Four favorites and a few more

Best Music Videos Shot in Prague

1. Nights in White Satin; Moody Blues (1968)

Okay, I know it’s not really a music video. It’s a TV clip from an era when music videos as such didn’t exist. The Moody Blues were invited to Prague in August 1968 to appear on the German music-television show, “Europarty.” The show, hosted by multilingual talent Albert Raisner, ran from 1967-70 and showcased the biggest music stars of the day at venues around Europe. The Welsh singer Dame Shirley Bassey was also in town at the same time and sang some of her classic hits, including “Goldfinger” and “Big Spender,” for the show. Find a video of that incredible performance here.

Czechoslovakia at that time -- though still firmly behind the Iron Curtain -- was rapidly liberalizing under the leadership of reform-communist Alexander Dubček. The whirlwind changes that year had captured the country’s (and the world’s) imagination. You can imagine the optimism that must have gone into planning that Europarty show. What better way to showcase the changes and the beauty of Prague itself than by beaming directly into European households from the city's Charles Bridge.

And that’s probably what gets me most whenever I click on the link and watch the Moody Blues stand awkwardly on the bridge as they sing (lip-sync?) the words to their melancholy 1967 mega-hit, “Nights in White Satin.” The clip was shot on the afternoon of August 20, 1968. Incredibly, just a few hours later, without warning, hundreds of thousands of troops from the Warsaw Pact, led by the Soviet Union, would pour over Czechoslovakia's borders and put an end (until 1989) to those democratic reforms. Just as Soviet tanks rolled through Prague the next day, members of the band were being airlifted to safety by the British Royal Air Force. When you view this clip, you’re quite literally seeing Czechoslovakia's last day of freedom for the next 20 years.

Even the wistful lyrics to “Nights in White Satin” seem to speak to this coming tragedy (though maybe I’m reading too much into it):

Beauty I'd always missedWith these eyes beforeJust what the truth isI can't say anymore

Gazing at peopleSome hand in handJust what I'm going throughThey can't understand

And then there’s the video itself. There’s so much happening it’s hard to know where to start: Raisner's effusive enthusiasm; the weird, long take of the windmill; the excessive zoom shots of the spires (the cameraman was obviously into that); the wooden performance of the group itself — almost as if the band members didn’t quite know what they were doing there; and the enchanting passivity of the blonde woman with the high hair, and of the other students, sitting at the back to the right. You can almost feel the coming calamity in the air.

2. E-Bow The Letter; R.E.M, featuring Patti Smith (1996)

So what’s to love about this video? First off, Patti Smith’s voice is absolutely haunting. She takes what might have been just another Michael Stipe dirge (and we’ve probably all heard enough of those) and turns it into art. She hijacks the video and transforms it into her own song.

I also appreciate the way Prague is contextualized here. There’s no conscious effort to weave in the city’s beauty — no bridge or castle shots, no Old Town Square. Instead, Prague wanders into the video as just another place on earth at about the 3’00" mark. It’s refreshing and appropriate to the period during which the video was shot. By the mid-1990s, Prague was passing from myth to reality — from a mysterious beauty behind the Iron Curtain to essentially what it is: a normal city, with more going on than the Charles Bridge. 

That said, Prague — just like Smith’s voice — is also hauntingly beautiful, even sad in spots. I feel some of that same odd pathos in viewing the shots of the tram trundling along the blueish, wet streets (Patti squirming in the seat) as I do in watching the Moody Blues performing on Charles Bridge just hours before the Warsaw Pact invasion.

And, the scenes filmed in the Main Train Station (Hlavní nádraží) at the end of the song are bizarre and powerful. It’s hard to find a public space in the entire city that better recreates the harsh realities of the communist era — though here the station has been re-imagined as a metaphor for universal feelings of lost connection and alienation (broken up only by the clown-like uniform worn by a Czech Rail employee as he finishes his shift). I could watch this video over and over.

