REVIEWS -- JUNE 30, 1999
 
 
                               
 
REAGAN WEEK,
First Administration 

Culture Club Ė Karma Chameleon (1984) 
     (*)  This video just blows. I have a hard time believing Boy George sold any records -- even to relatives -- while wearing those Indian feathers, that lipstick, the house painter coveralls and the 4 Non Blondes hat complete with goggles perched on top. I saw Big Daddy a couple days ago, so forgive me if Boy Georgeís wardrobe reminds me of Adam Sandlerís adopted kid when Sandler tells him to "wear whatever the hell you want," and the kid starts using a pasta strainer as a hat. I mean, when David Lee Roth is parodying your dress habits, itís time to just get some damn drawstring shorts or something. We all remember the "Karma Chameleon" video, Iím sure. Itís set on a steamliner in the Old Mississippi, where a card shark cheats the passengers out of money and picks their pockets one by one. Finally, they make him walk the plank (no, not Boy Georgeís turgid human plank) and George leads the rest of the passengers in a spirited dance. This is why Mark Twain rode a raft. ĖAndrew Hicks 
     (zero)  I find no words. You know the video, youíve seen it a million times, but how the hell do you describe it? How do you explain that Boy George is standing on a dock in the Mississippi Delta serenading a bunch of Southern gentiles from the 19th century? I mean, youíve got an image in your mind of what would really happen if Boy George even found himself broke down in the Mississippi Delta; itís not a pretty thought. Somehow satisfying, but not pretty. I think Iíll just forget about trying to review this in a traditional sense, and just mock George some more. Letís forget the transvestite makeup and Valley Girl from Hell outfit, and focus on the hair. How much of that nonsense is really hair anyway? Thereís so much crap dangling from it, itís like a charm bracelet, as if I should find little metallic hearts and guitars dangling around his neck. But I digress... the jollies move to a riverboat, where the good Southern folk wile their time away gambling. But wait... gasp! Thereís a cheater in their midst! Luckily, he gets a good toss into Old Man River. Unfortunately, George is allowed to remain. That doesnít make sense; Boy George is a much bigger swindler than that cheater. I mean, all he did was steal Ė he conned millions into thinking he was talented. Talk about your classic scams... --JW 
     RANDOM JEREMY COMMENT: You know, I always thought he called himself Boy George to remind himself that he was, in fact, a boy. 

Dexyís Midnight Runners Ė Come on Eileen (1983) 
     (***1/2)  Somewhere in America, at all times, this song is playing in a frat bar. Itís been many, many years since I heard "Come on Eileen" on the radio for the first time Ė it had probably already made the leap to adult-contemporary programming by that point Ė but Iíve never gotten sick of it since. The video is decent but not quite as classic, featuring the band dressed in denim overalls and flaunting a hobo look that screams, "Hey, weíll never chart again." Sometimes one hit is all a band should have, one chance to infect the heads of the public with a catchy melody and a fly-by-night fashion. The hobo thing didnít catch on, except in a small group of long-evicted squatters, but Dexy assured themselves a place in frat boy history, and thatís important, too. ĖAH 
     (***1/2)  Itís so ludicrous, I love it. A bunch of dirty English hillbillies running around, playing mountain instruments and telling a love story by using old black-and-white photographs. These days, Iím reasonably sure theyíd be begging for change in front of the MTV offices, not giving them their own video. Forget the goofy charm of the video for a minute, though, and realize this is a great song, with one of those beats that just begs you to put it on a car tape. Of course, Eileen has ditched our hero for somebody with slightly better hygiene, but what did she know? --JW 

