Remembering Garbage’s ‘Push It,’ the most-robbed video in VMAs history

Twenty-five years ago, Garbage’s groundbreaking “Push It” music video, off their sophomore album, Version 2.0, was nominated in a whopping eight categories at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards: Best Group Video, Best Alternative Video, Breakthrough Video, Best Direction, Best Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Special Effects. But Garbage went home empty-handed that night, losing out in all eight categories variously to the Backstreet Boys, Green Day, the Prodigy, Madonna, Björk, and Fiona Apple.

“When it was nominated, we were convinced we were going to win, just because it deserved to win,” Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson tells Yahoo Entertainment, chuckling. “But of course it didn’t. No dis to anybody, but we just thought that it was really unique, a unique vision.”

So, is “Push It” the most-robbed video in MTV Video Music Awards history? Quite possibly. But two and a half decades later, it has certainly held up better than many other 1998 winners. And, Manson asserts, “it’s a spectacular video that still holds up with videos that are being made today. We’re very proud of it.”

It’s understandable that Garbage thought they had a good chance at VMA glory with such an ambitious 120 Minutes instant classic, which starred ponytail-conjoined twins, scary triplet schoolboys, a lightbulb-headed monster-man, a radioactive nude hospital patient, faceless nuns, and a foot-fetishizing soldier — among other twisted, Cronenberg-like characters. Shot over four days in Los Angeles in March ’98 at a supermarket, a hospital, and a cemetery, the gritty, surreal video was a massive undertaking.

A still from Garbage’s “Push It” video. (Photo: Almo Sounds)

A still from Garbage’s “Push It” video. (Photo: Almo Sounds)

A car accident occurred on the first day of shooting, when a taxidermied deer mounted on wheels broke loose. On the second day, the director, Italian fashion photographer Andrea Giacobbe, injured himself in a fall. And drummer Butch Vig nearly got arrested for violating L.A.’s open-container law when he drank a beer in a parking lot between takes. And then there was the video’s sticker-shocking price tag. Even in a prosperous music-biz era when six-figure video budgets weren’t uncommon, “Push It,” which Vig once described to Request magazine as “a combination of modern, futuristic, and retro,” was extravagant.

“We had settled on a budget, which I think was half a million dollars — which was a phenomenal amount of money. But we had received this incredible storyboard from Andrea Giacobbe, the director. It was such a perfect vision that we realized it smoked every other storyboard we’d received. … Every single scene was in reference to his own childhood. He did an absolutely incredible job,” Manson marvels.

“We were determined to make this video. The night before we went in to shoot it, we got a call from this producer saying, ‘I’m sorry, but the budget has escalated somewhat. It will now cost $750,000.’ We were caught between a rock and a hard place, because we were due to shoot it the following day,” Manson continues. “Our management came in, and our record company were like, ‘We want you to make this video.’ Well, of course they did — because we ended up paying for it! But we were like, ‘OK, we’ll cough up.’ So, it was $750,000. God bless the ’90s!”

Steve Marker, Butch Vig,  Shirley Manson, and Duke Erikson of Garbage attend the 15th Annual MTV Video Music Awards on Sept. 10, 1998. (Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Steve Marker, Butch Vig, Shirley Manson, and Duke Erikson of Garbage attend the 15th Annual MTV Video Music Awards on Sept. 10, 1998. (Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

“Push It” may have been shut out at the 1998 VMAs, but Manson and Vig have no regrets about spending that (recoupable) three-quarters of a million bucks. After all, the band spent $200,000 on booze during the making of Version 2.0 — actually more than they spent on that album’s recording itself — so they weren’t exactly thrifty back then. And, Vig tells Yahoo Entertainment, “The video for ‘Push It’ really set the tone for Version 2.0, because the video got airplay all over the world. We embarked on a 22-month worldwide tour and found that we had an audience in countries that we never expected to even go to before. When we would play ‘Push It’ every night, people would go nuts. It was like that song really got its tentacles out into the music world. It really helped define us on that second record.”

“‘Push It’ is one of our favorite videos, if not the favorite, of the band. It’s spectacular. And it cost a fortune,” says Manson. “We don’t regret a dime of it.”

The 2023 MTV Video Music Awards will take place Tuesday, Sept. 12 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

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