Music Video Reviews [1981-2011]

The Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star [1981]
In my mind and in my car | We can’t rewind we’ve gone too far | Pictures came and broke your heart | Look I’ll play my VCR
Who could ever forget about the video that started it all? Believe it or not, this was the first video to air on MTV, August 1, 1981, at 12:01 AM! The video itself is a curious montage full of freaks, exploding radios and profound lyrics . . . “I heard you on the wireless back in Fifty Two/Lying awake intent at tuning in on you . . .”These one-hit wonders were in the right place at the right time with the perfect name for a video to inaugurate the first television station devoted entirely to pop music. According to legend, the idea for the song was inspired by a story from science fiction writer Robert Heinlein. The single had actually reached No. 1 on the British charts but only climbed to No. 40 on the U.S. charts when it was first released in 1979. MTV gave the song a little boost, to say the least. The video cost only $50,000 to produce and was shot in just one day. The lack of quality was quite evident. But nobody really gave a shit. By the way, “video killed the radio star” is repeated ad nauseam (11 times) in mind-numbing fashion throughout the song. All I want to know is whatever happened to the Buggles so many years ago? Apparently, the two struggling musicians that made up the Buggles had actually disbanded the group before the video even made it to MTV. Geoff Downes went on to help form the group, Asia (“Heat of the Moment”), another staple of the early MTV. Trevor Horn became a successful producer for artists such as Tina Turner, the Spice Girls and Faith Hill. “Video Killed the Radio Star” is the third most aired video in MTV history and became the millionth video to air on the music channel on February 27, 2000.

Asia – Only Time Will Tell [1982]
You’re leaving now | It’s in your eyes | There’s no disguising it | It really comes as no surprise … This video must have seemed real innovative back in 1982 – however, today it comes off as a true relic of early MTV, laughable and totally ridiculous. In fact, it looks like some amateur Nam June Paik ripoff with all the TVs stacked on top of each other. And what’s with the gymnast doing backflips on the television sets? Inexplicably, the album Asia reached No. 1 on the Billboard Charts and also included the hit, “Heat of the Moment.” In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, one of the characters tells another: “Do you want to know how I know you’re gay? Because you like Asia.”

Eddy Grant – Electric Avenue [1982]
“Workin’ so hard like a soldier | Can’t afford a thing on TV…” In a scene straight out of A Clockwork Orange, a guy with dreadlocks named Eddy sits on his couch watching disturbing imagery on his TV. He stands up to change the channel (where’s the remote?) and miraculously falls through the floor, which is somehow made of water. Cut back and forth to images of the guy with dreadlocks falling through the floor with a couple of punks cruising through the streets aimlessly on motorbikes. What’s the point of all this? Who the hell knows? Who the hell cares The success of “Electric Avenue” helped make Killer on the Rampage Eddy Grant’s breakthrough album. The song itself was upbeat and appealing; the special effects cheap but memorable. The video’s infectious energy served to mask its base stupidity. Born in Guyana, Edmond Montague Grant started his musical career as a member of a London-based, Caribbean-style band called the Equals. As a solo artist, Grant scored a couple of catchy hits during the early ’80s and then crashed and burned quicker than Chevy Chase’s stint as a talk show host. Eddy has stayed busy over the years, however, writing the theme song for Romancing the Stone, hosting the first annual Caribbean Music Awards and starting up his own record label. As for the song in question? It seems to have gotten more mileage than Eddy himself. For instance, “Electric Avenue” has been used in a Montgomery Ward and a Pantene Pro-V commercial, among others.

