music videos

#905: Growing Up With Video

“Live videos > fake live videos any day of the week.” Harrison the Mad Metal Man

RECORD STORE TALES #905:  Growing Up With Video

Music videos of the 80s could, in theory, be broken down into three major categories:

  1. Conceptual videos.  Sometimes with a storyline intercut.  Occasionally the musicians got to act.  Other examples have no musicians at all.  (Iron Maiden’s “Can I Play With Madness”.)  Conceptual were majority of music videos — usually combining the conceptual part with the band performing on some kind of stage.  Not to be confused with…
  2. Stage videos.  Or, as Harrison calls then, “fake live videos”. Lipsynching the hits, on a stage, sometimes in front of a crowd, with no conceptual content.  Sometimes these were simply live concert videos dubbed over with the album tracks.  “Thrills in the Night” by Kiss, for example.
  3. True live videos.  Many Van Halen videos we grew up with, from “Unchained” to “Best of Both Worlds”, were live in concert — audio and video both.  In some cases you could not buy these live tracks on any kind of release.

Of course there are more categories and sub-categories, just less significant.  Some videos are entirely animated, which is more common today.  We also have something new — the lyric video.

I can remember the sixth grade.  Mrs. Peterson’s class.  Van Halen’s 1984 was out and Quiet Riot were burning up the charts.  These were pretty much the only bands I heard of.  I hadn’t seen the music videos and I didn’t even know what Quiet Riot looked like.  The only pictures I had ever seen of Quiet Riot were the buttons that the masked guy is wearing on his vest on the front cover of the cassette version of Metal Health.  I squinted hard, but the Kevin DuBrow I imagined on that button looked nothing like the real deal.

The teacher was getting us started on simple surveys.  To make it fun, she took a survey of all the most popular music in the class.  Each kid got to name one favourite artist.  I named Quiet Riot, and Kevin Kirby named Van Halen.  Michael Jackson and Duran Duran were the top two.

As the discussion proceeded, many of the kids mentioned that they liked the music videos.  Michael Jackson was at his peak, and he was the pioneer of the modern music video.  Other artists like Culture Club made an impact with their image, which came across best on video.  The teacher was curious about all this, so the class explained what a music video was.  Something dawned on the teacher, and she exclaimed, “So to be a music star today, you not only have to be able to sing, but you also have to be able to act!

No, and yes.  You didn’t have to “act” per se, but you did have to be able to present yourself and play to a camera.  David Lee Roth was not an according-to-Hoyle actor.  Some would say he’s also not a singer, but he is a master at playing for the camera.  Staring deep into the lens, gazing with the come-hither look, just so.  Doing easily what other rock stars couldn’t, or didn’t want to.

So yes Mrs. Peterson, in a sense, to be a star in 1984, you had to be able to “act”.  Video didn’t kill the radio star but it sure took a bite out of them.

Kids used to catch the videos on various cable shows.  There was one called The Great Record Album Collection on WUTV that I sometimes caught before dinner.  The Canadian movie channels (Superchannel, First Choice) would run music videos in the dead minutes after the credits rolled, to the top off the hour.  Until MuchMusic came along, we Canadian kids didn’t have a one-stop-shop to watch all our music videos.  Fortunately, having MuchMusic coincided with getting our first VCR.

Once we became seasoned in the way of the music video, we developed clear favourites.  12 and 13 year olds didn’t have a lot of money.  We also had never attended a concert.  Therefore, live videos with music that wasn’t what we were getting on the album were rarely favourites.  We preferred the “fake live”, as Harrison the Mad Metal Man calls them.  Then our immature ears could hear the songs clearly, and that would help us decide if were going to spend our nickles on a new tape.

Best of all though were the conceptual videos.  Some were not good (just ask Billy Squier), but some really captured our imaginations.  In Record Store Tales Part 206:  Rock Video Night, we discussed some of my favourite clips to show to younger folks who weren’t there in the 80s.  They were all conceptual clips.  Many of them involved a band on a mission of some kind.  There were so many of that kind.  Thor had “Knock ‘Em Down”, Queensryche had “Queen of the Reich”, and Armored Saint had “Can U Deliver”.  These videos featured, at least partially, a band on a quest.  They also featured scantily clad women, and lots of “fake live” footage.

