Wednesday, December 30, 2015

VIDEOWAVE MONITOR: Video Reviews [from 1983]

Text by Alan Abramowitz / © FFanzeen fanzine, 1983
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

This review was originally printed in FFanzeen, issue #13, dated 1983. It was written by Alan Abramowitz, who produced the cable access show Videowave. You can see many clips of the show from over the years on YouTube. Occasionally it is still taping. They had so many amazing guests over the years that it is hard to pick just a few. The show’s slogan was “Before you heard about it, it was on Videowave.” And for good reason.

Note that Alan was given free reign over what he wanted to write about, and our tastes overlap, but are definitely different.  The videos are included where available, usually from YouTube. We own no rights to the music or video, and we do not advertise on our site, so this is merely promotional, for you into legalese.  – RBF, 2015

I dare you to watch MTV, Friday Night Videos, Hot Tracks, Top-40 Videos, etc. What started out as a good idea is like most successes – it’s getting abused or Velvet Jones-ed to death [reference to an Eddie Murphy character on Saturday Night Live that was overplayed; now they would say he “jumped the shark.” – RBF, 2015]. I really can’t believe they’re still pushing “Billy Jean” [Michael Jackson – RBF, 2015] on Hot Tracks. Find some other “black” videos for goodness sake. Put on Tyrone Brunson or some other ignored video.

Leave it to “Big Business” to screw up. The land of music videos. They’re spitting out mediocre-to-miserable videos faster than Ford could assemble a Model-T. The Almighty Dollar (the real symbol of America) is being looked up to in reverence (God, liberty, ideals, fun, cheese in dog food) while the quality of good music videos are deteriorating rapidly. These crummy videos are pervading video shows. They show evidence of being made merely to attract the eye; commercial style with bad sit-com plots.

Meanwhile, the British videos, which have captured the eyes of youthful music TV pioneers, are being ignored. There, more quality is paid to how it’s done, obviously, in a time span lengthier than American videos. But in the rush to sell albums, American record companies have been turning out MOR, heavy metal, and new wave disco videos at an alarming pace, without regard to plot, viewer intellect, song/video compatibility, originality, etc. But does America make good videos? Sometimes. Underground band sand video artists are making videos that are fun to watch, even after the 15th viewing. The following are a sampling of American, British, and independent music videos.

Billy & the ButtonsWhole Fam Damly (independent)
Here are two videos in a row done in an amateur way with amateur, but courageous techniques (video directors in NY & LA take note!). “WFD” is a tale of a girl bringing home a boy to meet her family. Good editing tells the story well. A plain song/video tactic that’s so rare, that this is refreshing. Good punchline, too.

Billy & the ButtonsWant Want (independent)
This shows us to what lengths a guy will go to get his girl back. This looney-gooney video betrays its roots. Pop images with backyard humor: dogs with police hats, the suitor in a Pythonesque priest costume, and the cat-impersonation (love it!) make this a garage band’s garage video. It’s irreverence for the final product makes this funny without Hollywood pretense.

Jim Carroll BandSweet Jane (Danspak Co-Directions)
Travel the Game of Life with the Jim Carroll Band. Obviously, Jim Carroll, being an anti-video rock’n’roller, only settles for the very best when making a music video. Like “Imitations,” by Strange Party (see below), this one is by Merrill Aldighieri and Joe Tripician [they were also interviewed on Videwave – RBF 2015]. And like that one, it is unjustly under-publicized. Quick-paced editing (always a plus) with pixilation move the video at a breathtaking pace. Performance shots were done at CBGB’s. Lou Reed also does a special cameo appearance. [This is a Lou Reed cover, for those few who don’t know; also noteworthy is Lenny Kaye, front and off-center, whose own underrated band, The Lenny Kaye Connection, backed Carroll – RBF, 2015].

Chesterfield Kings99th Floor (Living Eye Productions)
Well done independent video. I love the psychedelic graphics, the go-go girl, the film animation (along with cut-outs of band members!), all cut between a lip-synch performance. The black & white images evoke clips from Shindig or Hullaballoo. Imagine if they were signed to a major label! [This is a cover by the garage band The Moving Sidewalks – RBF, 2015]

Chesterfield KingsShe Told Me Lies (Living Eye Productions)
If they showed this on MTV, they would be besieged by calls. A lot of work went into this. This video is made up entirely of sequential pixilations of photographs – some colored, some not. It’s heavily influenced by the Beatles movies directed by Richard Lester. See it if you can!

Dead Or AliveThat’s the Way (I Like It) (Epic)
Yes, it’s the KC & the Sunshine Band song, done in an entirely new interpretation. Filmed in the locker room of London’s Arsenal Football (Soccer) Club, it features the British Body Building Association’s female weightlifting champs in this performance of sex reversal and androgyny. The sensual, long-haired singer [transgender Pete Burns – RBF, 2015] starts out by losing an arm wrestle with a demure young lad. Extolling the beauty of female bodybuilders alongside the unisex a la Boy George, it shows sexuality isn’t restricted to Victorian sex role models. Dead Or Alive evokes a macho version of the male/female depolarization that Culture Club first brought to America last year.

