A Bedeviled Bruce Springsteen, Devilish INXS
Rock stars in sleazy bar settings. . . . Lustful guys ogling barely dressed gals. . . . There ends the similarity between two of this months’s most popular music video clips: Bruce Springsteen’s thoughtful “One Step Up” and INXS’ dully exploitative “Devil Inside.”
And therein lies the crux of rock’s never-ending struggle to reconcile the need to grow up with the desire to indulge in juvenilia forever.
Springsteen’s video treats its subject matter with maturity and even sadness--finding no joy in the bar the protagonist visits, or in his fantasies about cheating on his wife with one of the joint’s go-go dancers.
If Springsteen’s character drifts in and out of his sexual dream world and comes back to cold reality, INXS’ video never exists outside of a fantasy nightclub world where no one could entertain the temptation of “cheating” because no one could ever possibly entertain the thought of marriage in the first place. Teenland, in other words.
Springsteen really is willing to confront the devil inside; INXS, meanwhile, just takes one step down and one step out. Their clips land near the top and bottom, respectively, of this edition of Sound & Vision--where current pop videos are reviewed and rated on the ever-popular 0-100 scale.
CLIPS PICKED TO CLICK:
Bruce Springsteen’s “One Step Up.” (Director: Meiert Avis.) Like many videos, “One Step Up” early on features the sight of a barely dressed young woman; unlike most such videos, in this one she’s not the dominant visual motif. Rather, it’s the wedding ring on Springsteen’s finger--seen as he sets his drink down in the bar where the woman is dancing, and seen again repeatedly as a silent reminder of spiritual betrayal when he fantasizes about that same hand touching bare skin, presumably not that of his wife. One of the scarier parts of the Tunnel of Love. 80
George Harrison’s “When We Was Fab.” (Directors: Godley & Creme.) From the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous. It’s special effects aplenty as Harrison, leaning against a brick wall and singing his slyly nostalgic song, sprouts extra hands and eight arms to hold you--about enough arms, in fact, to fill the Albert Hall. Beatles fans have a field day with the musical and visual nods to “I Am the Walrus,” while the tune also works on a more democratic level as a remembrance of an old relationship (and not necessarily Harrison’s with the other Fab Three). 80
Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” (Director: Robert Sidney.) The next wave of Madonna-wanna-be’s may be Sinatra-wanna-be’s. This 22-year-old clip of “Boots” is being re-released by Rhino Records in conjunction with an attempt to re-break the camp classic on Top 40 radio this month, and cable music channel VH-1 has wisely made the oldie clip its current “Nouveaux Video.” Bear groovy witness as young Nancy is joined by half a dozen go-go dancers, all similarly attired in short-short skirts and (you guessed it) dangerous looking boots. Most of the time, their dancing is so slight that they barely seem to be moving. This is what used to be called “smoldering” sexuality. Ah, but you’re probably too young to remember that. Yow! 75
Roy Orbison’s “Oh Pretty Woman.” (Director: Tony Mitchell.) In a clip culled from his star-backed cable-TV gala, Orbison is in top vocal form. Still, the highlight comes when Bruce Springsteen and one-time Elvis Presley sideman James Burton engage in a friendly country/rockabilly lead guitar duel, raising the tension before Roy finally gets the girl in the inevitable surprise happy ending. 75
LL Cool J’s “Going Back to Cali.” (Director: Ric Menello.) “Cali” offers a more intriguing subject for interpretation than most rap numbers: It’s not about the usual rap bravado, but a sort of boredom. Shot in black-and-white, L.A. looks gorgeous and dull here--a predictable viewpoint to be coming from New Yorkers, but this time at least a photogenic one. 68
WORTH A LOOK AND A LISTEN:
