The miracle of YouTube, whose servers now store just about everything ever committed to any video format since the dawn of time, makes it possible to assemble links to a bunch of favourite music videos in one place, whatever their vintage – so that’s just what I’ve done here, in no particular order, just because all of them tickle me one way or another, and it’s handy. May as well share, if anyone’s interested. The videos below were picked for their visual impact, and the way they deploy images or stir emotions that stick with you, and not so much because they’re great songs, though a lot of them are great songs, and I hope all of them are at least pleasant. The selection, I’m afraid, reflects the sad reality that I’m an old geezer pushing 60, and still think of the 1980s heyday of MTV as recent. I lose the thread about 10 years ago, generally.
U2: Where the Streets Have No Name
The last great consensus? Throughout my youth, into my late 20s, there always seemed to be one album on the charts that everybody, everywhere, was listening to at the same time, the one that captured the zeitgeist, love it or hate it. Sgt. Pepper. Tapestry. Bridge Over Troubled Water. Hotel California. Thriller. Born in the USA. U2’s Joshua Tree was about the last time I remember it happening, before everything fractured. This may just be an artifact of age and losing touch, I don’t know, maybe something by Adele, or Eminem, Beyoncé, or Kanye West fills the same niche for those not looking down the barrel of arthritic knee pain, but for me, it was Joshua Tree.
At the time of this clip the stadium-filling Irish juggernaut was at its zenith, and in the manner of many who reach a certain summit, they decided to emulate the Beatles, and stage a rooftop concert that shuts the town down until the cops move in, doing so here in LA just like the Beatles did in London 20 years earlier. There’s a risk of looking a little too big for your britches when you invite such comparisons with the Fab Four, witness those little turds in One Direction, but here U2 pulls it off.
How times change. A few years back, in the general hubbub surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan, McCartney gave a street concert from atop the awning outside the Ed Sullivan theatre, shutting down Broadway for blocks in both directions. It seemed like about all the NYPD wanted to know, while issuing the permits for the hours-long disruption of all of midtown Manhattan, was whether they should also suspend flights into LaGuardia, in case the noise of landing jets spoiled the acoustics.
a-ha: Take on Me
Going on 40 years later, this remains one that everybody remembers, and the rotoscoped star-crossed-lovers-from-different-worlds story retains its almost universal appeal. Few have noted that the final scene, in which our hero more or less pounds himself into the girl’s reality by sheer force of will, is a direct steal from a contemporary movie, Ken Russel’s out-there science fiction epic Altered States, but still, a highly original little movie that propelled this obscure Norwegian Euro-pop band into the stratosphere. The song itself is a guilty pleasure, all poppy and bouncy and full of 80s synthesizer charms.
Lord Huron: Ends of the Earth
An engaging animated episode of Gunsmoke played on top of what we used to call Art Rock, a genre that was liable to produce awful faux masterworks by the likes of Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer, but here gives us something big, ambitious, expansive, and kind of meaningful: live large if you can, because life ain’t no-how permanent. Using the tropes of the Old West as a backdrop, the song and video call us forward to adventure, and remind us that in the end, all the fears that keep us in place won’t matter worth a pile of dirt when we’re gone. Better to light out while we can, and even better if we can do it together.
Smashing Pumpkins: Tonight, Tonight
I suppose this is Art Rock too, but then, so was Strawberry Fields Forever. This really is a powerful, creative piece of music, symphonically scored and full of the urgency and pained longing so characteristic of band leader Billy Corgan, and the video is a beautifully staged homage, indeed a virtual recreation, of the seminal science fiction movie, 1902’s A Trip to the Moon.
Peter Gabriel: Shock the Monkey
People nowadays seem most likely to recall Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, a video and song that I despise in equal measure. Shock the Monkey is much more compelling, a true disjointed nightmare that owes a lot to the black and white dystopia of Goddard’s Alphaville, not to mention Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, with a surreal dash of the weird and wonderful 1960s British TV series The Prisoner; it even looks a bit like Apple’s epochal 1984 Super Bowl ad, directed by Ridley Scott a couple of years later. The idea seems to be that we’re all just animals being used in somebody’s cruel experiment, our responses to aversive stimuli being carefully recorded as we’re put through the various painful scenarios presented to us as everyday life.
