Unbeknownst to many classic film fans, there was a mini-Psycho made between the original in 1960 and the lame sequel Psycho II in 1983. It was a music video called NORMAN BATES and it horrified many a sleepless pre-teen who stumbled upon it in the wee hours of MTV.
Landscape was one of dozens of early ‘80s British synth-pop bands who would never have garnered any attention stateside without the miraculous invention of MTV. These guys weren’t exactly on par with Ultravox, but their songs were catchy and they didn’t take themselves too seriously.
Inspired by Hitch’s masterpiece, the Brian Grant-crafted clip is an impressively original mélange of Psycho, gothic British castle drama and pop video fun.
A heroine who looks astoundingly like Janet Leigh, even down to the severely stenciled brows, has apparently picked up a hitch-hiking Norman and is toting him around town in her Ford sedan. There’s a twist Milton Arbogast wouldn’t have seen coming.
She glimpses a couple of Landscapers in her rearview and is disturbed: their deadpan nerdiness is so extreme it's actually unsettling, yet it’s only a harbinger of what’s to come. Once Marion and Normie make their way into the gothic castle of horrors (Norm & Mom must have finally gotten the money to build that new motel!), it’s one fright after another.
Amid dank chambers and creepy taxidermy experiments (a man should have a hobby, after all), the band members beat their drums savagely and play their instruments with a psychotic vengeance as poor Marion stumbles around the house screaming.
Eventually she comes across Norman draped in a fetching Victorian shawl and runs for her life. She knows bescarfed men are generally up to no good, "normal" guys or not.
No shower scene in this clip (those British castles are just too drafty to go au naturale), but plenty of atmosphere and eerie chanting.
There are only 10 words in the entire song (My name is Norman Bates / I’m just a normal guy) sung over and over again in a synthesized monotone. Naively simple, even silly perhaps – but man does that chorus wedge itself into the brain! Try listening to it once without waking up at 3 am with that phrase running through your mind like a crazed hamster on a wheel. Just try it.