Laura Branigan - Self Control

Somewhere in my head is a radio station that only plays songs I heard in West Germany 1983 to 1986. Here's one of them:

If you're unfamiliar, here's the YouTube. I'd embed it here, but the vagaries of YouTube links have rendered too many previous posts full of dead-links. So, this way, if that link dies, there's just a single word to skip over (and this tedious explanation) not a Twin Peaks-y rectangle saying "This Video Does Not Exist."

Another qualifier for this mental radio station: this doesn't include anything I heard on record or tape. These songs are exclusively things I heard on AFN. (Also playing? "Tarzan Boy," "Into the Groove," "Somebody's Watching Me," "Let the Music Play," and "Shot in the Dark." Among others, sure.) These aren't songs I ever saw music videos for, either. Those were hard to come by in the rough-and-tumble-no-MTV-wilderness of the early-to-mid-80s one hundred clicks from the Iron Curtain.

So, when I made a YouTube playlist equivalent of this mental radio station and discovered the video for "Self Control," I was three decades too late to its controversies. Watching it - as we'll hopefully see below - also put a hell of a spin on this tune that's been stuck in my head all this time. What struck me more, though, was how contemporary it seemed. It's the same terrain explored in nowadays videos by Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, and Miley Cyrus, among many others.

Unlike the good folks at Vigilant Citizen, * a site I like for its shock-horror entertainment value ** but dislike for its clusterfuck of ads and self-starting videos, I don't necessarily see this as evidence of a long-running control experiment conducted by our Illuimanti betters. For me, the sameness of it suggests only the banality of narcissism. Sexy, crazy narcissism. But I'm not here to solve the mystery, merely to screencap it.

* I'm tempted to summarize the VC position or provide a link, but I'm half-convinced it's the work of psy-ops cybernauts, so I'm just protecting us all from a Senate sub-committee.

** I am obviously a MK-conditioned-culture-vulture. 

Anyway, to the video.

Directed by William Friedkin? What? Also, I apologize for the VH1-Classic logo in the bottom right.

Our story begins with this cutaway from the open sunflower to this creepy doll.

Make of that what you will. Here's what Vigilant Citizen would probably make of it:

I'm old, so I had to look up who Sarah Hyland is. In case you haven't heard/ didn't click that link above - and no worries on either score, friends and neighbors - "MK" refers to MK-ULTRA, the CIA mind-control experiments. Those actually happened. Did they ever end? Opinions vary. This'll be the last I mention them for awhile, but the Vigilant Citizen perspective is that they very much did not and are transmitted regularly through the fashion and pop celebrity industry. One part Zoolander, two parts Manchurian Candidate, shake and serve over Videodrome.

You don't need to worry too much about any of that, though, to engage the craziness of the video directly. The camera pans from the creepy doll to Laura absently fondling herself with a sleeping shirtless man in the background. Everything suggests post-coital mind-wandering.

She brings those righteous eyebrows to the window and "parts the curtain."

Now we enter her fantasy, as she arches her back suggestively before the mirror, imagining herself not as the woman we just saw masturbating in a chair to relieve her unfulfilled sexual desire but as something else entirely:

Eyes wide shut, she's joined by this otherworldly enabler. Sort of a speak of the devil and the devil appears sort of deal.

Another mirror, this one emanating from her womanhood.
It's the 80s, so every video has to have the singer walking along neon streets.

Interesting composition, here.
A car approaches.

Laura's struggle so far is with her own free will. She's burdened by her own sovereignty and aches to lose herself in someone else (you take my self / you take my self control.) All wrapped up in sex, of course: Fifty Shades of Laura.

You'll notice one of her eyes is covered. It more than likely means: her hair has fallen over one eye. OR DOES IT? As mentioned above, Vigilant Citizen may very well be some kind of honeytrap-of-the-mind sort of site, but one thing it has definitely opened my eyes to (BOTH of them) is how widespread this one-eye-covered thing is with today's fashion and pop royalty.

I'm a fan of Manly P. Hall, an author and uber-freemason who spilled considerable ink on the origins and evolution of occult symbolism. Unlike other commentators on the topic, his was an intellectual interest; he was neither warning nor promoting anything, simply cataloging the evolution of symbols ("Mystery Babylon") over thousands of years. Very rich reading, if you're into that sort of thing. And if you're not, again no worries. Americans are familiar with the All-Seeing Eye from their Federal Reserve Notes, but this one-eye-covered thing has much older roots: the Eye of Horus.

