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Rock Videos: End Of An Error?

August 31, 1986|CHRIS WILLMAN

The big news in rock videos nowadays is: no videos .

What a concept.

First came announcements from several major-name acts--including Van Halen, Journey and Joe Jackson--that they would decline to make videos to coincide with their new releases. Then a Geffen Records honcho announced that the label is being more cautious about jumping into videos for new acts, and especially heavy-metal acts, unless their status makes it apparent that they'll get air play on metal-shy MTV.

You know what the eventual implications of this are, don't you? No more slow-motion shots of tables being knocked over. No more opportunities for budding Fellinis to try out their symbolism skills. No more easy targets for TV preachers and the PTA. No more facial-only close-ups of fat rock stars. No more work for half the gorgeous models in Hollywood. And--worst of all--no more Sound & Vision, where videos are rated much more generously than they have any right to be on a scale of zero to 100.


Van Halen's "Why Can't This Be Love" and Journey's "Raised on Radio." Directors: none. By choosing not to make videos and scoring hit records anyhow, Van Halen and Journey have become unlikely heroes for those of us who remain skeptical of the video revolution and who believe that more good songs have been ruined than enhanced by visualization. In these days when we're urged to let Reagan be Reagan, let's let pleasant radio songs be pleasant radio songs, and not demand that every pop tune--no matter how lightweight--become a minor motion picture. By not making any videos at all, Van Halen and Journey tie on the Sound & Vision video scale with a symbolic . . . 90.

Neil Young's "Touch the Night." Director: Tim Pope. Young's song and video both concern a freeway car crash that a young man survives and his girlfriend doesn't, but from there the paths diverge intriguingly. In the spooky song, the dazed survivor wanders off from the accident site, pondering his loss, but in the morbidly comic video he never has the chance to get away from the scene--he's hotly pursued by Young, playing an obnoxious TV reporter eager to get some color for the 11 o'clock news. The unsettling tone of this clip--which features only one edit in its entire length as the camera follows Young tenaciously--ought to be enough to keep it off most video programs, if the graphic depiction of an accident scene isn't. For those who get to see it, though, its mixture of the real (ambulances, cops, blood and flames) and the surreal (a red-robed choir happens to be around) should prove disturbing and not quickly forgettable. 86

L.A. Dream Team's "Nursery Rhymes." Director: Fisher & Preachman. These up-and-coming local rappers, apparently not satisfied with their record company advance, resort to residential burglary--only to be discovered by a little girl who forces the "babysitters" to recite some nursery rhymes. This they do in the wordy, jivey style you'd expect, while the director and crew go into overtime with animation and claymation illustrating the Team's funked-up fables. For a clip that makes light of a felony, it is awfully cute. 60

The Ramones' "Something to Believe In." Director: Fisher & Preachman. After focusing their charitable efforts overseas, Americans have begun to look toward home to find the needy right under their noses--and who could be more deserving of our charitable dollars than the ever-down-and-out saviors of rock 'n' roll, the Ramones? Well, probably lots of folks, to tell the truth, but that doesn't mean that there still shouldn't be a "Hand Across Your Face" to benefit the Ramones, and here it is, complete with a league of mostly minor-league celebrities and look-alikes lending their efforts to the cause. Considering the parodic potential, this could've been considerably funnier, but we, for one, kept waiting for the contribution hot-line number to appear on the screen. It never did--guess we'll have to do our bit for the cause by buying the boys' latest LP. 60


Paul McCartney's "Press." Director: Philip Davey. McCartney wanders through the subways of London, followed by video cameras capturing his incessant mugging and the bewildered reactions of the unsuspecting plain folk underground. This could come off as insufferably arrogant--you know, rich rock star actually takes time out to mingle with the commoners--but it almost works, at least for the first minute or so, thanks to Paulie's unebbing cuteness (even with gray hair, he still looks 23) and the variety of reactions the commuting masses have to His Majesty's presence (not all of them awe-struck, by any means). 44

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