I tried to find nine new videos to review this week, I tried hard, but the current selection is by and large the same familiar tripe – and is it just me or has MTV suddenly started playing Britney Spears’ n“Lucky” an awful goddamn lot again? So, remembering how much fun I had last week when I scoured a six-hour block of VH1 Classic and eventually settled on reviews of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “California Dreamin’” and “The Heat Is On,” I decided this week to just sit my ass down in front of VH1 Classic and hang out with the channel while conducting other business – get writing done, talk on the phone and read the paper, like my roommates and I used to do. Just let the channel provide some background noise. But upon flipping on the television, I was vindicated my shitty video luck. Almost everything, whether old and primitive or cool-as-shit historical artifact (I’m talking to you, Jimi), piqued my interest tonight and provoked immediate response on my laptop. I figured this concept would cover a wide period of the video channel, but I was in and out of the week’s quota of video reviews in just over an hour. So I have to commend VH1 Classic, which I’ve enjoyed for almost a year now – if just as one more promising cable channel to surf past where you’re guaranteed to see some fucked-up, obscure shit at 3 in the morning. Yeah, there’s the Bachman Turner Overdrive and .38 Special to contend with, and at least once an hour you’ll be assaulted by some painful R+B pop gem from the mid ‘80s, like “Oh, Sheila” or Prince at his purplefrutiest, but I’m willing to let that slide. Anyway, here are the reviews. You and I both know it shouldn’t have taken me this long to introduce them...



9:33 p.m.

a-ha – Take on Me (1985)
a-ha - Take on Me
     (****)  We begin with Norway’s proudest export, one-hit wonders a-ha, whose “Take on Me” is widely cited as one of the original ground-breaking videos of the Reagan era. It still crops up in modest placement on MTV best-of countdowns, and the clip is right at home on VH1 Classic, save a little period hair and an obnoxiously rosy color scheme in the non-animated scenes. “Take on Me” is set in a quickly flashed, animated black-and-white universe where a motorcycle chase has our protagonist hunted down by nasties. During the skirmish, the comic book’s laws of physics meld with a real-world diner, where a perky live-action girl has to look both concerned and enamored of the singer. The director, God bless him, really tries to create a sense of dramatic urgency, but the finished product is more light-hearted fun and period-piece curiosity than anything. And, let’s be frank, some of these “ground-breaking” special effects look downright primitive now. Still, it’s hard not to sit there with a smile on your face as the dude finally breaks out of his torturous, paranoid alternate world and becomes a colorful human, all because of this girl’s unconditional love and faithful devotion. (As Keenan Ivory Wayans would say, “Message!”) There’s something about “Take on Me,” video and song both, that I absolutely love despite myself. It definitely has that car sing-along quality – try belting it out with four friends if it pops up on the radio at midnight. It’s a rush. –Andrew Hicks
a-ha - Take on Me

9:37 p.m. 

Carole King – I Feel the Earth Move (c. 1982?)
     (*½)  I don’t know if it was too many drugs or just one too many guys stomping on her too-tender heart, but in this video, Carole looks like a substitute teacher who lost her lesson plan and took too many Quaaludes one day during seventh grade science. She’s loopy, man, wandering the stage like a neurotic, underwritten Judy Davis character in a Woody Allen movie. And what’s with the pleated lilac-colored skirt? --AH
     P.S. Watch out for the sax solo.

9:42 p.m.

The Commodores – Lady You Bring Me Up (c. 1977, well after the politics of pop music had turned frighteningly gay – is this the wrong thing to say less than a week after I’ve been accused of a hate crime?)
     (*)  “Lady You Bring Me Up” is one of those videos that simply must be seen to be believed. The entire clip takes place on and around a public park’s volleyball court, where some bored, hooker-looking girls in hot pants wear lime-green and orange hot pants. The Commodores? They’re in some bright, fat-striped recreational wear and impossibly short shorts. (And, oh, the choreographed dancing.) A referee materializes out of nowhere and begins officiating the game, blowing the penalty whistle when Lionel starts dancing on the ceiling. A video this tacky could only have come from the decade where you could actually view hardcore porn in theaters and buy popcorn and a buttplug on the way in. Take for what it’s worth. –AH

9:47 p.m.

