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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Write Back Weekend "What You See Is What You Get"

When I was a kid, I used to love watching music videos. Back then, videos were often like little movies, advertisements for both the singer and the song. When they were done right, you knew a little more about both. Even if they were done wrong they were often so bad that they somehow became good in a completely different way.

Some singers, like Michael Jackson, took the music video genre to the next level. He created epic videos of grand proportions and in turn, he made himself a star. But sometimes I felt all you needed was a good song and a fun video.

With the birth of MTV in the eighties, videos became a necessary evil. I sometimes wonder what artists like James Taylor or Barry Manilow would have done back then. But as time marched on, if you wanted a career, you realized that a good music video was an important piece of that puzzle.

No one can deny that music videos changed the way we see music, literally. But even the music video itself has changed drastically over the years. Now, just like I do with everything else, I'm going to wax nostalgic for a minute.

Everyone balked at the idea of an MTV back in the day, thinking it was going to corrupt the minds of our youth, namely people like me. But many of those same people long for the music videos of yesteryear. That's because what was once MTV with amateur VJ's like Alan Hunter and Martha Quinn at the helm has not evolved into this conglomerate of sister stations and spin-offs. And when do any of these networks play videos? Well, they're sandwiched in between Real World 45 and My Sweet Sixteen like garbage, neither of which having anything to do with music, other than the lame artists they force you to listen to as they shoot exterior shots of the brat du jour, lounging by the pool or having a fit of rage. Sure there are actual music videos still out there, being made but most of them have outrageous budgets and give no insight to the soul of the song or the singer.

What follows is my answer to last week's TITMT of my favorite music videos of all time. As always, I will preface this by saying that I'm certain it is an incomplete list (and most definitely in no particular order). I'm also going to try and link to YouTube clips whenever possible instead of posting them directly on here.

1. Do You Remember?- Phil Collins: Phil Collins had many great songs and subsequent videos in the eighties and nineties. I always loved the story of this one though. In the beginning we see present day Phil in the studio who, during what seems to be like a bad storm, is thrusted into a flashback of remembering his first love, thus the title, Do You Remember? The kids in the video are downright adorable and if I watch the clip the whole way through, it manages to make me cry every time.

2. Legs- ZZ Top: One of the all time best videos filmed on what I'd presume was next to no budget had to be ZZ Top's Legs. Nowadays many kids know the song for its overuse in commercials for things like pantyhose. This video started a whole sub genre of hair-band "transformation" type videos. Of course the shy girl in the beginning is really a hot chick, dying to get out. Leave it to ZZ Top to pull it out of her!

3. I Love You Came Too Late- Joey Mcintyre:
- Unfortunately I can't find a clip for this one, and it's a bit ironic too considering this is one of the newer videos on my list. It was filmed in a diner and features my former childhood fascination, NKOTB member, Joey Mcintyre. The song was fun as he dances and sings his way around the diner, trying to impress the girl of his dreams. If anyone comes across this one online somewhere, let me know.

4. Right Now- Van Halen: This was one of those videos that took their song, which was trying to make a statement, and made a supporting statement with the video itself. It wasn't a fun video or a video of stock footage of Van Halen performing around the world. Instead, they decided to splice together a bunch of serious one-liners. Things you should be thinking about more than you do, "Right Now".

5. Thriller and Say, Say, Say- Michael Jackson: I had a hard time deciding which of the King of Pop's music videos were my all time faves. I have a soft spot for so many of them, though you rarely see them anymore. In the end, I decided to side with the classic, Thriller and the bittersweet memory of Say, Say, Say. Both of these feature a only slightly plastic surgeried Michael Jackson, the cutest version of the gloved one, before he went all pasty and creepy on us. This also features the former partnership of Jackson and McCartney, one that has since ended in bitter fueding, which is the saddest thing to say of all.

6. Take On Me- Aha: It's impossible to make a best of music videos list and not include some staples. A Ha's Take On Me is one of those staples. The mix of animation and real life was brilliant back then and it has managed to stand the test of time now, even with all of the hi-tech tricks they have under their sleeves these days. The song and video have stood the test of time. A Ha the band? Not so much.

7. Here It Goes Again- Ok Go: Ok Go is one of the most recent, if not the most recent, addition to the list. They have another great simple music video too with A Million Ways To Be Cruel. They have managed to take creativity and choreography to the next level. The fact that they do this whole dance to a video on treadmills is amazing. They can do it live too, which only makes me worship them even more.

8. Buddy Holly- Weezer: Before we had the wacky antics of Ok Go, we lived off the wacky antics of Weezer. Their video of Buddy Holly was brilliant, taking old footage of Happy Days and interweaving it with the band present day, dressed up as if they were part of the entertainment back then. It even has bits of comedy thrown in, too. If you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for?