But the “fake live” footage often featured cool angles and close-ups.  That meant we could examine the finer details of the outfits and guitars.  You couldn’t just look up pictures of your favourite stars on the internet back in 1986.  “I want hair like that!” Bob said about Eric Brittingham from Cinderalla.  “That would look cool in red!”  Meanwhile, I wanted Rob Halford’s leather jacket from the “Turbo” video.  Of all these videos, we liked the Iron Maiden clip for “Wasted Years” best, which we watched in slow motion, pausing to identify every single Eddie.  There were many we had never seen before.

We just weren’t as interested in purely live videos back then.  For example, MuchMusic had two versions of Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'”:  the original and the live one from Priest! Live.  After the live video came out, that’s the one they primarily played.  It was disappointing because if I was going to only hear Priest on TV once that week, I preferred the original.  Frankly, we didn’t buy a lot of live albums as kids.  When we collected bands, we would try to get all the albums including the live ones.  But when we wanted to buy one tape from a band, we didn’t go for live ones.  Some live albums we heard scared us off from the format.  The Song Remains the Same wasn’t the kind of thing we had patience for.

That all changed for me in highschool.  I wanted to buy a Triumph album.  It would be my first.  On recommendation from a kid in my history class, I picked Stages.  And it was like a lightbulb went off in my head.  Virtually every song was awesome!  In fact the only track that wasn’t was a studio track!  And then I had the joy of making those live versions my first Triumph loves.  When I got the studio renditions, they seems thinner and colder by comparison.  I never had that experience before.

I wonder if any of this will be interesting to anyone at all.  Videos are irrelevant today as far as heavy metal goes.  Today, we are not interested in the same things we were in our youths.  We don’t care what the singer is wearing or what the drummer did to his hair.  We care more about how the band is sounding, and how the crowd is responding.  A new music video by a metal band is not as interesting as pro-shot live footage from Wacken.  We want to listen carefully for backing tapes, we want to see the band gel on stage, and we want to cheer along when it’s good.

It is incredibly fortunate to have grown up in the 80s, when videos were in their prime, and still be rocking today when all that stuff is available at our fingertips any time we need a blast of nostalgia.  Younger readers will never know the tense excitement of hitting “record-pause” on a VCR and waiting for the premier of the newest video by Maiden, Priest, or Def Leppard.  Seeing the carefully edited stage moves paired with salon-fresh hair.  It was a glorious time even if was completely ridiculous.

#810: So Tired

Wishing Ozzy and his family all the best with his recent Parkinson’s diagnosis.

 

GETTING MORE TALE #810: So Tired

I don’t know what I expected the first time I saw Ozzy Osbourne on TV.  All I knew of him was that he was supposedly a drug-crazed metal madman.  What I saw on TV was a blonde guy in a cowboy hat.  Certainly not how he had been described to me.  Just an ordinary guy?  I didn’t know any of his music yet, just the name and a little bit of the reputation.

I began learning a little bit more during one of my childhood basement VHS taping sessions in 1985.  George came over with his tape collection and I recorded clip after clip of rock and metal from him.  It was a feast!  Imagine getting all the key early videos by Ozzy, Dio, Twisted Sister, Black Sabbath and more in one afternoon.  All this new music!  All these new artists!  I only knew a few faces and names.

It was actually only Carmine Appice that I knew from Ozzy’s band.  The distinguished looking drummer, with his jet black hair and cool-as-fuck moustache was prominent in the video for “Bark at the Moon”.  I knew him from King Kobra.  There was no mistaking Carmine.

I taped a few Ozzy videos from George that day.  He only started making music videos in 1983 for Bark at the Moon.  There was nothing to represent the Randy Rhoads years — “Crazy Train” wasn’t released until 1987.  The videos I had collected to date were a live concert version of “Paranoid” from the Bark tour, “So Tired”, and “Bark at the Moon” itself.