Hank Williams Jr.'s “Young Country.” (Directors: Fisher & Preachman.) “ That ain’t country!” complain a couple of Southern codgers, pointing at the youngsters pickin’ and grinnin’ on their TV. Hank Jr. then proceeds to step out of the box and sets them straight, making a plea for acceptance and tolerance among the musically narrow-minded. The cast of dozens making cameo appearances ranges from old guardians like Minnie Pearl to youthful Southern rockers like the Georgia Satellites to--get this--Suicidal Tendencies! Corny? Sure. 57
The Smithereens’ “Only a Memory.” (Director: Jim Yukich.) A tribute to the beloved opening-credits sequences of James Bond movies, with shadows of bodies seen against bright background colors and band footage projected onto lithe, lean female limbs. It beats sitting through one of the real recent Bond theme songs by Duran Duran or a-ha or whichever European poppers the producers pick for the next installment. 55
Robbie Robertson’s “Somewhere Down the Crazy River.” (Director: Martin Scorsese.) Longtime pals Robbie and Marty get minimalist with their first video together, taking the ex-Band songwriter’s mostly spoken-word evocation of some semi-sleazy backwoods cafe and placing it on a simple, unadorned sound stage. And nothing much happens--until, that is, ex-local girl Maria McKee shows up (in a bit of miscasting if she’s supposed to represent the woman of experience suggested in the song) and she and Robertson start making out. And we do mean making out . “Our little Maria” has, uh, grown up. 48
GAMMA RAY ROT:
Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” (Editors: Don Wilson and Larry Stessel.) Jackson doesn’t even put in an appearance in this clip, and one can only guess why--perhaps because the inspirational tone of the gospel-ish self-help anthem doesn’t really lend itself to grabbing one’s crotch repeatedly. Instead we get nonstop newsreel footage of three decades’ worth of sights both uplifting and horrifying, from the KKK to JFK to MLK to Ethiopia and South Africa. (Whew!) This much historical footage can’t be spliced together without finding a few emotional shots. But ultimately the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to humanitarianism here only serves to trivialize the history it haphazardly dishes up. 39
INXS’ “Devil Inside.” (Director: Joel Schumacher.) “Every single one of us, the devil inside,” sings Michael Hutchence. A commentary on the pervasiveness of personal and societal evil in the world today? Naaah. Just a reminder that we all have cute little guys with pitchforks in our minds who make us want to pick up pouty, leggy models in bars and whisk them away on motorbikes to some AIDS-free fantasyland. Ho ho ho, who wouldn’t go? 34
George Michael’s “Father Figure.” (Director: George Michael, Andy Morahan.) Another dubious first from the ex-Wham!-bang-thank-you-man, “Father Figure” is most notable for being the first video on MTV to feature the sight of bare hands on bare breasts. Naturally, the story line has nothing to do with being a woman’s emotionally giving daddy substitute. 30
Motley Crue’s “You’re All I Need.” (Director: Wayne Isham.) Even MTV rejected this violent clip, in which a burned-out long-hair first tries to strangle, and then stabs to death, his girlfriend--whose bloody hand is seen clutching at the wall. The lyrics (supposedly “based on a true story”) are even from the point of view of the self-pitying murderer. Unfortunately, Motley Crue isn’t Randy Newman, and if this is supposed to be irony, the band’s mostly teen-age fans aren’t likely to be looking out for it when nearly every other Crue cut absolutely glorifies its vaguely naughty subject matter. 10
Whitesnake’s “Give Me All Your Love Tonight.” (Director: Marty Callner.) What’s worse than a Whitesnake video with Tawny Kitaen? Answer: A Whitesnake video without Tawny Kitaen. Director Callner leaves the gal out this time and makes sure the love affair in this performance clip is strictly between the musicians and their music--hence the shot of the lead guitarist licking his trusty ax. (Real male bonding stuff there.) Look forward to hearing the title phrase a good 19 times--though it’ll seem like 1,900--interspersed with witticisms like “I’ll rock you in the morning / Roll you in the night.” Spinal Tap lives! 3