Katy Perry doubles down, just to make sure no one misses the connection.
I mean, look: believe what you like. Sincerely. It very well may be that there is a dedicated cadre of behind-the-scenes handlers who make sure fashion and pop icons promote occult symbolism in exchange for mystical, Moloch-derived dominion over the rest of us poor unbelieving saps. As for me, I see it as a case of monkey-see, monkey-do, the way Motley Crue passed themselves off as Satanists, i.e. because it was trendy and it's what they saw the cool kids doing.

Or why we see these kids in practically every horror film over the past twenty years:

I'm digressing like a copulator of one's maternal progenitor. I just wanted to draw a direct line from the themes and imagery of "Self Control" to themes and imagery in active circulation in 2014.

Laura follows the masked man from the car and into a dark labyrinth.

And stumbles into an orgy of masked, writhing bodies, with the man waiting for her amidst the throng.

"Join... us..."

Apparently, the orgies of the damned have dudes with Phil Hartman masks, as well:

Seriously! Right?
Laura is unready, though, to take the final plunge.
She runs down a hallway where arms reach out to ensnare and grope her.
This is of course a visual reference to Roman Polanski's Repulsion.

Here's where the video takes a dark (well, darker) turn. Having made her escape, Laura returns home, but like Christine in Hellraiser or so many female protagonists in similar fictions discover, you can't just get a little bit pregnant when it comes to courting the devil. Certain boxes, once opened, can never be closed again. Her apartment is now filled with these writhing weirdos.

Equally unsurprisingly, the masked man materializes through the window as if a vampire.

And things end the way these things always seems to:
Eye of Horus again!
(Not from the video, obviously.)
And the masked revelers sit back to watch the devil and Laura have the sort of rapey sex that seems to be being celebrated as empowering / liberating. I guess, as always, the devil's in the context of who's watching. Or something. Few messages are more mixed in this crazy-ass country. Speaking of who's watching:

Do they represent us, the audience? Or Laura's new peer group?
His seed spent, the devil / masked-dude and his band of 80s-ified Bacchante disappear.
Leaving Laura glassy-eyed - is she traumatized? Finally fulfilled? Forever transformed?
I live among the creatures of the night 
I haven't got the will to try and fight
Against a new tomorrow, so I guess I'll just believe it
That tomorrow never knows.

Is this a newfound wisdom or the mantra of the Monarch slave? Again, cross-reference to any half-dozen Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus, or Britney Spears videos/ performances. Or Fifty Shades of Grey or whatever you like. This story and these motifs come around so much we might as well recognize them as archetypes.

The video ends - unbelievably - on an even twistier note.

She wakes - it was all a dream. Her husband stirs...
Oh-oh-oh! (BNNG!) And then:

So... have we just seen a story about sexual assault? Or liberation through sexual alchemy? A warning about the dangers of perversion? (i.e. "Laura fantasized, and look what happened to Laura...")

How does it square with the lyrics? That last image (the doll from the beginning, its shirt torn open and one eye closed/ battered) certainly suggest this is a story about sexual assault and trauma, perhaps for an individual, perhaps for all women metaphorically. Do the lyrics? Is the video fleshing out the song's meaning or adding a whole different spin to it? It's kind of an odd match, don't you think? Or perhaps it's about something even bigger, using sexual assault only as a metaphor. VC again:

I found some exploration of Friedkin's music video work out there but little in the way to explain what the hell is going on in this video, beyond the literal sequence of events. I couldn't find any interview with Laura Branigan to give her side of it, either. If anyone has any more info or his or her own interpretation, please send my way. What I'd really like to read is a breakdown of it all from Camille Paglia or someone like that.

Whatever the ultimate rationale behind the video or true meaning of the song, I've been singing "Oh-oh-oh! (BNNNG!) Oh-oh-oh! (BNNNG!)" for thirty years running and likely for thirty - or however many I get - more.


  1. This song.. and this music video is just scary.

    1. I agree on the video, but I find the song pretty unscary. But, I'm an 80s kid.

  2. God damn, I love Dog Star Omnibus. I also love this song, and (like you) have for thirty-plus years now.

    Unlike you, I did see the video -- many, many times -- when it was in its prime. Being what you might call a rather unworldly child, I had no friggin' clue what was actually going on during it. I simply took it as a horror-movie-type video, not unlike "Thriller" or any number of metal vids, and that's where it got classified in my headspace.

    I haven't seen it in years, but rewatching it now -- and reading about it -- caused me to have a "oh SHIT, is THAT what that was about?!?" moment of such intensity that I damn near swooned. Granted, I just finished working a fourteen-hour shift, so maybe that was a contributing factor, too. Still...

    I tend to not put much stock in the type of stuff that Vigilant Citizen (a site I'm unfamiliar with) espouses. But ideas like that are compelling; I like to listen to Clyde Lewis's show Ground Zero once in a while, which is where I get most of my paranoid ravings. And hey, for all I know, there's something to it.

