1980s

Tightly-Wound Buns and Flying Crabs: Thomas Dolby – “She Blinded Me With Science”

thomas-dolby-she-blinded-me-with-science

We start out with Thomas tooling down some road, driving one of those old-school motorcycles with a sidecar thing. (I never understood those contraptions. If you need the extra seating, just get a car, right?) Anyway, Thomas and his odd trench-coat are driving up to a collection of buildings in the countryside, where we can see a man with a jetpack standing on the roof of one of the structures. He looks a bit distraught (maybe he should get off the roof, that might help) and he’s shaking his head at us in a manner which indicates we should just go find a nice pub and not stop here.

But Thomas does, because he’s a free spirit (how else would you explain his hair?), pulling into a little parking circle in an erratic manner that makes it clear he just learned how to drive the motorcycle three minutes ago. Some helpful title cards then appear on the screen, letting us know this is “Mr. Dolby’s arrival at the Home for Deranged Scientists”. How nice for him. But why would a deranged scientist voluntarily go to a sanitarium? They must have a really compelling brochure.

Thomas and his odd cap head inside, where he finds a woman wearing spectacles and looking completely out of place at the reception desk. (She appears to be angry in some way? Did he not have an appointment? Do deranged people even understand what appointments are? Or reception desks?) Thomas hands over some paperwork and takes off his coat, because it’s really far too big for anyone to be wearing if they want to be taken seriously.

The cameraman heads back outside to the lawn (probably because paperwork takes a lot of time to review and no one wants to watch that process) where we find several older gentleman doing strange things. Bubble-blowing appears to be involved, and possibly some synchronized frolicking. Even the cameraman doesn’t know what they’re doing, so he gets bored and we head back into the main building. We encounter the Receptionist Lady, who is leading us (and presumably Thomas) into an inner chamber with a sign on the door that is vague and misleading, so anything could be happening in here, from barn-dancing to yodeling.

We are then presented with a man standing at and gazing out a window, perhaps searching for a better-paying job, who turns and comes rushing at us with far more enthusiasm than is comfortable, especially in England where one simply doesn’t show excitement unless another coronation has been announced. He shakes our hand and then proudly directs us to a nearby psychiatric couch. Oh. We’re going to do that now. Great.

Luckily, the camera switches angles so that we are no longer pseudo-Thomas, and we watch as real-Thomas plops onto the couch with great comfort and familiarity, indicating that he’s been to this rodeo a time or two. As Thomas wiggles his fanny on the couch and the doctor drops into a companion chair, Receptionist Lady (who might be “Miss Sakamoto” from the lyrics or Joan from central casting) decides to climb a short ladder and then fiddle with her skirt in what I’m assuming is supposed to be an erotic manner but really looks like she’s done got the crabs once again.

This development causes Thomas and his hair to ogle her with barely concealed lust, a sure sign that Thomas has not been watching the right pornographic movies. It also causes the Doctor to suddenly be in a completely different video, one where he waves mysterious implements and does a small jig. Then the Doctor comes back to the right set, and he begins to scribble in his old-school notebook whilst Thomas tries to tell us why he’s here and what led him to wearing intense eye-shadow.

Thomas starts off by babbling about the stench of chemicals and scratching his head. (Uh oh, did Sakamoto’s crabs leap-frog their way across the room?) As if she heard our thoughts, Sakamoto and her severe glasses turn to give us a penetrating look like she’s a prison warden with her hand on the switch that controls the electric chair. Or maybe she’s just horny, because we quickly cut to another scene where she and Thomas are doing an odd awkward dance in a darkened but classical room, clutching at each other and moving sedately.

Oh wait, maybe it’s not Saka. This woman has long hair that is not wound into a bitchy receptionist bun, and as she slowly twirls with Thomas, we can see, courtesy of her revealing couture, that she has an odd, vaguely violin-themed tattoo on her back. Maybe this is Saka’s musical personality that takes control from the other personalities in her head when they are all standing on a dance floor? Saka Chaka Khan?

