Thursday, May 13, 2010
DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS by Rick Springfield (1982)
DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS is significant because it represents music video’s historic first use of a popular motif I like to call the Table Flip. The Table Flip occurs, as its name implies, when a character in a video sends a table (usually in a restaurant) flipping over in slow motion, dishes and all.
With a new cable channel devoted exclusively to round-the-clock music videos, the biggest problem for early ‘80s directors was cramming all that programming chock full of catchy visuals. Images had to stick in the mind like warm Dubble Bubble to a flip-flop, yet be enigmatic enough to remain just this side of decipherable. Videos that were easy to understand at first sight wouldn’t hold up under months of repetition.
The Table Flip worked because it was arresting yet completely G-rated. Early MTV wasn’t ready for extreme sex and violence, so tipping over a piece of furniture – particularly one supporting drinks, candles and plates of food – served as a dramatic statement that said, “I’m dangerous, baby!” without actually harming anyone. (Except maybe for the poor film school intern who had to pick all those tiny shards of glass out of the rug.)
DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS stars the hunky Rick Springfield as a creepy stalker who lurks in dark alleys, gropes women under tables, plays his guitar on a police car and commits arson on a rotary dial telephone. What a rebel!
Despite dimpled Rick’s slight departure as a bad boy in this clip, it’s pretty much your standard fare for 1982. The first known music video Table Flip occurs about one minute in, when Rick’s stranger-talking girl slaps her date and their dinner flies across the restaurant courtesy of Rick, who hides beneath the tablecloth.
From this moment, directors would employ the Table Flip when they needed a visual statement that expressed rage, conveyed sheer excitement, or just looked cool in slow-motion. Join me for more on the Table Flip next week, and in the meantime… take a safety tip from Mr. Springfield: