I was having a quiet evening in (just like 99.9% of all my other evenings) randomly leaping through YouTube, when I stumbled across the music video for the 80s one hit wonder Safety Dance by "Men Without Hats". Famous for its incomprehensible nonsense, coupled with a weirdly catchy tune, it was the band's only success, and is still popular amongst the nostalgic. And to match up the weirdness, the video is equally incomprehensible.
It begins with a man, Ivan Doroschuk, in pseudo-peasant dress skipping through a field, with a diminutive court jester (played by actor Mike Edmonds, who is great in the TV show Maid Marian and her Merry Men) when they spot a landmark and head off towards it. They meet up with an enthusiastic girl who is skipping along in her own way, where they reach a crossroads, and randomly choose a direction.
It takes them into a village, where they wait by a gate while continuing to dance, and are soon joined by locals and Morris Dancers in a parade down the main street, over a bridge, until they reach a farmyard where they have a May Day festival.
Pointless, but infectious, fun.
The "safety" dance, incidentally, is when you make an "S" shape with your arms, which they do a few times through the video. S for Safety, presumably.
Anyway, it occurred to me that I could probably find most of those locations in Google Maps.
Luckily Wikipedia solved half my initial obstacles by mentioning the exact village where it was filmed, called West Kington, in Wiltshire, in the UK. And amazingly it's barely changed in the intervening 25 years or so since it was filmed. There seems to be a commitment to preserve the old-timey feel of a lot of country villages in the UK, maintaining their chocolate box appeal for tourists and historians.
I present to you now a few comparison shots of the location, the map of which you can find in Google Maps here.
The sequence was filmed in two separate locations, so there's a subtle break in continuity, but that's not unusual in any kind of filming. In this case, the two locations are barely a mile apart from each other.
The field is still there, but they filmed it away from the roadside, so the Street View camera doesn't get the same angle. But after much searching (see next shot) I know this is the exact field, and the stone wall in the foreground of the video is that seen at upper left in the lower streetview pic. It is now overgrown with bracken.
You can see on this map the wall that leads away from the road, from the north to the south, towards the path. This matches the continuity of the video, where the characters walk through the field, to the corner of the wall, and then run down to the path.
I struggled to find this location, as the road is not a main one, and could have been private, where Street View rarely goes. I searched for the distinctive building on the hilltop. After matching up fields, pylons, buildings, and road divisions, I found the exact spot. And as you can see, it has barely changed at all.
And even more amazing, you see the log on the patch of grass in the music video? Well, it's still there! It's just been rolled a few metres away.
Then the sequence leaps to the village, and continuity is tight here. They start by skipping down the lane, west to east, past a house, up to a gate at the junction where the villagers cross a bridge, and straight into a farmyard.
This lane was a challenge, as there are three that radiate out from the village, and more beyond, so I had to look at each of them before determining which one it was. You can see the house behind them is the same, and the power pole to the left of shot also matches (a new pole, but in the same spot), with the shed behind the girl.
The girl then dances effusively in front of a couple of houses, which are distinctively recognisable by the fence palings and a red letterbox at the gate. Both remain unchanged.
The gate is just off the centre of the village, at the junction of three roads, a lot closer than the video implies. Though there are some considerable differences, and a mismatch due to the lenses used, you can recognise the same power poles in the field behind the gate.
Note the girl and Ivan (the lead singer) are each doing the "Safety Dance" "S" move.
The wide shot of the village bridge is deceptive. It's filmed in the middle of the field quite a distance behind the gate, and not as a POV from the gate. I couldn't find a matching angle in Street View, but you can see that there are vines on the main building just right of centre in the video shot, and also left of centre in the Street View angle, which are barely unchanged after 25 years. What's up with that?
In case you are confused by the different angles, if you look at the video frame, they are dancing on the bridge, marching from right to left. Whereas in the Street View shot, they would be coming towards us, with the bridge in the midground.
And finally a few metres down the road is a farm, with a large open courtyard, where they set up the fairground for the big dance finale. You can recognise the tractor shed and the long building as the most obvious matching features, though there are some minor alterations like new roof tiles and different paint jobs.
It was quite fun to go through it and confirm the locations, especially as it's such a beautiful, charming area. Whenever I found a match I got a thrill of recognition.
I am such a nerd.