Front 242’s stark “Headhunter” video featured an Egg Head Lady loose in an Expo ’58 landscape

By on March 6, 2018

The curious story behind Front 242’s stark black & white “Headhunter” video — we found it in this episode of Night Flight’s “New Sounds,” which originally aired on December 10, 1988, and you can now find it streaming on Night Flight Plus — is just one of the interesting stories associated with the Belgian industrial synth-punk outfit.

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Originally, the band had wanted to work with Danish director Lars von Trier because they liked his film The Element of Crime, but he proved to be too expensive.

They next turned to Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn, now noted for his iconic work with bands like U2 and Depeche Mode, who Front 242 had just toured with.

The band had also liked his photos of Joy Division, and hired him to direct their video, asking him to come up with conceptual ideas.

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Weirdly, Corbijn misheard the song’s title as “Egghunter,” which he thought was so intriguing that he came up with literal images associated with eggs, and even after he was told the correct song title, he decided to keep his original ideas intact.

The video features an Egg Head Lady (occasionally seen topless, though not so NSFW enough that it needs to be pointed out, really) running loose a desolate urban industrial landscape, which turns out to have been the site of Expo ’58 (also known as the Brussel’s World’s Fair).

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Seen in the background of the video is the Berlaymont building, the Atomium — a massive iron and crystal structure with gigantic steel globes, each sphere representing an atom — and the Phillips Pavilion, housing a multi-media spectacle celebrating post-World War II technological progress; it was designed by French-Swiss designer Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret) for the electronic company based in the Netherlands.

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Lyrically, the track was sung from the perspective of a bounty hunter (“headhunter” in the parlance of the job), although more than one popular interpretation of their chant of “I’m looking for this man!” would point out that it was clearly a reference to the same-sex desire suggested by the song’s title.

The song’s verses also featured lyrics with negative depictions of dirty deals done in the corporate world which weren’t too different than slavery (“I’m looking for this man, to sell him to another man, at ten times his price at least”).

Front 242’s Jean-Luc DeMeyer would later say that the idea came from the period in his life when he worked in the Human Resources department of a large insurance company, which he described as being populated with “very polite and very nice with men in suits, but at the same time it was very cut-throat.”

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Read more about Front 242’s “Headhunter” video below.

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Daniel Bressanutti and Dirk Bergen formed Front 242 in 1981 in Aarschot, a city in the province of Flemish Brabant, in Flanders, Belgium.

They became early architects of EBM, a term which stands for “electronic body music,” which was coined by Kraftwerk.

EBM combines elements of industrial music and synth-punk, and was first heard in recordings by great ’70s bands like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire.

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According to an interview Front 242 did with Melody Maker (September 3, 1988), their name has no actual meaning.

The word “front” is the same in a number of languages (English, French, German, Scandinavian), while the number “242” was seen frequently in Europe: it’s the number of the resolution (Resolution 242) for the creation of Israel, and at one time was the number of Resistance fighters that had been killed in France, for instance.

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After the Belgian duo had already released a few Front 242 singles — beginning with “Principles” and ending with their 1981 hit, “Body to Body” — they were joined by new members Jean-Luc De Meyer (vocals) and Patrick Codenys (keyboards).

They released a single (“U-Men”) and their first full-length album Geography, which was then followed by Bergen leaving the group as a performer to become their manager.

In 1983, Jean-Luc, Patrick and Daniel were joined by Richard 23 (Richard Jonckheere), who added vocals and percussion to the mix.

It’s with this lineup that they would go on and release several more singles and additional albums, including No Comment in 1984.

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Front 242 also founded its own label and their own organization, used to promote music from Belgium.

By 1985, they were playing in the United States and at large festivals across Europe.

Two years later they would sign to the WaxTrax! label in the U.S., and Red Rhino, their label in the EU.

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Front 242’s single for “Headhunter” arrived just a few weeks into the new year of 1988, well past the probable peak of EBM.

As it was with the video for the track, the song itself benefited from a series of serendipitous accidents in the studio.

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For one, the band had loaded the wrong sound diskette into their sampler, and suddenly found the punchy bass parts they’d recorded for the track sounded strangely like it had been played, as one writer described, like “a cello made of scrap metal.”

The song itself found near immediate success on the British single charts, reaching #13 on Billboard‘s Dance Club Songs chart in the U.S. and becoming one of the most famous EBM tracks ever recorded.

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Front By Front – the album that contained not just one but two versions of the song (Version 1.0 and Version 3.0 — Version 2.0 was one of their b-sides) — would go on sell over ninety thousand copies for the WaxTrax! label, their highest sales ever for the imprint at that point.

Watch Night Flight’s “New Sounds,” which originally aired on December 10, 1988, over on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.