We briefly cut back to Thomas still on the couch, touching his nose and making sniffing motions. Let it be entered into the court transcript that this is a completely unattractive thing for Thomas to do.

Another shot of the questionable waltz, then we go back to original Sakamoto as she climbs back down the short ladder. She’s not carrying anything, like reference documents or prescriptions for tranquilizers, so she clearly did all that mess just to show off her legs. Harlot.

The Doctor and Thomas continue to chat, with Doc scribbling frantically and Thom pulling up one pant leg to show something that we don’t care about. (Another title card pops up, proclaiming “Suitable for Treatment!” I think that card should have started the video.) The Doctor is suddenly inspired to do that waving thing with his implements again, looking manic, and Saka arrives bearing refreshments in the form of a wooden puzzle that Thomas must decipher for some important reason. We watch him bang at that thing for a bit until the cameraman gets bored once again and we head back outside.

To find those older gentlemen are still frolicking about and being very invested in doing annoying things. One of them is prancing with a jacked-up butterfly catcher, another is playing hopscotch whilst looking through a telescope that is pointed at the ground, and some interns seems to be pushing a patient along on a gurney as they rush to somewhere important. (Oh wait, that last one might actually be serious. These people take pills like a kid eats Skittles, so sooner or later one of them is going to hit the jackpot of unsatisfactory chemical interaction and there’s a flat-line issue. We should probably send a card.)

We eventually make our way back to Thomas, still on the couch, and he seems a bit peeved that we’ve been away for so long. (Dude, there was a Code Blue on the lanai. Un-clench.) But before we can become close friends again, we head into a montage of various happenings around the Happy Valley Home for Head-Jacked Scientists. There’s some man on the lawn wearing shoes that look like smoking guns (symbolic of the Reagan Administration?), more of Jet-Pack Guy on the roof, not knowing what he’s doing but determined to do whatever it is (symbolic of the Thatcher Administration?), and some nuns with those creepy, overblown hats strapping Thomas onto a gurney (symbolic of record executives having no idea what to do with new-wave music?) Just guessing.

The gigantor-hat nuns eventually roll Thomas into a room that has a nice little contraption that they can strap to his head, so they do. The headgear looks menacing, in that “does this have anything to do with a lobotomy?” kind of way, but Thomas doesn’t seem to be fighting the procedure. (Maybe he can get some new musical ideas for his next record? At least for the remixes.)

Next we have a brief shot of someone playing a violin, then we’re back outside where the older gentlemen have gathered and are doing a group dance that has little relation to the music that we are hearing. (So that’s how raves started. At an understaffed sanitarium where Thomas Dolby lusted after a dark-haired woman who may or may not have an STD. Update your notes accordingly.)

Okay, we’re now in the “operating room”, where Thomas is still wearing his fancy metal bonnet, the Doctor is now wearing one of those old-timey head bands with a mirror stuck in it, and some previously-unknown German-flavored people are wearing evil grins. Oh, and Sakamota is no longer wearing her severe bun, letting her locks tumble and confirming that she did indeed slow-dance with Thomas in a darkened ballroom that isn’t a ballroom whilst wearing slutty clothing.  This will have to go in her personnel file, I’m afraid.

Speaking of the ballroom that really isn’t, we head back there briefly so we can watch Thomas use a violin wand to play the tattoo on Saka Chaka Khan’s back. (Saka doesn’t move a millimeter while this mess is going on, indicating dissatisfaction and boredom, so you know Thomas better find another form of foreplay or there’s going to be a heated discussion and possible privilege-reduction.

And we’re back to Thomas on the gurney, presumably post-lobotomy, and we watch him watch several smartly-dressed young boys head past him into a secret room. (Symbolic of game night for certain Catholic priests?) Then we have another montage, letting us know that Thomas is actually still talking to the Doctor, the Jet-Pack Guy still hasn’t found what he’s looking for, the creepy nuns are still being really pushy with people, Sakamoto is back to her “I’m still pissed off about something” attitude, and Afternoon Tea has been seriously compromised what with all the rude interruptions.

