One of the most faithful minions of the eMpTyV site, a guy by the name of Mike Melanson, found a tape lying around his house last month. His mom was once into music videos, he told me, and in the mid-’80s, she got a few dozen of them on tape. Not from the cable giant MTV, mind you, but via network TV sources. Remember when late-night video shows were all the rage, airing on local stations and WTBS and, of course, NBC, which brought us “Friday Night Videos” for something like twelve years. And usually could be counted on to play the hell out of the most embarrassing, of-the-moment pop videos. Melanson’s tape is full of forgotten gems of unintentional humor. There are unholy duet pairings you would never dream of and costumes you couldn‘t be paid enough to wear. And, yeah, there are a few truly decent videos scattered throughout. But too many of those, I’ve already reviewed in the past couple years. So expect more of the obscure, mediocre stuff to dominate our...


Eurythmics -- Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)
     (***)  We start, harmlessly enough, with a true oldie-but-goodie. “Sweet Dreams,” the one that put Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart on the map, is 1983-sparse on visuals and budget, but the disconnected fantasy and acid-trip images keep the thing flowing smoothly. You get the feeling Annie really snowed one over on the committee that judged this little film school final project -- there are cows and meditation moments and primitive keyboard monitors with disembodied hands typing away at them. And, most freaky of all, that Carrot Top-in-the-Army buzz cut that Lennox is sporting. I just wish I could find go to a mini-golf course and find myself a ball that color. I’d hit three under par every time. --Andrew Hicks

Julio Iglesias and Diana Ross -- All of You
     (1/2)  Oh, man, this is sick. Julio’s chasing Diana around a cocktail party, exchanging flirtatious Latin looks. And Diana is flashing her trademark, No, Michael Jackson And I Aren’t The Same Person, Goddammit! grin, bright and toothy as ever. Eventually, he walks in on her in the bathroom or something, and true love blooms. And their celebrity love child eventually stars in the sitcom “The LaSqueesha Iglesias Show.” --AH

Jermaine Jackson and Pia Zadora -- When the Rain Begins to Fall
     (*1/2)  Remember those triangular, black-and-white sunglasses that were popular for about a half a minute during the Beverly Hills Cop era? Pia is all over those here, and she attracts the immediate attention of one Jermaine Jackson, who is wearing some kind of chain-mail getup with a chest-cropped red shirt likely stolen from his brother Mike’s closet. Jermaine’s clothes send out a beacon to Pia’s enormous Miss Cleo headband, and they begin their unlikely courtship. Jermaine and Pia (wouldn’t you love to see those names painted side by side in icing on a wedding cake?) hook up in a bar, where she’s hanging out with her all-white* new-wave biker gang, whose members ride around on these puny white motorcycles that look like they were made by Black and Decker. Jermaine snatches her away, and they run from the sneering gang, who eventually track them out to some secluded woods. The choreographed climax is rather amusing, but this being the mid-’80s, the director should have tried to capitalize on the slasher movie craze. Jermaine Jackson’s intestines spread out on some tree branches would have been considered high art on MTV back then. --AH
     * = I mean wardrobe and race here.

Michael Jackson -- Billie Jean
     (***1/2)  “Billie Jean” is one of the few videos from the MTV infancy period that is still just as much worth watching today. And it’s one of the few Michael Jackson videos out there that doesn’t involve vain showboating and grimace-worthy freak visuals. This Steve Barron clip is positively subdued compared to such future Jackson spectacles as “Bad,” “Black or White” and those confidential police file photos from the great child molestation scare of ’93. About the tackiest things you see in “Billie Jean” are a bright red bow tie that Mike borrowed from his friend Paul Simon (the senator, not the “I’m With Garfunkel” guy) and the leather pants Mike is seriously flooding in. Those also came from the Senator Simon wardrobe closet... Barron has Michael walking around a ghost town set of a city block, where a detective stalks him and a somber Mike struts down the street, each panel of the sidewalk lighting up when his foot hits it. Eventually, he looks through the window where he once had his affair with the titular paternity-suit bitch and realizes that what Papa Joe always said is right -- women are nothing but trouble. And, from then on, he only has sex with young males.* --AH
     * = That fact has never been verified, but I mean, come on... just take a look at the guy.

