Music Video of the Day: Girlfriend In A Coma by The Smiths (1987, directed by Tim Broad)

Girlfriend In A Coma is another happy song from The Smiths.

The song is straight forward.  It is literally about a girlfriend in a coma.  The only question is whether her boyfriend is being sincere when he sings that he hopes that everything will be okay or is he instead telling the truth when he says that he doesn’t want to see her.

Some clue as to how the singer feels about his girl comatose girlfriend might be found in video’s use of clips from The Leather Boys, a British film from 1964.  An example of British kitchen sink realism, The Leather Boys is about a biker named Reggie (Colin Campbell) who marries his girlfriend, Dot (Rita Tushingham), but would still rather spend most of his time with his fellow biker, Pete (Dudley Sutton).  At the time of its release, the film was considered to be shocking because it openly dealt with gay themes at a time when homosexual activity was still illegal in  the UK.  Just as the film ends with Reggie still unsure about his sexuality, Girlfriend In A Coma ends with Morrissey still sounding unsure about whether or not he wants his girlfriend to wake up.

Girlfriend In A Coma was the first single to be released from The Smiths’s final studio album, Strangeways, Here We Come.  The album was named after Strangeways, an infamous prison in Manchester.  Before the UK absolished the death penalty, Strangeways was famous for its gallows.  A total of 100 prisoners were hanged at Strangeways between 1869 and 1964.


Yesterday, When We Were Young: A Brief Tribute to Roy Clark

cracked rear viewer

It seems like we’ve lost an old friend, one who was welcomed into homes across America for decades. Roy Clark, Country Music’s King of Strings, adept on guitar, banjo, and mandolin, and one of TV’s most Familiar Faces thanks to his 14 year gig as co-host of HEE HAW, passed away yesterday at age 85. Clark was born in Virginia on April 15, 1933, and picked up his first guitar at age 14. He was a two-time National Banjo Champion by age 15, and made his Grand Ole Opry debut at 17. Roy joined Jimmy Dean’s band in the early 50’s, but was fired for his chronic tardiness. He then began playing backup for rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson.

When Dean got a guest host spot on THE TONIGHT SHOW, he brought his old bandmate Roy on, and Clark’s expert playing, coupled with his unassuming, warm personality, tore the house down…

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Music Video Of The Day: Everybody Wants To Rule The World (1985, directed by Nigel Dick)

Yesterday, when I wrote about the video for Shout by Tears For Fears, I apparently made up a song that doesn’t actually exist.  I wrote that Shout was the band’s signature song, along with Everyone Wants To Rule The World.  I also wrote about the joint vocalist of Tears for Fears, Richard Orzabal.  Not only did I make up a song that didn’t exist but I also created an extra member of Tears For Fears.  As everyone knows, the song is called Everybody Wants To Rule The World and the singer is named Roland Orzabal.  I don’t know how I screwed up those two simple facts last night.  Maybe I was writing from Earth-2.

For many people, Everybody Wants To Rule The World will always be the song from Real Genius.  The song actually first appeared on the 1985 album, Songs From The Big Chair, for which it was a last-minute addition.  Roland Orzabal has said that he originally felt that the song was too lightweight and that it wouldn’t be a good fit with the rest of the album but producer Chris Hughes convinced Orzabal to include the song.  Hughes felt that the song would chart well in America and he turned out to be correct.  Would the song have been as popular if it had been called by its original title, Everybody Wants To Go To War?  That’s like asking if War and Peace would have been as much of a success if Tolstoy had called it War!  What Is It Good For?

As for the video, it features Curt Smith driving through the desert, people racing dune buggies, men dancing in front of gas pumps, and the Cabazon Dinosaurs.  The scenes of Curt in the desert were filmed in California and Nevada while the scenes of Tears For Fears performing were shot in London.  Curt Smith has said that the shooting of the video was a “disaster” and that there was a serious accident involving the dune buggies that led to a child being thrown from one of the vehicles and hitting his head on a rock, leaving him temporarily unconscious.  Despite all of the difficulty involved in shooting the video, it was still placed in heavy rotation on MTV and played no small role in making the song a hit.

Everybody Wants To Rule The World spent two weeks as the number one song in the U.S.  In the UK, it peaked at number two, the only thing keeping it from reach the top being the charity single, We Are The World.

Music Video Of The Day: Shout By Tears For Fears (1984, directed by Nigel Dick)

Tears For Fears frontman Roland Orzabal and keyboardist Ian Stanley were both practitioners of primal scream therapy, in which people confronted their fears and insecurities by shouting.  This song was inspired by both the treatment and political protest.

The video, which was put in heavy rotation on MTV and become one of the defining videos and songs of the 1980s, features Orazbal and Curt Smith letting it all out on the cliffside at Durdle Door in Dorset.  The video was one of the 300-something videos to have been directed by Nigel Dick, who has done videos for almost everyone.

Shout spend three weeks as the number one single in the US and has since become Tears for Fears signature song, along with Everybody Wants To Rule The World.

Music Video of the Day: Heart and Soul by T’Pau (1987, directed by ????)

