Monday, May 04, 2009

Great Moments in Music Video: Billy Idol

"White Wedding," "Rebel Yell," "Dancing with Myself." Which one carries Billy Idol's signature music video Moment? If you've got half a brain, you'll pick "Dancing with Myself," because I put it last — a strategy that enables me to consider and dismiss the other two quality vids, then bring this post to an electric climax. And, of course, I've gone and embedded "Myself," too. Talk about your telltale signs.

Your half a brain wins. But let's go through the motions.
"White Wedding" has got it going on. There's the three goth chicks shimmying gratuitously in the shiny black outfits, the candle-and-altar set, a motorcycle crashing through a stained glass window, and "Hey, little sister, SHOTGUN." Billy slips a spiked ring on his betrothed, causing her finger to bleed (would you believe they've gone and censored that bit out of all the YouTube clips?). The bride does ballet in her new kitchen while her toaster shorts out. Thump, thump, thump-thump. That's the floor tom, but the video will have you believe someone's hammering a coffin closed. Sorry, Greg Kihn, but this is the ultimate marriage-phobic video.

Contrast "Rebel Yell" with its concept-free living. A straight-ahead, classic stage performance video with Idol and his band. There's the stick-twirling drummer, a Cyndi Lauper lookalike on the keyboards, a theatrical lead guitarist there to play Mick Ronson to Billy's Bowie. (Right now some lonely glam kid in Jersey is loading a gun. Bring it on, bitch.) Just you try watching this without pumping your fist and yelling "MORE MORE MORE!" I'm this close [indicating, with two fingers poised a smidgen of an inch apart] to cutting the fingers off my loofah bath gloves. I'll pass on the coordinated jumping-jack at the end, though. Couldn't let a good thing go, could you, Billy?

But let's talk "Dancing with Myself." This was a carry-over track from Idol's Generation X days. It's a post-apocalyptic setting, naturally, this being early MTV. The concept is pretty simple: amid several of the usual MTV non sequiturs — a husband brandishing a hammer behind his unsuspecting wife, the silhouette of a buxom girl in chains (pretty sure that's the Pistols' Steve Jones in the room with her, sharpening a razor: Jones did the guitars for this recording), a skeleton and his papier-maché animatronic friend whooping it up in a living room — a bunch of sooty extras try to climb a skyscraper, in the hope of hanging with Billy on the roofdeck. After considerable exertion these ragamuffins clamber up over the ledge, but just in time for the guitar solo, which frees up Billy to grab hold of a pair of electrical transformers and telekinetically zap them all back down a hundred stories to the ground.

This bit right here — the zapping — is unquestionably a Great Moment in Music Video. Oh, sure, Billy has just finished singing about how "if [he] had the chance, [he]'d ask the world to dance," and it seems counterintuitive that he'd turn and reject his company so emphatically. But no matter, our ragtag Sisypheans will just climb the building a second time, and Billy gives a nod to their tenacity and allows them to bust some moves right alongside him, while the song winds out. Beautiful.

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