Wednesday, January 18, 2006

this place was dead anyway.

Greetings, Videots!

There will soon be more delicious 80th Dimension goodness from CAPTAIN VIDEO! -- but it won't be here. Visit the good Cap'n at his new digs:

jefitoblog: poking pop culture's soft, white underbelly with a sharp-witted stick

See you there!

Thursday, June 30, 2005

9: The Right to Rock

AMERICA 1989

Rock has been driven underground.

The authorities stalk pirate broadcasters and their followers.

Those who are apprehended suffer severe consequences.




Hey, kid! What are you doing? Haven't you heard? Rock has been driven underground! Knock it off already with your rocking out--in public, no less! You don't want to suffer severe consequences, do you?


Oh, shit! It's the Rock Police! You're really in for it now--don't say we didn't warn you...


Oh my God! They totally broke your boom box!


The Rock Police are gonna take you downtown...


(Meanwhile, across town, the rock freedom fighters in KEEL -- God bless 'em -- are reminding you that you've got the right to rock!)


Man, did you see that? That kid just blew up the Rock Police Paddywagon with a firecracker!


Run, kid! Run! Fight for your right to rock! Just like KEEL said!


They almost had him, and then -- out of fuckin' nowhere, dude -- here comes this motorcycle parade! Looks like a flagrant violation of the Rock Penal Code!


(I think KEEL had something to do with it!)


Hey, what's that guy on the left doing in here? He's clearly way too old to rock! I smell a setup, KEEL -- you guys had better clear out of there quick!


KEEL ain't gonna never stop rockin' for nobody!


Goddammit, KEEL -- here comes the fuzz! If you guys get taken in for rocking, who's gonna keep fighting the good fight?


Holy crap! The power of KEEL's rocking is electrocuting the Chief of the Rock Police! This is awesome!


YEAH!!! Rock never dies!!!*


*At least, not until a few years later, when Ron Keel, frontman for the shitty metal band KEEL, realized nobody was ever going to buy his crummy rock records and went to Nashville to become Ronnie Lee Keel. And then when that didn't work, on to reforming KEEL.**


**And then when that didn't work, he grew a mullet and started a band that would love to be Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

8: Every Little Step

Greetings, Videots!

CAPTAIN VIDEO! has had a long, grueling trip to the 1980th Dimension this month, and to be perfectly frank, he's a little tired. Rather than disappointing yon legions of loyal readers by totally punking out, however, I've reached into the archives for a video that is so totally, blindingly awful that it requires very little in the way of comment or explanation on my part. Witness:


Yes, it's Bobby Brown! And not just any Bobby Brown, either! This is "Every Little Step" Bobby Brown!


"Every Little Step" actually starts off well enough. The stark white set contrasts nicely with the black outfits, and the overall effect provides a nice visual complement to the stark efficiency of Teddy Riley's New Jack beats. Here we have some women in tight, skimpy outfits, which works in any video's favor.

And then begins the descent into Stupidville.


It's difficult to tell when one is looking at still photos from the video, but "Every Little Step" truly features some of the most horrible choreography of the era. As a singer, a songwriter, and human being, Bobby Brown has always made a pretty good dancer, so this routine has always been deeply puzzling.


The whole video is full of faces like this one. CAPTAIN VIDEO! forgot to mention that as a lip-syncher, Bobby Brown makes a pretty good dancer.


Nobody over the age of seven should ever wear anything with his name printed on any visible portion of it.

And here, ladies and gentlemen, the most flamboyantly gay segment in the entire history of R&B music video:




Yeah, he tries to come off tough later in the video, but after the red socks/biker shorts/suspenders incident, it isn't very convincing, is it?


This shot comes from the "rap" portion of the video, specially inserted into the "radio mix" of the song in order to disguise the fact that it consists of one verse and one chorus, repeated for several minutes. How anyone listened to this without laughing is beyond the scope of CAPTAIN VIDEO!s ability to comprehend. In the rap, Bobby promises to "rock stupid rhymes" -- likely one of the only promises he's bothered to keep in his adult life -- and finishes by reminding the listener that "My name is Bobby, not Uncle Sam."

