I suppose we can thank MTV for the obligatory music video, which was really something back when they actually played them, though today I don’t think anyone really cares about videos any more except for maybe PR folks, rabid collectors and teenyboppers. At this point in my life I have zero interest in seeing any new music videos, even from favorite bands and albums. And while there are lots of innovative things going on that “push the envelope” of the medium (Bjork for example always comes up with something interesting and forward thinking), I just don’t care. And I think for the most part, past a certain age, most solid fans of music could take or leave a music video. Now I admit when I was a kid I thought they were just as important as the song itself and equally as memorable. For example, I can’t hear either Welcome to the Jungle or Sweet Child O’ Mine without seeing Axl’s giant red hair or bandana-shades get up respectively…they’re equally as ingrained and ingratiating as the opening guitar licks for both songs. But really, at the end of the day, when you wanna rock solid, and you wanna be able to step about and groove if the mood should strike you, being obliged to keep your eyes glued to the TV/computer screen isn’t gonna help you shake yer biscuits.
But having said that, there are a handful of videos worth taking the three to four minutes to chill out and appreciate for various reasons. Here are a few of them in a special edition of the Willie Awards…
All Time Favorite Video: Billy Bragg – Greetings to the New Brunette: Simply put, there’s a definite ironic sweetness to this montage of old footage from the 50s, 60s, etc over Bragg’s ode/lament to love and marriage…and the bits with the famous Shirleys are especially nice.
What Every Video Should Be: At the Drive In – One Armed Scissors: I remember seeing this video on some weird expanded cable channel at someone else’s house very early in the morning and being blown away. All I caught was the title of the song and couldn’t track it down anywhere. A few months later At the Drive In exploded (and promptly imploded) upon the indie scene and this was the song/video that basically made it all happen. A montage of brief, energetic live clips reminiscent of a lot of 80s metal acts, this showcases the band at the peak of their hype and powers respectively. If every artist was required to put out at least one video in their career along these lines, we’d finally start seeing who was the what and how.
Most Universally Memorable: A-ha – Take On Me: If you don’t remember this pulp comic book video from 1985, just click the link and you’ll say ‘Oh yeah…’ Not to take away from the merit of this song (or the entire Hunting High and Low album), but A-ha shot to fame based solely on the unique and instant recognition of this video. The story told within the frames touches my romantic soul ever time, but what is really cool is that the mix of the song itself is different from the album and instead of a fade out, we get a nice little alternate and natural ending.
Most Rockin': Def Leppard – Photograph: With Pyromania, Def Leppard became the coolest and best hard rock act of 1983 (if not most of the rest of the decade). This video with fast licks and cool tricks, shared microphone vocals and spinning drum sticks (no, I will NOT make a two-armed drumming joke here…wait, maybe I just did), not to mention Marilyn Monroe shtick, summed up everything Def Leppard and rock music were supposed to be about. I can’t hear this song or see this video without getting a little nostalgic with butterflies in the pit of my stomach.
Most Romantic: The Cure – Just Like Heaven: Simply one of the most “dreamy” pop-love songs ever written, the video pretty much matches it frame for note, with Robert Smith and company bedecked in black upon a lonely sea cliff, while the man himself spins on that dizzy edge and sings to the waves crashing on the rocks below. Throw in the dream-dance sequence during the piano solo and you’ve got teenage love angst personified.
Most Life-Changing: The Church – Under the Milky Way: I think I’ve told this story before, but back in 8th grade, for about a week to ten days, I used to hit the ground running from the bus in order to make it home in time to catch a handful of videos on MTV that for some reason were always played around the same time and in the same order. This was my favorite of the lot. There was something about the nonsensical yet poignant imagery of this video, interwoven with a very understated, penetrating performance from the band, that struck me in a way I couldn’t quite understand, but readily related to. Coupled with the fact that this is a sensational song (on a sensational album from a sensational band), and you’ve got real magic in the making. Near the end of this stint (which was a Thursday) when MTV switched out this video for the Church’s next one, Reptile, I was sold, and promptly bought the Starfish album the following evening. From there my life in pursuit of "alternative" music truly began.
Best Live Video: U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday: I’m going to say it again: In 1983, U2 was the greatest band in the world (I love you, Murmur). When I was a kid I was absolutely enthralled by this performance video. The energy, the emotion, I was wrapped up in the message without fully understanding the meaning, such being the beauty and the fear of music, and can’t help but compare every videoed live performance I see even now to this one. They all fall short.