“Paranoid” featured Jake E. Lee on guitar, but I certainly didn’t know his name.  I wouldn’t have known it was a Black Sabbath song or anything else about it.  I couldn’t tell what he was singing or shouting at the crowd.  “Get your hands on it!” I thought I heard him shout.  Hands on what?  I assumed it was something that went over my head, but all this really proves is that it doesn’t matter what a rock star is yelling at an audience.  They just have to sound cool yelling it.   He could have been shouting “Eat Grapenuts!” and it still would have sounded cool.  Sure Ozzy, I’ll have some Grapenuts.  I also misheard him singing “I can’t find” as “Yeah yeah fight!”  When you don’t know the words, your mind fills in the blanks.

Over the years, Ozzy has taken a lot of flak from religious circles for lyrics that promote suicide.  There is no way I was getting “suicide” from that performance of that song.  I wasn’t getting anything!  Rock haters — you can’t have it both ways.  You don’t get to say “You can’t understand the words” and “The lyrics cause drug abuse and suicide”.  You can’t have both at the same time.  All Ozzy caused in my household was turning up the volume knob on the TV set.

The most puzzling thing Ozzy had done to that point might be the single/video “So Tired”.  Even to people well aware of Ozzy’s career, the video was more than odd.  So imagine a kid like me in 1985 with no Black Sabbath or Ozzy albums.  That music video was peculiar to say the least.

Playing multiple characters, Ozzy seems to occupy a Victorian village, where he performs at the local opera house.  He’s also an old man, and there’s a guy with a decaying face, and another guy with one lopsided eye.  In the 80s, you see, you had to have a guy with a lopsided eye.  Black Sabbath had one in “Zero the Hero”.  An orchestra covered in cobwebs accompanies Ozzy at the playhouse.  Then Ozzy, garbed in black with sequins, shoos the ballet dancers off the stage.  Oh look!  There’s Abraham Lincoln in the balcony.  Not for long!

 

The lopsided eye guy (a stage hand presumably) suddenly pulls a knife, cuts a rope, and drops a sandbag on Ozzy’s foot!  Meanwhile, the stage manager (played by Ozzy) feeds Ozzy his lines in frustration.  Then an Ozzy with a Hitler moustache emerges on a riser playing piano.  Again, remember, Black Sabbath had a Hitlerstache guy in “Zero the Hero”!  By the time Lincoln hit the floor, I was utterly baffled.

Couple this with the fact that the song is a lush, campy ballad with strings and piano.  Not the kind of song I associated with the heavy metal madman.  I didn’t know of his history with ballads like “Changes”, nor was I aware of his love for John Lennon.  I thought “So Tired” had to be a joke!  The only guitar is in the brief solo.  Ozzy certainly couldn’t be doing this kind of music seriously.  Could he?

“So Tired” is cheesy, but that doesn’t take away that it’s actually a pretty great ballad.  The song (like the entire album) is credited solely to Ozzy.  I think Bob Daisley probably wrote it with Ozzy, maybe even Don Airey was involved.  There’s no way Ozzy wrote it alone.

The video though, that’s still to do this day one of the most outlandish things Ozzy’s ever committed to celuloid (and he had a reality TV show).  Like an Ed Wood film, it stumbles far beyond being bad, instead becoming some sort of ugly but priceless treasure.  I can’t stress this enough — at the time, Ozzy only had two official music videos.  One was “Bark at the Moon” and the other was “So Tired”.  We didn’t have much to judge Ozzy by, and it’s safe to say that “So Tired” threw us all for a loop!

#681: Bad Lessons

GETTING MORE TALE #681: Bad Lessons

Parents of the 80s were always concerned about the impressions that their kids were getting from music videos.  Objectifying women?  Drug and alcohol use?  Absolutely a concern.  But what about other misleading lessons from the music video age?

 

Bad Lesson #1:  You can play guitar with gloves on!

You’re guilty, Blackie Lawless from W.A.S.P.!  You too, Jeff Pilson of Dokken!  You both played your instruments in music videos while wearing full leather gloves.  As children, we simply assumed if it got cold outside, you could continue to play your guitar with gloves on.  I’m not talking fingerless gloves, but full coverage.

It doesn’t really look cold in that Dokken video for “Burning Like a Flame”. Why the gloves, Jeff? George Lynch isn’t even wearing a shirt.

 

Bad Lesson #2:  Great hair just happens.