Heaven 17Temptation (Arista)
This one should be nominated for best performance by a group in a video. Ditto for improvisation. While 3 Ministers (Heaven 17) warn us of the evils of temptation, a naïve girl (played by Karol Kenyon) is lured into a new decadent identity by a sleazy character (Glen Gregory of the band). Angled shots, theatrical sets, and lighting symbolically represent the struggle in all of us between good and evil deeds. Kenyon’s beautiful soul vocals make this a video, again, under-publicized.
[Many life versions available, but the only music video as Alan describes is shown backwards – RBF, 2015]

LederknockenAmok (Island)
This really should not be categorized as a music video. It’s an avant-garde film posing as a music video. However, it’s distributed as one, therefore I’ll review it. This vide0/film is a montage with etched-in optical effects. If I knew German I could tell you what the words mean. From West Germany, it deals with chaos (punk chaos). A general rebellion against standardized forms. It ridicules society’s values and contradictions, which explain the porn images. And the girl barking to “Shake Your Booty.”

Psychedelic FursThe Ghost in You (Columbia)
Once again the video has nothing to do with the song. Lead singer (Richard) Butler poses in front of a mirror and performs with his band while some animation resembling Mirage video animation is superimposed over the band. Great care has gone into this performance. Muted colors are used in the colored ball (Mirage imitations). What it has to do with the song, I’ll never know, even though I like the song.

Bruce SpringsteenDancing in the Dark (Sire)
It’s a freak! [That’s a reference to an SCTV sketch – RBF, 2015] Here’s a performance video by someone they were calling Uncle Brucie a couple of years ago. True, he’s an apostle of rock’n’roll, but I never cared for the likes of songwriters who can’t sing (e.g., Dylan, Knopfler). When I first heard Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” I felt it was good, but I don’t like it. Ditto for “Born in the U.S.A.”; except for “Dancing in the Dark.” Why I like the song probably has to do with the fact that I was enthralled by the video first. It’s a Brian DePalma production that didn’t rip off Hitchcock or anyone else (it’s too simple to do). Its driving beat guides the song. Springsteen’s facial expression and paced movements tell us the song. He’s narrating the dilemma. DePalma’s editing pace never lets our attention drop. Every scene shows everyone hang a good time listening (grooving) to this tale of identity crisis in a young man. When he picks a girl [Courtney Cox in the role that first made her famous – RBF, 2015] out of the audience, it seems farthest from the actuality of being staged (I recognized the girl from a NYNEX commercial). Zoom back to see Springsteen and the girl dancing. An excellent (so what if it was staged) video that may actually compel me to go out and buy a Springsteen record (the single, of course). And that’s what it’s all about.

Strange PartyImitators (Danspak Co-Productions)
Probably the best independent video I’ve seen this year. Film and film animation transferred onto video and edited with squeeze-zoom-type effects. Makes this surrealistic video one Salvador Dali would be proud of. Ann Magnuson and Joey Arias [both of whom were interviewed individually on Videowave – RBF, 2015] recreate their pop image performance as Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol. Kudos to Go-Directions for a video that Music Television missed again (can Twisted Sister really be American’s answer to music?).


The The  This is the Day (Epic)
Keying is the key. The video uses the elementary special effect of keying over of images. You can’t tell whether the person in the scene is actually part of it or was simply superimposed over it. Advances in video technology have eliminated the familiar video noise surrounding keyed images. Vocalist Matt Johnson walks from one scene to the next, fading out from time to time, while his accompanying accordionist follows him when his cue is up. Never has a simple effect been used imaginatively without being Velvet Jones-ed to death. [Could it be said that Alan is Velvet Jones-ing the Velvet Jones reference? – RBF, 2015]

T-Venus Dragging the Bottom (Independent)
Julia Heyward [yes, also interviewed at some point on Videowave – RBF, 2015] certainly doesn’t drag the bottom in this metaphorical tale of love caught in the undertow. Underwater shots of wildlife, Julia, Pat Irwin (of the Raybeats fame), organic forms of trees, ferns present a fun post-30 search for serious love. A great song underscores this great music video. Dissolves and keying make this watery tale of mud so much fun to watch. I especially love the last scene in which Julia supers her lips over a still image of herself.

X-Teens  Change Gotta Come (Dolphin)
This video received “light rotation” (if at all) from MTV. My eyes lift up to heaven in wonderment for this one. It’s a great spoof of Raiders of the Lost Ark and other serial adventure shows (e.g., Hope & Crosby road movies). However, the song concerns a cry for the lost morals of the ‘60s (“What ever happened to the Love Generations?!”). My test for a great video is if it gets better with repeated viewings. This passes. MTV deep-sixed it. Why? Why?!

No comments:

Post a Comment