Paul Simon – Me and Julio Down By the School Yard (c. 1988)
     (***)  A smile temporarily crept up my face a minute ago. Two clean-cut Reagan-era rappers – Biz Markie and Big Daddy Kane – began dropping rhymes on VH1 Classic. I thought we’d finally reached a landmark in cable music-video history, the utopian era where one video station could treat you to a no-commercial, no-veejay, no-bullshit meld where all people and genres are created equal. (Except country, of course. Fuck country.) Granted, I am somewhat oh-what’s-the-word-that-means-you-love-your-country-
endorse-the-anime-sprites-on-Japan-MTV… ethnocentric, that’s the word... it means I’d rather stick to the American and European genres, with some genuine reggae tossed in. Biz Markie and Big Daddy Kane introduce Paul Simon, who’s on one those ethnic-appropriation trips again. He plays “Me and Julio,” the acoustic, Latin-tinged classic, in this relatively new video – made around the time his solo greatest hits was being released. Neighborhood folk play basketball with Simon (that 45-year-old, five-foot white boy schools ‘em, lemme tell ya) while Latin percussionists chime in from the sidelines. Little girls playin’ double-dutch, and stuff. It’s really not bad, though, a humble interpretation of the classic song that even features a John Madden cameo… Oh, and I can guarantee you, at the time of this video’s original release, VH1 never played this video’s Big Daddy Kane/Biz Markie intro. –AH

9:55 p.m.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Killing Floor (c. 1968)
     (****)  The people at VH1 Classic operate on several very basic principles, and one of them is One Hendrix Video Every Hour. The channel has a fairly extensive library of performances, and they love to rotate that fairly-cool assembled video for “Are You Experienced?” And sometimes they toss in a cool-as-shit non-staple Hendrix concert video, like “Killing Floor.” The Jimi Hendrix Experience rocks the house here, while a feather-boaed Jimi shows off on the guitar and throw out some haphazard, energetic vocals. No real technical tracks, although the cameras’ being chaotic and all over the place helps sest the mood immensely. Really, though, all you need to do is study the emotion in the facial expressions from this performance and try to absorb this man’s utter coolness in the process. Sweet, man. –AH

10:03 p.m.

Lionel Richie – All Night Long (1983)
     (zero)  And from that high point, we go to one of the absolute lamest videos ever made, with dancers who look like extras cast in a Jane Fonda’s Easy-Going Workout tape. Lionel Richie presides over a sickly utopian, fashion-catalogue-nightmare block party where his black leather pants cling tight, smiling breakdancers twirl for the crowd and people with color-coordinated pseudo-African garb stand around and shoot the shit. Lionel walks around with a wide grin, as if sadomasochistically soaking in all the pain he’s inflicting on an suspecting nation of basic-cable subscribers. My favorite moment of unintentional humor: The neighborhood cop, a wiry J.J. Walker look-alike, looks over the proceedings with a scowl, then – after a very dramatically pronounced moment of pause – breaks into some kind of wiggly-worm dance, a huge grin crossing his face. This is pure, contained horror, and you’ll notice it comes only 21 minutes after that zero-star Commodores video. I never said VH1 Classic was a true win-win proposition. -AH

10:07 p.m.

The Shirelles – Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (c. Goddamn! What, like 1958?)
     (**)  This student-film-quality video serves both as ill-inspired history lesson and primitive social commentary, as shots of a young-but-still-befuddled Ronald Reagan are mingled with clips from “Mr. Ed” and “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.” Or something like that. Reagan is basically equated to a talking cartoon animal. Later, such trite icons as Superman, Marilyn Monroe and Richard Milhouse Nixon are brought out to serve as some kind of odd lyrical juxtaposition. (Although, admittedly, we all know Nixon said things like, “Will you still love me tomorrow? Huh? Will you?” to his cabinet members all the time.) Oh, and there’s Lassie. Thank God songs only lasted two minutes in those days. –AH

10:22 p.m.

Marvin Gaye – How Sweet It Is (c. 1965)
     (**½)  It amazes me how effortlessly and charmingly Marvin Gaye had perfected his ultra-smooth – sensitive, even – ladies-man appeal even in the early days of the Live-on-Sullivan tux and hip-swaying female backup singers. This black-and-white performance, which is taken directly from a lip-synched appearance on one of the afternoon Top 40 shows of the period, features no backdrop or curtain – just the illuminated visage of Marvin Gaye, eyes closed, singing into the microphone with an enormous smile on his face. (Someone’s thinking about some nookie!) As a video, there’s not much to look at here, but again – you can read a lot in that man’s face just from watching him do his thing. –AH

10:29 p.m.

