I’m Pilate and Jesus
And I wept when Lennon died
Yet I envied his assailant
When I visited the shrine
I cried for all those Beatle Fans
So old so quick they grow
I follow the example to destroy
What I love most
And I remain on the far side of crazy
I remain the mortal enemy of man
No hundred dollar cure will save me
Can’t stay a boy in no man’s land
I intended this to follow up my post on John Lennon’s Imagine as what could be called the dark flip-side to that video based on the events of 1980 and 1981. Health issues pushed it until today.
You might recognize the title as a line from a poem written by John Hinckley, Jr. He is the one who attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981.
The video starts off almost like a reintroduction to the band for those who only remember the Western-inspired sound of the Stan Ridgway years. They are outside in the desert when they come across a clown sitting, not on a suitcase, but a television.
Those lyrics at the start kick in as we are introduced to our main character played by then lead-singer, Andy Prieboy.
He is a bit of an amalgamation of Mark Chapman, who killed John Lennon, and John Hinkley, Jr, who shot Reagan, wounded two agents and the press secretary. They also make several references to the character of Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver (1976), such as our main character going crazy while watching TV. Numerous psychologically pivotal scenes take place while Bickle is in his apartment watching television.
We pan over a family portrait where only his face is shown clearly before crossing their adjoining wall to see the light version of our character.
He sees himself as a budding musician sitting in his room practicing with his guitar.
It’s at this point in the song when we get the next verse:
I once hid my lust for stardom
Like a filthy magazine
I stroked the shaft on my guitar
And watched you on the screen
I’ve become now what I wanted
To be all along
A psychopathic poet
The Devil’s bastard son
The two sides start to blend. We see this begin to happen when the dark one is delivered a heart-shaped box with roaches inside…
while the other one has the box, but with chocolates inside.
This time he is watching the clown smashing a guitar on TV.
On the dark side, we see him laying down playing cards–kings–in front of the TV before he looks up as if God is speaking to him.
We see him get a gun in a scene reminiscent of another video.
Then we get the equivalent to when Travis Bickle finally pushes his television too far, causing it to fall over and break.
The clown without makeup flips the cards through the screen to himself in makeup.
Note the TV on the left, in the background.
We also see the family portrait fall to the ground and shatter.
For the final verse, we get a reference to Hinckley, whose attempt to kill Reagan was done in order to try to impress Jodie Foster.
I shot an actor for an actress
But he lived to make a joke
Shot two other men who could have been
The bodies of my folks
I stagger toward the future
I stagger day to day
Plot revenge inside of darkness
I am withering in pain
Visually, we get another reference back to Taxi Driver (1976). The band walks down the street, our character walks alone looking normal, and finally we seem him in killer mode.
This is when the video pivots. Up till now, we’ve been building towards some tragic event. In Taxi Driver, it was when Bickle went into where Iris (Jodie Foster) was being held and killed everyone inside except her. Instead, we appear to get our character, before any madness, awakening to this all having been on television…
which he pulls the plug on.
The clown films the band and others in front of the Hollywood Boulevard “You Are A Star” mural.
Finally, the band is back in the desert walking away from the clown, a baby, part of the album title, and the dog from the music video for Mexican Radio.
I can’t find a confirmed directing credit on this one. Still, I am pretty sure it was Francis Delia.
- He directed Mexican Radio by Wall Of Voodoo. That means he had a pre-existing relationship with the band. Also, while I haven’t seen it yet, I’ve read that Wall Of Voodoo music was used in Francis Delia’s first film called Nightdreams (1981).
- We got the callback of the dog.
- We got the bit with the gun from earlier that was also present in Shooting Shark. He directed that video.
- We see the iguana on a guitar alive. In Mexican Radio it was dead.
- Nightdreams (1981) is famous for a food sex-scene. Both this video and Mexican Radio feature food. In the case of this video, it’s the can opening on TV. It’s all over Mexican Radio. You can also see food featured in Somebody’s Watching Me by Rockwell–directed by Delia. He seems to have a thing for incorporating that into the films he makes.
- TVs play a role in Mexican Radio, Somebody’s Watching Me, and this one. He both produced and shot 1982’s Café Flesh. That’s the movie that was sampled by White Zombie for their song More Human Than Human. It is about a post-apocalyptic club where the few who can still have sex are forced to perform for those who can’t. All of these have to do with borders between viewing and performing.
- If you watch Delia’s material in general, this screams of his work.
- Finally, he made a movie called Freeway three years after this video. It had a psychopathic priest played by Billy Drago going around murdering people on the freeway because of some sort of holy mission.
It isn’t a guarantee that he made it because Delia also worked with Stephen Sayadian who I’ve read directed the weird video for Wall Of Voodoo’s cover of The Beach Boys’ song Do It Again. But I think it’s a safe bet.
This is one of my favorite videos that I have covered so far. I think it does a good job of taking us into the madness of this person’s mind using two real world, and then recent, people as examples. Then pulling us back out. It’s not like the ridiculous ending to the restored version of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange where Alex gives up his life of crime because you have reached the 21st chapter of the book–alleged age of maturity. We also don’t get the ending of Taxi Driver where we know it is only going to buildup again. It comes across to me as an embracement of being a little bit crazy, but ultimately leaving the child and the clown behind. We were just visiting, like the full title of the album says, “Seven Days In Sammystown”.
30 Days Of Surrealism:
- Street Of Dreams by Rainbow (1983, dir. Storm Thorgerson)
- Rock ‘n’ Roll Children by Dio (1985, dir. Daniel Kleinman)
- The Thin Wall by Ultravox (1981, dir. Russell Mulcahy)
- Take Me Away by Blue Öyster Cult (1983, dir. Richard Casey)
- Here She Comes by Bonnie Tyler (1984, dir. ???)
- Do It Again by Wall Of Voodoo (1987, dir. ???)
- The Look Of Love by ABC (1982, dir. Brian Grant)
- Eyes Without A Face by Billy Idol (1984, dir. David Mallet)
- Somebody New by Joywave (2015, dir. Keith Schofield)
- Twilight Zone by Golden Earring (1982, dir. Dick Maas)
- Schism by Tool (2001, dir. Adam Jones)
- Freaks by Live (1997, dir. Paul Cunningham)
- Loverboy by Billy Ocean (1984, dir. Maurice Phillips)
- Talking In Your Sleep by The Romantics (1983, dir. ???)
- Talking In Your Sleep by Bucks Fizz (1984, dir. Dieter Trattmann)
- Sour Girl by Stone Temple Pilots (2000, dir. David Slade)
- The Ink In The Well by David Sylvian (1984, dir. Anton Corbijn)
- Red Guitar by David Sylvian (1984, dir. Anton Corbijn)
- Don’t Come Around Here No More by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers (1985, dir. Jeff Stein)
- Sweating Bullets by Megadeth (1993, dir. Wayne Isham)
- Clear Nite, Moonlight or Clear Night, Moonlight by Golden Earring (1984, dir. Dick Maas)
- Clowny Clown Clown by Crispin Glover (1989, dir. Crispin Glover)
- Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden (1994, dir. Howard Greenhalgh)
- Total Eclipse Of The Heart by Bonnie Tyler (1983, dir. Russell Mulcahy)
- Harden My Heart by Quarterflash (1981, dir. ???)
- Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) by Eurythmics (1983, dir. Jon Roseman & Dave Stewart)