That sounds about right, actually.
Siouxsie and the Banshees: Peek-A-Boo
Good Lord, this song is so strangely, fantastically off-beat and catchy, full of musical surprises, and the video, directed by Jonathon Lim and Andrew Smith, actually manages to keep pace and capture the fascinatingly oddball spirit of the thing. These guys in the masks with the long pointy noses marching around, it’s an acid trip. The horns and accordion accompaniment lend it a bit of a flavour of what one imagines of decadent underground jazz clubs in 1920s Berlin, and Siouxsie herself seems like something from a different time and dimension. The insistent percussion is half disco, half Pleistocene war dance. Alternative? I guess it’s alternative. No matter when you listen to this, now, or 20 years from next week, it’s not going to sound like anything else going on.
Pearl Jam: Jeremy
The song that made Pearl Jam. Released way back in 1992 – Christ, it’s now possible to say “way back in 1992” – Jeremy was inspired by the story of one Jeremy Wade Delle, a high school student who shot himself in front of his English class in 1991. It’s sympathetic to the child, who was, by this accounting, bullied to death, and God knows that happens. “Clearly I remember bullying the boy”, sings the narrator, and clearly, we all do, or were bullied in our turn; both, probably. The classroom is depicted as hell on earth, and this was before social media opened the sluice gates, and let all the sewage inside what’s apparently the typical adolescent psyche come spewing out of billions of smart phones and tablets, the better to ostracize the uncool, and hound the helpless.
I’ve read that the song was controversial, and that the record company didn’t want to promote it, but since it came out, there’ve been lots of twisted and maladjusted little Jeremies, from Columbine to Sandy Hook to Stoneman Douglas High, none of them content any longer to extinguish only themselves, and one wonders whether a song on topic would even raise a ripple today. We’re used to it.
Now, Janet Jackson’s left nipple, that’s likely still as terrifying as ever.
The Killers: Mr. Brightside
This is just a bitchin’ song. As accelerated as the Ramones, as cerebral and powerful as the Clash, with all these different portrayals of the feminine mystique: woman as manipulative temptress, woman as mere trophy, woman as victim, woman as soul-consuming obsession – and how great is Eric Roberts as the rival and total prick who doesn’t even care for the girl, but only wants her so long as it crushes the poor narrator that he gets her? And who is she? What does she want? To make him jealous? To get him back? To play the field and who cares? Or just hurt him? Is she villain, or victim, or what?
The chord progressions provide a master class in how you turn a three-minute rock song into something so powerful Wagner would have envied it.
Chemical Brothers: The Salmon Dance
This really is a dance for a salmon, while a fish relates several fascinating salmon facts, including details on how they spawn, and navigate, how keen is their sense of smell, and how they spend their life cycle partly in salt water, and partly in fresh. Emcee fish Fatlip provides colour commentary, like The Moon? Fish pay attention to the Moon?, while a blowfish serves as beatbox.
Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime
When I first saw this video, I’d never heard of the Talking Heads. Had no idea who they were. There I was, in my first year of university, hooked on the music of the sixties and wondering whether the popular airwaves would ever again crackle with anything meaningful and moving, and suddenly there he was, David Byrne, full of angst, looking terrified by both the present and future, and suffering the repeated existential body blows of life’s dreary realities and crushing expectations, standing there being rocked back on his heels as if struck by the random bullets of life’s eternal drive-by. You may ask yourself, how do I work this?
Letting the days go by. It was both lament and warning, and boy, what a piece of performance art. I guess you could argue that being in a position to indulge in the luxury of second-guessing your life choices falls under the category of “First World Problems”, but Once in a Lifetime is more total nervous breakdown than mere bourgeois existential angst. This guy is flipping out. I think maybe we all flirt with this sort of mental collapse at some point, wondering what we’ve done, whether we’re right or wrong, and continually seeking, whether we know it or not, the cool, silent, psychic solace of a quiet space within ourselves, referred to here as the water underground. Into the blue again we go, into the silent water.
