The 70s were a time when a new generation of young people were exposed to new media and hence newer ideas in almost every field. TV and motion picture brought to varied audiences images, lifestyles and music from diverse regions and peoples. This led to the emergence of a new vocabulary and experimentation in music.
On The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, which ran from 1971 to 1974, director Chris Bearde enlisted animator John David Wilson to direct animated segments of current hits of the day reinterpreted by the duo. Songs included Coven's "One Tin Soldier", Three Dog Night's "Black and White" and Melanie's "Brand New Key". Wilson later went on to self-produce many more animated videos for artists such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Jim Croce. The promotional clip continued to grow in importance, with television programs such as The Midnight Special and Don Kirshner's Rock Concert mixing concert footage with clips incorporating camera tricks, special effects, and dramatizations of song lyrics. The film of the Woodstock Festival, and the various concert films that were made during the early 1970s, such as Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen and Pink Floyd's Live at Pompeii concert film used rhythmic cross-cutting.
In 1971, avant-garde group The Residents began filming what was supposed to be the first feature length music video "Vileness Fats". Due to time constrains and technical problems, the group abandoned the project in 1976. The group would, however, create videos for "The Third Reich 'n Roll" (which used props from Vileness Fats), "One Minute Movies", "Hello Skinny", and their cover of "It's A Man's Man's Man's World". Nicolas Roeg's 1970 cult film Performance contains a sequence in which star of the film Mick Jagger did a rendition of "Memo From Turner" combined with a psychedelic collage.
Many countries with local pop music industries soon copied the trend towards promo film clips. In Australia, promotional films by Australian pop performers were being made on a regular basis by 1966; in 1968 singer Lynne Randell featured in one of the first promotional clips for an Australian act that was filmed in colour, but most Australian clips from this period were in black and white, because Australia did not convert to colour TV until early 1975. 1970–71, Australian musician and filmmaker Chris Lofven made (monochrome) promotional films for two of the biggest Australian hits of the period—Daddy Cool's "Eagle Rock" and Spectrum's "I'll Be Gone". These were widely screened on Australian TV at the time and played a significant role in the success of the songs, which both became national #1 hits.
The genre-defining surf films of Bruce Brown, George Greenough and Alby Falzon and others are also notable for their innovative combinations of image and music featuring sequences of specially-filmed surfing footage, carefully edited against long music tracks, with no accompanying dialogue. Greenough's landmark 1972 film Crystal Voyager concluded with an extended sequence (filmed and edited by Greenough) that was constructed around the 23-minute Pink Floyd track "Echoes". The band was impressed with Greenough's effort and agreed to allow Greenough to use their music in his film in exchange for the right to use his film footage when performing "Echoes" at their concerts.
During late 1972–73 David Bowie featured in a series of promotional films directed by pop photographer Mick Rock, who worked extensively with Bowie in this period. These clips are important landmarks in the development of the music video genre in the 1970s, and they are also notable because they were made by a professional photographer rather than an established film or TV director, and because Rock was given total creative control over the clips. Mick Rock directed and edited four clips, all originally shot on 16 mm colour film, to promote four consecutive David Bowie singles—"John, I'm Only Dancing" (May 1972), "The Jean Genie" (Nov. 1972), the December 1972 US re-release of "Space Oddity" and the 1973 release of the single "Life On Mars" (lifted from Bowie's earlier album Hunky Dory). Mick Rock cites the "Life On Mars" clip as his favorite of the four.
The clip for "John, I'm Only Dancing" was made with a budget of just US$200 and filmed at the afternoon rehearsal for Bowie's Rainbow Theatre concert on 19 August 1972. It shows Bowie and band miming to the record intercut with footage of Bowie's dancers The Astronettes dancing on stage and behind a back-lit screen. The clip was turned down by the BBC, who reportedly found the homosexual overtones of the film distasteful, although Top of the Pops replaced it with footage of bikers and a dancer. The "Jean Genie" clip, produced for just US$350, was shot in one day and edited in less than two days. It intercuts footage of Bowie and band in concert with contrasting footage of the group in a photographic studio, wearing black stage outfits and standing against a white background. It also includes location footage with Bowie and Cyrinda Foxe (a MainMan employee and a friend of David and Angie Bowie) shot in San Francisco outside the famous Mars Hotel, with Fox posing provocatively in the street while Bowie lounges against the wall, smoking.
In 1978 Canadian filmmaker Denis Koufoudakis created EXIT, a Super 8 student film that depicted a youth’s struggles with choices in an information overload era and his nagging thoughts of suicide. EXIT featured Boston’s Foreplay/Long Time for its soundtrack and was one of the first films of its kind to be recognized at an international film festival as it received an Honorable Mention. The rock video style short, having been shot on Super 8 film stock was damaged and is slated to undergo a digitized restoration for its 35th year anniversary.