The proceedings immediately bode well, as they begin with Siouxsie & the Banshees “Cities in Dust.” From their excellent album “Tinderbox,” the song itself is about destruction of Pompeii from the volcano Mount Vesuvius. The video mirrors this in a very dark but lovely way, thanks to director Tim Pope, whom fittingly directed a good chunk of the Cure’s videography. Oddly enough this song was the first single of theirs to be released in the US. It’s a beautiful video for a haunting song.
After that we get Ozzy Osbourne’s classic werewolf rocker, “Bark at the Moon.” The video is well made and we’re treated to a whole Jekyll/Hyde twist with Ozzy playing a Victorian mad scientist who has created a lycanthropic beast that may or may not be the man himself. There’s lot of great shots of the Ozzman hamming it up, horror movie style, which is perfect for the season. The song is the title track from Ozzy’s 1983 album, which was his first without later guitar maverick Randy Rhoads. Even though former Black Oak Arkansas and Thin Lizzy drummer Tommy Aldridge is on the studio version of this song, it’s ex-Vanilla Fudge and every other rock band in history drummer Carmine Appice in the video. (I would recognize that Guido-stache anywhere.)
One of the cool things about this special is that there are a few artists here that don’t totally fit into the Halloween theme. Luis Cardenas’s “Runaway” is definitely one of them. Yes, it’s that “Runaway,” the Del Shannon hit. Cardenas has the distinction of being a drummer and a singer and was once a member of the rock band Renegade. The cover is decent enough, despite that tinny production quality that plagued a number of rock-pop artists. Now none of that is scary at all. Hell, the video is not scary either, but dammit, it has DINOSAURS. I’m talking big Claymation dinosaurs playing electric guitars and rocking out! No matter what your opinion is on this song, you should never deny the fact that dinosaurs are like ranch dressing…they make everything better.
While dinosaurs aren’t really scary, they are huge creatures with sharp teeth, so it sort of makes sense to have it here. However showing video for The Cure’s “In Between Days” doesn’t. Yes The Cure are considered to by some to be the ultimate Goth band, but they were not always on the dark side of that genre. Certainly not here, given the fact that this is one of band’s sunnier sounding songs. The only thing that makes it halfway Halloweenie is the part of the video where it looks like Robert Smith has Day-Glo eyes. Oooky spooky. It’s a stretch, though I love The Cure and Tim Pope’s stuff always looks good.
Thankfully the next video is completely appropriate and is one of the best out of the whole special. Directed by Jon Poll, it’s “Hollywood Halloween” by Paul Broucek is a catchy tune with a weird, almost melancholy vibe. The video is comprised of Super 8 footage of a wild assortment of devilish and flat out weird characters in Hollywood on Halloween. (Fittingly enough.) This entry is unique due to the fact that this song, as far as I know, has never been released commercially. Broucek is a successful musician, but more in the field of Hollywood films, including The Golden Compass (2007) and A History of Violence (2005.) Jon Poll has also gone on to have some success in H-wood, doing editing work on Scary Movie 3 (2003) and co-producing Bruno (2009).
In a cool twist, after that we have LA death rock band Kommunity FK’s “Something Inside of Me Has Died.” The video is gorgeous, at times looking like a European 20’s and 30’s film. If I knew nothing about the band, I would have guessed that they were from Europe. Whoever directed this video knew exactly what they were doing because this is beautifully made. The song itself at first seems like a decent gloomy dark-rock dirge, but it does grow on you. Good moody music created by some beautiful, china-doll like musicians.
Speaking of awesomely made, atmospheric videos, we have Landscape’s “Norman Bates.” There was no other band really like Landscape at the time and this song is a good example of that. A band that has ties to such equally cool and diverse bands as Shock and Shriekback, it was a given that they were bound to stand out. The song is movie soundtrack worthy with a great video to match. There are some nice English twists to the Hitchcock classic, featuring a large stone estate and “mother” being the lead singer with a crocheted blanket around his face. The camera work is fab and the girl playing the Janet Leigh type role looks A LOT like the actress. To the point where at first I thought they had inserted clips from the movie into the video. A+ all the way.
Continuing on in the vein of badass, we get “Slave to the Rhythm” by the one and only Grace Jones. This is one of the videos that doesn’t really fit into the whole Halloween theme but it is so compellingly strange and mind-blowing that it’s great to see regardless. Jones needs no introduction other than she is the living definition of an Amazonian Goddess that everyone should bow down to. All of the fantastic visuals are courtesy of Jean Paul Goude, who was Grace’s lover and creative collaborator for years. Interestingly enough, almost all of the clips are culled from Goude’s various commercial work in Europe. For you eagle eyed viewers out there, you will spot one of the dancers running around with a tray of Orangina bottles. Having had Orangina, I would be running the hell away from them. That drink is an assault to the fine reputation of Oranges.
