks and there it was on one of his most iconic albums !

  18. Frank Mills ‘Music Box Dancer’ is the classical piece that had ballet dancers in the film clip….I remember loving it as a little one. 🙂

  19. My favourites were Butterfly Ball and Tusk, & I love Incantations 4 … I’d totally forgotten about Portsmouth (the Morris Dancers) but it looks familiar now…

    But does anyone remember, there was also one with hot air balloons taking off and drifting over green countryside, with slow, atmospheric music, maybe another Mike Oldfield piece? I can’t find anything.

    I didn’t realise that’s where I knew Macho Duck from, wow I totally remember that clip with Huey Dewey and Louie messing with Donald! Here it is on Youtube (after the German announcer) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSm87yZPutk

    This is a medley, starting with Disco Mickey, Macho Duck starts at 2:50 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhhQ6QH4t2I)

    • I think the hot air balloon one was to the music “Song for Guy” by Elton John. Loved that one!

      • Thanks – but that’s not the music I’m thinking of, there must be more than one hot air balloon one! The one I’m thinking of was completely orchestral, very stringsy, not piano. (I’m just now listening to Song for Guy played by an orchestra, but it’s definitely not it.) It was more laid back and atmospheric, and more classical sounding. Argh, I can almost-but-not-quite hum it. It’s driving me nuts…

  20. Thanks for the nostalgia trip! These music videos are some of my earliest memories. I remember the hot air balloon one – it was one of my favourites! I think the music was Song For Guy (Elton John) – a piano piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3bSY6tXj3c.

    Another one was Sheena Easton on the train singing Morning Train (9 to 5) and Juice Newton (Angel of the Morning). I also loved Portsmouth, Tusk and Toccata and Fugue.

    I can vaguely remember the one with the gnomes being painted, as well as the one with the Labrador puppies – hope someone else has some more info on those.

  21. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have searched for the Love Is All clip for over 10 years – and no-one has ever heard of it. It is as fantastic watching it now as it was when I watched it as a girl.

    I’m grateful that there is at least one other person with classic nostalgic taste, in a world where there is too much crap being played.

    Ellie

  22. This is great. These were such a part of growing up in a small town in QLD. Has anyone found the Popcorn clip or the Hall of the Mountain King clip that the ABC played?

  23. As we enter ‘that time of year’, and now that I’m a ‘grown up’ with children of my own, I remember a set of fillers during the late 70’s early 80’s. It was to the tune ‘Musicbox dancer’ and it showed children doing Christmas activities, for some reason I remember it being in Adelaide? Around a large Myer type shop. At the end they open a door on an advent calendar. I always looked forward to this as a little girl, wish I could find it now. Does anyone else remember it?

  24. I have been seeking out the music which accompanied the hot-air balloons for years. I can still hear it clearly in my head.
    Magic stuff, as was the Butterfly’s Ball and Portsmouth etc.
    The music sounded like an originally composed modern piece in a classical style with a little more syncopation, a gentle pace and a full sweepingly majestic string orchestra sound.
    I am beginning to lose hope.
    Well done to all the “finders” above though!

  25. I spoke too soon!
    5 minutes after that post I used these search terms in YouTube: ABC Hot Air Balloons, and found a few seconds of the end of that ABC filler.
    Now, whilst the video gave no further info, one of the comments pointed out that the music was “Chi Mai” by Ennio Morricone.
    So there you go, mystery solved!
    (BTW, you can find various versions of this piece on YouTube, even one that I think sounds identical – memory serving correctly, that is.)

    P.S. My memory wasn’t so great for the music description in the previous post!

  26. Hi
    This was fantastic to have identified Mike Oldfield Portsmouth song. As a kid I used to look at the girls and think “man they look like their really enjoying themselves”. Another that I recently found was Al Jarreau “Morning” where it’s one of those live action animated film clips – easy listening and up-beat.
    if this is also open to shows as well as fillers I’ve been trying to identify a show that I gather was in the 80s on ABC. I remember it as a boy called Sam whose parents die in a car accident and he goes to live on his aunty’s farm and it’s a freaky place. He grafitti’s a rock with his name and it starts to follow him (because it’s been defaced or something) and he meets a pond-monster that spits at him at first and then makes friends and then these underworld creatures steal his uncle’s bulldozer and Sam and the pond-creature go to get it back.
    Driving me crazy what it was called or like Belinda said I dreamed it.

