Ladies and gentlemen, I found it.
Since I posted about that video I’ve been busy. I put out the call, telling everyone I was looking to identify an early 80s music video featuring a guy in an apocalyptic setting
some dudes with, like, stepladders on their backs or something
and a woman holding a letter Y
and a lot of folks scratched their noggins and did some searching and made some suggestions as to what it might be, but nothing was panning out. I reached out on Twitter to Ellen DeGeneres, Roger Ebert, and the High Priestess of MTV herself, Martha Quinn (none returned my calls).
I emailed Stephen Pitalo at The Golden Age of Music Video who is a music video historian. He couldn’t think of anything that matched my description, but was able to confirm that there was no video for “Waiting for a Girl Like You” other than performance videos.
This evening I was just bouncing around YouTube, hoping desperately to see something that would jog my memory. I was in the process of downloading a 6-hour block of MTV programming — commercials and all — from a random Friday evening in 1982 in the hopes that what I was looking for might be in it.
With nothing but dead ends, I tried a different tactic. I looked for the Billboard Top 100 songs of 1981 and scanned them to see if anything jumped out at me. And sure enough, something did.
Barely even making it onto the list at number 96 was “Really Wanna Know You” by Gary Wright. And that title looked familiar. I searched it on YouTube and as soon as I heard the music I started to feel even more on the track. Then I jumped to the middle of the video and I knew right away I’d found it. (I literally yelled downstairs, “FOUND IT!”)
Here’s the mystery video, the white whale, the Kwitzatz Haderach. “Really Wanna Know You” by Gary Wright.
The guy here with the impressive CV is Brian Grant, who directed this video. Look at all the great stuff he did! “Black Coffee in Bed”, “Shock the Monkey”, “Don’t Cry”, “Kids in America”! Plus a bunch of Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, and he was pretty much T’Pau’s go-to director!
So it’s pretty much just as I remember. It’s clear to see why I thought it might be that Foreigner song; they’re very similar. I don’t know why I found this so spooky, though. Probably just the general level of weirdness and the enigmatic “Y”. It’s no “Icehouse”, though.
I cannot adequately describe what a relief it is to FINALLY get to the bottom of this. This has tormented me for years. Thanks to everyone who helped out, and I’m sorry for transferring my obsession to others, but glad it got resolved so soon.
* – which was itself the source of a different musical mystery for me a few years back.