“You carry protection, but your heart will go on like Celine Deon…”
Another insight into my childhood comes with this turn-of-the-century banger from one of the most wondrous of one-hit-wonder groups, Bomfunk MCs. Freestyler was at the top of the charts in – according to Wikipedia – Sweden, Germany, Australia, Norway, New Zealand, Austria, Switzerland, Turkey, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. That’s a worldwide fucking hit, people. Nought to be sneezed at. Even with this in mind, I can’t help but feel it wouldn’t have quite gotten there were it not for this absolute smash of a music video. Often imitated, never duplicated.
If you were engaged with music on any level in 1999, I don’t have to run through the finer details of the clip. For those of you out of the loop, though, it’s set in a Helsinki train station and follows the adventures of a precocious 15 year old that just happens to have a magical remote given to him. This can only go well, right? The clip feels, at times, like a complete time capsule – I mean, look at the fashion! The dancing! The glasses! The hair! Sure, it was all in Finland; but these people were certainly not uncool looking in 1999. In fact, they’d have looked pretty boss, all things considered.
The video is also a commentary on abuse of power, believe it or not. If you can see that through all the choreography, you’re far more observant than I was when I first saw the video all those years ago. I just wanted to be that badass little kid. Fuck, even in 2013, I still kinda want to be that kid; and he’s probably pushing 30 now. Anyway, reminisce with me – or, better yet, experience for the first time.
This video recently kicked me square in the nostalgia. If you follow this blog with any degree of consistency, you’ll know that the majority of my nostalgic videos come from either the late 90s or the mid 2000s, as they were both incredibly formative times for my taste in music. This video comes directly out of the former, at a time where I was obsessed with the pop charts and Saturday morning television. Saturday morning meant rage, of course; but, for a period, it also meant FlyTV – and I will high-five each and every person that can remember that show on the ABC. One of the videos that came up most frequently on that show was a clip from British production duo the Propellerheads, who scored a major hit around 1997 with their Dame Shirley Bassey collaboration, History Repeating.
While Crash! obviously didn’t have the same kind of star power – it was, after all, merely a horn- driven instrumental in the shadow of History Repeating - it certainly made up for it in terms of its remarkable video. It’s breakfast time in this house, which is occupied solely by the Propellerheads themselves and an Elvis impersonator. While one heads off, the King and the Propellerhead have themselves a remarkable start to the day. I always knew that my Saturday would kick arse if I saw this hilarious and impeccably-choreographed video; and rediscovering this clip over the weekend truly felt amazing. Maybe more than it should. I dunno. I don’t even care, dude! Long live the king!
“How about them transparent dangling carrots?”
Here’s an interesting one. I don’t think we’ve ever discussed Alanis Morissette – the first lady of boyfriend-revenge pop – properly within the world of this here blog. I admit that there are plenty more obvious places to start than this video, which is one of her few hits that came after the Jagged Little Pill record. But if you’ve garnered anything from reading this blog over nearly three years (if at all), it’s that I’m not always coming from your most obvious points of reference. The late nineties and mid-2000s were my most formative musical times, and they were guided by music videos.
So imagine my shock at seeing a straight-up naked chick just hanging out in a music video. I barely had any idea who Alanis was at the time, but needless to say I stood up and paid attention after the release of this video. No, not like that; c’mon now. I just found this video to be so mesmerising and confronting. Definitely not a video I felt comfortable watching in front of my parents, that’s for sure. The nudity aside – covered up by hair and what Wikipedia describes as a “blurry vulva” – I was taken aback by the context of it. Just standing in the street, either being completely ignored or momentarily embraced by passing strangers.
What did it all stand for, exactly? Did it reflect the fact that only a few people are willing to stop and help someone at their most bare-soul moment? Hell, could anyone actually see Alanis away from those random people? These were the issues that weighed on my mind – and, over a decade on, I still get overwhelmed at the video for Thank U. It takes me back to that time of confusion and discovery – I’m not sure if Alanis ever gave me proper answers, but I can always thank her for getting me to start asking the questions.
“The room is on fire, as she’s fixing her hair…”
By 2003, The Strokes were very much on my radar. I’d taken notice with the now-infamous video for Last Nite, but had more or less no idea what was going on in terms of their greater impact. Hell, I was in the fifth grade – can you blame me? By the time I hit high school, I naively wondered into Room on Fire, their second studio album which will celebrate its tenth anniversary in October. I realise that it’s a very disregarded and marred album now, but because it was my first full-on Strokes moment, I treasure that record. I know every word to every song. Hell, I know every last melody – I even have harmonies for them. As I see those same fans that adored them around this time turn their collective backs to the band’s latest record, Comedown Machine, I’ve returned to this era to see what I could find.
