Mar. 1st, 2017

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While much in the way of "music videos" are purely promotional, lack any form of imagination, and remain utterly forgetable; they are sometimes masterworks of visual engagement and storytelling — poetry in and of themselves on top of the music they were produced to live alongside. I have been interested in music videos my whole life (I used to watch the show "The Monkees" when I was young, which featured what can only be called music videos each episode), but for the most part, I saw them as a curiosity rather than a medium for short stories or as a means to engage with the watcher on an emotional level.

Back in the 1980s, I used to go to a club called Barrymore's in Ottawa, Canada that brought in some of the best acts of the day (from Rough Trade to Dread Zeppelin to Gwar... I even saw Hawkwind perform there, and that's another story in itself). At the time, they were one of the only places in Canada that showed music videos on a gorgeous and glorious huge screen with a state of the art (for the time) video projection system. It was revolutionary at the time and while waiting for concerts, I got to see the best videos available (they were curated for merit rather than for commercial purpose). I later made friends with Jeff Green and found out (years after we started hanging out) that he was the one responsible for this presentation that was so ahead of its time (years before MTV or Much Music or such), as he often is. Two videos in particular really changed my view of music videos and what they are capable of: "Age of Loneliness" by the German music project Enigma, and "Shock the Monkey" by UK artist Peter Gabriel.

"Age of Loneliness" took my breath away the first time I saw it, and opened my eyes to the potential of what became an artform to me in that moment. I still watch it often today, and it makes me feel the same way now as it did then. It tells a slice-of-life (death?) story, but more impressively it visually conveys emotion in a way that I associated more with poetry than film or video. For some reason when I see it, it reminds me of one of my favourite movies: "Wings of Desire", probably for its emotional tone. As for "Shock the Monkey", again it tells a story of sorts of spiritual awakening (a more violent and disruptive echo of the same message conveyed in his beautiful and powerful song "Solsbury Hill") as a deadly battle between Gabriel's conscious and unconsious minds. What is particularly interesting about Gabriel's video is that I hated, hated, hated the song! It has been overkilled on the radio and it sounded like so much more pop-infused claptrap to me after about the millionth time hearing it. But... when I saw the video, my mind was officially blown and I had to re-evaluate the song in light of what the video said about the song (that it had meaning that had been inaccessible to me the way I had been exposed to it by that point). I love the song now and consider the album with that song on it one of Gabriel's best (so fsck'ing intense!). I have since gone on to gather collections of innovative music videos — sometimes by musician, sometimes by director — and rummage YouTube and such looking for innovative music videos as time and patience allows (so. much. crap. ugh.). If you have any suggestions for stuff I should look at, please slide it my way :).

And... here they are. Note, the Enigma one is probably a bit NSFW due to near nudity; and the Gabriel one is probably the same due to extreme paganism and psychology, lol ;).


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