    • The Nargun and the Stars!!!

  27. Wonderful blog. Fantastic to identify the Mike Oldfield song Portsmouth – I remember watching it and thinking “man those girls look like they’re enjoying themselves”.
    I was wondering if this is open to shows as well as fillers. I’ve been going nuts trying to identify a show which I think was on in the ’80s about a boy called Sam whose parents die in a car accident and he goes to live with his aunt and uncle on a farm and it’s a freaky place. He grafitti’s a rock with his name which then seems to be upset and tries to follow him. He encounters a pond-monster which at first before revealing itself spits water at him but they make friends I think. Then these underground creatures steal Sam’s uncle’s bulldozer and Sam and the pond-creature go to retrieve it?
    Little help?

    • Was that The Nargun and the Stars?

  28. When television used to close transmission for the night, they used to play short music fillers before (I think) the national anthem. Does anyone have any clue where you can find this music. Pretty sure it was ABC Regional (Wagga) A very simple piano melody is the one I can’t get out of my head. Argh its driving me nuts!

  29. The ABC also screened Mike Oldfield’s Incantations http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3OhRJf4VFgU

  30. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3OhRJf4VFgUis is Incantation Part 4

  31. The one that I am trying to remember was regularly on during Heartbreak High in the late 80’s… it was kids playing basketball I think with a guitar that was quite melodic and soft and then went into heavy guitar sounding music. I am stuff if I can recall the music or artist…

  32. The rocket and moon clip is Mike Oldfield’s Incantations part 4 now available on utube

  33. I seem to remember one that was a rolling ball sculpture as well?
    Also one where the music was ‘popcorn’

    it’s all very hazy now….

  34. The one I remember best was the one of 18′ skiffs rscing on Sydney harbour to music from the Vangelis album “China”. Been looking online foie it foe a while with no success yet.

  35. I’m glad I’m not the only one obsessed with finding these clips. I’ve been looking for that Mike Oldfield one for years googling ‘abc fillers Skylab’! (So thanks- I could still sing the tune perfectly too)
    The gnome one- wow have not thought of that for 30 years surely! I remember being impressed with how shiny they were when they got their paint jobs.
    There was definitely Song for Guy too
    What a random collection is was!
    We loved the Butterfly Ball animation.

  36. Hi there, thanks for posting this, only just discovered the post yesterday, was awesome looking back at some of these clips…but what lead me here was a search I have been on for years…there was a filler clip the ABC played regularly in the late 70s (possibly also early 80s) that hasn’t been mentioned here or on other forums. It was an animation, quite surreal and used to freak me out a bit when I was very young. It could have been a film clip to a song…anyway what I recall of it is that it featured a dancing girl and a singing Mount Rushmore. Bizarre I know! But seriously this animation has haunted my memory for years, if anyone knows what it is, or where I could go to find out I would be very, very happy. Thanks! TjT

  37. Also nobody has mentioned The lonely Shepard or there was another instrumental that was played where you flew over scenery…i am not sure of the name of that one…

  38. Also peoples…does anyone remember the two filler tunes that were played.One was The Lonely Shepherd and there was another one where you flew of beautiful scenery but i don’t know the name of that tune.Does anyone know it please?

  39. and sorry about the third post but does anybody remember that the abc used to play XTC Senses Working Overtime? it was either early morning or late at night..there was also a second song but i don’t remember that song at all..

  40. Woohoo! I’m so happy to have found this – the identity of these songs have been driving me mad for years, especially that Mike Oldfield one (I wouldn’t even know how to begin searching for that…). The others are still so vivid in my memory, probably helped by the ABC’s somewhat repetitive programming (I know they had a small budget, but damn!) and having a young fresh brain back then. Also deeply, deeply scarred by “Bright Eyes” like so many others – no way they’d show that in a PG time slot these days.
    I seem to recall these clips used to come on after The Goodies or Dr Who every afternoon (maybe to fill in before the news?). Was the segment called “Take Five” or something? Two other songs that seemed to always be played were ‘Avalon’ by Roxy Music and ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ by The Buggles, which would have been very early 80’s. Not quite as eclectic as some of the others….
    Thanks for posting, I can die happy now (maybe to the tune of Portsmouth!).

  41. in the 1980s just before the 7pm ABC – there used to be a 5min Music clip show called Take Five? Anyone remember it – I am trying to find out the name of the theme song for that prgram


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