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ROCK VIDEOS: END OF AN ERROR?

The big news in rock videos nowadays is: no videos .

What a concept.

First came announcements from several major-name acts--including Van Halen, Journey and Joe Jackson--that they would decline to make videos to coincide with their new releases. Then a Geffen Records honcho announced that the label is being more cautious about jumping into videos for new acts, and especially heavy-metal acts, unless their status makes it apparent that they’ll get air play on metal-shy MTV.

You know what the eventual implications of this are, don’t you? No more slow-motion shots of tables being knocked over. No more opportunities for budding Fellinis to try out their symbolism skills. No more easy targets for TV preachers and the PTA. No more facial-only close-ups of fat rock stars. No more work for half the gorgeous models in Hollywood. And--worst of all--no more Sound & Vision, where videos are rated much more generously than they have any right to be on a scale of zero to 100.

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VID CLIPS PICKED TO CLICK:

Van Halen’s “Why Can’t This Be Love” and Journey’s “Raised on Radio.” Directors: none. By choosing not to make videos and scoring hit records anyhow, Van Halen and Journey have become unlikely heroes for those of us who remain skeptical of the video revolution and who believe that more good songs have been ruined than enhanced by visualization. In these days when we’re urged to let Reagan be Reagan, let’s let pleasant radio songs be pleasant radio songs, and not demand that every pop tune--no matter how lightweight--become a minor motion picture. By not making any videos at all, Van Halen and Journey tie on the Sound & Vision video scale with a symbolic . . . 90.

Neil Young’s “Touch the Night.” Director: Tim Pope. Young’s song and video both concern a freeway car crash that a young man survives and his girlfriend doesn’t, but from there the paths diverge intriguingly. In the spooky song, the dazed survivor wanders off from the accident site, pondering his loss, but in the morbidly comic video he never has the chance to get away from the scene--he’s hotly pursued by Young, playing an obnoxious TV reporter eager to get some color for the 11 o’clock news. The unsettling tone of this clip--which features only one edit in its entire length as the camera follows Young tenaciously--ought to be enough to keep it off most video programs, if the graphic depiction of an accident scene isn’t. For those who get to see it, though, its mixture of the real (ambulances, cops, blood and flames) and the surreal (a red-robed choir happens to be around) should prove disturbing and not quickly forgettable. 86

L.A. Dream Team’s “Nursery Rhymes.” Director: Fisher & Preachman. These up-and-coming local rappers, apparently not satisfied with their record company advance, resort to residential burglary--only to be discovered by a little girl who forces the “babysitters” to recite some nursery rhymes. This they do in the wordy, jivey style you’d expect, while the director and crew go into overtime with animation and claymation illustrating the Team’s funked-up fables. For a clip that makes light of a felony, it is awfully cute. 60

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The Ramones’ “Something to Believe In.” Director: Fisher & Preachman. After focusing their charitable efforts overseas, Americans have begun to look toward home to find the needy right under their noses--and who could be more deserving of our charitable dollars than the ever-down-and-out saviors of rock ‘n’ roll, the Ramones? Well, probably lots of folks, to tell the truth, but that doesn’t mean that there still shouldn’t be a “Hand Across Your Face” to benefit the Ramones, and here it is, complete with a league of mostly minor-league celebrities and look-alikes lending their efforts to the cause. Considering the parodic potential, this could’ve been considerably funnier, but we, for one, kept waiting for the contribution hot-line number to appear on the screen. It never did--guess we’ll have to do our bit for the cause by buying the boys’ latest LP. 60

WORTH A LOOK AND A LISTEN:

Paul McCartney’s “Press.” Director: Philip Davey. McCartney wanders through the subways of London, followed by video cameras capturing his incessant mugging and the bewildered reactions of the unsuspecting plain folk underground. This could come off as insufferably arrogant--you know, rich rock star actually takes time out to mingle with the commoners--but it almost works, at least for the first minute or so, thanks to Paulie’s unebbing cuteness (even with gray hair, he still looks 23) and the variety of reactions the commuting masses have to His Majesty’s presence (not all of them awe-struck, by any means). 44

Bananarama’s “Venus.” Director: Peter Care. Bananarama has long been a great singles band in search of (a) enough great singles to make a great album and (b) a personality. Here, in the clip for their clever disco remake of “Venus,” they at least come close to finding the latter--these three gals look mean, and though they may not have the sense of humor that that other female pop star with midriff-baring clothing does, at least the trio has managed to work up a little aggression this time. As a KROQ deejay noted the other day, the fact that the brunette of the bunch will be getting married soon is a “real bummer,” but frustrated boys can still fantasize all they want as the banana babes let out that very uncharacteristic growl right before the chorus. (Take a tip, girls--guys love this sound.) 42

John Eddie’s “Jungle Boy.” Director: Jim Yukich. Next-John-Cafferty candidate John Eddie makes his debut with a clip in which he extends his arms out from his body and wiggles like someone who just discovered the outtakes from Elvis’ appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” “Jungle Boy” is as basic as any video ever made--it’s just Eddie alone on a sound stage, shot in his singing and dancing mode from every possible angle, with no microphones or instruments in sight. Some might think Eddie indeed cames off like “the next Elvis,” while others will find his pelvic posturing ridiculous; we lean toward the latter, but admire the director’s simple, nervy approach. 42

CATHODE RAYS CERTAIN TO INDUCE ALPHA WAVES:

Quiet Riot’s “The Wild and the Young.” Director: Jeff Stein. Talk about self-congratulation. Quiet Riot’s latest anthem-for-a-generation-without-a-cause postulates a future in which rock ‘n’ roll has been outlawed and the freedom fighters of society--bravely represented by, you guessed it, Quiet Riot--are forced to (the squeamish may want to close their eyes here) get haircuts. At the finish, it turns out (whew) that this nightmarish vision was only a dozing hard-rocker’s dream-- or was it? A solemn-voiced TV newsman appears and gives the latest rundown on Washington record-rating efforts, adding with the appropriate gravity, “The government has also cited the rock ‘n’ roll band Quiet Riot as one of the chief offenders in this ongoing controversy.” Don’t these guys wish . 5


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