    I had not noticed that "eye of Horus" business before, and like you, I tend to think it's just one person unimaginatively copying another one, and so forth, and so forth. The thing like that that bugs me is people photographing only half of a face. It can be a vertical half or a horizontal half, but either way you do it, it pisses me off, because it's just stupid. The first time I remember seeing it was on the teaser posters for "The Matrix Reloaded." It was stupid then, and it's been stupid every time I've seen it since.

    Conspiracy? Eh...I tend to think not. But how would I know for sure? So maybe.

    And on that note, I'm going to go think about Laura Brannigan masturbating. Specifically, I'm going to ponder how amusing it is that I must have seen that video a gajillion times, but never managed to consider that something might be happening just below the bottom of the frame. Pretty funny, '80s Bryant; pretty funny.

    1. The half-face thing - I do like the one-half of face cloaked in darkness (i.e. the Meet the Beatles cover, or Van Halen's OU812 cover) effect, but I think I know what you mean. I hate mindlessly-swiped trends. Humans are so ridiculous, when it really comes down to it. It's difficult to square the Einsteins and Picassos with everyone/thing else.

      Yeah all that mind-control stuff doesn't quite seem to make sense to me. In the end, my take on all that stuff is usually more aligned with Alan Moore's, bless his snake-god-worshipping self: while there are multiple conspiracies of action running at any one time, if you push your way past all the conspirators and get to the metaphorical back of the boat, you'll find the human race is on a rudderless ship. No one group/individual dictates to the rest, and no consortium of groups/individuals truly rules the world. That's just how it seems to me. I get a kick out of the various theories and likely always will.

      This beta-programming/ monarch-kitten-slave stuff, most especially. It gives me the same scare that horror movies used to. Then I go and think about something else. Or, end up applying it on 80s videos.

      Still, the similarities in imagery and theme are interesting, eh? Of course, if it's all using the same occult symbolism as source material, and certain archetypes of abuse/ domination, etc. it makes sense.

      Anyway! Very happy you enjoyed.

  3. Stephen King once said complete paranoia is complete awareness. Then again, if PKD is anything to go by, being aware must not amount to much.

    Seriously though, I'm only just now catching up to the 80s (should I be alarmed that I find a lot of the old synth AOR soothing somehow?). So I don't really know much about Branigan, or her thoughts about this song.

    Going strictly by the lyrics, I'd have to say it's about prostitution, really. The addition of Friedkin's seems to just be adding a class conflict element to the mix. The idea being that an upscale living (Yuppie?) woman would turn to prostitution and illicit nightlife sex out of boredom/alienation/ALF reruns etc.

    That's all I can think of, really. As for the symbolism in the vid. You're probably right in calling just archetypes. A good source book I've found for the kind of Illuminati/Rosicrucian symbolism in a lot of modern media is a work of lit crit mostly concerned with the past. In "Darke Hieroglyphics", Stanton J. Linden details how the symbols of old ancient cultic religions found there way into works by Chaucer, Shakespeare etc. Artists simply discovered it was the way their fiction conveyed their meaning, and it had nothing to do with no underground bases hidden in Switzerland or anything like that. In fact the answer is much more Jungian in nature, just the way the imagination seems to roll. Anyway. these symbols, most of them derived from Alchemy kept showing up in various works so that it became an artistic tradition, and the irony is that this tradition still survives in some form in most of the books and films made today.

    A link for Linden's book can be found here:



    1. Your analysis seems sound to me. I agree - I think a lot of the overlap between Rosicrucian symbolism - or anything like that, the signs and signifiers of Myster Babylon - are just the way the human imagination seems to roll.

      It makes me think of the Crimson King's beam-breakers and their baffling employment of strange symbols and markings. There's probably something to the idea that signs and symbols rule this world and not laws or people. We're all trapped inside some Dungeons and Dragons magic item: a wizard's gem, protected by Level 36 spellwork...

      That book sounds interesting. I love that stuff.

    2. I'll tell you one group that were once definitely out to make a point of about mind control bck in the late 90s, U2, with their Zoo TV rock concert:



    3. Speaking of MK Ultra, of all the damned things, someone actually made a horror movie based around called "Banshee Chapter":


      I'm just left wondering whether or not the drug tests Ken Kesey subjected himself to (and which led to One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest) was part of that program. Would be way cool if it were, as we'd have six degrees from Kesey to King.


    4. For more info on either topic, I heartily recommend the book Acid Dreams (by I-forget-who) and the Tom Wolfe book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

    5. Haven't seen this Banshee Chapter, tho - instantly added to queue!