Goddamn YouTube is the most gloriously beautiful time-waster in the world. I’m supposed to be working on Changeling today, but I dug up and old e-mail that had a link to some ancient music videos on it and I haven’t left my chair in 55 hours.
So you know what? Here. Have a look back at a bunch of the music that I listened to when I was naught but a wee man. This isn’t your standard “HAHAHAHA LOOK WHAM IS GAY” stuff. These are formative songs (for me) that are often a bit of a distance from the beaten path. Maybe some of this will explain why I am what I am. I promise not to cheat and place any New Order, the Smiths, Misfits, or the Damned on here because you already know about that and you can dig it up yourself if you’re the same kind of psychotically obsessed nostalgiac as I am.
Sigue Sigue Sputnik, “Love Missile F1-11″
I had this album when I was younger but I had never seen the video until today. People, this is exactly what it looks and sounds like inside my head all the time right now. Inside my head, technology is still sexy and really large and crappy and crazy electropunks smash things up all over the place and synthesizers replicate sound really poorly and Japan is still a global zaibatsu-type threat. A robot is basically a vacuum cleaner but everyone fears it because it is mechanical and has no soul. I’m going to go ahead and place this in the category of greatest Zeitgeist videos ever.
Greater Than One, “I Don’t Need God”
I was a crappy, angry kid and songs like this really hit people’s hot buttons, so I liked them for that reason. It’s like reading Internet forums today: You can tell a person’s age by his opinions about religion. (“Oh, you’re an atheist? Well, you’ll graduate from college eventually, you cute little iconoclast, you!”) Now that I listen to it, it’s pretty primitive and minimal — and not in a good way — but I still have a bit of affection for it. I remember having a skateboard with a buncha poorly drawn Greater Than One logos on it.
Information Society, “Think”
“Hey, do you like William Gibson?”
“Well, you should check out Information Society.”
It’s a guilty pleasure, but this is still my favorite song from this band. Watching it, you can see little weird bits of proto-rave and Manchester creeping in (nice hat), but this is another triumph of making music without actual instruments. Which I love. Because I am a nerd.
The Housemartins, “Me and the Farmer”
Fine, I told you I wouldn’t put the Smiths on here, but here’s another incredibly talented pop band in a similar idiom. Their songs are just so lovingly crafted, with trademark 80s cynicism and earnest leftism beneath the accessiblly soulful surface. Could Paul Heaton’s voice be any more perfect for the band’s sound? Hey, look, it’s a young Fatboy Slim in that Adidas shirt in the tree!
Killing Joke, “Eighties”
I remember watching videos in a hotel room in New York when this song came on and my life turned a corner. All of the sudden, there was more to music than Huey Lewis & the News and all that hippie Beatles crap. Music was a force for expression and anger and change. Things could have an emotional gravity other than their surface connotations. I was never the same after that night. The world was a bigger place and I was a different… 11-year-old.
Dead Or Alive, “My Heart Goes Bang”
My favorite song by this band. When I first saw this video it really threw me for a loop because Pete Burns was so open about his sexuality. Of course, I was 11, and I just couldn’t figure out whether he was a guy or a girl. Whatever the case, the song was phenomenal and it opened my mind to things I had never even thought existed. I didn’t realize so many people hated people like this, however. The video itself mixes images strongly, with Burns up there dancing like Kylie Minogue and looking like Siouxsie Sioux.
The Adicts, “Viva La Revolution”
All it took to sell me on these guys was that they dressed up like the Droogs. That’s still all it takes. I threw a beer can at them once, which I thought was pretty cool.
Public Image, Ltd., “Rise”
Post-punk no-wave from John Lydon after the Sex Pistols. This song got me through a lot of high school days, as I’m sure you’re be able to glean from the refrain. I remember really liking this girl in high school who was one of the weird punks crawling through the halls and she looked down her nose at me for being into this. In the long run, though, I won because she ended up sleeping with Pauly Shore. This isn’t my favorite PiL song (that’s “Warrior”), but it’s a great song anyway, especially if you haven’t heard of them before.
Okay, everybody knows this song, but the video is a sterling example of 80s alterna-weirdness, from back before “alternative” meant “Green Day.” For some reason, in Dallas, when this song played on the dance floor and made it to the chorus, the whole dance floor would give the finger. To whom were they offering the screw-you? They didn’t do it in Atlanta or anywhere else I’ve ever heard the song while out. Some of the Dallas skinheads would give the Sieg Heil, but the precedent for that is in the video. The middle-finger thing, I just don’t understand. They still do it now, 20 years later, because I just heard this song out the other night. It’s odd. Also, this is the only song in the world with “parthenogenesis” as a lyric.
Red Rockers, “China”
Whatever, honor students. The video perpetrates the old school crime of having a script that reads “Dude walks through poignant setting. Eventually, a silhouette occurs.” It’s a hella good song, though, especially if you can forgive the John Hughes movie archetypes in the band for being John Hughes movie archetypes. Everybody looked like that back then. Except the jocks and the preps. WAR ON ALL JOCKS AND PREPS.
There. Now you’ve wasted an hour, too.