Don’t know what came over me today. In the midst of a lively discussion of Plato and "the Good"–I and a a few other religion TAs share an office with some junior faculty from the philosophy department, who regularly rock my world with mind-bending discussions of Plato that prove the commonplace contention in such circles that the "ancients" were simply a lot smarter than we are today–I experienced the pop-cultural equivalent of Marcel Proust’s famous cookie-induced phantasmagoria of childhood nostalgia. It being Ramadan, the trigger for me me was not the taste of a Madeleine dunked in tea but rather the allusion by a colleague to Men at Work’s classic ditty "Down Under" . Next thing I was awash in nostalgia and ravenous hunger for the hits of my wayward youth.
Luckily for those fiending for a hit of 80s music but too cheap to buy MP3s, there’s YouTube, which offers ripped versions of the music video of every hit to grace the charts since Dick Clark began his career a millennium ago.
To my surprise, you get the real deal fairly often. For example, I found the original videos for Peter Schilling’s "Major Tom", Aha’s soaring and highly cutting-edge "Take On Me". and the Bugles’ epoch-launching "Video Killed the Radio Star".
Sometimes, the fan’s selection of visuals is fun or intriguing, as in this rendition of ABC’s "Shoot that Poison Arrow" , which uses footage from an adaptation of Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice" as counterpoint to the song’s laments of love and betrayal. Or take this homage to Golden Earing’s "Twilight Zone" using scenes from one of Steven King’s endless parade of equally endless made-for-TV movies (King’s remake of "The Shining" felt longer than the 94-episode "Mahabarat", so glacier-like was its action and plot development).
Sometimes, you have to settle for tacky juxtapositions of image to music, as these are often the quirky projects of afficianados
paying tribute to beloved tunes. Alas, they frequently feature kooky and grating suburban anime backdrops. Thus, to hear Banarama’s "Venus"
at the moment, one must endure a grueling sequence of scenes of those irksome bugeyed
schoolgirls that infest so many anime flicks. Luckily, one can always minimize the window…
The best creative and entertaining send-up I’ve come across so far, though, involves Michael Jackson and that other perennial favorite of mine, Legos (see this previous posting, or this one, or this one). Jackson’s creepiness is only exceeded by the quality of the music he
produced during his heyday. No matter what what befalls him, his early output and continuing influence worldwide assure him a place in the firmament.
Here’s an inspired rendition of Jackson’s incomparable "Thriller" with Legos. The fluidity of the movements and the approximation of the dances are impressive. (Not surprisingly my favorite sequence, the brief shot of ghouls popping, didn’t turn out very well; Lego figurines weren’t designed with the Wave in mind.)
Watching this video, I was struck by how closely the Legos guys mimicked the original video and pondered how interesting it would be to compare the two videos on a split screen. Sure enough, someone out there had already thought of that and posted such of clip.
My only quibble is how light the atmosphere of the Lego video was. I don’t know what it would’ve entailed–I can’t imagine how much work it took to do this video–but a more shadowy table, err "set", probably would’ve simulated the spooky nighttime backdrop of the original a bit better. But it’s always easy to be a critic.
There are a few moments where the Legos seem to be bowing in sujud rather than bogeying, but I guess that’s just a limitation of the figurines’ joints.
For whatever it’s worth, I’ve always found Vincent Price’s momentary lapse into down-home slang during his "rap" irritating. I have no problem with people saying "y’all", unless the speaker is a British actor best known for portraying vampires and stiff Victorian gentlemen in B horror films. To this day, I grit my teeth a bit when I hear Price intone, "To terrorize y’all’s neighborhood." Too intertextual and kitschy by half, especially when delivered amid such patrician tones ("…to rrrot inside a corpse shell").