Happy Memorial Day. Or at least as happy as it can be with the recent passing of Gregg Allman. I would have done a video for him yesterday, but there were extenuating circumstances that made it impossible–not the least of which is that their videos aren’t exactly well-documented or officially posted on YouTube.
Let’s look at this from the perspective of director Jeff Stein. You made a name for yourself with The Who documentary The Kids Are Alright (1979), which ensured that they wouldn’t be forgotten anytime soon by preserving their history. You directed one of the greatest live videos–Rebel Yell–for Billy Idol who was a 70s artist that you helped to make explode as an 80s MTV superstar. You took the not so photogenic The Cars, and turned in You Might Think, which was very ambitious and successful. You made Out Of Touch for Hall & Oates that Daryl Hall in I Want My MTV said, “was maybe our most significant video.” You survived the production of Torture by The Jacksons–even if that meant having to bring in a wax dummy of Michael and telling Paula Abdul she had to go when Jackie said she wanted to choreograph the video. You handled another 70s artist in Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers by making the wonderfully surreal Don’t Come Around Here No More. You also brought people the videos for My New Boyfriend by Carly Simon and These Dreams by Heart–both 70s artists.
Now you are approached to do a video for The Gregg Allman Band, probably based on your record of being able to bring 70s artists into the MTV-era. I know that the first thing that would have crossed my mind is ZZ Top. They were also a band that had been around since the early 70s, and Gregg would have been about 40 by the time you had to make a video for him. Too bad this video didn’t do for The Gregg Allman Band what the ZZ Top videos did. Then again, that was a minor miracle which even received its own chapter in I Want My MTV, so it’s unrealistic to expect lightning to strike twice. It’s a simple little video that could have just as easily been done as a stage performance. I’m guessing he wasn’t given much of a budget to make this video. I bring up Stein’s record and ZZ Top because ZZ Top was who I thought of when the ladies showed up, and I would imagine that Stein was approached because of his success with 70s musicians. Let’s walk through this video.
The band pulls up at a rundown saloon.
We see Gregg kick the tire and tell the attendant to fix the car.
The band goes inside to find that under white sheets are instruments and other equipment that is already set up for them. They waste no time, and start playing.
We now find out one thing The Gregg Allman Band has in common with ZZ Top. They’re both a little magic. Gregg may not appear to deliver keys to a hot car, but his music does have the power push certain parts of a location into the past.
Apparently, this bar used to be frequented by gunslinging women.
Unruly gunslinging women at that at. Bonk! She’s out.
Now we get something I never would have imagined I’d see in a video for The Gregg Allman Band.
A Duran Duran reference. Hungry Like The Wolf. I’m No Angel. I see the similarities.
The ladies soon take notice of Gregg, and appear to start to stick him up with their guns.
That’s when we find out that the ladies are indeed in the past as the video acquires a flashback tone. Gregg is taken outside.
They string him up. Gregg gets in a quick kiss before being hanged. Just before it happens, we see that he was the deputy sheriff in the past–or possibly in another life.
The trap door opens and he’s hanged. Then just after we see his feet dangling, it cuts to Gregg putting down the cover over the keys. It sounds like the lid of a coffin closing.
It’s a nice bit of matching on action that brings the music, the story in the song, and the story in the video to a close. Gregg and the band leave the bar to see if their car is fixed. Turns out the badge is still around and was stuck in their tire–somehow.
The attendant offers it to Gregg. I love his reaction: No way! I saw the previous scene. I’ll just be on my way now.
It lends credence to the belief that the song is partially autobiographical. Perhaps his rejection of the badge is Gregg making a break with his past in order to move on with his life.
I can’t imagine this particular video did a whole lot for Gregg Allman. However, I could be wrong. This came out a couple years after MTV founded VH1 in order to drive Ted Turner’s competing network, CMC, out of business, which it promptly did. VH1 did play stuff that wouldn’t have been shown on MTV. Allman did go on to do some other videos, including another one with Jeff Stein and even one with Michael Bay for the song I’ll Be Holding On that was on the Black Rain (1989) soundtrack.
The song was a number-one hit. How much of an affect the video had on its success, I don’t know. It was more of a universally playable song because it fit the AOR (Album-Oriented Rock) format. I’m sure that contributed to it doing so well. From what I’ve read, it seems to be credited with essentially bringing Gregg’s career back to life.
I find it humorous that Wikipedia says the song featured “Allman’s gruff vocals in a Bruce Springsteen sound-alike way.” I say that because director Jeff Stein is the one who was originally meant to direct Dancing In The Dark when Springsteen walked off the set because he didn’t like the direction the video was going, leading to Brian De Palma making the version we are familiar with today.
The video was produced by Mike Riffle. He produced around 10 music videos.
Rest in peace, Gregg Allman.