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SOUND AND VISION

The Summer Video Doldrums

July 20, 1986|TERRY ATKINSON

The dog days--that's what baseball players call the part of the season just after the All-Star Game. But the music-video dog days have been around for weeks, with no end in sight.

Like shapeless clouds on a hot, smoggy day, one dull clip after another drifts by on the tube. In the hazy summer torpor, Sound & Vision's competition-minded thoughts turn to imaginary games of video volleyball between the Beach Boys and Missing Persons, as well as a thrift-store rag-pile wrestling match between Madonna and new challenger Regina. There's even real conflict in Run-D.M.C.'s video to consider, as the rappers do battle with some surprise guest stars. Still, there's nothing, really nothing, to get very excited about, and plenty, really plenty, to turn off. Oh, well, another round of ice teas and dim hopes: The fall season of big pop releases and accompanying videos will come at last.

Ratings system: 80-100, don't miss; 60-79, recommended; 40-59, watchable; 20-39, weak; 0-19, wretched.

THE BEST OF A BAD LOT

Run-D.M.C.'s "Walk This Way." On the heels of the rap kings' "My Adidas" hit single comes this enjoyable remake of the decade-old Aerosmith song, with Aerosmithies Steven Tyler and Joe Perry jogging along. The video is a textbook example of how to cleverly illustrate music--in fact, you get the feeling that they recorded this track with the video in mind. Run-D.M.C.'s three members are shown in a studio getting upset over all the rock 'n' roll noise coming through the walls as Tyler and Perry rehearse next door. When Steve and Joe go into "Walk This Way," the rappers turn up the volume and take over the vocals. Tyler rams a mike stand through the wall. Looks like a rumble, but instead we switch to a concert scene where all concerned finish the collaborative effort in friendly fashion. Fast and fun. Director: Jon Small. 80

David Lee Roth's "Yankee Rose." The opening of the first video from Roth's debut LP is the sort of thing he and co-director Pete Angelus do best--in this case, an absurdist peek inside a late-night convenience store with some kooky customers. And the stage footage that follows shows Dave being the in-concert clown, and features what must be the most outrageous bump-and-grind close-ups to grace MTV yet. The colorful performance and dazzling camera work (the photography is by Dominick Sena, who's directed some great-looking videos of his own) aren't quite enough to put this in a class with the best clips Roth and Angelus made with Van Halen, but it's a standout in this slow season. As for the now-Sammy-Hagar-led VH-2, we're still waiting for its first video. 75

Falco's "Jeanny." If what this vapid video summer needs is a little controversy to stir things up, Falco's decadent shocker might do it. In fact, the Austrian singer--fresh off an international hit with the goofy "Rock Me Amadeus"--has complained that radio stations in Europe stopped playing "Jeanny" only after the video came out, thinking until then that this song about a child-murderer was just another love ballad. It's an easy mistake to make, and Falco might have chickened out and made a video for America that disguised the subject matter. Instead, here's a stylishly creepy clip--referring to and apparently inspired by the Fritz Lang film "M"--that's above average but seems sure to raise the ire of people who'd like pop music to portray nothing but healthy, happy thoughts. Director: Hannes Rossacher. 65

The Beach Boys' "Rock 'n' Roll to the Rescue." With everybody in every video trying to look more modern, trendy, up-to-date, new wave and flashily futuristic than everybody else in every other video, this corny, regressive, hopelessly old-fashioned clip seems positively refreshing. The song's another reshuffling of the trademark harmonies, and the video's another filmed trip to the beach for the (old) Boys. Lots of kooky cars, surfboards, bare-midriffed babes and good-natured fun, fun, fun. Surfing a time-warp wave and coming dangerously close to falling over into pure, pathetic nostalgia, this video just manages to ride it out in style--however out-of-style that style may be. Director: Eddie Barber. 55

THE REST OF A BAD LOT

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