9. They Don't Know- Tracey Ullman Not only is this one of my favorite music videos of all time, it is also one of my favorite songs of all time. And who would have ever guessed it was done by Tracey Ullman! I'm sure some of you didn't even know that Tracey Ullman sang, but she did. This was her biggest hit, a one hit wonder in many ways, and made before the American public knew her for her TV show success. It also shows Tracey's early penchant for costuming. If you watch this video, and I hope you do, stick with it till the end. There's a surprise in it for ya.

10. Land Of Confusion- Genesis: When I first saw this video as a kid I just thought it was cute, watching that Phil Collins and Ronald Reagan caricatures dance around like that. And how about the scene where the guy is putting mustard on his tongue and then puts a hot dog bun around it? I suppose you had to be there. Although this video is definitely funny, the song itself is actually pretty serious. It's one of the earliest memories I have too of clearly making fun of a figure of authority. Recently it was remade with a lot more anger infused into it. I could see how this song, if truly listened to, could stir up some feelings inside.

11. Uptown Girl, You're Only Human or The Longest Time- Billy Joel: This was another artist where it was really hard picking a song or two to represent all the great music videos they made. I love how Billy Joel, although decidedly a little less "hip" than the music video demographic, embraced the genre and really played up the potential storytelling elements. In retrospect, it made perfect sense since his songs really tell such great stories. I picked Uptown Girl because I used to love the love story of Brinkley and Joel and was actually pretty bummed when it didn't work out. That's before I became all jaded about Hollywood romances though. I chose The Longest Time because I think the video again, totally matched the feel of the song. Finally I included You're Only Human because yet again, it told the story so well. Billy Joel is presumably an angel, letting a boy on the verge of committing suicide see what the life of his loved ones would be like if he went through with it.

12. If This Is It- Huey Lewis & The News: I simply cannot talk about great storytellers of the eighties and leave out the videos done by Huey Lewis & The News. They had so many great and comical mini movies. Not unlike Billy Joel, they embraced a genre that otherwise might have swallowed them up whole. They had other great ones too, but If This Is It was always my favorite because it told the story of the song, almost word for word.

13. I Want Love- Elton John: For some reason I can no longer find this video on YouTube, though I know it used to be there. I love this video because of it's simplicity. In a brilliant casting decision, it featured a lone Robert Downey Jr., infamous for his troubles with drugs, alcohol and just plain following the rules. Downey, now an aging rebel, looks at the camera seriously and with tired eyes, lip-synching the words, "I want love, but it's impossible. A man like me, so irresponsible. A man like me, is dead in places, other men, feel liberated..." Just the image of Downey, at the height of his vulnerability, mouthing lyrics like that was haunting. That's pretty much the whole thing, though he walks around the house a bit. It forces you to take notice not only of the actor, but the wonderful song as well.

14. Fallen Angel- Poison:In the eighties, some hair bands really embraced all that was the music video. Poison's Fallen Angel always stuck with me the most though. It's all about a small town girl who devastates her family by saying she's leaving home to try her luck in Hollywood. The family has no choice but to let her go, but they worry about her day and night. Of course once she gets there she realizes it's a lot harder to break into the business than she thought it was going to be. Lucky for her, Brett Michaels is there to pick up the pieces.

15. You Might Think- The Cars: This video was so much fun to me because of its imagery which, back then, was pretty experimental. It takes the whole idea of stalker to a new level, but in under 3 minutes, it's just enough to not sufficiently creep you out that badly.

16. Brass In Pocket- Pretenders: Just like I eluded to last week, Brass In Pocket by The Pretenders is a perfect example of a video done right for next to nothing at all. Chrissie Hynde is perfect as the down on her luck waitress who just wants the right guy to notice her. I also love the amateur angle of this video. When she says she's special, the band members start to point to the special on the menu at the diner. Ahh, things were so much simpler then.

17. Weapon of Choice- Fatboy Slim: This video is completely opposite from most of the ones included on this list? Why, because I have no idea what this song is about. Then again, I suppose it's fitting that I don't know what the video is about, either. All I know is that it features Christopher Walken doing what he does best, creeping us out and entertaining us, all in under 4 minutes.

Honorable Mentions: Just A Gigolo- David Lee Roth, Love Is A Battlefield- Pat Benatar, Material Girl- Madonna, Money For Nothing- Dire Straits, Sledgehammer-Peter Gabriel, Simply Irresistible and Addicted To Love- Robert Palmer, Hazard- Richard Marx, We're Not Gonna Take It- Twisted Sister and many, many more.



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