CAPTAIN VIDEO! would be remiss if he did not mention the fact that yes, once upon a time, Bobby Brown showed promise. Many of us believed this was the beginning of a long and interesting career. Why we thought this, exactly, CAPTAIN VIDEO! is presently unable to recall. Regardless, Bobby Brown's fall from grace in the years since Don't Be Cruel has been spectacular. It has certainly been more interesting than his music.

How's that new album coming, Bob? Child support checks on time this month?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

7: I'm Free (Heaven Help the Man)

There are things each generation must explain to those that follow. Things they must atone for. The Founding Fathers had slavery, for instance. The freewheeling credit spenders of the 1910s and '20s had the Great Depression. The "Greatest Generation" had the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

My generation has Kenny Loggins.

To be fair, it was actually our parents who brought him his first measure of success, as the "Loggins" in "Loggins & Messina." But they knew what they were doing--L&M's recorded output, while slight, managed to stay on the sunny side of the line between breezy and banal more often than not. "Danny's Song"? "House At Pooh Corner"? "Watching the River Run"? Classics.

But then Loggins & Messina broke up, and Loggins proved all too eager to expose himself as the dippy New Age doofus he'd always been at heart. His first few albums were a terrible blend of ponderous mysticism, mush-brained folk, and soft jazz, from the interminably mawkish music to the artwork that seemed to always feature a soft-focus shot of Kenny--all done up in a velour tunic or something similarly lame--striking a ridiculous pose against a backdrop of, say, the universe.

That was bad enough. But then the '80s dawned, and he discovered two things:
1. He wanted to rock.
2. Synthesizers.

This led to a series of albums, each progressively dumber than its predecessors, on which Loggins managed to pan sacks full of chart gold out of a stream of inane, overproduced drivel masquerading as rock & roll. My generation ate it up--we're the kids who sent "Footloose" to Number One--and we've never had to pay for it. One day, however, we will have to explain the terrifying success of Kenny Loggins to our children. CAPTAIN VIDEO! does not look forward to that day.

CAPTAIN VIDEO! certainly will not show today's video to his curious tykes. "I'm Free (Heaven Help the Man)" represents three terrible musical artifacts from the 1980s--one, it's a hit Kenny Loggins song from a motion picture soundtrack; two, the portion of the title within parentheses is longer than the portion without; three, in the video, the singer pretends to be an action hero.

This last annoyance was always ridiculous enough when the singer in question was just a simpering soft-rock balladeer (like Peter Cetera in Chicago's "Along Comes A Woman" video). But Kenny Loggins has never, in looks or musical essence, given the appearance of someone who would be able to put up a convincing fight against a stiff breeze or a six-year-old girl, let alone a non-quadraplegic adult human being.

And that brings us to the crux of this video's shittiness: It asks us to accept Kenny Loggins as an escaped convict.


He's on the run! What did he do to wind up in prison?


Isn't it obvious? He's a rebel!


No fence can hold him--especially not when these handy fence-snippers are standard issue for all the inmates!


Will he be able to snip fast enough to get out before George and Stanley find out he's missing?


In the nick of time, he uses his ninja hippie powers to escape detection!

And...here's where things get really lame.

Knowing that Kenny Loggins made the least convincing street tough since that time Richie Cunningham wore Fonzie's jacket on Happy Days, the director had two choices: Ignore it, and try to make everything else as believable as possible, or just bring all the other gangsters in the video down to Kenny's level.

Guess which option was chosen:


Yes, believe it or not, Poindexter here is the leader of the pack. What kind of town is this? Do the cops even bother carrying weapons? Could the crew keep straight faces while watching the filming of this scene, in which Kenny and Poindexter engage in "macho" posturing that leaves them both seemingly on the verge of tears?


Of course, Kenny's come back for his girl. She lives with her parents and doesn't look to be more than sixteen years old. Kenny, on the other hand, probably left home when Lyndon Johnson was President. Here is where the video turns creepy and crappy.


Ma: What did she say, George? What did she say?
Pa: She's run off with that damn goodfornothin'!


Pa: (thinks to self) He won't get far. Can't run too far on that freak vegan diet of his. I'll just wait at the county line with a bag of granola and flush him out.

Yep. That's what I'll do.