How many music videos of the 80s showed the band members doing up their hair?  None!  Probably due to the “hairspray” stigma of the 80s. Some videos showed the band members literally getting out of bed, with hair intact.  I assumed that once you grew your hair long enough and had it cut by a professional, it would just automatically look cool every morning.  Naturally, I had bad hair for years.  Thanks, rock stars.  Don’t be embarrassed by your hair care products!

 

Bad Lesson #3:  Guitars are eeeeasy to play!

Since we didn’t fully comprehend that music videos were mimed, and not an actual performance, we assumed guitars were easy to play!  After all, they made it look so easy!  C.C. DeVille could jump around and swing his guitar everywhere without missing a note.  Others would just…hit their guitars…and the song played on!  Paul Stanley seemed to play his without even touching it.  You can imagine how we felt when we actually bought our first guitars ourselves.  Hitting it didn’t play a song, it just made a hitting sound.  We were lied to!

Players like DeVille and Jeff Labar of Cinderella also made it look far too easy to swing your guitars over your shoulders.  We damaged some necks and some ceilings trying to imitate these guys.  We learned you had to buy strap locks or watch your guitar get launched skyward.

 

Bad Lesson #4:  Adulthood involves walking the streets at night with your boyz.

As young impressionable kids, we didn’t know what adulthood was really about.  We saw our dads go to work every day.  Mom worked hard too.  But what about before they met and got married and settled down to have kids?  What was life like at that stage?  Judging by Dokken, Journey or Motley Crue videos, adulthood meant walking around town a lot with your buds.  Some bands even cruised in cars!  Is this what growing up looked like?


“Don’t Go Away Mad” (by the most Mötleyest of Crües) is guilty on two counts: plenty of downtown walkin’, and Vince waking up with hair perfectly coiffed.

 

Bad Lesson #5:  Getting arrested is no big deal!

David Lee Roth was led away in handcuffs in the “Panama” music video.  Bobby Dall of Poison got arrested in one of their clips, too.  Let’s not forget Sammy Hagar getting busted for speeding in “I Can’t Drive 55”.   But it’s all good – the guys were all there at the end of the songs.  No big deal!

 

 

It was never the alcohol, or devil worship, or women that made rock videos dangerous. Turns out it was the mundane stuff. Who knew long hair was so hard to upkeep? They never told us that. How naive we were!

 

 

DVD REVIEW: Styx – 20th Century Masters: The Video Collection (2004)

STYX – 20th Century Masters: The DVD Collection (2004 Universal)

These 20th Century Masters DVDs were a fun way to pick up key music videos from major bands at a cheap price.  Today this role is largely filled by sites such as YouTube.  The Styx edition features six of their cheesy best, and Styx did indeed make some cheesy music videos back in the day.  There are no frills and no extras, just the vids, so let’s have a look.

Tommy Shaw’s “Blue Collar Man” is a rock staple with cool lyrics.  This is a live version, and because of the big KILROY backdrop, I’m assuming this is from the Styx Caught in the Act DVD.  I love the 80’s clothes although the haircuts haven’t changed as much as you’d think.  The best part of this video is watching the late John Panozzo flailing away on drums, a sight that Styx fans certainly miss.

Thankfully, “Come Sail Away” is not live:  it is the cheesy original.  A bearded Dennis DeYoung croons and tinkles, hair highlighted by the spotlights.  John Panozzo’s afro can be seen bobbing over the drum kit, before Shaw and James Young kick in with the chords.  The band dressed in white appear to glow on stage, and it’s a gloriously terrible music video.  Things like this have kitsch value to me.  “Too Much Time On My Hands” is also the original, and this is just indescribably bad, so I’ll just present you these still photos to show you what I mean.  It’s pretty hilarious.  Fortunately it’s a good song!

“The Best of Times” is among my favourite Styx songs, in fact I had it played at my wedding reception. Judging by Dennis’ sparkly vest, it’s from the same video shoot as “Too Much Time On My Hands”.  It has some of the same camp value, but without the embarrassing “acting” scenes.  But damn, isn’t this a great song?  Shaw’s “Boat On a River” is also excellent.  Tommy plays mandolin, while bassist Chuck Panozzo weilds a big stand-up double bass.  DeYoung’s on accordion, mustachioed instead of bearded.  The folksy tune has always struck me as very Queen-like.

