Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Video Ga Ga

Growing up, MTV was banned in my house. The regime of Mr. and Mrs. C did not approve of their son watching scantily clad women in rap videos, and they approved even less of scantily clad men in hair bands. They fell under the "do not watch" umbrella, right next to Married With Children and Pro Wrestling. My brothers and I devised a teamwork-based system to get our weekend wrestling fix, but as for catching a glimpse of music videos (or game shows involving Kari Wuhrer) I was on my own.

I distinctly remember hiding out in the basement one fall night in 1991. I had developed the perfect formula to keep the TV volume undetectable to any parental ears upstairs when "Smells Like Teen Spirit" came on the screen. At that first viewing, I knew this was unlike any video I had ever seen before. It would come to shape my interest in music, video production, and in hiding in the basement even more, scanning through other channels to seek out other forms of televised independence that my fascist parents were no doubt keeping me from.

I was reminded of that experience when I saw the amazing list of 100 Awesome Music Videos put together by Pitchfork. It's lists like this that fully encapsulate just how much youtube has benefited everyone's life. If you have time, all videos on the list are worth checking out, but what follows are five stellar clips left off the pitchfork list. Also, this list excludes Don Johnson's "Heartbeat," which is on a completely different level from anything ever put on videotape. If you haven't seen and enjoyed that several times already in your lifetime, then chances are that I don't care for you as a person. On with the fab five!

Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, "Mountain Trip to Japan, 1959"
An amazing musical act, this husband, wife, and their daughter have become infamous for collecting other people's slide collections at various garage and yard sales, then concocting music and song lyrics to match up with the accompanying slides. The end result in infinitely entertaining, and frankly downright adorable. And yet at the same time, one can't help but be insanely jealous of the drummer and the fact that her childhood is clearly so much cooler than yours was.

William Shatner, "Rocket Man"
It's a clip that has become legendary. So often, events like these are remembered as being so much better than they actually are, and the myth or remembrance is usually far greater in your mind that it is upon another actual viewing. This is not the case here. Nobody sells a performance like Shatner. And give it up for the guys in the truck pulling off the double and triple-Shatner effect.

The White Stripes, "The Hardest Button to Button"
Directed by Michel Gondry
A perfect marriage between the most creative director in music video and one of the most creative bands in music video execution. What makes Gondry so great is that his direction is done primarily on set and in camera, as opposed to in the edit room with special effects afterwards. This video is a great example of what separates Gondry from his peers - who else would physically track down dozens of drum kits, amps, and mic stands to place all over New York City and shoot each of them as opposed to just dropping them in CGI style. It's also done with all natural light. And who else can wrangle a cameo from Beck to deliver an empty box to Jack White?

Radiohead, "No Surprises"
Directed by Grant Gee
One shot, one take, and Thom Yorke almost drowns! And yet he still comes off much cooler than David Blaine. Try and hold your breath with Thom and see who cracks first.

Nelson, "After the Rain"
Which video really personifies the ambition of the overly ambitious music video failure? As far as I'm concerned, you go Nelson or you go home. Have you ever watched something and thought, "It's like I'm watching my life on screen!" I remember the long nights when my alcoholic father would put me down, driving my bandana-covered mind crazy while I wept in my room. My only salvation came when I closed my eyes and dreamed of long-haired blonde guys rescuing me from the abusive hell of my life. The indian is a nice touch as well.


Ronan Jimson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Great blog, especially this post, but I have to correct you on something. The "No Surprises" video was *not* done in one take. There is footage of the first few failed takes on the Radiohead documentary "Meeting People is Easy."

Dirk Calloway said...

Anon, what you see in the video is one take only from the beginning to the end of the video. I suppose I should have been more specific in saying that it was not the 'first' take - you're correct in nothing that there were some failed takes where Thom nearly drowned. However, what you see in the video IS one continuous take without any edits. That's the point I was going for.