Q: What has sugar, spice and “looks real nice?”
A: Cameo’s CANDY video!
Made by director Zbigniew Rybczynski in November of 1986 as a follow-up to Cameo’s monster hit WORD UP, CANDY has the distinction of being the first HD music video.
Using what was cutting-edge technology at the time, Rybczynski applied his “instant video” technique of shooting and post-producing simultaneously (previously seen in clips like Simple Minds’ ALL THE THINGS SHE SAID and Pet Shop Boys' OPPORTUNITIES) to the latest High-Definition process to create a sweet treat for the eyes and ears.
Shot entirely on blue-screen with a projected pan of dazzling Times Square as a backdrop, CANDY layers in the members of Cameo with fashion models, adding more Cameo members and more models until an almost hypnotic state is achieved by the constant repetitive motion and image multiplication.
CANDY is the kind of polished creation that could only have emerged from the midst of the Reagan era. Everyone is sporting their best shoulder pads, harem pants and hair gel. In the background a flashing movie theatre marquee advertises Top Gun and Stand by Me. Glamorous women float into the air licking lollipops and giant candy canes, tempting the band members who frolic in front of Sbarro and McDonald’s neon signs. It’s a deliciously 80s confection.
Unlike earlier videos with layered effects, such as the Cars’ YOU MIGHT THINK (1984) in which images look flat and cartoon-like, the HDTV process allows the images in CANDY to appear more 3-dimensional, and to resemble film more than videotape. And all for a mere $80,000! “The whole thing might have taken 10 months and cost millions of dollars, but it cost us less than $100,000 to get a million-dollar look,” said the video’s producer Stewart Samuels in a 1986 interview about the video’s then-state-of-the-art technology.
About halfway through the clip, Cameo lead singer and founder Larry Blackmon creeps into the frame like a benign Godzilla, suddenly enormous and towering over the rest of the video’s cast who scurry around his ankles. “That scene would have taken George Lucas months to do,” said Samuels, “but we did it in hours.”
But the technology, the glossy effects and the pouting models would be nothing special without a great beat and a sense of humor, which is what allows CANDY to endure as a classic 24 years later. The slick, funky track can still fill the dance floor in 2010, and the band’s slightly off-beat sense of humor shines through in the video.
In addition to the always-humorous Godzilla effect, there are silly grins, ridiculous poses, goofy dance moves and a well-timed butt-bump. Blackmon delivers the vocals in his signature nasal, monotone shouts, barking out phrases like “Look real nice!” and “Indeed I do!” as he dances and prances in an outfit most men just couldn’t pull off: a black body leotard, an oversized codpiece and thigh-high Pretty Woman hooker boots.
Perhaps the most hilarious moment in the video is when one of the models opens her jacket, withdraws Blackmon’s red patent-leather codpiece, and discards it with a shocked expression. Rybczynski and the band were clearly having a laugh with this clip, and showcasing what would become a world-famous piece of – er, clothing – for years to come. Disturbingly yet not exactly surprisingly, there’s currently a Red Codpiece group on Disgracebook devoted to it. (And no, I’m not linking. You’ll have to find it yourself.)
These days Cameo still tours actively, and Larry still wears the renowned piece of armor on stage. In a recent interview with Charlotte, NC radio station WBAV, Larry admits that the group’s fans won’t let him take it off! “Everyone looks forward to that,” he says, “and we try to accommodate our audience as much as possible.”
However, Blackmon went on to soberly reveal that he does not wear the codpiece at home, disappointing thousands of die-hard Cameo devotees who probably imagine him harnessing the shiny red protective cup over his jammies every night. Guess those of us who want to see Larry in his codpiece will have to buy tickets. And, in the words of Larry, “Yes I do!”
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
You've asked. You've begged. You've patiently awaited the COMPLETE LIST OF CELEBRITY CAMEOS IN 1980S MUSIC VIDEOS I've been compiling for months now. Well, videophiles, your wait is finally over! I have completed the exhaustive volume of the famous (and not-so-famous-anymore) faces who graced your favorite music videos with their presence in the decade of excess.
From Joe Piscopo to Tawny Kitaen, from Hugh Laurie to Ally Sheedy, in chronological order, click here to see them all. Enjoy! (And please give me a shout if I've left anybody out.)