Of course, Pa doesn't need to go to the county line--the cops have the lovebirds cornered on top of a building in a matter of minutes. Kenny stands around and makes a series of stupid faces while the girl screams and sobs. Looks like it's back to the hoosegow for Kenny, until who should have a change of heart but...


Yes! It's Poindexter to the rescue!


On his signal, the town's troubled, misunderstood youth descend upon the cops, who have no idea what to do. Kenny and his child bride escape. The old ladies in the background clasp their hands to their bosoms and swoon.

This video wasn't the dumbest thing Kenny Loggins did in the '80s--that honor belongs to either "Meet Me Halfway" or his naked wedding to his enema therapist--but it comes close. Painfully close.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

6: Shake It Up

For most people, Bad Company was a meat-and-potatoes rock band from the '70s that made Camaro music for Camaro people--most notably the hoary AOR chestnut "Feel Like Makin' Love." The song sums up everything there is to know about Bad Company's music: As basic as vanilla ice cream, dumber than a Jeff Foxworthy joke, and repititious enough to worm its way into memory so deeply that most of the human race could probably hum a few bars.

What most people don't realize is that after a brief breakup in the early '80s, two of the guys from the original lineup went out, got themselves a new lead singer, and sold a big pile of records. They did this the same way nearly every other successful veteran act did at the time--by discarding artistic credibility (which admittedly was never much of a concern for Bad Company) and pandering to listeners of Top 40 radio for whom "rock & roll" meant the aural Velveeta of bands like Bon Jovi.

The high point for Bad Company 2.0 was 1990's "If You Needed Someone," a song so monumentally stupid it makes "The Macarena" look like the Velvet Underground. But in comparison to the rest of the band's catalogue, it's a brilliant masterpiece--witness today's entry, "Shake It Up," from 1988's Dangerous Age.



For a lot of bands trying to disguise their age during this period, the solution was to make a video featuring a lot of good-looking high school kids rocking out to the band's shitty music. These videos tended to get around the age gap by either A) almost completely removing any visual evidence of the band, or B) conjuring up some situation in which said kids would have been caught dead hanging out with said band.

"Shake It Up" takes the latter course. The "story" begins with the nerd you see pictured above, holed up in what we can probably assume to be his parents' basement, doing stuff with various potions. He also happens to have a functioning seismograph, which comes in handy later on.

Meanwhile, it's the night of the Big School Dance, and the kids are rockin' out!



There's punch and everything!



Oh, and you'll never guess who's playing the dance. Yep, it's Bad Company.



This is actually the type of gig Bad Company should have been getting in 1988, instead of fouling the airwaves and selling millions of records, but that's neither here nor there. CAPTAIN VIDEO!s favorite part of this shot is the string of American flags hung over the stage. By this British band.

Oh, and speaking of the band. CAPTAIN VIDEO! freely admits that his knowledge of Bad Company is fairly limited, but it still came as quite a shock to see that the band's lead singer in the '80s was apparently none other than Nick Nolte:





Who knew he could sing? Color me impressed.

Anyway, back at the lab, Nerd makes a startling discovery: Not only is Bad Company's music terrible, it causes earthquakes!




Like any civic-minded geek, he rushes to the gym, hoping to prevent the band from doing any further damage:



But he may already be too late! Just look at how freely the chaperone is rocking out!



And out in the parking lot, there's all sorts of hanky-panky going on...



If this video had been filmed in the '70s, it would have given us irrefutable visual evidence that rock & roll causes teen sex (and earthquakes). But this version of Bad Company's music had nothing to do with rock.

Meanwhile, this is not what the girls at my high school looked like in 1988. And...oh God...are they hoping for a roll in the hay with crusty old Nick Nolte?





Nick seems to think so. And he's apparently got room for two back at the Holiday Inn:



Unfortunately for Nick, the force of the band's suckage has finally created a vortex powerful enough to bring the building tumbling down:



End of dance, end of concert, end of crummy video. And in just a few years, the remaining original members of Bad Company would realize that making terrible new music with Nick Nolte was actually even worse than patching things up with their original lead singer and playing the nostalgia circuit. The band made piles of cash, and the fans got what they'd been asking for all along--happy endings for everyone!


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