The J. Geils Band Ė Centerfold (1982) 
     (**1/2)  Okay, I can tell you right now, this guy has never dated a centerfold in his life. Still, what chauvinist guy canít sympathize with the idea of his high school sweetheart posing nude behind his back? And what pathetic lonely guy wouldnít go right out and plunk down five bucks for a copy of it? "Centerfold" comes from the very dawn of music video, from an era where a group of girls bouncing up and down in lingerie counted as choreography and a lead singer could jump from one school desk to another without being considered a total dork. Keep your eye out for that staple of early Ď80s video cliché, the shot of a snare drum filled with milk being struck by the drummer. The song is a classic, but the video could scarcely feed a starving Ethiopian family for a week. ĖAH 
     (***)  Címon, sing it with me -- nah nah nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah nah nah nah. OK, I think thatís the proper number of nahs. I love this song and this video, and I have no idea why. Maybe itís because the J. Geils Band should have never been allowed to play this kind of music in the Eighties, but they got away with it, anyway. Of course, I guess most of us canít relate. How many of us have opened up our favorite nudie mag only to find our girlfriend smiling in the centerfold? Oh, that many? Never mind, I guess Iím just a loser. Anyway, itís a good video but weird. Peter Wolf dances around a classroom filled with girls who dance like they were trained by Michael Flateley but look like they should have been making 20 bucks a pop on the lower East side. Plus, Peterís so lanky, heís almost freakish. I wonder who would win if he and Rick Ocasek got in a "Cool Ghoul" contest? Place your bets! --JW 

Genesis -- Thatís All (1984) 
     (zero)  There was a time, in the Eighties, when you couldnít start up the demo on a keyboard in any department store and not hear this damned song, completely synthesized. Thank God those days are over. --JW 

Billy Joel Ė Keeping the Faith (1983) 
     (**)  Billy Joelís approach to music videos was to stage them like scenes from bad Broadway plays. Look no further than the choreographed mechanic routine from "Uptown Girl" and the family kitchen epic of "We Didnít Start the Fire." The guy had a motif, and he keeps it going with this cheesy-as-hell video that reminisces about the experiences of Billyís youth, back when he used to be kinda cool and his name wasnít a registered trademark. Donít get me wrong, a little Billy Joel can definitely be a guilty pleasure (try not to sing along to "Only the Good Die Young), but "Keeping the Faith" is just embarrassing. He brags about having "hair like the rest of the Romeos wore, a permanent wave," for Godís sake. He starts out the video by defending his lifestyle in front of the judge, then the courtroom turns into a fucking sock hop, at the climax of which Christie Brinkley comes out on the hood of Madonnaís "True Blue" í57 Chevy, sporting a bright red wig and snapping her gum. If you hang around long enough, youíll see Billy dance on the courtroom steps, which are painted like piano keys. ĖAH 
     (**)  Witness Billy Joel in complete denial, and youíll understand whatís led to his atrocious acts in the nineties. Thatís what this video is all about -- Billy running around frantically, trying to convince everybody that his best work wasnít already behind him. The video seems to either take place in a courtroom or a church, or a combination of the two, with Billy showing why "keeping the faith" allows you to wear any gaudy Ď50s knockoffs that you damn well please. Iím surprised he didnít come in wearing a white t-shirt with a pack of cigarettes rolled in one sleeve. Or wait, maybe Iím just thinking of "Uptown Girl" Hmm... Anyway, as eighties staples go, this one is about to fall right off the page. --JW 

Huey Lewis and The News Ė If This Is It (1983) 
     (**1/2)  Huey Lewis catches hell at the beach after his girl dumps him. He has sand kicked in his face and everything, but things turn around when Huey orders the Charles Atlas Home Body Building Kit from the back of an issue of Archieís Pals and Gals. It only costs him $1.99, and before you know it, heís winning carnival games and everything. Oh, and there goes his slut ex-girlfriend with not one but two French sailors. Whatís worse, the sailors actually had a hit in the Ď90s. This video is pure 1983 kitsch, now obsolete as hell but totally worth tracking down just to see Huey lying on his beach blanket while The News stick their heads up from the sand and do choreographed doo-wop moves. Embarrassing, but not as embarrassing as the landscaping work Huey now does for a living. ĖAH 
     (**)  Poor Huey, he just canít win. Iíd dump the loser, too. If I went to the beach and saw Huey reclining around the doo-wopping heads of his bandmembers, who have been buried in sand... well, Iíd find a new beach. So, he loses his teenybopper girlfriend, and middle aged men everywhere feel their own chances dashed. But wait, just as heís on the beach, thinking of ending it all, a new blond beach bimbo appears, decked out in a teeny bikini, and hope is reborn! The two walk off into the sunset, and fortysomethings everywhere renew their plans to go pick up college chicks. --JW 