Same as it ever was.
Prince: I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man
There was a time there when I didn’t dislike Prince, but was perhaps skeptical, a little underwhelmed by all the hype around Purple Rain, When Doves Cry, and all that. Sure, Little Red Corvette was tons of fun, but what was all the fuss about? I can’t be sure at what point I became convinced the guy was a genius, but it might just have been while watching this video. The pure theatrics of it rivalled something from the era of big budget studio musicals, the story being told was humane and universal, and man, could that guy write a pop song. I mean, wow, this was melodic, rhythmic, funny, poignant, and rockin’ from start to finish – this is pop music at its highest. It takes you back a little bit to the set pieces in movies like Singin’ In the Rain, and reminds you, musically, of Motown on the one hand, and the guitar prowess of Hendrix on the other, while showcasing talented women, as Prince always did. As far as I can tell from everything he ever released, Prince was a guy who adored and respected women, and never thought a girl’s sex appeal did anything to reduce her inherent humanity, or her right to honest, total respect. Powerful, confident women are always front and center in his videos, as musicians, not sexy props. They’re the guitarists, the organists, the rhythm section, and so, so much more alluring than, say, the fake backing band of models used by Robert Palmer in his execrable Addicted to Love.
This may come off as a guy’s song, a story of the typical young man’s unwillingness to commit, but really it’s about an honest guy’s refusal to take advantage. He’s not the one who put her in this fix. Now she’s needy and vulnerable, but he can’t give her what she needs, and he’s not going to love her and leave her, not like the last guy; and if she’s sort of hoping to, you know, rope him in, well, he understands where that’s coming from, too, and that’s OK. He’s not going for it, but it was worth a shot.
What a wonderful stage presence this guy has. What a performer.
Tragically Hip: My Music at Work
This one is personal. My initial years as a lawyer were spent at a Bay Street law firm that was as much cult as place of business, full to bursting with the same sort of self-satisfied, privileged, upper class white pricks that we just saw acting as both witness and Republican interlocutor in the recent hearings to appoint misogynist prep. school shit-heel Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. Down there at King and Bay, you worked yourself nearly to death hoping to one day win the prize, while they kept moving the goalposts. Nights and weekends, nights and weekends, you know the drill, asshole. Now, drop and give me fifty. For years and years, there I was at my desk, when everything was bleak in the middle of the night.
Here, Gord Downie portrays more of a low-level corporate grunt than aspiring master of the Universe, but the manic, meaningless, claustrophobic choreography of the dark, regimented office space is just the same. The night so long it hurts.
Mr. Oizo: Flat Beat
Featuring the immortal Flat Eric as everybody’s favourite business puppet. Man, that dude can sign off on things with the best of them.
Kathy reminded me of an encounter we had with Flat Eric in the fur, up close and personal, before we knew he was a music video celebrity. It was during a visit to NYC, when we went shopping in the Virgin Records Megastore in Times Square – there were record stores in those days – a vast, multi-floored complex that sold all sorts of paraphernalia beyond just music and movies, and including, that day, a whole display of Flat Erics, exactly like the one in the video. They were awfully appealing, but to us Eric was just a goofy stuffed critter, not the high-powered, wiener-chomping executive we later knew him to be, so we left the store having missed the chance to have our very own Eric kicking around the house. This is a decision we have both regretted ever since.
Paul McCartney: Queenie Eye
A brilliant song, one of dozens to emerge since 2005’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, which marked the beginning of a late career renaissance for the man I’m convinced will soon be regarded as the greatest songwriter who ever lived. Queenie Eye was a kid’s game in Liverpool when Paul was growing up, a variation of “hide the ball”, and here he uses such ball hiding as a metaphor for the games played upon you as you struggle to find your way through life.
