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Jefferson Airplane Alums Crash And Burn

March 22, 1987|CHRIS WILLMAN

Somewhere since the counterculture pop of the '60s, there came a fork in the road, and--as the poet would say (paraphrased)--it is not our lot to know what might have happened had we rocked on down the other path. But neither trail looks all that rosy in retrospect, at least not as exemplified in the extremes of the two paths taken by a pair of Jefferson Airplane spinoff bands.

These two groups' new, wildly divergent video clips are dominating the air waves at the same time, ironically enough, and provide a fascinating look at just what has become of the "White Rabbit" generation.

With "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now," the Starship provides a painfully obvious symbol of post-trippers selling out and going for the gold--and, embarrassingly, succeeding. With "America," the KBC Band (led by Paul Kantner, Marty Balin and Jack Casady) provides an example of folks who haven't lost their ideals struggling to find something to say in the '80s--and, embarrassingly, failing.

These two bring up the rear of this month's Sound and Vision roundup of new clips, all rated on a 0-100 scale.

Vid clips picked to click:

Talking Heads' "Love for Sale." Directors: David Byrne, Melvin Sokolsky. Dropping shots of prepackaged Talking Heads into a montage of fast-edit excerpts from television commercials is likely to draw comparisons to Andy Warhol's soup-can images, since both take that which is intended purely to sell and appropriate it in the service of art. But whereas Warhol would insist that the commercialism he reproduced is art to begin with, it's unlikely that Byrne would make the same claim about the advertisements he and his co-director make use of here. Not that it's necessarily a blatant anti-commercialism statement, either--Byrne is a little beyond that--but the unrelenting barrage of the mundane becomes fun and disturbing. 80

Herb Alpert's "Keep Your Eye on Me." Director: Zbigniew Rybczynski. To call Alpert's new single a "trifle" would be to make a massive understatement--it's merely an extended Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis funk groove, and a familiar one at that. But meager as the song is on vinyl, it makes a dandy sound track for the latest visual trickery from Rybczynski. Alpert and his producers and a troupe of dancing girls all take to tightropes high above New York City, with a sense of humor and special effects that are equally impeccable. Where so many of Rybczynski's famous videos have been hypnotizing and irritating, "Eye on Me" is hypnotizing and pleasant. 80

Peter Wolf's "Come as You Are." Director: Edd Griles. In which our man does nothing but jump around the set of a small town--out the front door, down the main street past the shop windows and passers-by, all the way to the park bandstand, yep, just jumping for joy with both feet in the air and head in the clouds. It's a kick. 70

David & David's "Ain't So Easy." Director: Stephen Frears. The good news is that the director of "Ain't So Easy" didn't shy away from its controversial subject matter: the proverbial woman who loves too much, and the man who hits her in the face too much. Shots of the camera-shy David & David in the studio working on this gem from their engaging debut album are intercut with the appropriate scenes of domestic violence and banality. The bad news is that the concept's execution is handled too distantly to drive home any of the emotional impact and pain waiting to burst out of this sad saga. (Tip for film makers: Avoid flashing back to the same scene more than twice in the same video, unless you're Nicolas Roeg.) 68

Cathode rays guaranteed to induce alpha waves:

Los Lobos' "Shakin' Shakin' Shakes." Director: Gary Weis. It's one thing for a video to feature visuals totally unrelated to the music at hand--but it's another for a clip to promote a completely false concept of the song it accompanies. With its cutesy incorporation of film clips from famous horror movies, this clip would leave an unsuspecting viewer with the idea that the song is about fear. When, in fact, the number is a beautiful, boppin' anthem about nature and the supernatural and God and dancing women and all sorts of neat stuff. Which, admittedly, is not as easy a concept of "shakin' " to get across on MTV as something involving werewolves and vampires. 22

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