Men Without Hats Ė The Safety Dance (1983) 
     (**1/2)  This is what happens when people do whippets. --AH 

Ray Parker, Jr. Ė Ghostbusters (1984) 
     (*1/2)  This video proves that shameless movie soundtrack promo videos have been around for a long damn time. So has Ray Parker, Jr., and heís off parking cars in some lot somewhere as we speak. Keep it nearby and thereís an extra five in it for you, Ray. Needless to say, the music video for "Ghostbusters" is a half-ass effort. I donít think the people who made this video expected it to pop up on Box Classics every day for the next 15 years, otherwise they wouldnít have Ray stalking a frightened white woman in her apartment, eventually stripping his shirt off to reveal a black Ghostbusters tank top. The apartment is decked out entirely in neon, the only fashion relief coming from the endless parade of celebrity cameos trotted out to yell the songís chorus. This cavalcade includes such dignitaries as Danny DeVito, Al Franken, Teri Garr and Peter Falk. Let me tell you something Ė bustiní makes me feel good! --AH 
     (*)  Nobody ever seriously liked this. At least thatís my hope. I mean, yes, I used to sing it at maximum volume in the car until my mom begged me to stop. I was seven years old, alright? Next thing you know, youíll be taunting me for owning that Bobby Brown album... speaking of which, I have to admit Ray does a much better job of embarrassing himself than Bobby would five years later. Every self-degrading 80ís trick is used here, and used shamelessly. Remember the celebrity cameos? Yeah, so do they. Do Al Franken a favor and donít remind him exactly how fruit he looked screaming "Ghostbusters!" Anyway, I canít imagine Ray Parker, Sr. is very proud of Junior these days. You show me the man who can sing "Bustiní makes me feel good!" with pride, and Iíll show you a man whoís lost all sense of integrity. At one point, Ray materializes in some bleach blond bimboís house and scares the bejesus out of her. Personally, Iíd be just as frightened if Ray Parker, Jr. materialized in my stairwell. The video is filled with clips of the movie, and the end even features the assembled Ghostbusters dancing down the street with Ray in the lead. In 1984, that meant something... no, Iím serious. --JW 

The Police Ė Wrapped Around Your Finger (1983) 
     (***)  Sting dances around in a sea of thousands of candles in what is either performance art or preparation for a night of tantric sex. (That intro doesnít work for you? Hereís a substitute: When The Police lived together in their college apartment, they divvied the utilities and Sting got the electric bill. He never paid it.) Sparse as hell, itís also what I consider to be the coolest Police video out there Ė forget about the ashtray dissolving into the snare drum in "Every Breath You Take." Puffyís spoiled that one for me, anyway. God help us all if he turns this song into "Rapped Around Your Finger." Still, Sting is a rather fruity bastard in this video. He has the Curse of 1983, and that white suit and sunglasses combo doesnít help, either. Thank God the man can shag for 12 hours straight. ĖAH 

Prince Ė Little Red Corvette (1982) 
     (**1/2)  You knew I was going to throw a Prince video in here somewhere, and I refuse to review "1999" in 1999, so this is about the only other option. "Little Red Corvette" was filmed on the same stage as "1999." Iím betting the two were filmed back-to-back like The Policeís "Roxanne" and "Canít Stand Losing You," even down to the same red spotlight that insists this is an entirely different video from the one before it. Prince is basically wearing the same outfit from "1999," a glittery blue jacket with a white scarf and some delicious purple high heels. I admit, this guy was always only a couple rungs below Boy George on the Fruit Ladder, but he attached his gender crisis to actual music. Heís black and he plays guitar Ė that has to count for something. And he even holds out for a full minute before he does his trademark Batusi fingers drawn-back-from-the-eyes move. He waits a full two minutes to hump the ground and change his name. --AH 

