The story behind Van Halen music video for Dreams featuring Blue Angels in the A-4 Skyhawks

The story behind Van Halen music video for Dreams featuring Blue Angels in the A-4 Skyhawks

By Dario Leone
Mar 4 2020
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McDonnell Douglas gave Warner Bros. decade-old stock footage of the Blue Angels flying the iconic A-4F Skyhawk II and Warner Bros decided that Van Halen’s soaring track “Dreams” was a perfect match.

The cool clip in this post features the original, famed Van Halen music video for Dreams with the Blue Angels in the A-4 Skyhawks.

Warner Bros decided to produce the video in 1986 after one of their executives had seen Top Gun and thought the movie would have been even better with a rock soundtrack (he must have thought that “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins was a bit too twee). Using the movie as inspiration, Warner Bros produced a video featuring the US Navy’s Blue Angels and then released it to coincide with the Independence Day holiday.

McDonnell Douglas gave Warner Bros. decade-old stock footage of the Blue Angels flying the iconic A-4F Skyhawk II and Warner Bros decided that Van Halen’s soaring track “Dreams” was a perfect match. The band gave their approval. The Navy was also pleased to assist the effort because the video would help commemorate the Blue Angel’s 40th anniversary. Once all parties were in agreement, the quick-cut video of the Blue Angles executing their signature maneuvers was edited in three days.

The story behind Van Halen music video for Dreams featuring Blue Angels in the A-4 Skyhawks
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. A-4F Skyhawk VA-212 Rampant Riders, NP306 / 155019 / 1970

The clip was originally intended to be aired exclusively on MTV during the July Liberty Weekend (which was a special celebration of the restoration and centenary of the Statue of Liberty), but the massive response it generated during the July Liberty Weekend took Warner Bros, Van Halen and the Navy by surprise. MTV was deluged with phone calls from viewers who wanted to know more about the Blue Angels and where they could get copies of the video.

The US Navy was thrilled. According to an interesting piece appeared on U.S. Naval Institute’s Naval History Blog “On the heels of the two-hour recruiting commercial that was Top Gun, they now had an electrifying music video by one of the nation’s most popular rock bands being viewed by millions of teenage boys. Navy Recruiting Command was reaching their target audience, and it had cost them nothing. In fact, everyone involved reaped rewards. MTV had a buzzworthy video, Van Halen notched another hit single in “Dreams” (peaking at #22 on the charts) while being able to stand firm on not paying for the video, and Warner Bros. racked up more album sales due to their inexpensive promo. For these reasons, all parties agreed to extend the use of the video indefinitely.”

A-4 Model
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The same year that the video for “Dreams” was released, the Blue Angels replaced their A-4 Skyhawks with F/A-18 Hornets.

 2,960 A-4 Skyhawks were produced between 1954 and 1979. Built small to be cost effective and so that more of them could be accommodated on a carrier, the lightweight, high-speed bombers were affectionately nicknamed “Heinemann’s Hot Rod” (after Douglas designer Ed Heinemann), the Bantam Bomber, Mighty Mite and Scooter. Skyhawks provided the U.S. Navy and Marines and friendly nations with maneuverable, yet powerful, attack bombers that had great altitude and range capabilities, plus an unusual flexibility in armament capacity.

The Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron flew the A-4F Skyhawk II from 1974 to 1986. 

Video credit: Michael Huggins

Photo credit: KllausBR via YouTube


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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