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Rocking Literally: The Story Behind "Take on Me," "Head Over Heels" Video Parodies

October 16, 2008 3:41 PM ET

Twenty-eight-year-old Dustin McLean had an inside joke with his colleagues at Current TV, where he works on animated satire show SuperNews: "Wouldn't it be funny if we sang very literally what was happening in music videos?" So the Los Angeles-based filmmaker/musician grabbed the karaoke track and iconic video for a-ha's "Take on Me" and voila — Internet magic. His hilarious parody clip, which replaces the song's vocals with his own voice and lyrics ("Come to me/Magic frame/Sing to you/Band montage!") has amassed more than 800,000 YouTube views since it was posted a week ago.

"I'm surprised people are taking to it so well," he admits. "I didn't think I was going to be able to hit those high notes." His second clip, for Tears for Fears' "Head Over Heels" is out now and McLean promises there's more to come: " 'Today' by Smashing Pumpkins has a pretty strange video and I can do a mean Billy Corgan." He also plans to tackle Marcy Playground's "Sex and Candy."

McLean got his start remaking songs from scratch — music included. Eagle-Eye Cherry's "Save Tonight," became "Shave Tonight" and he transformed "Breakfast at Tiffany's" into "Breakfast at Sesame Street" (they're available on his Website). McLean watched MTV as a "child of the '80s, back when they used to actually play music videos," and he's a YouTube junkie today. "I've seen a million 'Hey There Delilah' parodies, but I'm always disappointed. I wrote my own, but by the time I was going to shoot the video everyone had done it, I was too late."

His real muse, however, is "Weird" Al Yankovic. "He's one of my musical idols," McLean says. "He's the master of song parodies."

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

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