Day #97: Loverboy – “Turn Me Loose”
I am very slowly getting through I Want My Mtv: the Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, but the chapter where everyone is talking about being forced into this business of making videos is hilarious (surprisingly, not all the bands were into making videos till they saw the impact that getting on Mtv had on their careers). Short of having anything better to write — and probably exhausting the subject of baseball for the week — I give you some excerpts from a chapter called “Midgets, Models, and Trannies.” Behold!
“The 80’s were amazing for vieo departments because the labels didn’t have a clue what to do. They didn’t really care. The last label I worked for was Virgin in 2006, and twenty people had to approve your treatments. – Randy Skinner (record exec.), p. 89
“The video was terrible. I mean, truly terrible. Mtv played it constantly.” – Debbie Newman (record exec.) on Journey’s “Separate Ways” (p. 91)
“Prince’s ‘1999‘ and ‘Little Red Corvette‘ videos were just smoke, then Prince’s face, then smoke, then Prince’s butt, and then smoke. Prince was interesting, and I liked the songs, but the videos were profoundly bad. They were like, porn bad. His videos were so filled with smoke that everyone on the set would get diarrhea, because mineral oil was so thick in the air.” – Sharon Oreck (producer), p.93
“The Gap Band were a handful. They turned up on the set of ‘Party Train‘ in a white limo. They stumbled out of the limo, then one of the dudes bit the makeup woman on the ass. I got them to walk fifteen feet twice, did a tracking shot, and then got them the hell out of there.” – Don Letts (director), p. 93
“We hated the ‘Hydra‘ video so bad. This was the image the world saw on TV? […] So our fuck-you answer for our third album was to film ourselves playing live at A & M Studios. And then Mtv didn’t want to play that. I’d like to underline how much I hated making videos.” – Steve Lukather (Toto), p.94
“On ‘Do You Believe in Love,’ we did whatever the record label told us. They hired a stylist, and we were made up to the max, and I sang to a girl who was asleep in a bed with my band. When I saw it, I thought it was the worst thing I’d ever seen. And everybody loved it! We were producing our own records, so I said, ‘Let’s do our own videos, too. We can think of far sillier shit than this.” – Huey Lewis (of Huey Lewis & the News), p. 95
“We shot videos for ‘The Metro‘ and ‘Sex’ in a two-day period, back to back forty-eight hours straight. […] There’s a sequence in ‘The Metro’ where I’m walking on subway tracks — it was a stage set — and I’m kind of stumbling through it. I was exhausted and pissed off, like, when are gonna fucking finish this video? I wanna go to bed and die.” […] – Terri Nunn (of Berlin), p.96
“I was coupling up the members of Fleetwood Mac in ‘Gypsy,’ and people were pulling me aside and saying. ‘No, no. Those two are fucking and then they split up and now he’s sleeping with her.’ I got very confused, who was sleeping with whom.” – Russell Mulcahy (director), p. 100
“We drank champagne. Lots of champagne. Lots.” – Kathy Valentine (of the Go-Go’s) on the making of “Vacation,” p. 101
“I was a product manager at Columbia Records and the label had zero expectations for Men at Work. The first pressing was only 7,700 copies. But once ‘Who Can It Be Now?‘ went on Mtv, things started to explode. Were they classic video stars? No. They didn’t look like the guy in A Flock of Seagulls. They were offbeat, and the video got your attention. The album went to number one for something like sixteen weeks. That just didn’t happen with a debut artist.” – Bruce Dickinson (record exec.), p. 101
And on a side note, Men at Work’s saxaphonist, Greg Ham, died this week at the age of 58. Boo! Colin Hays spoke about their transition to making music videos: Ham had a theatrical background and Hays like performing in front of the camera. So it worked out, when it came to making one for “Who Can It Be Now?” Except for that glaring lazy eye.
“Mtv made bad haircuts look really cool for a while.” – Simon Le Bon (of Duran Duran), p.102
“My hair was my specialty. If you don’t have cool hair, don’t make a video.” – Brian Setzer (of The Stray Cats), p. 103
“I wonder how my life might have turned out different if I’d had a different hairstyle in the 80’s.” – Kathy Valentine (of The Go-Go’s), p. 103
“Russell [Mulcahy] directed my first real video, ‘Pressure.’ I put myself completely in his hands. I said, ‘What do you want me to do?’ He said, ‘You’re gonna sink into a pool of foam and disappear.’ ‘Okay.’ ‘And then you’re gonna be in a chair raging at the sky.’ ‘Okay.’ ‘And then you’re gonna walk down a bridge.’ ‘Okay.’ ‘It was his movie, his vision. I didn’t know what any of it meant.” – Billy Joel, pt. 109
“‘You Got Lucky‘ was a real groundbreaker. There was a minute-long scene where we walk through the desert, uncover a dusty old boombox, and push play, and that’s when the music begins. Michael Jackson called us, saying what an incredible idea that was. […]” – Tom Petty, p.106
“Very quickly, the video real became about the young and the beautiful, or the odd and the quirky. If you weren’t beautiful and hip, you had to be quirky in a particular way, like David Byrne of Talking Heads, or Ric Ocasek. In those Cars videos, Ric is just too tall and too thin, but that was the hook. He was a gangly scarecrow with great tunes.” – Vernon Reid (of Living Colour), p.104
“‘Start Me Up’ is a great song, but it’s like somebody locked down a video camera and said to the Rolling Stones, ‘Okay, get out there. We’ve got an hour.’ That’s a ridiculous video. It’s almost like they couldn’t be bothered.” – Adam Dubin (director), p.94
My great-grandmother had a similar reaction to the Rolling Stones video for “Start Me Up,” but mostly because it was Mick Jagger standing around in tight white pants shaking his ass in front of the camera like an idiot. Looking back on it, it seems like Mick got his dancing moves from Dick Van Dyke.
And there you have it! Excerpts from the strange birth of the “music video revolution.”