3. Never Tear Us Apart; INXS (1987)

This is probably everyone’s favorite Prague video, and for good reason. First off, the song kicks ass. “Never Tear Us Apart” featured on INXS’s highly successful “Kick” album (which also included signature numbers like “Need You Tonight” and “Devil Inside.”) Second, it’s fair to say Prague never looked so beautiful on a piece of video. This was still two years before the 1989 Velvet Revolution opened the city to visitors from around the world and to the rampant commercialization that brought. What we’re offered here is a tantalizing view of a city without crass souvenir stands, tacky signs and tons and tons of tourists. Of course, that’s simply part of the illusion. The authoritarian state that kept the visitors out required a smothering police presence, which the band made obvious throughout the video (indeed, the clip begins with a cop on patrol).

From here, “Never Tear Us Part” unfolds through a faded Prague pastiche of washed-out colors, sparsely-traveled streets, a cold-looking river, swans and violins. All the usual suspects, the Charles Bridge, the Castle area, the Old Jewish Cemetery and the Astronomical Clock, make cameos, but nothing feels forced or artificial. Okay, the saxophone solo in the Old Jewish Cemetery is totally surreal (and awesome). Lead singer Michael Hutchence tramps through it all with just the right amount of swagger and detachment. The city’s timeless, understated beauty pairs perfectly with the song’s vibe of the eternal nature of love.

On the song’s 35th anniversary, the band released a tribute video with lots of behind-the-scenes shots of Prague and of the band during that trip. It’s incredible in its own right. Find the link here.

INXS filmed a second video in Prague for their song “New Sensation,” but that one features mostly interiors and isn’t quite as evocative of the city. Plus the song itself is weaker (in my opinion). Still it’s worth a look. Much of the video was shot in the city’s lavish Art Nouveau Municipal House, but some scenes were taken at the group’s hotel during the trip, the Hotel Evropa on Wenceslas Square (now undergoing long-term renovation).

4. Numb; Linkin Park (2003)

This music video rises above many of the rest, I think, for two reasons: the song itself is iconic, from the band’s mega-platinum “Meteora” album, which debuted in the U.S. at number one on release in 2003. The second reason is the entertaining story line, where Prague serves as the unlikely backdrop to a classic American tale of adolescent angst. In the video, a teenage girl (played by American actress Briana Evigan) is mocked and misunderstood by friends and family, who can’t quite accept her dream of wanting to become an artist (or at least sit around all day and draw baroque statues).

It’s a captivating watch. A beautiful Evigan spends her days getting pushed around at home and school between moments sitting on Charles Bridge to sketch the statues. She’s apparently a big fan of the statue of St Anne, on the bridge’s northern side. The video cuts between these story scenes and shots of lead singer Chester Bennington, standing incongruously in a church and belting out the song's lyrics. According to the blog Living Prague, Pennington was apparently ill during the shooting and the church scenes were not filmed in Prague at all, but rather at the First Congregational Church in Los Angeles. The school shots come from real-life Johannes Keppler Grammar School, in Prague 6, not far from where I live.

Prague features as the backdrop for a second Linkin Park video from Meteora, for the song “From the Inside.” The vibe, though, couldn’t be more different. The video appears to borrow (though it’s hard to know whether intentional or not) imagery from the start of Czechoslovakia’s 1989 Velvet Revolution, when riot police squared off against demonstrating students. It’s all truncheons and burned-out cars. I’m not a fan of the song – and the video doesn’t quite work for me either. It was apparently filmed at two locations: Řehořova street in the neighborhood of Žižkov and Loretánské náměstí, near Prague Castle.

(Keep scrolling to see screenshots from the videos as well as photos from some honorable-mention picks for great videos filmed in Prague.)

