Two music videos directed by Bernard Rose during the 1980s are featured in Noel Murray’s article, “MTV After Dark: 15 R-rated (or at least PG-13) music videos of the ’80s” at A.V. Club
7. Frankie Goes To Hollywood, “Relax” (1983)
As much marketing strategy as musical endeavor, Liverpool pop group Frankie Goes To Hollywood was pushed by its label, ZTT, to be provocative, beginning with first single “Relax,” with its not-so-veiled descriptions of screwing and ejaculating. In the age when Prince was a chart-topper, the near-pornographic “Relax” was fairly common Top 40 fare. The twist was that the Frankie frontmen were openly gay, so the erotic imagery of the band’s ads, posters, and records tended toward the shamelessly priapic, rather than the neutered Ken-doll beefcake of “Physical” or “It’s Raining Men.” The original Bernard Rose-directed “Relax” video—banned by the BBC, and pretty much every other TV outlet worldwide—was set in a Fall Of Rome-themed leather bar, where hairy men clutch bananas and wrestle each other while a bloated emperor gets a shave and leers. Beyond merely cheeky, the “Relax” clip celebrates gay lust in a way that still seems radical, and was downright revolutionary amid the homophobic mainstream culture of the mid-’80s.
8. Bronski Beat, “Smalltown Boy” (1984)
Unlike the smut-for-smut’s-sake of so many ’80s videos, the eroticism of Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy” serves a larger purpose. Echoing the storyline of the song, the Bernard Rose-directed clip shows lead singer Jimmy Somerville taking a train away from his hometown, reflecting on an incident in which he flirted with a handsome lad in the locker room of a swimming pool, and then was beaten to a pulp for it. The narrative and style of the “Smalltown Boy” video is a lot like the neo-kitchen-sink cinema that was becoming prevalent in the U.K. in the early ’80s (in movies like Stephen Frears’ My Beautiful Laundrette and Mike Leigh’s Meantime), with a focus on small details, like the hero’s estrangement from his father and the refuge he finds with like-minded friends. But the reason it all works so well is because the central crush isn’t abstract. The small-town boy of “Smalltown Boy” stares longingly at the half-naked body of the diver he fancies, and that sense of impossible want informs all the drama that follows.