Welcome back to another TRN Round Table. It’s where we get together and share our thoughts on the same subject. Earlier this week, the latest episode of the TRN Podcast featured Jason, Mickey, and Eric talking about some of their favorite music videos from back in the day, so we thought it appropriate to get the opinions from some of the rest of the gang here at TRN. Check out the favorite videos of everyone else below, and when you’re done, drop us a comment on your favorite music video from the glory days of MTV.
Thriller by Michael Jackson
Long before the words, Harry Potter was spoken together. Before the world knew the power of not naming an evil force, I knew. I was aware of the consequences of saying certain words. In my childhood, there was no word with more danger than “Thriller”.
Michael Jackson was the biggest name in music in the 1980s. Not the joke and the controversy he became. At this time he was considered the greatest singer, dancer, entertainer on the planet. Wearing one glove made sense and was socially accepted. Kids like me asked for King of Pop toys for Christmas and were excited. In the era of G.I. Joe, Star Wars, and the greatest Saturday morning line ups of all time a pop singer was still a contender.
I could handle light edited for TV horror as a child and Thriller was past my tolerance. As a school-age child though peer pressure meant I had to watch the video. The dance was imitated, everyone had their favorite scary moments. We even knew when the full mini-movie was airing as opposed to the shorter version.
First, it’s a great song. The lyrics, music, and arrangement are crafted to psychologically make the listener entertained and off balance. But the video takes that even further. An original werewolf design that I don’t believe has ever been copied. A break in the “real world” that feels familiar yet frightening. The dead rising from the grave leading to the chase that ends in one of the most claustrophobic scenes in all of film.
Personally though for some reason the video scared me so much I couldn’t even say the name. I had to say ‘Michael Jackson’s scary video’ or some other phrase. Saying the word ‘Thriller’ in any context immediately summoned nightmares later the same day. Without fail. Every time.
These weren’t nightmares about the video, it was fresh original content. Ghosts. The creature made of spikes. Anything a young mind could conceive that would terrorize y’all’s neighborhood. Admittedly I’m and adult physically, but I only pretend to be one mentally and I’m honestly a little scared to go to sleep tonight. An adult’s nightmares are different than a child’s and I’m not sure if this mere mortal can resist the evil of the thriller.
Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper
Whole Hearted by Extreme
Though I caught glimpses of classic music videos of the 80’s at friends’ houses when older sibling were controlling the remote, my personal MTV experience really began in the early 90s. Amidst the many music videos by Guns N’ Roses, Aerosmith, Paula Abdul and Michael Jackson, there was one unlikely video that captured my imagination. This was the song “Hole Hearted” by Extreme. Filmed in a barebones, black and white documentary style, the look of this video instantly caught my attention on a weekday afternoon when I decided to sample what MTV had to offer.
Seeing Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt (sure, Pat and Paul were there too) performing dueling vocals on the verse and classic harmonies the band was known for on the chorus was an audio delight. The fact that they were doing this on a New York street to attract a crowd was a concept altogether new to me and very exciting. Where most music videos of the era were carefully staged and even featured film actors like Kim Basinger or Alicia Silverstone, “Hole Hearted” seemed like a spontaneous live moment caught for our enjoyment. 9 year old me was thrilled at seeing these rock stars taking it to the streets.
After the video was over I waited for days with my VCR at the ready to catch the video again to record it, which I did. As a result, “Hole Hearted” became my most watched music video ever and though I didn’t buy Extreme’s album, Pornografitti until years later (and loved every track), when I look back on what a music video can offer for sheer entertainment value, this is my standard. Pure rock, pure performance and a ton of fun.
Don’t Cry by Guns & Roses
Back in the vanguard days of MTV, the best music videos were gluttonous buffets of nonsensical excess. Often, there was some semblance of a story (or the artist claimed there was, anyway), and the best ones were at least two minutes longer than the song itself. My favorite from this era, by a band that arguably did it better than anyone else, was “Don’t Cry” by the incomparable Guns N Roses. Ostensibly based off of a short story by someone named Del James, “Don’t Cry” formed a holy video trinity with the ALSO-insane videos for “November Rain” and “Estranged.”
It starts off with Axel—only wearing short-shorts, a bandanna and a cape for some reason—stumbling through a blizzard carrying a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a giant revolver in the other. And it only gets weirder from there. The rest of the video features him having a picnic with a model in a cemetery (during what I think is his funeral?), a couple of hot models having a fistfight at a swanky function, and, for good measure, Slash inexplicably driving his hot-rod off a cliff while his passenger girlfriend screams in terror. The car explodes! Slash is dead! Except wait!!! THERE’S SLASH FUCKING SHU-REDDING AT THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF, UNHARMED! Then there are several Axels in the hospital and then yep, Axel’s naked ass shivering in a grave. Oh, and as if things needed to get any cooler, the whole video is intercut with footage of Alex and Company (including the late, great Shannon Hoon who shared co-vocal duties on “Don’t Cry”) performing on a very tall skyscraper as helicopters circle above.
God this video was so good, and so, so dumb.