YES! Weekly’s Forgotten Videos of the ’80s
Joan Jett, “French Song”
Fronting what I consider to be the “classic” Blackhearts lineup – Ricky Byrd on guitar, Lee Crystal on drums and Gary Ryan on bass – Joan sings about a mÃ©nage a trois, dresses like Suzi Quatro and drags women around on dog chains long before Snoop Dogg did. Despite suggestively writhing on a brass bed, Joan never comes across as particularly erotic, though. Perhaps the French cabaret audience of drag queens and other pseudo-decadent types overshadows her, or perhaps it’s the Ernest Hemingway look-alike who pops up now and then.
Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction, “Prime Mover”
The ’80s were full of over-the-top heavy metal videos, but none quite as laugh-inducing as this one. Zodiac and his backing band bumrush a convent in a stolen tank, where they turn Catholic schoolgirls into gyrating leather-clad vixens using special effects so cheesy that they make Paul Stanley’s “laser eyes” in Kiss meets the Phantom of the Park look like Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.
The Cars, “Hello Again”
One of rock’s most detached bands performs sprightly electronic dance-funk while toy cars drive in jerky stop-motion across a woman’s naked body. Andy Warhol plays a bartender, band members look either bored or bemused, women kiss and catfight and much artsy-fartsy imagery and weirdness ensues. This video may belong in the “never seen” category instead of “forgotten,” due to the nudity, but was Warhol trying to tell us that the Cars were the new Velvet Underground?
Adam Ant, “Vive Le Rock”
Finally, after three videos of scantily clad female eye candy, we have one for, er, males of alternate sexual persuasions. On the downside of his “Strip”/”Goody Two-Shoes” peak, Adam adopts words and visuals from Kenneth Anger’s early-sixties gay biker cult flick “Scorpio Rising,” despite insisting that the future of rock n’ roll is “not Tom of Finland.” Maybe it wasn’t the subtle homoeroticism that doomed him so much as the fact that the early ’80s rockabilly revival was already on the wane when he cut this Johnny Kidd and the Pirates-influenced rocker. His mangling of James Cagney’s classic “top of the world” quote from White Heat at the end of the video probably didn’t help either.
Motorhead, “Killed by Death”
Either by negligence or design, Lemmy and the gang haven’t made many honest-to-goodness music videos, and the ones they do make tend to emphasize their live show. This one has a plot, of sorts; after crashing his motorcycle through a living room wall to kidnap his love interest from her rocker-hating parents (shades of the Shangri-Las’ ’60s teen-death classic “Leader of the Pack”), Lemmy goes down in a blaze of police gunfire. Just to make sure he’s really dead, the authorities strap him in an electric chair, but to no avail; at his funeral Lemmy rises from the grave, messiah-like, astride a Harley-Davidson.
Queensryche, “Queen of the Reich”
Before they earned critical plaudits with their rock opera Operation Mindcrime, Queensryche was just another heavy-concept act in metal’s bush leagues. Following an incoherent scrolled-text intro ripped off from Star Wars the group attempts to save the post-apocalyptic world from a shapely woman clad in aluminum underwear. If Mindcrime was the ’80s equivalent of the Who’s Tommy, as many pundits claimed at the time, is “Reich” the band’s answer to “A Quick One?”
The Ramones, “Psychotherapy”
The Ramones are where they belong in this video, in an insane asylum filled with zombie extras from Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” video. Schoolyard rumor has is that the video was banned from MTV for its “graphic” special effects, but the “head-within-a-head” scene wouldn’t scare one of today’s cynical, world-weary 6-year olds. Dee Dee Ramone, though, seen here in the middle of his “catatonic” period, is more than creepy enough to make up for it.
Little Caesar, “Chain of Fools”
Nothing special as far as visuals go, just your typical tattooed rock gods strutting their stuff on stage, but they do to Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” what Big Brother and the Holding Company did to her little sister Erma’s “Piece of my Heart” 20 years earlier. Little Caesar were part of the short-lived late-’80s “biker rock” movement, along with Circus of Power and Raging Slab, which is to say they aped Steppenwolf when everyone else was aping the New York Dolls.
Gary Numan, “She’s Got Claws”
A pattern seems to be emerging here: The farther down the charts a performer slipped, the weirder their videos got. In this post-“Cars” production, Gary plays a film noir detective stalking a woman who worships cats. There’s an homage to Eartha Kitt’s turn as Catwoman in the ’60s camp classic “Batman,” and Gary gets attacked by a stuffed tiger. Judging from the subject matter and style, this may have been directed by whoever did Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” video, but I can’t be sure.
Run-DMC, “Rock Box”
“Walk This Way” was the breakthrough; this was the blueprint. Following a side-splitting spiel by children’s entertainer Danny Kaye, the men in black drop “super def rhymes” over guitarist Eddie Martinez’s hard rock riffs and the late Jam Master Jay’s turntable pyrotechnics. The rest is history. At the end of the video, Run switches Stetsons with a young white