in 2001 Robbie Williams, former Take That member, sparked controversy with his multi platinum single “Rock DJ” that in the R-rated music video features the stoke on Trent- born Robbie treating a group of young attractive girls to a striptease by taking off his clothes as he sings. As the song progresses he went all the way and further by peeling of his skin and throwing it around with shocking and disturbing results to the realms of grotesque to the frightening nature.
It’s very much in the vein of body horror that is commonly attributed to Clive Barker and many other horror giants, when the nightmare continues with Williams tearing off his skin and tossing it at the girls with them smearing the flesh on their faces, till only his skeleton is left, then the video fades to black.
The content was so frightening it was passed by the BBFC with a +15 rating, which is unusual, as his music was typically family-friendly, with classics as “Angels” and “Millennium”, but this was his first pop video that was aimed at a mature audience.
But showing the video in it’s entirety has been proven to be impossible with the BBC, due to their flagship music programme “Top of the Pops” that was aimed at a family audience. For airings before 7pm, the video had to be edited and toned down, Williams had to make up the missing parts of the video with footage of a studio rehearsal
MTV showed the -almost- “uncut” version after 9pm, with some moderate edits.
Nonetheless, the video later received critical acclaim due to its visuals, that blended make-up effects and state of the art computer graphics, mostly realized with Williams in an mo-cap suit, that gives the grand illusion of body horror and got awarded for “Best Special Effects” at the MTV music awards. The video still popular among fans today. When I first saw the video I was shocked by its graphic nature of the video it felt like I was watching an video nasty featuring body horror .
But simultaneously I was also rather entertained by the art direction and how well it was executed and here are my personal thoughts on the video: Basically it was the best video I have seen since “Thriller” by Michael Jackson and that video was rated an +18 due to its horror overtones and also couldn’t be shown in the “uncut”-version before 9pm.
“Rock DJ” became an MTV-staple for the Halloween season and it’s still a fave of mine to this very day .
Finally, the music video: