There is no denying that MTV was the cable television channel that most defined the awesome decade of the 1980’s. What started out as a network to play those awesome promotional videos for pop songs 24 hours a day back in 1981 quickly became the source for a ton of 80’s culture through its wide variety of music videos, and became so popular that it got entirely too big for its britches and killed off the very medium that made the channel what it was. While MTV wouldn’t know a music video from a teen mom these days, the videos that once populated the station’s airwaves continue to entertain those of us who are nostalgic for the cheesy comfort of the decade, while making this generation wonder just what in the hell we were smoking back then to have raved over them.
Sure, you know about “Money for Nothing”, “Sledgehammer”, “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”, and are probably shouting out that “Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first video ever played on MTV. But as you know, I have more of an appreciation for the lost classics of pop culture history, so for today’s Flashback Friday, we’re going to look back at some of the odder, more forgotten videos of the era. Here are five picks I came up with just off the top of my head, and I promise you I will revisit this theme in a future FF segment!
“I Do’ Wanna Know” – REO Speedwagon
REO Speedwagon was no flash in the pan act, and they were very well established as rock stars long before MTV turned rock stars into celebrities. There was a lot of gnashing of the teeth from the established acts in rock and roll when MTV made it almost mandatory that every hit song had to have a cool video to play along with it. Some acts shunned MTV, and some embraced it… and REO did just that. Their 1984 album “Wheels Are Turnin” produced their biggest hit, “I Can’t Fight This Feeling”, but it also featured this very minor hit “I Do’ Wanna Know”, which was also turned into the greatest music video of all time.
No, I’m not exaggerating. This is epic. Check it out…
The bratty kid gone berserk in this video, played by REO’s manager, plays the youth gone wild role to overexaggerated perfection. There are so many cheap and clever laughs in this 4 minute masterpiece, and the gags are nonstop. The moral lesson of this video… punk kids were doomed to Hell! A+++++
“I Love Rocky Road” – Weird Al Yankovic
Weird Al went from an amusing regular on the Dr. Demento Show to the greatest song parodist who ever fucking lived. Can somebody please explain to me why this man is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame discussion? If you think parody writing is so easy, try writing one parody of anything that it brilliant, let alone an entire career’s worth of excellent ones. Here’s some early Weird Al (before he learned how to sing) that is a take off of Joan Jett’s #1 song from 1982…
This isn’t my favorite Weird Al song, but it’s probably my favorite Weird Al video, because as usual, he does such a wonderful job of mocking the style of not only the song, but of the video that accompanied it. The biker bar turned ice cream shop, the cheesily leatherclad singer, the angrily disinterested faces on everyone in the crowd… the only thing he didn’t copy was the original video’s black and white, which I think was a good move given that a handful of the gags would have fallen flat if not viewed in color.
And just to show you how much this blog has warped my mind, while re-watching this video for my post today, I noticed something in it I had never noticed before!
The two totally 80’s chicks that Weird Al walks in the ice cream shop with… are those early My Little Pony designs on their shirts!?!? I’m not sure they are, especially since the Ponies were in their infancy when this video was made, but damned if they couldn’t pass for MLP! Any Bronies want to weigh in on this?
“Tarzan Boy” – Baltimora
I remember back in the mid 90’s, my family got yearly passes to the local Six Flags park, and I remember one day back in 1996 or 97, I wandered by the booth where you could make your own music video, complete with every cheap special effects gimmick ever to appear in a 80’s videos. You know the kind of place I’m talking about, right? Anyway, I they had a TV outside of the booth that was streaming past videos park patrons had made, and I stood there and started watching it….. and watching it….. and watching it. I must have been there for hours, hooked by the absolute amateur cheesiness before me! I am such a fan of shitty, yet epic.
And I mention this, because tell me this video doesn’t look like it was created in one of those damn make-your-own-video booth….
I will admit the song is likeable and catchy…. but ugh! The video is downright horrible! I expect stuff like this from people paying $20 to act like a video star for half an hour, but not from someone good enough to get on MTV. This video has all of those crappy visual gimmicks… wipes, picture in picture, frames moving within the screen, and backgrounds that look like they were pulled off of one of the first personal websites ever.
And this video came out in 1986. Someone should inform Mr. Baltimora that glam was long dead at that point, and trying to look like David Bowie is about as unTarzanny as you can get…
“I Eat Cannibals” – Total Coleo
If you were a video vixen back in the 80’s, there’s a good chance at some point in your career, you had to ditch the dresses from Saks Fifth Avenue for a frock made out of Hefty Cinch Saks. Trash bag outfits were all the rage for the stylish 80’s lady, and the British quintet Total Coleo totally rocked them…
How this group didn’t become as big as The Spice Girls, I’ll never know. I guess it wasn’t a good sign when they tried to hit it big in America and were forced to change their name so as not to be confused with the band whose biggest hit was one of the lamest songs of the 80’s, “Africa”. Toto Coleo, as they were known in their homeland, does their best to make the video for their quite racy little ditty as upbeat, quirky, and radical as only something in the 80’s could have possibly achieved.
But it’s definitely a fun song, has rather cool and unconventional dance choreography, and is a visual treat compared to many other drab videos. It’s also pretty damn conventional compared to the last video I’m going to show you…. and you better be prepared for what you’re about to see!
“Dog Police” – Dog Police
One of the cool things about the first few years of MTV was that because they played music videos all day and all night, and there weren’t a huge plethora of music videos out there at the time, they wound up playing a lot of stuff that couldn’t be heard on mainstream radio. While MTV was instrumental in helping to kill off the old phenomenon of regional radio hits, its eclectic selection of music videos it played also gave 15 minutes of fame to some pretty weird bands and songs.
The band Dog Police was so irrelevant, they don’t even have their own page on Wikipedia. Yet, they got exposure on MTV with a song and video that are so horrible, you can’t help but possibly love it. Sit back and enjoy this masterpiece of epic shittiness!
I’m not sure I can sum up this song and video any better than the person who introduced me to it. Here are the words of one of my message board friends who went by the handle ToLiveIsToFly:
SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH THIS SONG.
1. IT’S TERRIBLE
2. THIS WAS CLOSE ENOUGH AFTER THE FONZ USING “DOG” TO REFER TO “UGLY WOMAN”, SO THE SUBTEXT OF “UGLY WOMEN SHOULD BE ROUNDED UP”
3. IF SO, DID YOU GET A LOOK AT THAT LEAD SINGER? WHO THE HELL IS HE TO CRITICIZE ANYONE ELSE FOR BEING UGLY?
4. OR MAYBE THEY REALLY MEANT TO REFER TO SENTIENT HUMAN-DOG HYBRID WOMEN. IF SO, IF THEY’RE SENTIENT, WHY THE HELL DO THEY DESERVE TO BE ROUNDED UP?
5. THE ACTUAL POLICE ARE HUMAN-DOG HYBRIDS, TOO. ROUNDING UP THEIR OWN KIND, JUST FOR A LITTLE BIT OF POWER AND ACCEPTANCE. THEY THINK WE SEE THEM AS ONE OF US. WE DON’T. ONCE ALL THE DOG WOMEN ARE ROUNDED UP, THEY’RE NEXT. WHO ARE THEY FOOLING?
6. THE CHORUS IS TOTALLY RIPPED OFF FROM THE ELECTRIC COMPANY SPIDER-MAN SKITS.
And there you have a taste at the stranger side of MTV. We’ll definitely do this again, as I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of all of the utter weirdness that pervaded our beloved MTV back in the days when it was the coolest fucking station on earth….