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Monday, 25 September
Video Killed The Nearly Everything

On Saturday afternoon, I found myself staring at the TV with nothing, nothing on. Nothing at all. I mean, yes, I know, TV is a vast wasteland, blah blah blah, but this was serious.

There were like nine college football games on. I fucking hate college football. (Why? I don't know. Well, I did go to college, and I did meet football players, and they were all fucking assholes. But then that begs the question as to why I like the NFL, since it stands to reason that those guys are even bigger assholes, and then I start to get kind of queasy with the self-examination, and then I do something silly like read a book, and we don't want that.) I mean, there wasn't shit on at all.

That's when I hit--up in the early 200s of my digital cable package--VH1 Classic. It already sounded gruesomely fantastic. VH1? Horrible! VH1 Classic? THRILLINGLY HORRIBLE! It was like stumbling across the Urethra Scraping Channel. What would they serve up?

Classic '80s videos. Yay! Cannibalizing 20-year-old pop culture artifacts as some form of manufactured nostalgia for demographic has-beens just like me! Since I'm past 35 now, it's easy to understand why my targeted programming showed up in the 200s on the channel listings.

What still isn't easy to understand is . . . well, the 80s. Music videos were of course still in nascent form--it says something about a quasi-artistic genre when early iconoclasts of the medium include such dubious entries as Duran Duran and A-Ha. About as respectable as it ever got was with Peter Gabriel, a guy who used to dress up as a flower or a pyramid onstage.

I list here a few of the spectacles I witnessed in that happy hour of reliving Night Flight.

Party All the Time

Widely acknowledged as one of the worst singles ever produced in this troubling decade, this shriekingly horrible joke of a song barely rises above ad jingle musicianship, and is, also universally agreed, simply another ugly wing to the gaudy mansion that is Eddie Murphy's phenomenal ego. How fitting, then, that the video is simply a laughably false "document" of his recording this auditory debacle, showing Eddie entering the studio to record the song, along with a couple dozen of his very closest sycophants, toadies and ostensible fluffers.

Oh, when Eddie sings! The camera cuts to his crew head-bobbing unconvincingly, his boob girls gyrating unenthusiastically, his in-studio session musicians flashing frozen smiles as Eddie wails about yet another bitch who treats him poorly, opting instead to party all the time. That nasty cunt! She parties all the time! But it's producer and collaborator Rick James--himself a noted paragon of How To Treat Women--who cannot help himself, and towards the end of the video, he manufactures a truly cringe-inducing double-fisted orgasmic shudder over the incredibly funky groove that Murphy is exuding and races into the studio to join him, and wastes no time agreeing with Murphy: "She parties AAAALLLL THE TIIIIIME!" Thanks, Rick! Until you joined in, I had missed this song's message.

Walk of Life

After the unintentionally hilarious horror of the Eddie Murphy video, I was suddenly presented with this drab offering from Dire Straits, a band which, if there was ever a band who should not show its members on video, was surely it. Taking the laziest possible route, Dire Straits simply did a "Hey, film us at sound check" pile of crap occasionally intercut with some deeply lame footage of a busker in some pedestrian tunnel while various KOOKY actors walked by doing various versions of their own "walks of life." Some of them awkwardly did that "turn into the camera to the side and lip-synch" thing that, twenty years later, is a lot like watching terrible porn. "When you're coming on her back, turn over to camera right and say, 'Now that's accessorizing!' "

But it was still better than watching Mark Knopfler grump around onstage, hunched over like an uglier Little Steven, while they pretended to fumble through the song at what was clearly like four in the afternoon. There's a reason that rock shows and Vegas must only be experienced at night: in the light of day, they both look ugly, cheap and embarrassing.

Total Eclipse of the Heart

NOW WE'RE TALKING! Bonnie Tyler was never known for her restraint; a previous minor hit, It's A Heartache, sounded like she was drinking whiskey while hitting herself in the skull with a stained ashtray when it came out, but Eclipse sounded like a transmission from the New Gods. It's the kind of song that makes Meat Loaf think, "Hmmmm. I could take some lessons from that crazy broad."

Eclipse seems to take place in some windswept English boarding school as decorated by art fags who all now work for Target. It is, to be kind, utterly baffling. Tyler wanders the darkened halls like a Gothic banshee, tapestries blowing in the wind machines, and is so impatient to take her raspy whisper to a full-throated scream that she actually startles all of reality around her with the force of her bombast: this must be why, for no explicable reason, ballet-dancing football players appear around her, right after the troupe of ninjas. Meanwhile, every now and then, a terrifying young boy with glowing eyes appears and stares unnervingly at her. I kept waiting for Stevie Nicks to ambush her and conk her on the head with a pot of herbal tea.

"I REALLY NEED YOU TONIGHT!" she howls to the galaxy at the song's climax (though this is kind of bullshit--the song is nothing but climax, starting at around the thirty second mark), which I am convinced produces the same reaction in every single straight male that it arouses in me: the recall of that incredibly damaged ex-girlfriend that we all once dated who would call up and scream frightening things like this. (Girls have their stories about creepy, awful boyfriends. Boys have theirs about terrible, nightmarish girlfriends. The bottom line seems to be: We will fuck just about anyone.)

This might be the most upsetting music video ever committed to film.

She Bop

In Cyndi Lauper's brainspace, I assume it made perfect sense to set her perfectly catchy paean to female masturbation song's video in a futuristic dystopian burger joint. After all, Captain Lou Albano was in it (again)! What doesn't move your average teenage girl towards self-love if not Orwellian fast food and has-been professional wrestlers?

This video exemplefies the whole 80s tendency towards this emerging phenomenon, the music video, as "I stole my parents' video camera! This is going to be hilarious!" Lauper, who is not without her limited croaking charms, comes off as basically an idiot (though an enthusiastically pro-jilling-off idiot, so there you go); and the video tells a baffling story of the young burger lass bucking the system in some unspecified way and winds up in front of a judge, but by the end of the thing, she's in some Busby Berkeley thing as done by arthritic dance extras, and, oh, it's all just so painful, you end up thinking, "God, I hope she's going upstairs to masturbate."

This sort of thing should really be left to Prince. Or even Duran Duran.

Just don't let anyone see Mark Knopfler. Nobody will ever masturbate again.


Note: Comments are closed on old entries.

Comments

Was that "Night Flight" you were watching, or "Fright Night?" And I always seem to get Bonnie Tyler and Juice Newton mixed up. Boy, just like Dexy's Midnight Runners, you haven't heard the last of them!

Comment number: 008426   Posted by: Andrew on September 27, 2006 05:35 PM from IP: 70.98.240.174

i used to love me some VH1C, back in the day. like VH1 and MTV before it, VH1C used to be just a solid wall of crazy old videos. all those old videos featuring gray and depressing mid-80's Britian, or the ridiculous metal videos (Saxxon! Dio!), or stuff you're sure MTV never ever played in prime time (My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, ancient pre-MTV things from the 60s and 70s). yeah, it's all nostalgia, but it's a lot of fun to sit around and laugh at.

then they started segregating the songs into theme shows. then they started moving all the former top40 shows into the prime time slots and pushing all the interesting stuff into late-night slots.

these days, they're showing movies, game shows, celebrity gossip shows, etc. and the chances of seeing something other than top40 in prime time is pretty slim - just like MTVH1 !

Comment number: 008433   Posted by: cleek on September 28, 2006 01:02 PM from IP: 66.162.205.50

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