Friday, February 5, 2010
"I heard you on the wireless back in '52..."
The first line of the first video to appear on MTV was a lyric about forgotten old radio stars. Nearly thirty years later, the clip itself has become a hazy artifact; the antics of forgotten old video stars from the early moments in a now all-but-defunct medium.
Like the crude nickelodeon fodder shot in the first decade after Edison perfected his moving picture camera, most promotional music clips produced in the 1970s and '80s are today considered laughable YouTube fluff at best, obsolete and disposable relics at worst.
But is there more to classic music videos than meets the eye at first glance? Sure, we in our late 20s to late 40s remember them fondly -- after all, Music Television was the milk that nursed most of us. But if you surf '80s pop on YouTube, you'll notice even the kids of the kids of the original MTV generation (back when they played music) are eating up these clips, sometimes just to laugh at the moussed hair and cheesy special effects, sometimes to make genuinely impassioned pleas to "bring back videos like this", or lamenting that "music today sucks!"
Either way, the appeal of music videos as entertainment cannot be denied. Some hold up better than others, but for every boring .38 Special performance clip or zany Toto Coelo promo, there are a thousand neglected nuggets out there; wildly original mini-films with rockin' soundtracks, striking visuals and maybe even a little something to say.
At this point I should introduce myself. I am Girl on Film (no relation to the X-rated chicks in the Duran vid), I am completely obsessed with classic music videos and films, and I am starting IMAGES OF HEAVEN to explore these videos not with the cold scrutiny of a music video scholar or cultural analyst (fat books on the subject have been written by those far more informed than I), but with the subjective eye only a child of the '80s could have.
I remember when the cable guy first installed that big brown box, and my sister requested he switch the box to MTV. He handed us the remote and left the children in the care of Ben Orr and Ric Ocasek, who greeted us like old friends: "Hello again," they sang as the weird-looking old man behind the bar served them drinks.
Little did I know back then that the old guy was Andy Warhol and that I would be writing about the video 25 years later! I just knew I was having fun. That was the point of the music video, right? To make the song more fun, more glamorous, more entertaining, leading to more sales. And it worked like crazy... until it was discovered that reality TV hooked people more than music videos, generating more repeat viewers and bigger bucks.
The video lost its channel, but has it lost its audience? Judging by the huge amount of fans, young and old, trolling the net for obscure '80s music, I say music video still has the power to capture the imagination, and I hope those classic clips continue to thrive online -- they're too enjoyable (and culturally significant as time capsules) to vanish from the radar into oblivion.
So please join me as I dig waaaaay deep, exploring some of my favorite obscure, forgotten, or never-fully-appreciated music videos from the 1970s through the 1990s.
Have something to say about all this 1980s nonsense? I'd love to hear it. Got your own fave music videos to suggest or discuss? Bring 'em on. I'm going to attempt to review one video per week, so we'll see how that goes. In tribute to the pioneer spirit of early MTV, the Buggles will be my first victim.