The video is set in EMI’s legendary Abbey Road Studio Two, where George Martin supervised as the Beatles did most of their recording – that’s George’s son, Niles, in the booth at the beginning – and a cast of famous people, including luminaries like Jude Law, Jeremy Irons, Johhny Depp, Meryl Streep, Tracy Ullman, Chris Pine, Tom Ford, and many many more, join in the fun. Paul’s characteristic pop brilliance is especially showcased in the middle eight, when the mood becomes all quiet and dreamy, almost in the mode of something by Brian Eno, before exploding back to the throbbing rhythm of the chorus. As with almost all McCartney compositions, the piece is brought to a tidy and satisfying musical conclusion of a sort that few others in the modern era, accustomed to relying on the recording studio gimmick of the fadeout, can muster.
The Lumineers: Ho Hey
A minor miracle of a modern Country song, this one grabbed me by my collar while riding in the car on the way to the grocery store. It’s the sort of song that becomes an old friend about a minute into your very first listen, and the video, showcasing light streaming into interior spaces at low angles, strings of electric lights, pulsing flashes in time to the rhythm, and illuminated strips of coloured paper falling like confetti, as befits a band called “Lumineers”, is warm, happy, and full of positive energy. This is one of those rare songs that gets in, says what it wants, and gets out before you’ve had enough, leaving you wishing for another verse, and ready to hear it again right away. They hardly ever write them that way any more.
Ryan Adams: New York, New York
The singer is not to be confused with Bryan Adams, the massively successful Canadian performer who can thank Nickleback that somebody from the Great White North’s music scene is now more powerfully disliked (Now, now, says the Canadian spokesman in the South Park Movie, the Canadian Government has apologized for Bryan Adams on several occasions). Nor should the song be confused with the one that Sinatra made famous. It’s a spirited, infectious tribute to the Big Apple that rocks from start to finish, rendered poignant by having been filmed just a few days before 9/11. The iconic twin towers are prominent in several shots, as they were in everything filmed in New York back then, seeming every bit as immutable as the pyramids at Giza.
Dixie Chicks: Goodbye Earl
Just because it’s balls of fun – amazingly, given the subject matter – and because Dennis Franz is such a good sport playing doomed, abusive Earl, who gets his after beating up his wife once too often, and becomes a missing person that nobody misses.
Outcast: Hey Ya!
Just when you’re about to lose all hope in popular music, along comes the almost unbelievably charming Andre 3000 of Outcast, delivering this clever, cheeky, compulsively danceable pop tune with a video that has him playing all the members of the fictional group The Love Below, driving the girls bonkers as if they’re the Beatles on a British version of Ed Sullivan. I think Andre may have the most captivating smile in showbiz. I love how the manager harangues them at the start, to get out there and act like they got some sense, since he didn’t fly all the way overseas in the middle seat so they could fuck it up. They have to make some dough over here, just to fly back home – remember, Greyhound don’t float on water. That, the brilliant green outfits, the Love Haters decked out like jockeys, “Shake it like a Polaroid picture!”, and “Give me some sugar! I am your neighbour!”
It may be more than a coincidence that the central idea in this Beatles homage was used about 20 years earlier by McCartney himself, playing all the band members in his video for Coming Up.
Deee-Lite: Groove is in the Heart
Big shout out to Sly and the Family Stone, and Parliament Funkadelic! “We are going to dance and have some fun”, she states at the beginning. Damn straight! She does all the moves. She does the Shu-ga-loo. She does the Shy Tuna. She does the the Camel Walk. She does the Hip-o-crite!
No, wait, that was the B-52s. Never mind, Deee-lite also, most emphatically, dances this mess around.
Neil Young: Wonderin’
It’s hard to say why, exactly, this almost mournful doo-wop, filmed, apparently, on a 1969 model Super 8 home movie camera, is so affecting. Neil is just such an affable, confused sad sack, standing there with his tentative smile as he waits passively between singing the lines, and the Shocking Pinks, providing backup from the back of a big old Caddy, are straight out of American Graffiti. I don’t know why, but watching Neil here always reminds me of the film Melvin and Howard.
Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl
Mean Girls meets Clueless in a tribute to Toni Basil’s Hey Mickey, from which the inspiration for Stefani’s amazing cheerleading routines was obviously derived. Gwen takes it up a notch. Or two. Her shit really is bananas – b-a-n-a-n-a-s. Hollaback Girl washes over you with an almost stunning array of bright colours and ornate dance moves, its relentless motion almost exhausting.
Foo Fighters: Learn to Fly
Another one here just because it’s fun, and because it makes being on an airplane look about as claustrophobic and unpleasant as it really, truly is, with about the same politics as high school.
Fatboy Slim: Weapon of Choice
Directed by the great Spike Jonze, and featuring a cooler-than-you’ll-ever-be Christopher Walken, deadpan as ever, who, it turns out, really can bust a move. I don’t think I’d have given this song more than 30 seconds but for the video, which you can watch over and over and be just as delighted every time. Plus, you end up liking the song after all. Remember kids, walk without the rhythm and you won’t attract the worm.
Jonze is known for his superb videos for artists as diverse as Bjork, Weezer, the Breeders, and The Beastie Boys, and his videos often make the “best of” lists.
Janet Jackson: Rhythm Nation
It’d be easy to get snarky about the Jackson clan. The whole phenomenon seems a bit off, and Michael himself, bless his heart, was a weird little piece of business who literally tried to turn himself into Peter Pan via plastic surgery – I’d argue the doctors who abetted his nuttiness on that score should have had their licences pulled – and had, well, a somewhat sketchy history with underage boys in that oddball fantasy camp he built for himself, Neverland (more Peter Pan), which tends to put you off the whole Jackson thing. Still, it always seemed to me that there was no arguing with Janet, who I think was far superior in most ways to her once all but deified brother.
As a dance video, Rhythm Nation is cinematic, ominous, viscerally exhilarating, and choreographed to the nth degree. It’s so much better than everybody’s stock pick for all time best video, Thriller, with its goofball Vincent Price voice-over and stupid Monster Mash theatrics, that honestly, you gotta wonder what goes on. Thriller is a silly little song, a novelty item in the same league as the theme from The Adam’s Family; Rhythm Nation is the real deal. Far better video, far better song, and dammit, she’s a far better dancer.
Indignant Michael Jackson fans should send all hate mail to Michael Is King, c.o. Flurbert Cripps, Social Secretary to G.A. Coffin, 109 Turbot Crescent, Ecum Secum, Nova Scotia, B0J 2K0.
Van Halen: Jump
They may have presented, at first blush, like witless screeching 80s hair metal, but unh-uh, there was no suppressing Eddie Van Halen’s outstanding pop instincts. His knack for a tight and danceable rock number, layered and meticulously constructed, even leaving aside his undoubted guitar virtuosity, renders all the frizzy macho preening by lead singer David Lee Roth entirely beside the point. This is not Quiet Riot; this is not Twisted Sister. It’s pure joy, with a keyboard riff that’s almost as big an earworm as the guitar part in Satisfaction, and I defy the viewer to remain grumpy while watching.
Musically, Jump is a virtual remake, a refinement maybe, of the earlier Dance the Night Away, which I like just as much as a record. But there’s no beating the visual energy, the sheer unbridled happiness of the Jump video. When Eddie grins into the camera, almost sheepishly, during his guitar and organ solos, it’s as if he’s saying “Look, I get to be a multi-kabillionaire for doing this, and I also sleep with Valerie Bertinelli”, and you don’t begrudge him a bit of his success.
Tom Waits: Downtown Train
There were a few 1980s videos that showcased gorgeous monochrome cinematography (see also Boys of Summer, below, among others), but Downtown Train really is something special, and reminds me of Hitchcock’s Rear Window in the way it peers in to give you little glimpses of everybody’s ordinary life, as Tom sings in the street below of loneliness and unrequited love.
