Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On music videos (Part 2)

I guess the best place to begin starts with the explosion of creativity in the mid-20th century. At one point, a performance video became a concept video. You can catch up on that on Wikipedia. My story begins with the birth of Music Television (MTV) in 1981. Music video was the greatest invention in music since the advent of sound recording. It was a whole other dimension to consume and digest, and it had a fucking channel all to itself. MTV shaped the music world. Do you think "99 Luftballoons" or gangsta rap would have had their explosiveness without the medium?

I was born two months after the station's famed launch, but that makes no difference. When I became old enough to really understand the world around me (1986), is when the experience began. A few videos from that time really define the moment for me.

"Open Your Heart" is (I think) what started to get me interested. It may seem funny, but I was drawn to this Madonna... this stripping singer of sorts. You may want to re-watch the video to see what I mean. I didn't have any hormones really running at the time, but I knew sex when I saw it. It was Madonna in her Sean Penn/hat wearing phase. Maybe I thought I was that little kid in the story. It's kinda creepy, I must say. I always remember I looked out for the ending, because the building where Madonna's peep show was going on had a big voluptuous woman on the top... with blue lights as nipples. Damn, she has some good videos.

Or maybe it was David Lee Roth's "California Girls" vid. Just an absolute spectacle of women and theatrics. Later, his "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody" and even "Just Like Paradise" would tattoo my brain with excessive debauchery that was the sign of the times. Good stuff.

I can also totally remember "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)" as a kid, too. The Beasties jumping on the couch is iconic.

George Michael shaking his ass with a jukebox also comes to mind ("Faith").

Music Television played a huge part in my childhood and adolescence. It also left and then came back into my life. My hometown's only cable company stopped broadcasting MTV in the late 80's. They (the conservative Southern Baptist monopoly) were fed up with the Motley Crue-types drinking and banging in our living rooms. I was irate. It eventually came back on, to the point where I missed GNR and the whole grunge scene, and got backwash.... I think it was 1994 when it was "allowed" back on. Coincidentally, most of my favorite albums come from that same year.

The MTV engine grinded to a halt around 1998. The channel had recently moved from Los Angeles to New York City. Instead of invigorating ideas and videos, we got a daily dose of non-music. I can't blame the city... maybe the channel was doomed all by itself. One of the last bastions of the network's music shows, MTV Live (which mostly rocked), had devolved into TRL. This was the end of network credibility.

Now, the only music videos you see on the station are during a reality show's credits, or at 3 AM (at which time they play only 10 recent videos on repeat ad nauseum). Sigh.

At one point in college, I had the sensibility and bandwidth to start preserving the music video memories I so loved. Using mIRC, Napster clones and the like, I got a heavy dose of the classic, the obscure and the rare. I started reading music video blogs and websites, and watching at least one new video a day. I started making DVDs to watch away from my computer. About 23 GB later, my collection only has a handful of missing pieces from the days of yore. So, get ready to experience some new and old novelties!

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