Jefferson Starship – Laying It On the Line (c. 1988)
     (*)  This last-gasp Embarrasingly Political Election-Year Comeback Video With Meaning video from Grace Slick and her band of coke-sniffers and multiple felons is virtually intolerable. Musically, it sounds like it would be right at home on the Transformers: The Movie soundtrack while, visually, big-hair/blue-screen lip-synch footage is blended with unsubtle commentary on the impending election and America’s stupidly masculine fight for outer space during the Cold War. This one requires multiple viewings, not just to soak everything in but merely to gain the ability to watch it and not burst into immediate and unrelenting laughter. The guy singer, Mickey Whatshisname, is playing a poorly coiffed politician running for office, and his political rally features dozens of young, disenfranchised painted-whore models. It’s truly awful, but I can’t give this a zero because some of these people were once responsible for “White Rabbit.” –AH
     P.S. And why did they think it would be cool to steal that cheesy-ass, Bon Jovi “I’m Flying Across the Audience” effect from “Livin’ on a Prayer”?

10:37 p.m.

Prince – Little Red Corvette (1983)
     (**)  If there’s one odd musical preference I’ve managed to name-drop in almost every form of writing I do, it’s my college-era obsession with Prince’s music. What started as a guilty affinity for and appreciation of Purple Rain, Sign O’ the Times and the contents of his two greatest-hits album became an all-out listening binge that lasted the better part of eight months. I bought all twenty or so albums, copping most of them as ten-or-twelve-for-the-price-of-one selections from BMG Music Service, I paid too much for a couple of concert bootlegs, and one of my readers copied nearly a dozen tapes of outtakes and performances for me. There’s a lot of fucking material in the Prince catalog, and it covers a broad range of funk, pop, R+B, guitar-rock and, yes (as the ‘90s were ushered in), hip-hop. A lot of crap, too, but that’s the inevitable batting average of creativity compounded with the auto-pilot reflex of an artist to repackage the old rather than always take the effort to create. That all said, I just wanted to point out that I’ve more or less moved on with the Prince thing. I rotate albums in and out of my player on occasion, but the man isn’t really on my play list. Whether that’s a step forward or merely a fluctuation of personal taste remains to be seen. So “Little Red Corvette,” the video? It’s primitive and uninteresting, filmed entirely on the same dark, ultra-sparse set as “1999,” with Prince wearing the same purple-sequined jacket and matching hi-heels. (Man, come on, you wear purple high-heels and expect listeners to take your shit along with them to parties?) No special effects, other than the dimming and brightening of red mood lighting that glows during emotionally intense parts of the song. I’m not overly impressed with those dance moves, either. –AH

10:41 p.m.

The Doors – L.A. Woman (song c. 1967, video very-very Reagan-era)
     (**½)  This is a good one to close on, I think, a pretentious but highly effective classic from Jim Morrison & Co., visuals redone with an ‘80s mohawk-and-yuppie twist. Stock footage of L.A. traffic is mixed with camera shots of such fabulous Los Angeles locales as, uh, the fresh-fruit market. (I don’t know exactly where that is.) And two upwardly mobile types meet outside a showing of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, which even for being made in 1927, is much more visually exciting. The editing of all this footage into one semi-coherent montage goes off okay, but this take on “L.A. Woman” never becomes anything to care about or marvel at. And it runs the full eight minutes of the song, wearing out its welcome real fast. I doubt Jim would have been too excited about this one, before or after his breakfast bottle of Wild Turkey. –AH


Ludacris f/Shawna – What’s Your Fantasy?
     (**)  No, that is not a typo. This guy actually spells the word “ludicrous” that way, and his album title is called Back for the First Time... And, to him I say, go back to school! Get your hours! …Yes, this song is catchy as hell (shit, I'm bouncing to it now just thinking about it) with the crazy ass chorus, “I wanna li-li-li-lick you from your head to your toes / and I wanna move from the bed down to the down to the floor/ I wanna ah-ah / You make it so good I don't wanna leave / But I got to kn-kn-kn-know what's your fan-ta-sy!” Yes, there are lots of hoes in skimpy attire frolicking about Atlanta in this video and, no, Ludacris does not deserve them with his ugly ass. Yes, they have a scene in which the whole neighborhood dances in the strip mall parking lot (isn't that illegal?) and, no, this guy will not be around in a few months. Leon Bracey

     From now on, I’ve decided to put together a weekly column-closer that prints reader feedback, including technical details on the factual shit I’m just plain wrong about. (I mean, come on, I just talk out of the side of my mouth about these videos and create libel in the name of humor.) I’m sure it would provide the readers with technical and trivial facts – I hope, while primarily being an incisive bastard, to at least turn some casual readers on to the medium of music video. There’s far more pure dreck out there than visual innovation, but for people with short-attention spans and an eye for cinematography (and, let’s face it, the occasional Bring It On-level treatment of T&A), it’s a morbid hobby… Anyway, yeah, the column’s coming – next week, probably. So send all feedback to, and you may see your comments excerpted right here in italicized print. Sound good?


Copyright 2000 Andrew Hicks