New title card, this one announcing “Mr. Dolby rejects Science and things Scientific”.

So he’s become a Republican?

We wrap things up with Thomas and that coat we don’t like heading out the door of the asylum while looking subversive and shady, followed by a shot of the Doctor emoting in a dark corner and proving that any licenses he may have had should be ripped from his over-active hands. Then we wrap things up once more with Thomas again heading out the door, this time in his white couture from the apparently dream-sequence lobotomy, followed by a shot of the Doctor being shoved into a wheelchair and then subsequently shoved into a nearby river while people look the other way. Apparently we’re being given an alternate version of reality in case the first one didn’t adequately satisfy our prejudices and ignorance.

Symbolic of the staff at Fox News? You decide…

 

Click here to watch this video on YouTube. (Note: The “official” version of this video has been pulled by WMG, so this link to a renegade copy could break at any time.)

Originally published on 03/01/13, revised and updated with extra flair for this post.

 

Harmonicas and Frilly Panties: Culture Club – “Karma Chameleon”

Culture Club Karma Chameleon

Well, we start out with some helpful words on the screen that we’re in “Mississippi-1870”, and right away you know this is going to be a very realistic video because there were so many opportunities for drag queens back in that day. We’re staring at a river, but I have my doubts if it’s the Mississippi River because it only looks about 10-feet wide and ain’t no riverboat gonna get up in that.

The camera pans back from the opening shot and we have an elaborately staged scene with lots of extras dashing about, apparently preparing for the arrival of a riverboat on the river that is not the right river. (In the 1870s, the anticipated arrival of anything was cause for overcompensating celebration, with folks getting all gussied up and putting in their good set of false teeth.) Everybody’s wearing period clothing, so at least the wardrobe mistress was going for authenticity, unlike the location scouts who were clearly drunk and made a wrong turn at some point.

But the fact that the band members are still sporting modern-day haircuts sort of throws things off a bit. (You guys couldn’t wear a wig? Your leader doesn’t have a problem with it, why should you?) Nice atmospheric touch with the cameo of the old guy pretending to play the harmonica, just as we hear that instrument on the soundtrack (it’s magic!), but it’s very clear that gramps had never seen a harmonica before he walked on the set and somebody told him to get busy with the juice box. He’s inappropriately manhandling that thing like he took a Hot Pocket out of the microwave before it had cooled off a bit.

Then, lo and behold, the camera runs across Boy George, dressed in an outfit that is not from any period, perched uncomfortably on top of what might be a tarp-covered Buick. He starts singing as the camera zooms in, and Boy makes sure that he artfully turns his head so we can see he did his own makeup, apparently using a watercolor set and a fistful of pharmaceuticals.

We then focus in on a guy in a top hat (oh wait, all the guys are in top hats, except for the poor folks lugging steamer trunks around for no apparent reason). Anyway, we learn that this particular top-hatted guy is nimbly working the crowd, discreetly stealing gold and jewels from the clueless people who are just trying to look attractive and ignore the fact that mosquitoes are eating them alive and that brown rivers smell very bad in the summer. (We get a shot of one lady who was probably the original inspiration for the phrase “she could eat an apple through a fence”, an unfortunate descriptor that could bode poorly for her self-esteem and marketability. But her dress is really pretty, so if she works it just right, she might be able to score a matrimonial hookup before this video is released.)

Boy George does a nice ambisexual move with his fingerless-gloved hand, which causes everybody to think “hey, we got us a drag queen on that there Buick, let’s go closer!” So they do, marching up to surround Boy, who was obviously born for the spotlight, even if that spotlight is a kerosene lamp held by an urchin wearing a potato sack. Folks are all jigging a bit to the mesmerizing beat, including some out-of-place showgirls who got fired in Tupelo, probably because they insist on wearing dead parrots in their hair, and now they are looking for jobs in a more accepting place where no one judges them for their accessories.