The Moody Blues performing on Prague's Charles Bridge on August 20, 1968, as part of a TV show appearance. Warsaw Pact troops, led by the Soviet Union, would invade the country later that same night.
Moody Blues' singer Justin Hayward (left) belts out, or lip-syncs?, 'Nights in White Satin' on Prague's Charles Bridge on August 20, 1968. The impassive blonde on the right remains an enigma. There's a sadness on her face that seems to anticipate the coming invasion.
Welsh singer Dame Shirley Bassey was also in Prague on the eve of the Warsaw Pact invasion in August 1968. Here she sings the Bond anthem 'Goldfinger' while incongruously standing atop a major construction site.
Singer Shirley Bassey performs at the top of Wenceslas Square in Prague in August 1968 at the site of what would become the Federal Parliament building. Personal aside: I later worked in that same building as an editor for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Prague tram no 24 lurches through the city as seen in the R.E.M. video for the song, 'E-Bow The Letter,' from 1996.
One of my favorite shots from R.E.M.'s 1996 video for 'E-Bow The Letter.' That's Patti Smith hanging out at Prague's Main Train Station as a Czech Rail employee clocks out for the day.
Patti Smith (left), sleepy and apparently anguished, riding on a Prague tram from the 1996 R.E.M. music video for 'E-Bow The Letter.'
Here, Patti Smith rides the no 14 Prague tram during the video for R.E.M.'s 'E-Bow The Letter' from 1996. I've probably sat in that very same seat several times over the years.
INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence tramps through Prague with just the right amount of swagger and detachment in the 1987 video for the banger, 'Never Tear Us Apart.'
My nomination for the weirdest moment in music-video history. Here, INXS singer Michael Hutchence walks through Prague's Old Jewish Cemetery to the wail of a saxophone solo during the 1987 video for 'Never Tear Us Apart.'
A nearly empty Charles Bridge in Prague sets a moody, lonely tone for the 1987 INXS video, 'Never Tear Us Apart.'
An impromptu violin trio (naturally) performs along the banks of the Vltava River in Prague, during INXS's 1987 video for the song, 'Never Tear Us Apart.'
Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington belts out the lyrics to 'Numb' while standing somewhere in a church. Much of the 2003 video was filmed in Prague, though this scene was shot inside a church in Los Angeles.
American actress Briana Evigan plays an anguished teen who only wants to sit and sketch baroque statues in the 2003 Linkin Park video for 'Numb.'
That's actress Briana Evigan aimlessly and incredulously strolling Prague's Charles Bridge in the 2003 video for the Linkin Park smash, 'Numb.'
Another close-up of Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington lip-syncing the song 'Numb' while inside a church for the 2003 video.
Rihanna pulls up to the Prague club Radost FX in her yellow cab to start the jam for her 2007 video, 'Don't Stop the Music.' It's laughable and perfect on every level. The NYC-styled yellow cab with a classic Prague tram rolling in the background.
The distinctive wall covering of the Prague club Radost FX is unmistakable here as Rihanna shoots us a side glance in her 2007 video for 'Don't Stop the Music.'
That's Kanye West traipsing through Prague's Old Town Square in a screenshot from his 2005 video, 'Diamonds from Sierra Leone.'
Imagine Dragons' singer Dan Reynolds tramps through Prague's Old Town for much of the video for 'I Don't Like Myself.' The song was apparently written to highlight the singer's struggles with mental health and depression.
Geri Halliwell -- "Ginger Spice" -- hanging out at Prague's Main Train Station (where else?) during the video for her 1999 song, 'Look At Me.'
American singer Gwen Stefani looking ravishing at, of course, Prague's Main Train Station, during the video for her 2007 song, 'Early Winter.'
Prague's Main Train Station makes another cameo for this shot from The Editors' aptly named (for Prague) song, 'Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors,' filmed in 2007.
A gruesome scene from Depeche Mode's 'Personal Jesus (Stargate Mix)' from 2011. A mob hurls a young woman into the river from atop a stone bridge. The image draws heavily on the story of St John of Nepomuk, who was tossed off Prague's Charles Bridge in similar fashion in 1393.

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About the author

Mark Baker

I’m an independent journalist, travel writer and author who’s lived in Central Europe for nearly three decades. I love the history, literature, culture and mystery of this often-overlooked corner of Europe, and I make my living writing articles and guidebooks about the region. Much of what I write eventually finds its way into commercial print or digital outlets, but a lot of it does not.

And that’s my aim with this website: to find a space for stories and experiences that fall outside the publishing mainstream.

My Book: ‘Čas Proměn’

In 2021, I published “Čas Proměn” (“Time of Changes”), my first book of historical nonfiction. The book, written in Czech, is a collection of stories about Central and Eastern Europe in the 1980s and early ‘90s, including memories of the thrilling anti-communist revolutions of 1989. The idea for the book and many of the tales I tell there were directly inspired by this blog. Czech readers, find a link to purchase the book here. I hope you enjoy.

Tales of Travel & Adventure in Central Europe
Mark Baker