Finally, “Mr. Roboto” closes the DVD, as it must.  Taking scenes from Styx’s short Kilroy Was Here film, it depicts Jonathan Chance (Tommy Shaw) searching for imprisoned rock star Kilroy (Dennis DeYoung).  Kilroy is seen attacking a “Roboto” prison guard and thereafter making his escape wearing the mask of the robot.   It’s a nifty little sci-fi music video, something I’m a huge sucker for.  “Mr. Roboto” is still a great memorable song with a cool little video.

3/5 stars

Part 206: Rock Video Night!

MUCH

RECORD STORE TALES Part 206:  Rock Video Night!

Last time on Record Store Tales, we talked about Andy and Ashleigh and the discovery of great rock bands such as Rush, Max Webster, and Van Halen.  Andy was even more curious now about what great rock was out there.

Rock music is about so much more than just the songs.  There’s the concerts, the live experience.  There’s the history of the bands, the stories and the context.  And there were the music videos.  How could one possibly talk about a great band like Van Halen without mentioning groundbreaking, defining music videos that they made?  Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, I decided the best way to explain these things was to have a Rock Video Night at my place.

90% of my video collection was from the Pepsi Power Hour.  Back in the days before YouTube, a channel like MuchMusic would have an hour or two a week devoted to the heaviest videos in rock, and I tried to record the show every week.  I had amassed a large collection of VHS tapes, probably about 120 hours of music videos, interviews and concerts altogether.  That’s not including the hundred or so officially released video tapes that I bought over the years.  We had a lot to watch so I had to hone down the set list for the evening.

Since I am and always have been OCD about my music collection, I had a meticulously typed list of every track on every video that I made.  I carefully planned the evening’s entertainment.  There were some videos that I know these kids had to see.  They were all one musical generation younger than me.  They grew up on videos like “Jeremy” and “Fell on Black Days”, not “Jump” or “Go For Soda”.  I had to make them understand my time, when it was OK to have sword fights and dwarves and laser guns in your videos.

Ash and Andy arrived along with my other employees Braddy D and Chris P.  The set of videos that I chose to share with them that evening included:

SAVATAGE – “Hall of the Mountain King”.  Summary:  Dwarf seeks Mountain King’s gold.  Must try to steal it without waking him, while band is playing in the same caverns.  Not sure why the King doesn’t hear Jon Oliva singing.  (below)

VAN HALEN – “Oh Pretty Woman”.  Summary:  Lady in distress has been kidnapped by two dwarves.  A hunchback in a treehouse (David Lee Roth) telephones a samurai (Michael Anthony), Tarzan (Alex Van Halen),  a cowboy (Eddie Van Halen), and Napoleon Bonaparte (David Lee Roth) to save her.  (below)

ARMORED SAINT – “Can U Deliver”. Summary:  Band driving a Buick with armor and an anti-aircraft cannon seek a glowy sword.  Band plays concert in front of rocker dudes and scantily clad babes while wearing leather armor.  (below)

GRIM REAPER – “Fear No Evil”.  Summary:  Band drive a DIY armored APC on a quest to free long-haired slaves from an evil half-man half-something with Wolverine claws. (below)

MIKE LADANO, BOB SCHIPPER and DAVE KIDD – “Nothing But A Good Time”.  Summary:  A highschool video I made, lip synching to “Nothing But A Good Time” by Poison.  We had our English teacher do the schtick at the beginning where he plays the prick boss who gives the kid a hard time before the song comes on.  We made it in ’89 and it was our school’s selection to send to the annual regional Film Awards!  (below)

Rock Video Night was a great success in many regards.  The kids had a great time finally seeing David Lee Roth doing the splits in “Jump”.  Ash was still not won over by the rock, but that’s OK.  What wasn’t OK is that I had really sour stomach issues that night!  I tried so hard to be a good host, and I kept excusing myself, but…they tell me the smell was wafting down from the upstairs bathroom.

So, Rock Video Night ended on a rather stinky note.

NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES…

Make ’em say uhhh!