Monday, February 23, 2009

Great Moments in Music Video: Van Halen Edition

Van Halen today — lest we should appear overly biased in favor of post-punk new-wave acts. An argument can be made that pretty much any video made for the 1984 album should earn its props in this department, but in this case selectivity is the mother of selection.

Let's consider the candidates:

(1) "Jump." A workmanlike video performance, and nothing more. Great costuming, and there are inklings here — as in "Pretty Woman" — that the band would have fun in this medium down the road. It's notable that David Lee Roth manages to rhyme "machine" and "saying," but this achievement is an artifact of the recording, not the video. Hold for now, as there might be something better.

(2) "Panama." There, right there, at 0:44-0:53: policemen are hauling a wild-eyed Roth (or is it Lee Roth?) out of a hotel room in a bath towel and handcuffs. This narrative thread (such as it is) surfaces without warning, then drops out of the video entirely. It's a complete non sequitur, but for me, this is the Quintessence of Roth. Bath towel and handcuffs. No Spandex, no war paint, no fringed chaps: this is about possibility. It's what you didn't see — whatever happened to precipitate the arrest — that fires the imagination. This would be the Moment of Moments, but here it's just a runner-up, because of

(3) "Hot for Teacher." (see above) It all comes to a head here. Where to start? The orgasmic (!) inflections in Waldo's mother's voice, as she leaves her son for the bus? The band's woefully choreographed soft-shoe in 70s wedding tuxedos? The scaled-down school-age lookalikes? The 'Where are They Now?' segments at the end of the video (is that Rick Moranis playing Waldo the Pimp?) are fun. A lot of potential Moments here, but these are all a bit too gimmicky to take the prize. Van Halen's Great Moment in Music Video, chapter and verse — "Hot for Teacher" 1:33-1:45:
"Wait a second man — what do you think the teacher's gonna look like this year? WHOA!"

Band breaks out into full-on audio assault, black and white explodes into full color, Miss Chemistry blitzes the classroom stage in blue string bikini. Bam. That's it.

Roth is absolutely a ham (kosher, of course), and he'd overindulge himself in the solo vids that followed on the heels of 1984. "California Girls" and "Just a Gigolo" were good for a few laughs, but in the end, "Hot for Teacher" wasn't so far off when it projected Roth as "American's Favorite T.V. Game Show Host." I'll leave it to more knowledgeable fans to assess Van Halen's overall career. But in my capacity as self-appointed authority and enthusiast of music video, I declare that the band's crowning achievement in that medium was "Hot for Teacher."


1 comment:

Mithridates said...

The dude's wearing red panties over his outer-pants in Panama. I don't remember that style ever taking off in men's clothing.

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