Brief close-up on one of the showgirls, who makes it very obvious that she doesn’t really like the song (honey, don’t snarl like that, ain’t nobody gonna put a ring on it), but she’s going to whip her skirt around anyway if it can get her a smidge of attention. (She’s that girl in high school who would bang anything if it meant nudging her closer to being selected Most Popular by her classmates, only to be stunned when she received the certificate for Most Likely to Procreate.) Quick image of Natalie Cole and Lyle Lovett clapping their hands (no idea) and then we zip over to two blonde-headed boys shoving something in a wicker basket. (Was that last bit a subtle reference to Boy duct-taping his manly bits before a show?)

We get another shot of the worthless guy who can’t play the harmonica (why is he still here?), followed by the other band members shaking their groove thang while standing near one of the dead-parrot showgirls, this one looking amazingly similar to Joan Collins. (Who asked her to be here? Did she just get fired from “Dynasty”?) Then we are treated to a montage bit that is not the finest hour of the editor, with random shots of extras proving that they know the words to the chorus and/or not realizing that the camera is on them whilst they fiddle with body parts that should not be fiddled in public. Meanwhile, Evil Top Hat man is snatching jewels left and right as his many vapid victims gaze upon Boy George and his mesmerizing performance.

Sadly, the montage continues, because once you choose the low road, you discover that there are roads even lower. We are presented with one guy in a straw cowboy hat that is clearly listening to a different song, his body shimmying discordantly in a manner that will not become acceptable until somebody invents Burning Man decades later. And there’s a little girl kicking her legs in musical abandonment, with her tiny feet, which probably should have stayed under her dress per the director’s memo, clad in those “jelly shoes” which won’t even be invented for another 100 years or so. Then again, neither will Boy George’s glitter makeup.

We have even more shots of the crowd in a religious fervor over Boy’s dreadlock drag and hand choreography, hootin and a hollerin and embracing diversity in a manner that wouldn’t have, and wouldn’t still, happen in Mississippi. It’s starting to get a little boring, so thank the personal deity of your choice that the damn massive riverboat finally pulls up on the puny river that couldn’t support a surfboard even on a good day. Everybody is very excited about the arrival, with the chorus girls waving what looks like the national flag of Ghana over their heads and having small orgasms.

Then people start scrambling onto the boat, with an extended shot of that one irritated show girl who is still not happy to be here, stomping along with a pout and getting her flag dirty (among other things). Oh, look, there’s another unhappy woman, this one in a yellow dress and glaring at her man like he ain’t gettin’ nothin’ for dinner. Why are these people so angry? They get to ride on a boat now, and they no longer have to watch a British pop star sing the same four words over and over while flipping his braids and turning to face cameras that aren’t really there.

Anyway, the ship launches toward somewhere that isn’t here, and we now have a poker game going on, because most people never study history and the scriptwriters don’t realize that people can do other things on riverboats besides gambling. The other Culture Club members join the game, as well as evil Top Hat man, while several ladies in pretty hats pretend to be completely interested in the action. Boy George is apparently not allowed to play, and is, in fact, forced to stand outside the room and look in a window while playing the harmonica. (I guess they finally fired that first useless guy and Boy is picking up some extra money because you never know when the record sales might plunge.) I don’t know why they are making Boy-Girl stand out there, but it is 1870, so there may have been some maritime compliance issues concerning flamboyant couture.

The poker game is fairly uninteresting (how many multi-camera shots of people studying their cards and contemplating can a person stand before they lose interest and go review porn on the Internet?), so we’re actually happy when evil Top Hat Man finally wins, even if he cheated. The band members are not so thrilled, however, with one of them even smoking a cigar to show his displeasure, a defiant stance that should not be considered a reflection on his sexual affiliation.