Chris Issak: Wicked Game
Gulp. I’m not sure my mother would be happy with me watching this one. Gosh, what’s it about? Oh yeah – SEX. Hot, bothered, crazy-making sex sex sexy sex. It’s actually a pretty good song, too, which you might or might not notice while viewing.
Odds: Heterosexual Man
Another one that’s here mainly because it’s just so much fun, a decent enough rocker elevated mightily by the addition of the Kids in the Hall, and especially Dave Foley, who always manages to be just the prettiest little thing when you dress him up right. It puts me in mind of an episode of the pretty good sitcom News Radio, in which Dave starred with the wonderful Maura Tierney as his love interest; the gag was that Dave showed up in drag, wearing one of Maura’s dresses, for the staff Hallowe’en party, and Maura was furious with him for no apparent reason all night long. I knew right away what it was going to be: you look better in my nicest dress than I do.
It’s always worthwhile to lampoon the atavistic terror that lurks beneath the surface of witless male sexuality, yes?
Don Henley: Boys of Summer
Don Henley was one of the drivers behind 70s West Coast Rock phenom The Eagles, but don’t hold that against him. He did a few very creditable songs in the 80s, including End of the Innocence, and this sad, nostalgic remembrance of things past, another example of sumptuous black and white cinematography. It was every bit as evocatively nostalgic upon its release as it is today, watching it 35 years on – has there ever been a better expression of dismay at how the countercultural ideals of a generation gave way to bland conformity than the line Out on the road today I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac?
Sure, it looks a bit like one of those United Colours ads for Benetton, but what a lovely song, and what a wonderfully choreographed dance number. I’d include this one just for the ending, which is both musically and visually sublime. At the risk of growing tiresome, I’ll repeat that I just love a song that comes to a tidy conclusion, and while a fadeout has its legitimate uses, I’ve always thought that knowing how to bring a song to an end in an effective way, as if you were playing it live, is the mark of a real composer.
She really makes you feel for the joys and agonies of the teenaged heart, doesn’t she? Money won’t buy you back the love that you had then, will it?
Grace Jones: Slave to the Rhythm
A weirdly atmospheric number with a video that, well, you tell me. Its strange imagery is reminiscent of Siouxsie’s Peek-A-Boo, above, but I checked, and it’s not the same directors. I really don’t know what to make of it. It feels a little like flipping through all the bizarre, self-consciously arty advertisements in one of those glossy fashion magazines that costs 18 bucks and doesn’t have anything else in it. I doubt it’s really supposed to mean anything, but I first saw it over three decades ago, and never forgot it, so it makes the rotation.
Police: Every Breath You Take
It’s usually Randy Newman whose meanings and motives get so badly misunderstood. When this one was topping the charts people were reacting to it as if was some sort of love song (much to Sting’s own amazement, I seem to recall), but as this bleak video makes clear, no, it’s about creepy stalking and very unhealthy obsession. Note how the band, in one scene, is under the surveillance of some sort of private detective pretending to be a window washer.
Chemical Brothers: Let Forever Be
Absolutely mesmerizing psychedelia. You’re fooled again and again as each apparent camera trick turns out to be live action staged to trick the eye. It’s like a rock video by M.C. Esher. The music is more than reminiscent of the Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows, often cited as a Chemical Brothers influence, and compliments a surreal working woman’s day in the life that follows the logic of dreams. Or nightmares, I guess. Note how the shaggy drummer stands in for Father Time, his relentless beat representing the passing of the seconds, minutes and hours – in one shot, you can see a little clock on the woman’s nightstand that’s actually a miniature drum kit.
Beyoncé: Single Ladies
How to make a sensational video on a budget of 47 bucks: put Beyoncé in something sleek and sexy, give her a couple of back-up dancers dressed likewise, and set her loose in a featureless room, making sure that the camera is rolling. Maybe play with the lighting a bit.
