December 27, 2013
I spent a good chunk of time in the ’80s watching music videos on MTV. And I’ve been known to complain that the network doesn’t show enough videos anymore, opting instead for reruns of “Teen Mom” or “Snooki & JWoww.” But after happening across a block of videos on VH1 Classic over the holiday break, perhaps I need to revisit that stance.
I’m afraid the reality is that the golden age of music videos was nearly as bad as any reality TV the network can produce. The rare videos that hold up are overshadowed by those that are downright horrifying. But strangely, I couldn’t turn the channel. Rather than reliving fond memories, I found myself enjoying many of these videos in a much different way — as fodder for unintentional comedy. And I think you will too. So I’ve compiled a sampling of the best of the worst for your viewing pleasure. I’m a rock music fan, so I’ve limited my choices to that genre. Here goes:
Billy Squier — “Rock Me Tonite”
There was a time when you couldn’t walk the midway at any county fair without hearing Billy Squier blaring from the speakers of carnies running the Tilt-A-Whirl and Zipper. He was legit among the arena rock crowd and landed multiple hits on the mainstream charts. Until this video was released. He actually claims it ruined his career. I guess the director pitched it as Squier showing off his best dance moves (kind of odd for a guitar player, but whatever). It turned into Squier awkwardly prancing by himself in an empty bedroom. But that description doesn’t do it justice. There’s even a shot of him ripping off his shirt in slow motion. If you only watch one of these videos, I beg you to make it this one.
Accept — “Balls To The Wall”
Somehow this video has been viewed 5.2 million times on Youtube. Clearly this band got its airtime before glam metal took over. These guys are hideous and the lead singer appears to be no taller than 4 feet 2 inches. The video is ridiculous in a number of ways, but my favorite part is how they try to mask the singer’s tiny stature throughout. It’s got odd camera angles and you can tell the guitar players are intentionally hunching over when standing next to him — even while doing some awesome synchronized playing. The shot near the end of the little fella riding a wrecking ball (maybe Miley Cyrus was a big Accept fan) is a nice topper. Make sure to wait for it.
Hear ‘N Aid — “Stars”
This was the heavy metal equivalent of “We are the World.” It was organized by Ronnie James Dio in 1985 to benefit famine relief efforts in Africa. A good cause, for sure. The song and accompanying video were not so good, however. And the name of the project was preposterous. Hear ‘N Aid, really? You’ll notice members of Spinal Tap in the group shots, which might lead you to believe that this was all a parody. Sadly, it was not.
Scorpions — “Rhythm of Love”
This features every ’80s hard rock video cliché at its worst. There’s the live performance with plenty of pyrotechnics, but no audience. They managed to intersperse gratuitous shots of scantily clad women throughout. You’ll even see odd futuristic scenes and what appears to be a spaceship to kick off and end this cinematic gem. But the best part might just be the receding hairline/mullet combo on the lead singer and the mustache on the guitar player. He’s got only one look into the camera and it is plenty creepy.
Warrant — “Cherry Pie”
Lead singer/songwriter Jani Lane once commented that he could’ve shot himself in the head for writing this song. He claims the record company demanded a single along the lines of Aerosmith’s “Love in an Elevator” before they’d put out the band’s album. Lane sketched out some lyrics on a pizza box over the weekend and just like that, the world was introduced to “Cherry Pie.” Many people point to Nirvana and a shift to grunge as the reason glam metal fell off the Top 40 charts in the early ’90s. I’d say the fact that this passed as a Top 10 hit had just as much to do with it. And if Lane felt bad about the song, he should’ve felt much worse about the video, which features his future wife as a rock bimbo on roller skates. An actual piece of cherry pie falling into her lap during one shot was probably an unnecessary bit of innuendo, but you can judge for yourself.
This is hardly a comprehensive list, so let’s keep adding to it.