The disappointing video blues are soon saved by the highly underrated Lords of the New Church with “Dance with Me.” The combination of the Lords and visionary director Derek Jarman (Jubilee, The Tempest) proves to be an inspired one as we have key visual triggers (fire in various forms, innocence running and lost) and one sinister-sexual juju man in the form of the late, great Stiv Bators. The song is great too, with it being the classic Lords mix of crunch guitars with a post-punk flourish. For those of you not in the know, the Lords were a super group comprising of Stiv (the Dead Boys), Brian James (The Damned), Dave Tregunna (Sham 69) and Nicky Turner (The Barracudas). In short, the Lords of the New Church were a truly great band who never did a shitty song ever. We love the Lords.
In the spirit of super groups, after that we get Strange Party with the catchy and funky “Imitators.” Now this is not scary, sinister, spooky, Halloweenie at all, save for a brief shot of someone with a knife, but it is a helluva lot of fun. Not to mention this was one of the few, if only times this bad boy ever got airplay on MTV. Strange Party was mix of who’s who’s in the NYC art/theater/music scene in the early 80’s The band was comprised of George Elliot, Page Wood, Joey Arias, Tony Frere, Ann Magnuson, just to name a few! The video is a wholly successful experiment with video editing and composition. More current video directors need to watch this and other early video and soak up the pioneering spirit. There are a few famous imitators with my personal faves being Joey Arias as a surprisingly sexy Dali and Magnuson as a beatific Gala. Maybe it’s because I am so used to seeing Arias in drag (he does a helluva Billie Holliday by the way), but he really rocks the handlebar mustache. Not since David Lochary has a man looked so handsome with such facial hair.
New wave shadows in "Imitators."
After that is one of the best bands to have emerged from the Los Angeles 70’s punk scene with X’s “Because I Do.” The video is great with Exene looking especially lovely while grieving, pining, and plotting the fate of her next lover. Shot in black and white, it’s a gorgeous video that looks like a cross between Maya Deren and Man Ray. Plus the song is classic X, so this cannot be beat!
The goodwill gets even better when after that we get The Ramones with “Psychotherapy.” Directed by Francis Delia (aka F.X. Pope when working on such fringe film classics like Nightdreams), who had directed Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio” three years prior to this special, does a predictably awesome job here featuring the band playing a bunch of inmates in an insane asylum. In addition the cast of the characters around them, which includes a blonde elf child-woman, a python, and one cute punkette that looks like Gia Carangi’s cousin. But the big highlight is Dennis Edwards (who was also in the Delia produced, Stephen Sayadian directed Café Flesh) as a troubled young man whom after going through ice baths and shock treatment, has a creature burst out of his head?!? Unfortunately, the monster money shot is trimmed thanks to the censors at MTV. (Notice they didn’t roll this bad boy out a couple of years ago when MTV2 did their ‘Most Controversial Videos of all Time” special.)
Up next we get the video classic “White Wedding” by the man, Billy Idol. Yes MTV did play this to death back in the day, but for once it was a video that was genuinely good. The video was directed by the very capable of David Mallet, who also worked with such legends as David Bowie (including the incredible video for “Look Back in Anger”), Queen, Blondie, and Joan Jett. Tonally this is a dark video playing up the domestic image of the bride right next to gothic cynicism. I think everyone and their mother by now should know about Idol, so let me focus on the fabulous Perri Lister playing the lead female here. Lister, in addition to being Idol’s non-legal wife for 9 years, was also in the banned by MTV video for Duran Duran’s “The Chauffeur” and was a part of the excellent synth pop band Visage. So give some props to Perri because she’s awesome.
Finishing up part one, we end on a ghastly high note with Bauhaus’s “Mask.” The fact that MTV ever played this video is a near miracle. Not because it is terrible or anything. In fact, it’s incredible, but this is probably one of the most disturbing videos that ever graced their airwaves. (Not counting the entire Loverboy oeuvre.) Keep in mind that this is the same channel that banned the video for Blue Oyster Cult’s “Joan Crawford.” (Which is definitely worth looking up, by the way.) The song itself is one of the band’s more abstract and haunting tunes, which for Bauhaus is saying a lot. Filled with loads of shadowy and surreal imagery, particularly involving Peter Murphy as a dust covered corpse that rises up towards this end, you will not forget this video anytime soon. Unlike the clip for “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” shown near the beginning of the special, we get to see lots of the other band members here, including drummer Kevin Haskins as a ghoul and Daniel Ash looking like some kind of sickly tribal revenant. This is the stuff great nightmares are made of.
All in all, this is a very fine first half for a music video oriented Halloween special. Who knew that MTV had it in them? Will the final two hours continue to bring on the spooky music video goodness or will it fall prey to the great monster of suckage? Stay tuned for Part Two and find out!