Spoons: Romantic Traffic
This one earns its place on the strength of somehow making Toronto’s execrable subway system look appealing, though admittedly, this was 1984, when it wasn’t so run down. The amazing thing, 34 years later, is that so little has changed, not even the tiling. Apart from that, there really is something genuine and engaging about this slice of Toronto life, which translated well outside of Hogtown – I was still back in Halifax when this was big, and we liked it there without ever having seen the station at Yonge and Bloor.
Also, there was Sandy Horne, the pretty little bassist. Adorable.
The Kinks: Come Dancing
The Kinks may have more or less invented power chord rock ‘n roll with You Really Got Me, but songwriter Ray Davies, one of the greats of his generation, was temperamentally of another era, and his compositional gifts extended well beyond three-chord rock. His best songs often betray a wistful, sometimes even fierce, nostalgia for the England of his youth, and even earlier days, the time of Empire and national greatness when the little idiosyncrasies of British life and attitudes shaped the world. You hear it in Victoria, Village Green Preservation Society, Twentieth Century Man, Young and Innocent Days, and many others, including Come Dancing, which charmed the heck out of just about everybody in 1983, with its evocation of a simpler, happier era when there used to be a dance palace where now stands a car park, itself having supplanted a supermarket, which replaced the bowling alley that first occupied the plot after the Palais was demolished. The Palais, where the big bands played and everybody took their suitors on Saturday nights. Romance was easier to understand back then, if no less frustrating; it was civil, things were understood, there were all sorts of little conventions to guide you through it. Come dancing, that’s how they did it when I was just a kid.
Things change, fine, but why is it that they never seem to change for the better?
Prince: Raspberry Beret
Like I said, the man was a genius. This nod to sixties psychedelia includes a passel of great lyrics, including his memory of what he was up to in his part-time job at the five and dime when he first saw the gorgeous girl in the raspberry beret, who came in through the out door: it seems that I was busy doin’ something close to nothin’.
OK Go: This Too Shall Pass; Here it Goes Again
They did two video versions of This Too Shall Pass, one involving a sort of Rube Goldberg apparatus that got all the attention, and this one with the marching band, which I prefer, in my characteristically contrary way. I like the song, and I find the crescendo at the conclusion with the full band, complete with drum major and childrens’ choir, rather stirring.
OK Go are famous for their intricate video productions, which usually appear to involve one seamless take, and invariably require all sorts of moving parts to interact flawlessly in highly improbable ways.
Their most famous production is the amazing treadmill number, Here it Goes Again, which sounds a lot like the Kinks, actually, but hardly anybody pays attention to the music when the visuals might as well be courtesy of Cirque du Soleil.
By today’s count, Here it Goes Again has close to 44 million views on YouTube.
Bjork: All is Full of Love
Say, when was the last time you had an unnerving, borderline horrific vision of a future in which human kind is replaced by its cybernetic evolutionary successors? Want to? Bjork, buddy, I know you’re supposed to be outré and all, but Good Lord, I was already terrified of the prospect of spiritual machines.
Watch this just the once, and I guarantee, you will never wipe it from your memory.
Ry Cooder: Get Rhythm
I’ll conclude this instalment with this great old video, which unfortunately seems to be available only in this low resolution VHS transfer, featuring Harry Dean Stanton as the manager of a run-down cantina with no patrons, and none likely to show up, until the music starts pulling them in. Ry Cooder is one of the greatest blues guitarists ever to play slide, black or white, and has been a legendary session man for years, playing for everybody who’s anybody at one point or another – Wikipedia lists Captain Beefheart, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Randy Newman, David Lindley, The Chieftains, and The Doobie Brothers, and that’s hardly exhaustive. I read somewhere that he was offered a permanent slot in the Rolling Stones, after the departure of ace guitarist Mick Taylor, and one wonders how the trajectory of that outfit might have been different if he hadn’t turned them down, and they hadn’t ended up with Ron Wood instead.
Get Rhythm was written by Johnny Cash, and Cooder’s version was released in 1988. It showcases his impeccable technique, and bounces along with enough energy to pull even the denizens of the moribund Club El Mundo Elegante out of their collective funk.