Queen Astarte’s Battle for the Skies AKA “Special”

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“In the year 3030, Queen Astarte has taken to the skies to defend her once peaceful homeland from the evil lords of Garbania, who seek to rule the universe. She has but one last chance to thwart their wicked plan . . . “

. . . reads the opening scroll to the music video to the 1998 song “Special” by the band Garbage, which then launches into a video game like world of Dieselpunk inspired fighter planes.

garbage special

“Special” was a moderate hit in the United Kingdom and Australia in October 1998, but then became a sleeper hit in the United States the following year. The song’s success was marked by becoming nominated in the Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group categories at the 2000 Grammy Awards, and winning a Wisconsin Area Music Industry award for Song of the Year and a Citation of Achievement from the BMI Pop Awards.

garbage special 2The music video was filmed over a four-day shoot in London at the end of August 1998 by director Dawn Shadforth for Black Dog/RSA Films. Shadforth came to Garbage’s attention when they viewed her clip for “Beat Goes On” by electronica group All Seeing I. Her innovative storyboard treatment for “Special” highly impressed the band – her concept was not an obvious idea for a song like “Special”.

Shadforth’s concept featured the members of Garbage in a dogfight in the skies of an alien world. Before production of the video commenced, Shadforth fashioned four study models of the fighter planes to enable her to plan in advance the shots and edits she needed to tell the storyline. The planes were designed by graphic artists who had worked on visual effects for Lost In Space and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

garbage special 3Each band member was given a personalized plane design, emblazoned with imagery inspired by manga and sci-fi art; while each filmed their parts in a cabin set built upon a gimbal to give realism to the shots. Stylist William Baker, who worked on the video, said “Dawn wanted to present Shirley Manson as a space-age fighter pilot, with shots showing her sexily manipulating the controls of her craft”. Shadforth later used techniques she used on the “Special” video in her 2001 music video for Kylie Minogue‘s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head“.

The video received nominations from music industry award panels; winning a D&AD Award, a MTV Video Music Award, and a VH1 Visionary Video award.

The first incarnation of the game Crimson Skies also came out in 1998, for which the airplane designs are almost identical to those used in the “Special” video. Coincidence? Or did one inspire the other?

Crimson Skies 2

Listen to more Outer Space Music HERE and see what happens when you get stuck between rock and a dork place.


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