The Jacksons -- Billie Jean
     (**)  Yeah, they did release a second video for “Billie Jean” back in the day, but this one doesn’t involve scandal and quick feet lighting up sidewalk squares. This “Billie Jean” is a slick tour-documentary clip from the Jacksons’ Victory era, with shots of roadies setting up the stage interspersed with fan interviews. (The most hindsight-ironic quote comes from an African-American woman who brags, “He’s an inspiration to all black people.” Her statement is followed by a permed-ass cracker who says he likes the dancing.) All the females can do is gush about Michael, and when the music finally starts, it’s totally his show. Mike proceeds to sing -- not lip synch -- and dominate the stage. Though nothing is particularly electrifying, especially when the shameless propaganda statements start literally popping up in the middle of the screen. (SAMPLE: “I think I’m gonna see history, the biggest concert this nation has ever seen. The biggest thing since The Beatles.) This version of “Billie Jean,” nonetheless, is worth watching just to see the pissed-off looks on the other Jackson brothers faces, now that Michael’s notoriety and star power has so fully eclipsed theirs. There’s nothing like seeing Tito on VHS, plotting a homicide. --AH

Al Jarreau -- After All
     (zero)  I have nothing against Al Jarreau personally -- all I know about him is he’s the dude who sang the theme from “Moonlighting,” which I used to like when I was a kid but now can’t stand to hear broadcast over my shoulder every two hears on the Muzak at work. But I never dreamt I’d see something so culturally and artistically godawful as this video from Al Jarreau. The entire thing is filmed on one soundstage, which features a fakeass cutout big-city silhouette backdrop and a painted-on sunset. And, out in some desolate park (translation: big floor with a bench and phony newstand planted on it), Jarreau stands in the shadows and lip synchs while male and female honky dancers interpret his pillow-talk lyrics. “After All” is ham handed, turbo-tacky and downright hilarious, but you probably can’t even track it down on the Internet, it’s so sixteen-years-ago obscure. Definitely not your loss, though. --AH

Paul McCartney -- No More Lonely Nights
     (*1/2)  Was it actually the music video revolution that made Paul McCartney lame? I know, I know, he disgraced himself more than once in the 1970s -- you can’t listen to “My Love” or “With a Little Luck” without shuddering, even if either of those is a personal guilty pleasure. (For the record, neither of them are for me, though I do love a good, cranked-up-on-the-stereo “C Moon.”) But for the most part, McCartney was still pretty darn cool until he started making videos. Which made your whole body shudder. Like his multi-blue-screen personalities in “Coming Up” and his straddling of giant piano keys with Stevie in “Ebony and Ivory.” And, damn, you can’t get much further from Paul’s Beatles glory than “No More Lonely Nights,” a video so cheap it uses the same stock footage of fireworks popping that was featured in James Brown’s “Living in America” video. (Granted, this came first, but come on -- that’s some $1.69 stock footage to be sticking in a video.) And, aside from a little outdoor, pseudo-contemplative lip synching from Paul, the entire video is a commercial for the ultimate McCartney embarrassment, 1984’s Give My Regards to Broadstreet. It’s a sad four minutes, and Melanson’s tape cuts off before it even reaches its conclusion. Segues to something about Michael Jackson, which is somehow sweet relief. --AH

Olivia Newton-John -- Physical
     (**)  On one level, this is a total disgrace to the music video medium. On another, it’s a jaw-dropping, hilarious time capsule back to 1981. Can you guess which level represents the author as dead sober and which places the author smack in the middle of a night of heavy drinking and glue-sniffing? (We’re talking that carpenter’s shit here.) No, really, if you’re in it for the pure freak-show people watching, “Physical” is a rewarding three-and-a-half minutes. For one, it’s downright disturbing how much Olivia Newton-John looks like Jane Fonda here. I’m half expecting her to star in Barbarella, burn an American flag, make a bunch of workout tapes, marry an atheist media tycoon and convert to Christianity. Instead, Olivia hangs out on a tile-walled health club set, where she abuses a group of fat dudes whose shirts are too small to hide their inch-wide navels. She really beats the crap out of them, too, while singing shameless come-ons like, “There’s nothing left to talk about unless it’s horizontally.” Which is still pretty vague when you think about it -- that could mean having sex, working out or having the crap beat out of you. But in the end, it’s all good for the porker posse; they end up buff as hell, and suddenly Olivia’s like a kid in a candy store. This is strange viewing, and you need your tongue planted firmly in your cheek there, but... well, why not. Ted Turner would. --AH

Billy Ocean -- Caribbean Queen
     (*1/2)  Ah, Billy Ocean. You couldn’t get away from him during the mid-’80s, yet he disappeared so easily, with no fuss or aftertaste. As if he’d been merely gurgled and pureed by the garbage disposal of life. And, indeed, I once awakened from that dream with a big grin on my face... I know what you’re thinking, though -- Why do you have to be so hard on poor Billy Ocean? He alleviated so many of the world’s sorrows with his #1 hit “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” after all. To that I reply, have you ever actually tried to sit through one of his videos? I mean besides that one with Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito and Kathleen Turner singing doo-wop in the background. Billy’s shit is wiggidah wack all around, not the least of which the “Caribbean Queen” video. Watch him hang out at a community theater rehearsal, sip champagne in his dressing room and sing from a stage with fake palm trees sprouting from the ground. Just like they have in Caribbea. QUESTION: What’s with the strobe-lit, all-white sax player writhing in bondage during his solo? --AH

Pointer Sisters -- I’m So Excited
     (**)  The “I’m So Excited” video is sort of like the end of the Book of Revelation, when the devil gets released from hell to wreak unwelcome havoc toward the end of the peaceful Christian millennium on earth. Here, when Reagan nears the end of his first term, the Pointer Sisters appear on national television in lingerie and spandex. And wink at you while taking a sensual bubblebath. And smile real pretty, showing off those gloriously crooked Pointer teeth of theirs. Oh yeah, guys, this video is all about the pleasures of the flesh, and once the Pointers primp and prepare themselves for a night on the town, they show up at a classy joint wearing identical dresses. (All I can say about that little fashion faux pas is, Liberace’s underwear drawer called -- it wants all its red sequins back.) In the end, the clear highlight of “I’m So Excited” is the piano solo, in which a grinning Billy Dee-type in a white tux pounds away at the keys and a bunch of maitre-d’-looking motherfuckers charm our socks off on the neon-lit dance floor. I wonder how this whole scenario would fare in the Book of Revelation. --AH 

Shannon -- Give Me Tonight
     (*)  I have my obsessive pop culture moments and pride myself on having a well-oiled jukebox for a brain, but I’ve never once run across this song. I don’t think I even once heard “Give Me Tonight” while sitting on the sidelines during Couples Skate at the Coachlite rink. This is some obscure shit, and it makes me want to ask, where are my devoted Billboard archivists out there? Did this one even crack the Hot 100? Or did the same omnipresent machine-made fog that permeates every frame of this video obscure “Give Me Tonight” from Casey Kasem stardom? I’m not kidding, dude, the fog won’t go away. So you can’t really tell if Shannon, in all her relax-Geri-Curled solo glory, is out in the wilderness or buried, mermaid-style, under the sea. The whole video looks like a murky fish tank with a way-too-cheesy pair of human statues. Two Blue Lagoon hunky honkies caress each other, the lady in slinky lingerie and the gentleman in some kind of weird Robin Hood pantyhose bikini shit. And just remember, my faithful readers, you can buy every fashion item described in this week’s reviews from my website. Order now, the Robin Hood pantyhose bikini shit is two-for-one right now, with free shipping! Act now and we’ll throw in Pia Zadora’s crushed-velvet headband free! --AH

Rick Springfield -- Bop Till You Drop
     (**1/2)  I can’t tell if this is from the soundtrack to some obscure ’80s sci-fi horror movie I’ve never seen or if the record company really granted Rick Springfield the comparatively astronomical budget that would allow him to pull off a video this elaborate. He’s in some post-apocalyptic Mad Max getup, with his hands in chains, down in a subterranean labor camp dominated by goblins and populated by human zombie-slaves. Rick is the only alpha male among them, though he’d rather content himself with lip synching into that headset microphone thing than lead a labor revolution. Eventually, Rick gives the signal, which is the lyric “love won’t wait,” and the laborers start freeing each other, using sledgehammers to break the shackles of music-video slavery. And they storm their Halloween-masked oppressors. “Bop Till You Drop” is pretty frickin’ lame, but for some reason, it’s also really entertaining at three in the morning in the year 2001. --AH

Wham! -- Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
     (*)  “Choose Life,” indeed. Shit. You’d think that, even in a decade as gay as the ’80s, the radar detector would have been beeping like crazy when trained on George Michael’s frolicking, wide-smiling ass. (Coincidentally, George has had a subscription to Wide-Smiling Ass Adult Monthly for eight years.) But I’m not here to crack cheap sexual-orientation jokes tonight, I’m here to review videos. And this is a humdinger of a shitty one, particularly in choice of wardrobe. There are the myriad, aforementioned “Choose Life” T-shirts, of course, but get a load of the outfits George and partner (huh huh) Andrew Ridgeley sport toward the end. George wears a rose-pink long-sleeved t-shirt up top, hot pants on bottom, half-white and half-sky blue, while Andrew is decked out in one of those ’80s chieftain ball-cap things, a periwinkle long-sleeved t-shirt and yellow hot pants. And, for good reason, George and Andrew (no relation to this author) are confined to one black backdrop soundstage, while crowd shots are unconvincingly pasted in. The stage is all-white and glowing, and the (female) backup singers look like they should be in a toothpaste commercial. --AH


Thanks and praise be to Mike for sending me this video. I may even mine it for a second theme week at a later date -- for every hilariously obscure video on this tape that I did review this week, there were at least two or three others I didn’t have the space or intestinal fortitude to include, like Culture Club’s “It’s a Miracle,” LaToya Jackson’s “Heart Don’t Lie” (the tape has some serious Jackson-sibling overload, if you haven’t already guessed) and an adult-contemporary duet you’ve probably never heard from Joyce Kennedy and Jeffrey Osborne. Next week, we’re back to the new videos, and hopefully I’ll finally get a chance to see Michael Jackson’s eleven-minute short film in all its glory. I keep either seeing the short version of it or coming in toward the end, and I refuse to review any Jackson video with a double-digit running time unless I’ve seen the whole of it. So, yeah, I’ll wait as long as I have to.


Copyright 2001 Andrew Hicks