We get a very quick shot of one of the ladies making a startled expression that is entirely too much, an example of over-acting that you rarely see outside of the dinner-theater circuit. (If you pause the video at this point, you can study the women on both sides of Offended Ophelia casting glances at her that one shouldn’t eat the broccoli casserole if they can’t handle the after effects.) Then we roll into a montage of lots of people we don’t know intimately having a Sherlock Holmes moment and realizing that personal items they owned at the start of the video are no longer in their possession. The angry crowd races off to seek revenge on evil Top Hat Man and his sticky fingers, even though Top Hat is sitting right there and all this mess about racing is completely unnecessary.

Still, revenge is a dish best served when other people can see you getting it, so we have a rousing scene with Top Hat being forced by the angry mob to take off his stylish jacket and then walk the plank to his doom. (Proving once again that the scriptwriters are not fully connected to the space-time continuum.) Top Hat hits the water and presumably does not live to resurface, a bit of a stretch considering this river is only about two-feet deep, but his presumed departure puts everyone in a very festive mood.

The chorus girls jump on top of the captain’s cabin and do a nice dance routine, showing us their frilly panties, because Pinterest hadn’t been invented yet and there was nothing else to do. Then everybody else decides, in a very progressive move for 19th-century rural Mississippi, that if the nice drag queen can’t come inside, we’ll just go out there and join him on the deck. And so they do, with the first known gay pride riverboat parade taking place as they sail down the river and the song fades…

Red, gold and green, people. Say it with me. A hundred times.

 

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

Originally published on 08/18/10, revised and updated with extra flair for this post.

 

Panic at the Fertilization Clinic: Buggles – “Video Killed the Radio Star”

Buggles Video Killed the Radio Star

  Trivia tidbit: The was the first music video ever played on the fledgling MTV network back around 1981-ish. This factoid will not change your life in any way, just thought I’d mention it, in case you want to be “that person” at cocktail parties who tries to impress everyone else with his arcane knowledge. You know, the person that everyone stops talking to after a while because they really don’t care? That one.

Anyway, prepare for a shocking display of primitive art, because nobody knew what they were doing back then (a trademark of the Reagan Era). And here we go…

We start out with a cherubic little girl in a red jumper thing fiddling with what I think is supposed to be an old-timey radio, but really looks like a washing machine. There’s a black and white image of some guy with odd glasses and a microphone who keeps intruding from the left side of the screen. It takes exactly one second for this to get annoying.

We pull back so that we can see a full moon shining down on the tyke as she continues her ministrations with the radio washer. I have no idea what the moon symbolizes. Maybe the girl is going to turn into a werewolf if she finds the right station, but werewolves won’t become popular for another thirty years, so who knows.

Oh look, the girl did find a station, and she throws her hands back in a crappy simulation of surprise. She’s a terrible actress. No wonder we never saw her again after this video. Cut to some guy wearing a suit made out of silver Saran wrap and playing some keyboards. He doesn’t seem happy to be here. Maybe he’s the little girl’s agent and just saw her performance.

Okay, now the black-and-white dude is taking up the whole screen. He’s very proud of his curly hair and his odd resemblance to Elton John before EJ did that fake marriage thing. He slides to the right and continues singing while we get another shot of the bad actress, once again jacking around with the radio knobs. One would think she’s supposed to leave that thing alone now. The song is already playing and her limited functionality has been depleted. She’s a bad actress and she doesn’t know when to stop. Wait, is this actually Vanna White before she started flipping letters in sparkly dresses?

Then we get a couple replays of the child’s horrid attempt at method acting, throwing her hands up in a slight seizure as she finds the radio station again and again. Even the radio can’t stand looking at her, and just decides to explode. The little girl then stands there amidst the rubble and looks at us, like she did nothing wrong, but we all know she’s been very, very naughty.

Now we have TWO of the black-and-white singer guys, bellowing from both sides of the screen. It’s a crappy-looking shot now, but it was very high-tech at the time and probably indirectly led to two Lindsay Lohans appearing in a Disney movie. You know, that movie Lindsay made back in the day when she was still interested in having a career and not self-imploding, spinning the roulette wheel of her sexuality and running about flashing her panties.

