Zbigniew Rybczyński’s high-concept video for the mysterious Iam Siam’s cult fave “She Went Pop”

By on November 3, 2017

One of the more popular episodes you’ll currently find streaming over on Night Flight Plus is our “Take Off to Music Video Directors” — it originally aired on October 25, 1985 — which looked at some of the visionary music video directors of the day, including Academy Award-winning, Polish-born filmmaker Zbigniew Rybczyński, who was interviewed in Night Flight’s NYC offices.

This episode provides a closer look at Rybczyński videos for Art of Noise’s “Close to the Edit” (be sure to read our longer post about the video here), Chuck Mangione’s “Diana D,” Grandmaster Flash’s “Sign Of The Times,” and “She Went Pop,” the rarely-seen high-concept cult fave video by a mysterious group called Iam Siam.

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By 1985, Rybczyński was already in demand as one of the top music video directors, particularly after his 1981 short film “Tango” (seen here) won the 1983 Oscar winner for Best Animated Short Film.

That film — which utilizes a process known as optical printing — featured thirty-six characters from different stages of life, representations of different times, who interact in one room, moving in loops, observed by a static camera.

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Rybczyński tells Night Flight that during the Oscar ceremonies, he stepped outside to have a cigarette, but when he tried to get back to the auditorium — wearing tennis shows with his tuxedo — security personnel wouldn’t let him back into the building, and he ended up being thrown in jail!

The same year our “Take Off to Music Video Directors” aired on “Night Flight,” he’d directed videos for (among others) Blancmange, Simple Minds (“Alive and Kicking”), Lady Pank (“Minus Zero,” also seen here), and, as we’ve mentioned above, the high-concept video for “She Went Pop” by the mysterious Iam Siam.

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Read more about Iam Siam and “She Went Pop!” below.

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“She Went Pop” is a catchy upbeat synth-pop dance track with with strange, voyeuristic lyrics by Stefan Vienna, a.k.a. Steven Weiner Marcus.

It tells the story of a fictional Hollywood starlet named Rena Devere, tempted by the dark side of celebrity in her quest to become a star on the silver screen before she ends up overdosing on drugs.

The video featured four hundred separate screen edits to create a composite image of Rena DeVere, who was portrayed by forty-eight different actresses.

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On March 2, 1986, L.A. Times rock journalist Chris Willman, in his “Sound and Vision” video roundup, described the video this way:

“Falling starlets abound in this fatalistic but fun fable of an actress’ rise and rapid decline. In his best clip in ages, Oscar-winner Rybczyński does his usual quick cuts and dissolves — between no fewer than 48 different models — to create one homogenous, doomed composite of a gorgeous female star destined for the silver screen and a coroner’s investigation.”

Willman adds:

“If you thought The Color Purple gave the male gender a bad name, get a load of this hyperkinetic montage: A pack of business-suited men teaches a little girl how to use lipstick, tries to collectively jump in the sack with her when she’s grown up, and gleefully watches as she succumbs to stardom, substance abuse and death. Whew! All this is set to a bouncy ditty that sounds like a a wiseacre ABBA anthem. The clip’s most amusing, arresting and haunting image is a procession of models singing while stretching out in neon dead-body outlines, as if trying them on for size.”

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Keyboardist Brian Rothschild had already developed the musical ideas for Iam Siam’s concept album by the time he met his future musical collaborator and business partner, David Sonenberg.

They also met up with a lyricist/songwriter calling himself Stefan Vienna, and — along with Larry Fast of Synergy fame, also noted for his gun-for-hire studio work with Peter Gabriel, Foreigner, Kate Bush, Bonnie Tyler, Nektar, Hall and Oates and many others — were able to turn their highly-ambitious concept album recordings into a one-off LP release for CBS Records, taking their band name from the title of one of its tracks.

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The back of the Iam Siam album details the story behind the Rena Devere saga, and includes what appears to be some kind of faked-up police communiqué about DeVere (“known to millions as ‘Baby Berlin'”).

Apparently the cops also had concerns about Captain Jonathan Earlyshow, who they claimed may or may not be involved in her death.

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There’s also something about a cult calling itself “The Way of the Star,” and persons who might have information about DeVere or the meaning behind strange symbols found “on her person at the time of death” were encouraged to write to a P.O. box in NYC (probably the band’s fan club address).

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Rybczyński tells Night Flight that he was “… looking for some kind of humor, because it really is very serious, I think, and if I did something very serious too it would be boring. I was looking for some contrast.”

The video for “She Went Pop” got heavy rotation from MTV, but the studio project overall failed to connect, and the project dissolved into obscurity.

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Brian Rothschild (left) with Yoko Ono and a student

In 1998, along with Sonenberg, Rothschild created the first version of the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a non-profit 501(c)(3) state-of-the-art mobile audio and HD video recording and production facility providing young people with tours of the studios and participation in free digital media production workshops.

Read more about it here.

Night Flight’s “Take Off to Music Video Directors” also profiles directors Lol Creme and Kevin Godley (ex-10cc), who discuss their videos for Visage, the Police, Herbie Hancock (“Rock-it”), and the uncensored Night Flight fave “Girls on Film” for Duran Duran, as well as the gorgeous video for their own song “Cry.”

Watch “Take Off to Music Video Directors” over on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, 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.