Like Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton’s video for Elvis Costello’s ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN in 1979, YOU’RE SIXTEEN is an animated clip that was years ahead of its time.
Unlike the Costello piece, YOU’RE SIXTEEN was not technically a promo video. It was just one small segment in Ringo, an hour-long TV special broadcast in April of 1978.
The special itself is a mildly amusing oddity typical of late ‘70s made-for-TV entertainment, featuring obligatory Love Boat-ish guest spots by the likes of Vincent Price and Art Carney. (Was Don Ho busy shooting a Fantasy Island?)
Between the wacky plot involving a dweeby Ringo lookalike named Ognir and the buffet of bad suits and haircuts, the animated antics that occur when Ringo croons “You’re Sixteen” to Carrie Fisher easily stand out as the most charming two minutes of the show.
For the YOU’RE SIXTEEN piece, Director Michael Mileham and animator Linda Taylor hand-created a surreal dance number and some adorably retro ‘50s visuals using a film compositing technique, similar to the groundbreaking animation Terry Gilliam developed for Monty Python’s Flying Circus several years earlier.
Add in some pop music, and you’ve got a nifty prototype for the ‘80s videos of director Jim Blashfield, whose cutout Xerox animation style gave a unique look to Talking Heads’ AND SHE WAS (1985) and Paul Simon’s BOY IN THE BUBBLE (1986), among others.
But Mileham and Taylor made YOU’RE SIXTEEN years before the Blashfield touch entered the music video world, and when removed from its context it still stands on its own as an innovative music video clip.
It begins with a tiny Ringo (dressed as his nerdy counterpart Ognir Rrats) resting atop the head of his girlfriend Marquine (played by a 21-year-old Carrie Fisher). He slides down her hair and becomes full-sized so they can knock back a few ice cream sodas at the local fountain.
Meanwhile, bubbles pop, windshield wipers swing and the couple floats through the night sky in their jammies like Peter and Wendy.
It’s such sweet, innocent fun it’s a shame to have to mention that a heavily-bearded Ringo looks old enough to be Carrie’s creepy uncle. Plus the fact that he’s singing about her being sixteen years old. Aside from the pervy undertones (let’s ignore them, shall we?), the clip is basically more fun than I ever thought I’d have listening to a Ringo Starr song. (Sorry Ringo, but it’s true.)
During the kazoo solo (courtesy of Paul McCartney!), Ringo and his twin perform some wildly inventive dance moves as giant hands transport him and Carrie to a candy realm, where they tango among sugary confections and fly off into a dream world.
Ah, to be sixteen, surrounded by sweets and in the arms of a Beatle! If anyone ever animates me into a make-believe scenario, I couldn’t hope for a better fate.