Another shot of the worthless little girl standing there, but this time she transitions into a woman sporting a strange outfit that is probably supposed to represent futuristic fashion, but really just looks like the wrong people were going to design school at the time. This woman is very accusatory, and she points her finger at us. Hey, I didn’t break the damn radio, that little girl did.

Close-up shot of reels of magnetic tape turning. Fascinating. Could do this for hours.

Then the black-and-white singer guy is there, as a real person this time and not a distorted image. He’s walking around on what might be a stage, because Shiny Jacket Guy is playing a synthesizer next to him, but it might also be a laboratory, because there are computers and such. Then Stupid Outfit Woman suddenly appears again, sliding down the inside of a giant test tube and clutching at her heart while impersonating a coma victim. She wakes up, does a short mime routine, and then stops moving again, as if suddenly realizing that this mess is doing nothing for her career.

I have no idea what she represents. Please don’t send questions.

Then we cut to a monitor of some kind, showing just the heads of two women wearing matching wigs and more stupid sunglasses. They seem to be having difficulty figuring out where to look as they sing the chorus. (Shot of the shiny keyboard player still mad about whatever.) Then the main singer is back, playing peek-a-boo behind another giant test tube. Oh, and there’s the little girl, apparently not fired as she should have been, and now she’s staring at frozen Stupid Outfit Woman. Even Stupid Outfit Woman doesn’t want to be around the little brat, so she zips back up the test tube, which hopefully leads to the wardrobe department and a better couture decision.

Quick shot of the Wig Girls doing hand movements to the lyrics. They’ve finally agreed to look in the same direction, one that doesn’t appear to involve the camera or any degree of sense. Then we have several odd-angle shots of random people playing instruments, and another turn at watching Stupid Outfit Woman shoot up that tube. (Apparently the video director is very invested in this tube action, perhaps intent on turning the image into a branding concept for the band, which is sad. All of the marketing possibilities out there, and he’s going to go with a jacked-up take on in-vitro fertilization?)

And now the talentless brat is back, climbing some unexplained stairs so she can be on top of giant cardboard set decorations designed by people who are clearly not skilled craftsmen. This, naturally, leads to another explosion. You would think these folks would have figured out by now that the little Firestarter has got to go.

The aftershock of Damianetta’s pyrotechnics has caused the Wig Girls to lose their temporary synchronization skills, and they are no longer staring in the same direction, standing rigidly and awkwardly, as if they received surprise enemas when we weren’t looking. Suddenly, television sets start bursting out of the ground for no apparent reason, because this always happens when the director tries to get too arty. Next we have several jump cuts around the studio/laboratory, ending with Main Singer also pointing an accusing finger at us. The people in this video are just vindictive and unwilling to accept any responsibility for what is happening around them. (Is this how the Tea Party started?)

More keyboard playing, followed by Stupid Outfit Woman flying over the set (twice), like a very unfocused super hero. If we’re lucky, she’ll snatch up the little girl and throw her into a volcano, thus saving the world. Instead, walls start sliding out of the way and we have Main Singer and Mad Keyboard Guy playing instruments, and a new musician whose issue seems to be that his tight plastic pants are neutering him. Stupid Outfit Woman is back in the test tube, so she’s either resting after all that flying or she’s hiding from the little brat, who is currently unaccounted for, not having been seen since she caused that second explosion.

And that’s basically it. We finish out the song on this same set, with the camera whirling all over the place because somebody thought that might be fun. Stupid Outfit Woman decides to do an interpretive dance in her tube, and no one bothers to make her stop because there are only a few seconds left in the video and she seems to be very invested in her writhing. Little did we know at the time that people doing inexplicable things in music videos would become the hallmark for decades to come.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is how a new network was born.

I’ll give you a few moments to think about that…

 

Sadly, this video is no longer available on YouTube, indicating some type of copyright issue, so you’ll just have to envision the mayhem. 

(Originally published on 08/04/10, revised and updated with extra flair for this post.)