Recently, I had the occasion to share music from my youth with a 20-something in my life I will call Pete. (Writer’s note: Pete is not this person’s name, but we have chosen this moniker because, apparently, Pete is ashamed by our association.)
I knew that despite Pete’s age, my young friend is a fan of music from the 1980s, especially Toto’s “Africa,” aka one of the greatest songs ever recorded, and Def Leppard’s “Hysteria.”
Herein contains part of my and Pete’s musical musings.
Me: “Back in the day there was a channel called MTV…”
Pete: “I know what MTV is. It’s still around.”
Me: “…and they used to play these things called videos. We should watch some of them.”
Me (as we start watching music videos from the ’80s): “Keep in mind that videos from the ’80s didn’t make sense. That’s what made them so, like, totally awesome.”
Pete (as we watch Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf”): “Why is he in the water?”
Me: “Remember what I said about these videos not making sense?”
Pete (as we finish watching the guys in Duran Duran race through the streets and jungles of Sri Lanka): “I like the song, but I’m not so sure about the video.”
Me (as I choose another classic, Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield”): “So, she was like 30 years old and playing a teenager in this video. And something else I should have mentioned, videos usually had nothing to do with the songs. Oh, yeah, and a big lesson my generation learned from music videos in the ’80s is that dancing solved all problems.”
Pete (as we finish watching Benatar stand up to her gold-toothed pimp): “I like the song, but I’m not so sure about the video.”
Me: “Now let’s watch one of my all-time favorite videos. Forget what I said about videos not making sense. This one is filled with symbolism. And it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Well, maybe not the dancing ninjas. I’m not sure what they’re supposed to symbolize. Anyway, I wrote a paper on this video. It earned a well-deserved A.”
Pete (as we finish watching Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”): “I’m not sure about the song or the video.”
Me (as I remember that Pete likes Wham!, plays “Careless Whisper”): “This video actually matches the song.”
Pete: “This song is good except for that loud thing at the beginning and the middle.”
Me: “I think that thing is called a saxophone, but I’m not an expert on music. It could be a flute or a tambourine.”
I closed out the lesson by playing Def Leppard’s “Hysteria.” Pete expressed indifference to the video.
Me: “Did you know that Def Leppard’s drummer has only one arm?”
Pete, regarding me with raised eyebrows: “Really?”
As I told Pete the story of how the drummer ended up with only one arm, I said to myself, “Self, Pete will Google ‘Does Def Leppard have a one-armed drummer?’ as soon as you turn your head.”
As well as why was that dude from Duran Duran in the water and did dancing really solve problems in the ‘80s.
This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.
“Africa” rules! Videos in the 80s were like little European short films with killer soundtracks.
The world stopped making sense when videos started making sense.