Rather than go with the Tron-aping clip for 12:51, I’ve decided to take a look at the album’s second single – overlooked at the time, but has grown in recognition over the years thanks to Guitar Hero and the like. The video is an up-close-and-personal look at the band members – and that’s not a metaphor. These here are what Wayne and Garth would have described as “extreme close-ups” (WOAHHHHH!). I loved this, as it showed exactly what each member contributed. Watching both guitars and the bass at the same time in the “chorus” of the song is spellbinding stuff. I also love Albert Hammond, Jr. shaking violently before the second verse starts up; not to mention Julian Casablancas screaming and going all bug-eyed on us. Brilliantly edited and effortlessly cool – the latter of which has basically become a Strokes calling card.
“You made the whole world want to dance, you bought yourself a second chance…”
Well, tonight’s the night. After fifteen years of being a fan, I’m finally going to see Garbage live. At a fucking casino of all places. Weird? Unbelievably. Still, it’s happening, so I may as well deal with it on my own terms. In the mean time, I’d thought I’d do some recollection regarding this here band. I’ve been on board since their 1998 album Version 2.0, when I was simply a young pop afficionado paying close attention to the charts. They’ve obviously come to mean a lot more to me than other chart-busters of the time – anyone remember K-Ci and JoJo? What about B*Witched? Yeah, didn’t think so.
Anyway, I think – at least, from a video perspective – that this one here was my most vivid memory of Garbage growing up. I’d have been eleven or maybe twelve at the time of its release, and I can still remember every last part. The invisible band, jamming out on keyboards and guitars. Shirley Manson, as alluring as ever, even when there is literally none of her there. The gender-bending strip tease towards the end has always stuck with me, even if I am admittedly just a sucker for toilet gags. Sure, it’s all a bit naff now. But I’ll be damned if this wasn’t just the perfect lure into the beautifulgarbage record – especially at my tender age. Now, let’s see if they can still rip it live. Report to follow!
“I never really said it before, there’s nothing here but flesh and bone …”
Here’s an interesting one from my childhood. Most of my Old Favourites are either from 1998 or 2004 for whatever reason, and today we’re going to take a look at the latter – a landmark video clip for me that I didn’t fully appreciate until later on in life. You see, whether he wanted to be or not, George Michael was my first foray into the world of GLBT culture. I wasn’t even born when Wake Me Up Before You Go was a hit, and missed out on both Faith and Freedom. So, this was it – but what a time to be introduced to George Michael!
Just six months before this song/video came out, George had been found with a dude in a public toilet. You know how that story goes, I’m sure. This video, in response to that saga in his life that lead to his coming out, would satirise the entire thing. Well, I suppose if you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at? This was way too camp and cheesy for my liking at the time, so the whole thing – the porn parody, the uniform choreography, the various queer PDAs – went over my head at the time. Revisting it later on, though, it made so much more sense. Now, as a bisexual guy myself, I trace my first real exposure to gay culture back to this video. Did George Michael send me queer? Who knows? Who cares! It’s lunchtime – let’s go outside!
There’s an extensive history of nightmarish videos going with heavier dance tracks, from The Prodigy‘s acid trip of Smack My Bitch Up to Aphex Twin’s eternally creepy Come to Daddy video way back when. I’ll never say a bad word about either, but really: Where’s the Squarepusher love? Despite this being one of the most genuinely terrifying videos I’ve ever seen, it remains an underrated enigma of a filmclip. Hardly anyone I know has any love for this clip – and that’s just plain old crazy talk to yours truly.
Set in a child’s mental institution in Japan, a jailbreak is hatched with a little girl and her dog. Her plan is simple: Get one of the guards and turn them into her dog using a brain-switcher. Yeah, this mental institution happens to have a brain-switching device for some reason. I don’t know. Don’t question it. What unfurls is a blood-pumping race of psychopathic proportions, which matches up to every last glitch and tweak that the song presents. It’s quite a feat, making the video even more involving and terrifying than it already was. Have to warn you all, though, this can and will give little ones nightmares, so if you have kids or are one then please put them or yourselves away. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
“Love might bring us back together, I feel so good…”
Ahh yes, 1998. My year. Your year. Our year. What a fucking stellar year for pop music, while we’re on the topic. This was the year that I began religiously watching the rage broadcast of the ARIA top 50 singles every Saturday morning. I became completely engrossed by the charts and the various ups and downs that would come with it. One video that particularly sticks out when I think of this obsession was the video for Music Sounds Better with You.
Stardust was a one-off collaboration featuring Daft Punk‘s Thomas Bangalter, and the mysterious trio would only release one song before completely disappearing. Of course, none of this mattered to me at the time: I was too busy watching the remarkable video, which saw a young boy get lost in his own imagination with pure excitement about a model airplane. It takes over his life, to the point where he starts seeing it everywhere around him – even at the humble dinner table. Meanwhile, the pop charts continue to change in the background – see where I’m going with this? Yes, I absolutely saw myself in the video for Music Sounds Better and I have no shame in admitting that. Gorgeously shot and ingeniously plotted, this is a clip that has stuck with me for over a decade. Let it take you back to that time in your life, whatever may have been going on. It doesn’t matter what you were doing – the point is that Music Sounds Better was there to soundtrack it.