The Romantics Ė Talking in Your Sleep (1983) 
     (**)  Remember John Sencio, one of this short-lived MTV veejays? With an Elvis impersonatorís pompadour slapped on his head, he would have looked just like the lead singer of The Romantics. So it kind of surprises me that this guy has a girlfriend who confesses her love for him in her sleep. I have a feeling her dream-time monologue would go more like, "How to dump this guy? Can I tell him itís not him, itís me? Or just cheat on him and make sure he finds out? God, that Elvis impersonator hair has to go!" The rest of the band doesnít look much better Ė itís all a lot of leather and bangs, and the uninterrupted 30-second shot of the drummer doing his work doesnít help, either. Aside from the band, all we get are shots of comatose women, lined up, waiting to tell the lead singer what they think of him and his pompadour. A lot of these "Lost Ď80s Lunch" radio staple songs are much better heard, not seen. ĖAH 
     (*1/2)  Does anybody but me think of this guy as a dangerous fiend? I mean, he waits until his girlfriend falls asleep and then gathers information to use against her. He even parades a line of his zombie victims for us to enjoy. Creepy! If the Romantics were big in the nineties, Iím reasonably sure it would be for doing the soundtrack for some really lame sitcom. --JW 

Stray Cats Ė Stray Cat Strut (1983) 
     (***)  I think these guys kicked ass in the novelty band sense. They jumped on a long-forgotten trend, rockabilly music, and glammed it up for the early MTV crowd. It was a successful mix, and something Brian Setzer couldnít recapture for his comeback last year. You could tell the Stray Cats were punks in real life, and that if you took their bottles of mousse, theyíd break out the chains and beat you within an inch of your life. "Stray Cat Strut" includes that requisite early Ď80s element of the middle-aged party pooper, all too willing to throw buckets of water on the Stray Cats when her soap opera is preempted by mysterious shots of cartoon cats. Itís that neutralizer beam Brian Setzer carries around in his pocket. ĖAH 
     (***)  See my entry about George Thorogood. Brian Setzer was a genius long before he showed up looking like a burned out Paul McCartney a couple of years ago. When the Stray Cats reintroduced rockabilly to an eighties crowd that had been conditioned to enjoy new wave, they were so unfamiliar with it, it seemed completely fresh. "Stray Cat Strut" is their signature song, and the video is a fairly imaginative representation, with the band playing in an alley while people throw things at them. It kind of makes me wonder what all those people who threw their shoes at Heathcliff did in the morning, but thatís besides the point. Great song, great video, but Iím forced to wonder how much of our precious ecosystem was destroyed in maintaining Brianís hairdo? --JW 

George Thorogood and the Destroyers Ė Bad to the Bone (1982) 
     (***)  "Bad to the Bone" is one early Ď80s video that has held up for the greater part of two decades. Unfortunately, itís also the only song most of the world knows George Thorogood by. Think of all the people out there who have been deprived of "Move it on Over" and "I Drink Alone." ÖOkay, I hope the state of music hasnít gotten so bad that Iím longing for the utopian days when George Thorogood ruled the roost. "Bad to the Bone" intercuts filmed concert footage and Georgeís pool match with some blues great. Iím not cultured enough to know which blues great and, actually, I just assume heís a blues great. It could just be an extra they plucked off the street. Anyway, George has what it takes to rack up the cue ball and all that stuff, and to hustle the shit out of some rich old guy who comes in with his girlfriend. Pool hustles may be all George has left now. ĖAH 
     (***)  I have no doubt this song used to kick ass. Iím also aware itís not really that old, in the grand scheme of things. But it fits into my theory, as does "Born to be Wild" by Steppenwolf, "Like a Rock" by Bob Seeger, and the entire catalogue of the Beach Boys -- that any song that has been overused in commercials and movies can no longer be enjoyed on aesthetic grounds. I also canít help thinking of the Chipmunksí version of this video, but I think thatís more of a personal issue. Also, our roommate Jeremy insists on playing along with the guitar riff with a smirk on his face. Somehow, I donít think heís impressed. That aside, itís a cool video, and George does his best to live up the title, playing all-night pool with a guy who looks like he could shark Jaws. At one point some old man is sent to a nearby gym to fetch his boss to come bet; I saw the boxers and figured he was getting some guys to beat Georgeís ass when he couldnít pay off his bets. My only problem with the video is that George makes some trick shots that somehow I doubt were in his ability. Remember when a fortysomething Kurt Russell made that basket from half-court in Escape from LA? Well, you get the idea. --JW

 
 
 
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