LOST IN THE MEAT-MARKET — Tim Pope and the Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret

by Samantha Anne Scott

You’re a Tim Pope fan.

Whether you realize or not, one of your favorite goth, punk, or electro music videos was created by Pope. The list of musicians that Pope has created videos for is too long to list in its entirety here, but here’s a sampling: The Cure; Iggy Pop; The Cars; David Bowie; The Creatures; Bryan Ferry; Fatboy Slim; Ministry; Peter Murphy; The Pretenders; The Psychedelic Furs; Siouxsie and the Banshees; Queen; The Stranglers; and Soft Cell. Pope’s relationship with Soft Cell served as his entry into the music video business. And Pope’s artistic vision was influential in defining the new-wave/goth aesthetic that came into prominence in popular culture through MTV in the ’80s.

After graduating from film school, Pope worked as a cameraman at London-based HyVision, filming politicians and business leaders as they trained for television appearances. In 1980, Pope met Alex McDowell, a record sleeve designer. Rocking Russian, McDowell’s company, drew clients from bands such as The Rich Kids, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Iggy Pop. McDowell acted as matchmaker for the Pope-Soft Cell coupling.

Pope’s music video career started with his video for Soft Cell’s “Bedsitter” and other tunes. In 1981, Pope created an album-length video for Soft Cell’s full-length debut album, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret. According to lore — in this case transmitted by Wikipedia — the video for “Sex Dwarf” featured “a handful of real-life prostitutes, their pimp, a trainee doctor in leather trousers and a handful of maggots that Pope chucked in during filming of the song, causing a riot when the prostitutes fled from the St John’s Wood film studio. The video was later seized by the Scotland Yard Pornography Squad, but handed back soon after, as it was realized that hype was more at play than real facts about the video’s contents.”

I can’t speak to the accuracy of that report, but I adore Pope’s video for “Sex Dwarf.” With its ’80s club/BDSM garb, minimalist background, chainsaw and knife-wielding David Ball, scantily clad Marc Almond, and butcher shop/orgy theme, it’s like a new wave homage to Carolee Schneemann’s Meat Joy. Refresh your memory or make a new, NSFW one by watching Pope’s video for “Sex Dwarf,” embedded below.

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