1988 Countdown #84: Belinda Carlisle, “Circle in the Sand”


We return to a chortling Kevin Seal. Once again, he screams and jumps over the VJ desk to communicate his extreme state of overstimulation in regards to the top 100 of 1988. He points out that the “Circle in the Sand” video, being shot on the beach, marks a return to the setting of Belinda Carlisle’s first solo hit, “Mad About You.”

In an interview clip, Carlisle explains that it wasn’t a comfortable shoot: “We filmed it in northern California, near Half Moon Bay, and it was freezing cold. I’ve never been so cold in my life. And it was windy, and I was in a chiffon dress. And it was probably one of my more uncomfortable experiences–but it turned out good. I think it’s one of my favorite videos.”

Our opening shot: in the background, waves crash on the beach. In the foreground, there are a couple of clotheslines. Clothespins hold up two small video screens, which wobble in the wind. One shows footage of waves crashing on the beach, while the other shows Carlisle, also on the beach, crouching down by a chair.


That’s basically the concept for the video: clearly there was some new bit of technology (an early green-screen thing, maybe?) that let the director insert other bits of film into the image and make it look like a towel on a clothesline, not a box that should be subtitled “Belinda Carlisle reporting live from Half Moon Bay.” And dammit, he made the most of it. We cut back and forth to different angles on the beach. Sometimes Carlisle is visible in the picture-in-picture, sometimes we just get extra shots of waves crashing on the sand. There’s a screen propped up in the surf, like the world’s least practical drive-in movie. Carlisle looks mature and glam with long auburn hair, more like a Douglas Sirk heroine than a Go-Go.


There’s a full-screen shot of Carlisle leaning against an orange-and-white sign, looking cold. She’s singing with her eyes closed–too much wind? Cut to earlier in the day: she’s lying on the beach in her chiffon dress, with a photo album open in front of her. Closeup: Carlisle swaying through the frame with a big hank of rope. She gives the rope a loving sidelong glance. Then she looks straight into the camera, trying to seduce us, but we know that she’s already given her heart to that piece of rope.


We see various full-screen shots of Carlisle, and then see the same shots hanging on the clothesline, suggesting that today is just material for tomorrow’s snapshots. Carlisle wraps her arms around herself and keeps shifting her weight from one leg to the other, suggesting that she’s so cold she’s worried her nipples might snap off.


“Circle in the Sand” has junior-high-school love-poem lyrics (“you complete the heart of me”) and a sing-song melody. Apparently, nobody involved in making Heaven on Earth thought they’d end up releasing a third single from the album. (And boy, were they out of material after this–the fourth single was a cover of Cream’s “I Feel Free.”) Thomas Dolby apparently played on this track, an anonymous presence except for the solo break, where he hits the “harpsichord” setting on his synth and does a couple of oddball runs up and down the keyboard.

My pal Ted was a camp counselor in the summer of 1988. He polled his little troop of third-graders on what the greatest song of all time was: “Circle in the Sand” was the winner.

“Circle in the Sand” hit #7 on the singles charts. You can watch it here.

posted 14 August 2008 in 1988 and tagged , , , , . 1 comment

One Comment Thus Far on 1988 Countdown #84: Belinda Carlisle, “Circle in the Sand”

  1. Chris M. Says:

    More Carlisle later, indubitably. “I Get Weak” (one of the devil spawn Diane Warren’s earliest hits) will probably place high on this list.

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