In an interview with the now-defunct Kicking It Old School Blog, T’Pau’s Carol Decker explained the genesis of the song that would become Heart and Soul.  It all began when her bandmate and then-boyfriend Ron Rogers purchased a new keyboard with a built-in synthesizer:

“He was just trying to get used to the gizmos in it and while messing around with the sequencer he started the ‘bum bum buh buh bum bum bum’ of the bass riff. T’PauI started to sing a melody over it, the wafty vocal and came up with ‘more than an ocean keeps us apart.’ … The lyrics were about when I went on holiday with my parents and Ronnie couldn’t come. I missed him so much, but then I morphed the story into a fictitious one of not being loved back (which I was) … The rap was the idea of Andy Piercy, our then producer. He said the gaps needed filling, so I started these syncopated sort of nonsense noises. I then turned those noises into words which took about a week to get right.”

The song reached #4 in both the U.S. and the UK Charts.  In the UK, it became a hit after it was used in a clothing advertisement while, in America, its success was largely credited to the above music video, which was put into heavy rotation on MTV.

The song is best known for its vocal layering, with Decker’s melody lines coming in over the rap.  Stylistically, the video’s is similarly layered, resulting in a perfect synthesis of audio and visual.

Heart and Soul is song that epitomizes an era.  Personally, I have fond memories of fleeing from the Liberty City police while listening to it.

Everything’s better with a little heart and soul.

And yes, T’Pau was named after a Vulcan who appeared on an episode of Star Trek.  Before Decker saw that episode of Star Trek, the band was called Talking America.

The original T’Pau

Music Video of the Day: Don’t You Want Me by The Human League (1981, directed by Steve Barron)

Inspired by a story that the Human League’s Phil Oakley read in a teen-girl’s magazine, Don’t You Want Me is a song not about love but instead a song about two people battling for control.  While the song was originally conceived as being a male solo, Oakley made the last-minute decision to turn it into a duet, with Susan Ann Sulley taking on the role of the girl who once worked in a cocktail bar but always knew she was meant for a much better life.

After the song was recorded, Oakley disliked it because he felt that the song’s sound was too “poppy” and he was not happy when Virgin decided to release Don’t You Want Me as the fourth single off of The Human League’s third studio album, Dare!  Despite Oakley’s misgivings, Don’t You Want Me went on to become the band’s biggest hit and one of its signature songs.

(As of 2014, Phil Oakley still didn’t think much of the song.  In an interview with Classic Pop Magazine, Oakley said, “‘Don’t You Want Me‘ might have shifted gazillions, but either I’ve heard it too many times or the rest of Dare! is just so far ahead that it puts it in the shade. Still, it made the band.”)

The music video was shot at a time when MTV was still in its infancy and many people weren’t even sure what a music video was supposed to be.  Filmed on a cold, rainy night in Slough, Berkshire, the video featured Phil Oakley as a director and Susan Ann Sulley as the actress who walks out on him during the filming of a murder-mystery.  Director Steve Barron used 35mm film, giving the video a richly cinematic look that was unusual for the music videos of the time.  Reportedly, Barron was influenced by Truffaut’s Day For Night, which is why the clapper board features the inscription, Le League Humain.

The video not only helped to make the song a hit but it also did the same for MTV itself.  At a time when many were still wondering if people would actually watch MTV, the popularity of this video gave them a reason to do just that.  The video proved that music videos didn’t have to just be bland performance clips.  Instead, like any film, a music video could tell a story of its very own.

Don’t You Want Me was the 1981 Christmas number one in the UK, where it has sold over 1,560,000 copies, making it the 23rd most successful single in the history of the UK Singles Chart.  In 2015, in an ITV poll, it was voted the 7th most popular number one single of all time.

Music Video of the Day: True Faith by New Order (1987, directed by Philippe Decouflé)

As is the case with many of New Order’s songs, the meaning of True Faith depends on who you ask.

True Faith has long been assumed to be about the sense of detachment felt by users of heroin, an interpretation that was denied by New Order’s bassist, Peter Hook.  As he told Songfacts, “‘True Faith’ features some of the best New Order lyrics in my opinion, but no, it is not about heroin, that is not something that any of our lyrics ever touched on. I think it’s clear to see though that the lyrics do reflect being under some sort of influence.”

However, in an interview with Q Magazine, lead singer Bernard Sumner said that, though he had never used heroin, he still wrote True Faith from the perspective of someone who had.

Regardless of what it’s about, True Faith is one of New Order’s most popular songs.  It’s my second favorite, after Blue Monday.

As for the video, it was directed by the French mime, dancer, and choreographer, Philippe Decouflé.  Starting with a slap fight to end all slap fights, it also features a person in green makeup hand signing the song’s lyrics.  According to Wikipedia, the video was inspired by an earlier video performance piece that was done by the Serbian performance artists, Marina Abramović and Ulay.  I’ll have to take Wikipedia’s word on that.

Philippe Decouflé went on to direct the video for the Fine Young Cannibals’ She Drives Me Crazy, as well as choreographing the opening ceremony of the 1992 Winter Olympics.