I blame Michael Jackson. He was the guy who brought "long-form video" to the forefront. A million years ago, give or take, the King of Pop released "Thriller," a mini-movie that starred him as a shy high school boy who turned into a werewolf then a zombie. All set to the beat of the title song of an album that had already sold enough copies that families had begun to use it as pre-fab siding for their houses. At the time, I ate it up. With a fork and a spoon. It was directed by fan favorite John Landis, who had given the world "Blues Brothers," but more significantly to me, "American Werewolf In London."
Maybe I should blame John Landis. He paved the way for the eventual collaboration between Mister Jackson and Martin Scorsese. And so the world of film and music video became inexorably intertwined. Which was unfortunate, since my memories of music videos was based more on the notion that these were commercials from record companies sent into our living rooms in hopes that we might like the look of this new band or that old group.
Of course, my own experience with short films and music date back to clips from "Yellow Submarine," inspiring me to plan to make an animated short for the Beatles' "Hello, Goodbye." It was heavily influenced by the "All You Need Is Love" segment from the Fab Four's psychedelic romp. Okay, wasn't so much "heavily influenced" as much as it was a blatant rip-off, and since I was ten years old at the time and my sketches never really advanced beyond the restaurant napkin stage, I didn't fall into trouble with Apple Corps' lawyers.
Years later, when my parents bought me a camcorder in hopes that my film studies might actually turn into some sort of useful vocation, I made a few sputtering attempts at making something that might show up on those proto-MTV years. Nothing was broadcast outside my living room. But that didn't keep me from watching all those early clips in heavy rotation. You remember the ones with that flat, grainy shot on video feel? If you don't, that's okay, because they won't haunt your dreams the way the do mine. Human League. Vapors. Flock of Seagulls. All the rest of the New Wave. The ones that came before "Thriller."
Then suddenly, it wasn't enough to have a three minute video for a three minute pop song. You needed that long-form video that would set you apart from the crowd. The crowd that wasn't being played as a special event. I have heard that music videos are still being made. I don't tend to watch them because they take me back to 1983. Who needs that kind of flashback?
Oh - that's right: me.