Men at Work – “Down Under” [1982]
“Traveling in a fried-out combie | On a hippie trail, head full of zombie | I met a strange lady, she made me nervous | She took me in and gave me breakfast…”
A whacked out singer with a lazy eye named Colin Hay and his band of misfits perform a series of skits depicting their own unique vision of life in Australia. Along the way they manage to introduce a number of weird Aussie terms to the American lexicon such as “vegemite sandwich” and “fried-out combie.” For a little over a year, this energetic Aussie group stunned the critics by landing hit after hit on the pop charts from its album, Business as Usual. It wouldn’t have happened without MTV. The videos they put forth were original and energetic—but very fleeting. In fact, this group faded out rather quickly (however, Hay’s solo career has developed quite a cult following over the years and I totally recommend his live performances if you can catch him in concert!). Business as Usual stayed at No. 1 on the U.S. charts for a phenomenal 16 weeks until the arrival of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It’s hard to believe today, but the album actually sold more than 10 million copies and Men at Work won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist for 1982. However, after another successful album, Cargo, it was all downhill from there. Hay departed in 1987 to pursue a solo career. In the late ’90s, Hay and fellow band member Greg Ham embarked on a world tour—playing all of the old Men at Work classics of course. The highlight of the “new” Men at Work was the band’s performance at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

Men Without Hats – “The Safety Dance” [1982]
“. . . we can go where we want to | A place where they will never find | And we can act like we come from out of this world | Leave the real one far behind…”
The video takes the freaky lead singer into some sort of Renaissance festival where he tries to get everybody to partake in this weird dance ritual. Dwarves and jesters abound. Notice how many of the best videos were created by bands that faded into obscurity faster than Gerry Cooney lasted in the ring with Larry Holmes? Here’s another catchy tune based on an idiotic premise. I mean, what the hell was a safety dance anyway? It seemed to be a lot of flailing your arms around like a total moron. Some have claimed that the song is actually a plea for safe sex. What’s it really all about? Who the hell cares! Besides, you have to appreciate any music video that features a dwarf (this one’s dressed up as a true court jester to boot!). Side note: Safety Dance proved to be so popular that even Weird Al threw together a mediocre parody of the song called “The Brady Bunch” – “You can watch Mr. Rogers | You can watch Three’s Company | And you can turn on Fame or the Newlywed Game | Or The Addams Family | I say, you can watch Barney Miller | And you can watch your MTV | And you can watch ’til your eyes fall out of your head | That’ll be OK with me…” Men Without Hats was formed in Canada in 1980 by brothers Ivan (the wild-eyed, maniacal lead singer) and Stefan Doroschuk. They hit pay dirt with their 1982 debut album, Rhythm of Youth, which peaked on the U.S. charts at No. 3. Unfortunately, their next “hit” crept to No. 127 on the charts and the band was over and done although they kept churning out the crap, including an album with the idiotic title The Adventures of Women & Men Without Hate in the 21st Century. They even threw together a greatest hits album called – believe it or not—Greatest Hats.

A Flock of Seagulls – Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You) [1983]
Tell me is it for nothing | Just don’t walk out the door | If I had a photograph of you | It’s something to remind me … We open the “Wishing” video with the band welding or something. They’re in some sort of futuristic building, I’m thinking a spaceship. Yeah, maybe they’re in outer space. They still have those weird haircuts and strange outfits. There’s a crazy toy that bounces up and down. All in all, it looks like some really cheap Star Wars type special effects. Then we see a chick spinning around in the cosmos. She fades away. Then we see the band in some sort of space control room, maybe they’re living out some sort of Star Trek fantasy, I don’t know. All in all, a pretty cool video . .

Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart [1983]
Once upon a time I was falling in love | But now I’m only falling apart | There’s nothing I can do | A total eclipse of the heart | Once upon a time there was light in my life | But now there’s only love in the dark | Nothing I can say | A total eclipse of the heart … Teamed with eccentric producer Jim Steinman (the guy to blame if you hate Meat Loaf’s entire body of work), Bonnie Tyler hit it big with “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” an overwrought, pretentious (see “Don’t Pay the Ferryman review”) but catchy ballad. Somehow this thing managed to skyrocket to the top of the charts in the U.S. and overseas. The action takes place in this huge mansion. The fog machine’s working overtime in this thing, folks. There’s doves flying around, swinging chandeliers and candles everywhere. What’s with all the school kids emitting those light beams from their eyes? How about the choreographed ninja routine and the team of gymnasts? How about the dudes trashing the dinner table? Why not throw some football players into the mix? It’s all absolutely meaningless, totally over the top and one of the dumbest music videos of all time. For trivia buffs, Bonnie Tyler’s real name is Gaynor Hopkins. Do you think she would have ever scored a hit as Gaynor Hopkins? Very unlikely. If you were around in the summer of 1983, you heard this song on the radio about once every 10 minutes and MTV screened the video in an endless loop. By the way, Tyler had another hit for the soundtrack of Footloose, “Holding Out for a Hero” (also penned by Steinman).

Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time [1984]
Sometimes you picture me | I’m walking too far ahead | You’re calling to me | I can’t hear what you’ve said | Then you say go slow | I fall behind | The second hand unwinds… A dopey looking chick with multicolored hair sits amid squalor in a trailer watching an old movie. It turns out the flick in question is actually The Garden of Allah [1936] starring Marlene Dietrich and Charles Boyer (as if anyone really cares). She’s So Unusual sold more than five million copies throughout the world-churning out a total of four top five singles, including “Time After Time.” “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “She Bop” and “All Through the Night.” How do you follow up such a phenomenal achievement? How about writing and singing the theme song for The Goonies starring Corey Feldman and Joe Pantoliano? And then appearing as a psychic in a dismal flick called Vibes (that was universally panned by critics, if you can imagine) that costarred Jeff Goldblum. As for “Time after Time”? The song was even featured in a Healthy Choice meals commercial.

Beastie Boys – “Fight for Your Right (To Party)” [1986]
“Man, living at home is such a drag | Now your mom threw away your best porno mag (Busted!) . . .” The Beasties—Adam Horovitz (King Ad-Rock), Adam Yauch (MCA) and Michael Diamond (Mike D)—crash a party full of geeks and nerds that devolves into a climactic pie fight straight out of a Fatty Arbuckle movie. The joint gets totally trashed, a television gets smashed with a sledgehammer, beer flows freely and the Beasties end up escaping with all the hot-looking chicks. For the perfect mixture of humorous, innovative and downright kick-ass lyrics, is there any band out there that could match the Beasties? The party scene in “Fight for Your Right” (a top-10 single from the hit album Licensed to Ill) was modeled after the party scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, according to The two-day video shoot cost just $20,000 and the cast consisted of friends of the band. One critic called “Fight for Your Right” the Beasties’ version of the Beatles’ A Hard Days Night. The video definitely put the Beasties on the map to rap stardom, not bad for a couple of punks from Brooklyn. Bottom line: “Fight for Your Right” is simply one of the greatest party videos of all time. What else is there to say? Licensed to Ill, the brainchild of Run D.M.C. producer Rick Rubin, sold more than 8 million copies in the United States alone, becoming the first rap album to hit No. 1 on the pop charts. The Beasties “shouted beer-stoked rhymes with the zest of drive-by Dead End Kids,” according to The Rolling Stone Album Guide. “Fight for Your Right” placed 66th on MTV’s 100 Greatest Videos Ever Made and was No. 100 of VH1’s 100 Greatest Videos … “Your mom busted in and said, ‘What’s that noise?’ Aw, mom you’re just jealous—IT’S THE BEASTIE BOYS!”

Weird Al Yankovic – White & Nerdy [2006]
M.C. Escher, that’s my favorite M.C. I must admit I thought Weird Al had peaked out 10 years ago with “Amish Paradise,” his superb parody of “Gangsta’s Paradise” – a blistering Amish ambush that deflated Coolio’s rap career and turned him into a total joke. However, with this parody of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin'”, Weird Al has scripted a true national anthem to nerdom, one that ranks with Louis Skolnick’s famous speech at the end of Revenge of the Nerds (the “I Have Dream Speech” for nerds everywhere, if you will). Special guest stars in the “White & Nerdy” video include Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key of MAD TV, Seth Green, Judy Tenuta and Donny Osmond. Believe it or not, “White & Nerdy” is Weird Al’s first top 10 hit on the Billboard charts (his previous hit, “Eat It,” climbed to No. 12 on the charts back in 1984).

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