Music Video of the Day: Blister in the Sun by Violent Femmes (1997, directed by Evan Bernard)

When Blister in the Sun was first released in 1983, there were no music video.  In fact, there weren’t many listeners.  While the song was an immediate hit on college radio, it wasn’t until the late 80s and the 1990s, when all of those people who worked at the college stations got jobs programming “alternative” and “modern rock” stations, that Blister in the Sun really became a radio mainstay.

It wasn’t until John Cusack decided that he wanted to use the song in Grosse Pointe Blank that Blister in the Sun finally got a music video.  The video combines clips of John Cusack and Alan Arkin from the film with a totally new story involving the lead singer of Violent Femmes, Gordon Gano, attempting to assassinate Socks the Cat.  Socks was the White House pet during the Clinton years and it says something about the difference between 1997 and 2019 that this video could be made at all.  At the end of the video, Gano is arrested in a theater showing Grosse Pointe Blank, in much the same way that Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in a theater that was showing War Is Hell.

As for the song’s lyrics, Gano has said that they were about drug abuse and not, as many listeners speculated, masturbation.  The famous “Big Hands” line was a reference to Gano’s insecurity about his small hands and his fear that his girlfriend would leave him for someone who had bigger hands.  As Gano once told the Village Voice, “I don’t think there’s a whole lot to understand with the lyrics.”


Music Video of the Day: I Lost On Jeopardy by Weird Al Yankovic (1984, directed by Frances Delia)

Based on Greg Kihn Band’s Jeopardy, I Lost On Jeopardy was an early song parody from the master of the form, Weird Al Yankovic.

Today, Jeopardy is an American institution but, at the time this video was filmed, it was considered to be a nostalgic memory.  The original Jeopardy ran from 1964 to 1975, with Art Fleming as the host and Don Pardo as the announcer.  (Famously, Pardo went from announcing for Jeopardy to announcing for Saturday Night Live.)  This video was shot on the original Jeopardy set, with Fleming and Pardo playing themselves.  As you can tell, Jeopardy has changed considerably from what it once was.  The version of Jeopardy that we all know and revere, with Alex Trebek at the helm, would not start until three months after the release of this video.

After Weird Al is kicked out of the studio, the man in the convertible is played by Greg Kihn, in a parody of the ending of the original video for Jeopardy.  At the time, Kihn told The Washington Post that he didn’t mind the parody and that it was his idea to appear at the end of the video.  As Kihn put it, “It was a vote of confidence.  If you’re not well-enough known to be parodied, well, you’re just not well-enough known.”

This attitude seems to be true of most musicians whose songs have been parodied by Weird Al over the years.  It helps that Weird Al rarely pokes fun at the original artist or the subject matter of the original song.  It seems like one of the easiest ways to get a bad reputation is to complain about Weird Al parodying one of your songs.  For instance, just take a look at Coolio (if you can find him).

This video was directed by Francis Delia, who also directed videos for Wall of Voodoo, The Bangles, and Timothy B. Schmit.

Music Video of the Day: Jeopardy by Greg Kihn Band (1983, directed by Joe Dea)

Though he may not be a household name, Greg Kihn has been making and recording music since 1972 and he has a cult following to this day.  His biggest hit came in 1983, with the song Jeopardy.  With the help of this popular video, Jeopardy reached the number two spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart with only Michael Jackson’s Beat It keeping it from reaching number one.

In the video, Kihn plays a man who is on the verge of getting married but, after he has a dream in which the entire wedding party is transformed into a bunch of monsters, he gets cold feet.  Fortunately, his bride-to-be got cold feet at the same time and, when they both find themselves in the same car, they drive off for a life of happy, unwedded bliss.

The video was directed by Joe Dea, who also directed two videos for Krokus and who has since gone on to be a very active television director.

One final note: This video and song were popular enough to inspire an early Weird Al parody, I Lost On Jeopardy.



Music Video of the Day: Rough Boy by ZZ Top (1986, directed by Steve Barron)

“He’s this fictitious character who was the only way that ZZ Top was going to get to play another ballad. The way he came up was, ‘How would a ZZ Top fan allow such a beautiful, lush bed of sound into their realm?’ The pretty music had to have a rough boy in it. He’s there. On El Loco we did ‘Leila’ which is ZZ Top-meets-the-Beach Boys. I don’t think it worked as well as, say, a synth programmer meeting a rap guy in an alley in New York. The only thing is, how long is it going to be before somebody says, ‘Hey, man! You the rough boy?’ How are you going to answer that?”

— Billy Gibbons, on Rough Boy

Today’s video of the day is the video for Rough Boy, a.k.a. ZZ Top In Space.

After spending the previous four ZZ Top videos changing lives and saving relationships, Billy Gibbons’s car, the Eliminator, achieved it’s final destiny by becoming a space shuttle and breaking free of the Earth’s atmosphere.  In this video, the Eliminator docks into a space station, where it gets washed and impresses a robot about whom it can truly be said, “She’s got legs.”  In fact, that’s all she’s got.

Rough Boy has a notably slower tempo than many of ZZ Top’s other songs and the same thing can be said of this video.  It’s a good video but it still feels different from what we typically think of when we think about ZZ Top.  This video says that the Eliminator and the band have both earned the right to take it easy and enjoy a good sponge bath.

Like the video for Sleeping Bag, Rough Boy was directed by Steve Barron.  Barron is officially credited with having directed 74 music videos, including the famous animated video for a-Ha’s Take Me On.


Previous Eliminator Appearances:

  1. Gimme All Your Lovin’
  2. Sharp Dressed Man
  3. Legs
  4. Sleeping Bag

Music Video of the Day: Sleeping Bag by ZZ Top (1985, directed by Steve Barron)

“Sleeping bags used to be a real drag to contend with, when you’re in the Boy Scouts and the best you can do is one of those Army sleeping bags. The old-timey kind that were heavy. Then in the late ’60s or ’70s, they came out with those down-filled bags that roll up into the size of a cantaloupe. It’s changed the whole idea of a sleeping bag. I had one of those that looks just like a mummy case. That’s where the line in the song comes from: ‘Sleep beside the pharoahs in the shifting sands.'”

— Billy Gibbons

“I used to own a sleeping bag. I used to go camping. But I don’t own a sleeping bag now. I own a sleeping bag in my mind.”

— Dusty Hill

Sleeping Bag was the first single to be released off of ZZ Top’s follow-up to Eliminator, Afterburner.  Both the band and Warner Bros. felt that the perfect way to transition from the Eliminator songs to the Afterburner songs would be to make one more video featuring the ZZ Top girls and Billy Gibbons’s car.  However, when director Tim Newman (who previously did Gimme All Your Lovin, Sharp Dressed Man, and Legs) was approached to direct the video, he wanted more money than the label was willing to pay.  As a result, Steve Barron was hired to direct instead and the end result was a video that was much different from the previous three Eliminator videos.

In this video, the band and the ZZ Top Girls go from giving makeovers to saving lives.  When a young couple (played by Heather Langenkamp and John Dye) is menaced by two rednecks in a monster truck, the Eliminator sacrifices itself to keep them safe.  Don’t worry, though.  Apparently, the ghosts of ZZ Top have been keeping a space shuttle in Egypt.  It all makes sense when you consider that this was the 80s and everyone was obsessed with space shuttles and monster trucks.

Heather Langenkamp made this video a year after starring in A Nightmare on Elm Street and, not surprisingly, several parts of the video seem like they could have been lifted from Wes Craven’s seminal horror film.  The shadows of the rednecks outside the tent seem like they are intentionally meant to bring to mind Freddy Krueger.

Steve Barron was another one of those directors who seemed to work with almost everyone.  He would go on to direct ZZ Top’s next video, Rough Boy, which we’ll look at tomorrow.


Music Video of the Day: Legs by ZZ Top (1983, directed by Tim Newman)

“I was driving in Los Angeles, and there was this unusual downpour. And there was a real pretty girl on the side of the road. I passed her, and then I thought, ‘Well, I’d better pull over’ or at least turn around and offer her a ride, and by the time I got back she was gone. Her legs were the first thing I noticed. Then I noticed that she had a Brooke Shields hairdo that was in danger of falling. She was not going to get wet. She had legs and she knew how to use them.”

— Billy Gibbons, on the inspiration behind Legs

With Legs, the third of their Eliminator videos (following Gimme All Your Lovin’ and Sharp Dressed Man), ZZ Top showed that they knew better than to mess with a good thing.  This video follows the same plot as the previous two videos, except this time it’s a young woman (played by Wendy Frazier) getting the help of the ZZ Top girls instead of a young man.  I don’t know how the video’s heroine ended up working in the Hellscape that opens this video but it’s a good thing that the ghosts of ZZ Top were around to help her.  As the video makes clear from the start, she does have legs and, after a trip in the Eliminator and a makeover, she knows how to use them.

The three ZZ Top girls were played by brunette Jeana Tomasino, blonde Daniele Arnaud, and Kymberly Herrin, who is identifiable by the red top she’s wearing.  Tomasino and Arnaud appeared in the previous Eliminator videos while Herrin made her first appearance in this video.

Like the previous two videos, Legs was directed by Tim Newman.  Though the girls and the Eliminator would return for one more video, Newman would not.  Sleeping Bag would be directed by Steve Barron and we’ll see how he did tomorrow.


Music Video of the Day: Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top (1983, directed by Tim Newman)

“Sharp-dressed depends on who you are. If you’re on a motorcycle, really sharp leather is great. If you’re a punk rocker, you can get sharp that way. You can be sharp or not sharp in any mode. It’s all in your head. If you feel sharp, you be sharp.”

— Dusty Hill, bassist, ZZ Top

The video for Sharp Dressed Man picks where the video for Gimme All Your Lovin’ left off.  The three girls are still driving the Eliminator, the ghosts of ZZ Top are still giving away the keys to the car, and Peter Tramm is still stuck in a job where he gets no respect.  In Gimme All Your Lovin’, Tramm was a gas station attendant.  In this video, he’s working as a valet at an exclusive club and not even Truman Capote is willing to give him any respect.  Luckily, the ghosts of ZZ Top have not forgotten about Tramm and, after one ride in the Eliminator, Tramm is ready to hit the dance floor and win the love of the young woman (played by Galyn Gorg) who earlier looked back at him while being dragged into the club by her boorish boyfriend.  By the end of the video, even Truman Capote is getting down!

Sharp Dressed Man remains one of ZZ Top’s signature songs and this video is still among their best-remembered.  It’s not surprising that the video was an MTV hit because, for many members of the then-young network’s audience, it was the ultimate in wish-fulfillment.  No matter who you were or who was treating you with disrespect, there was always a chance that ZZ Top might appear and toss you the keys to Billy Gibbons’s car.

Like Gimme All Your Lovin’, this video was directed by Randy Newman’s brother, Tim.  Tim Newman would return to direct the next installment in the adventures of the Eliminator and the ZZ Top Girls, Legs.  Anyone want to guess what tomorrow’s music video of the day is going to be?