There was big hair. There was a lot of denim. And, of course, there was that famous black hat.
In the late 1980s, Debbie Gibson was pop music’s teen sensation, charting on the top 40 with 10 songs, including two #1 hits. (In 1988, “Foolish Beat” was her first song to top the charts, making her the youngest female artist to write, produce and perform a #1 single – a record that endures today.)
Gibson isn’t a teen anymore; she turns 45 on Monday. To celebrate, she watches some of her iconic ’80s videos with PEOPLE, and shares some behind-the-scenes secrets.
Only in My Dreams
Gibson’s first single hit #4 in early 1987, when she was just 16.
“There was a girl in my school named Michelle who I asked to be an extra in the video and she made a big stink out of the blue dress we asked her to wear. I loved it so much I ended up wearing it myself. It’s the baby blue dress with the red sash around the neckline.”
Shake Your Love
Gibson’s second single also hit #4 in America, and became her first international hit, reaching the top 10 in the U.K.
“It’s a little known fact that Paula Abdul choreographed this video. The dance sequences got chopped to bits, but it was super fun working with her. The first rehearsal was on the day of the big earthquake in Los Angeles that shook us all out of bed. Needless to say, no one arrived late!”
Out of the Blue
Her third consecutive hit, the title track of her album hit #3 on the singles chart – and cemented her as the it girl of 1988 pop music.
“My favorite scene was the pillow fight with my cousin Monica and sister Denise! My older sister Michele sewed and made the little outfit with the skirt and the bolero jacket. It was a family affair! My original band was all from Long Island and I even did musical theater growing up with Tommy Williams, who became my lead guitarist and can be seen in this video.”
Gibson’s first #1 hit, it ranked at number three on VH1’s 40 Most Awesomely Bad Break-up Songs Ever.
“We filmed this on South Street Seaport on St. Patrick s Day and everyone was drunk on the pier, while I was trying to emote.”
Lost in Your Eyes
Gibson’s biggest hit topped the charts for three weeks in 1989 and propelled her second album, Electric Youth to the top of the album charts.
“I still periodically talk to John Gallagher, who is the love interest in the video. Back then I guess I felt the need to show how versatile I could be in terms of looks, hence the scene with the pajamas and fuzzy moose slippers and the crazy Shirley Temple curly hair! Probably should have just stuck with the straight haired piano look. The round button down shirt I wore was something I stole from my sister’s closet.”
The video to “Electric Youth” became a staple on MTV (those angsty teens love their generational anthems). At the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards, the video received a moonman nomination for Best Art Direction in a video. (And no, that’s not a baby Olsen Twin at the beginning. We asked.)
“I can now learn choreography for a song in a day, but back then it took literally five full days for me to learn the choreography that was done by Barry Lather!”