June 20, 2010

Some bad music videos, part I

I've had crappy music videos on the mind. Come join me, will you not?

Billy Ocean…that guy had a zillion hits during the '80s, sold an insane number of records, yet he's all but forgotten, minus the occasional appearance of "Caribbean Queen" on a compilation CD, slotted between "The Warrior" and "Goody Two Shoes." I just had an epic weekend of nerdiness, trading pop culture tidbits with a member of Team! The Musical, and "Caribbean Queen" came into the mix ("it's simply…awesome"). We talked about the B.Osh, what little we could recall—I remembered his real name (Leslie Charles, from Trinidad), but I got an intriguing trivia factoid wrong: I had believed he started as a touring bassist for Sting, but it was sort of the other way around; Sting considered ditching the Police early on for a job playing bass for the O-Man (makes sense, since Sting wasn't solo till after the O'ster hit it big).

And I mentioned CQ's follow-up single, "Loverboy." No one seems to remember this, even though it hit No. 2 in 1985. But I did recall the video. And I watched it again for the first time in decades. Errh…

What junk this is. I'm picturing Billy Ocean's handlers (a guy like that has lots of handlers), in the brainstorming session: "Listen, Billy, you're a star! We're gonna take you to the stars! Have you heard about this thing all the kids love, this Star Wars thing?" Never mind that Return of the Jedi was two years gone at this point, and the Cantina scene (which this video is clearly imitating) was going on a decade old.

And man, this is stupid looking. We have an expressionless two-legged tauntaun, eying a character from the Dark Crystal, who's apparently making time with a cross between a puffer fish and Joseph Merrick. Meanwhile, a bunch of extras are walking around aimlessly in lame costumes: there's TV Head, 1960s American Astronaut Stereotype, Crow T. Robot's prototype, Jabba the Hut's uglier cousin, and Octavo the clown from Scarface. Intermittently, we see Billy singing in an abandoned hookah bar, visible via floating pyramid. What's going on here? Tauntaun wants Dark Crystal, so he goes all Greedo on Puffer Merrick, forcibly grabs her, she puts up minimal resistance, then they escape to the beach from the end of Planet of the Apes as a trio of dollar-store Jawas sing along. What does this have to do with the song? What does this have to do with anything???

The Ocean-ographer, it turns out, still tours and records, a little more successful in the U.K. than here, and he seems to have cachet among a lot of R&B stars as a crossover-success elder statesman. Nearly every musician who was around in the '80s has something to be embarrassed about, but the "Loverboy" video is really the bottom of the barrel. And this from a guy who would later record "Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car"! Sting made the right move.

Tomorrow: In the early days of MTV, musicians really didn't know how to make videos, how to deal with the camera being on. Stay tuned for the silly results.