Music Video of the Day: America by Kurtis Blow (1985, dir. Claude Borenzweig)


This is another one where I will let the people involved do the talking. In this case, it’s editor Glenn Lazzaro whose work we have already seen several times on here. You can click his name in the tags section to see the music videos I have done so far that he worked on. Credit goes to 99Tigers for putting up a post up containing the following:

Posted by Glenn Lazzaro for his series “Adventures in Television”

National Video Center, New York City, 1985.

In the early ’80s when hip hop & rap were first noticed by the mainstream, most of the music videos were dance tracks and for the most part, devoid of political messages. Then Kurtis Blow released the single “America” and all that changed. It was a political rant about everything that was happening during the Reaganomics-Cold War-Anti-Russian era in America. Claude Borenzweig, then working at Polygram Records, was editing & directing internal projects when he got the chance to direct the “America” music video. Claude came up with the idea of a classroom filled with kids where Kurtis would teach them the “real” history of America. David Brownstein and Len Epand produced the shoot for Claude on the main stage at National Video. They shot on videotape using the giant, old-school studio cameras that were usually used to shoot “Sexually Speaking with Doctor Ruth.”

Claude did a rough cut using the classroom footage he directed, and a second cut using stock footage that we would combine in the edit. As usual, we went into the edit room over the weekend so we’d have all the time and equipment we needed. We needed time because we had no edit list, no After Effects, no digital storage, no tracking marks. Just an old Ampex ADO and lots of “crossed fingers” that we’d match the motion between the camera moves and the composited footage. Sometimes it matched. Most times it didn’t.

Needless to say, the special effects seem crude compared to what is possible today. But at the time they were considered state-of-art. We also used the then very popular technique of running the footage thru a black & white monitor to distort it.

Claude hadn’t shot any footage for the Pledge Of Allegiance section of the song, so I was enlisted to lie under the title camera and lip-sync the part. Yes, that’s my ’80s mustache you see inserted into the blackboard starting at 18 seconds in.

Shortly after we finished the video, I worked with Frank Zappa on a week’s worth of programming called “Porn Wars” for the music show “Night Flight.” Zappa would appear at the PMRC Senate hearings in Washington during the day, then come to National Video in New York to tape his segments for “Night Flight.” One night I showed him “America.” He was really excited that the rap world was finally getting political and asked for a VHS copy. I was very proud.

Here is also an article written on it for Optic Music Magazine.

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According to mvdbase, Claude Borenzweig only went on to do a handful of music videos. According to IMDb, he is, or was working as a Psychotherapist.

Producer Len Epand appears to have worked on around 20 videos.

I can’t find any information on David Brownstein.

John Kraus shot the video. I can’t find any other credits for him.

Here’s an excerpt from Billboard magazine from November 23rd, 1985 concerning Claude Borenzweig:

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Here’s an excerpt from Billboard magazine from May 24th, 1986 about how the video was nominated for several awards:

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Enjoy!

Music Video of the Day: Tomorrow People by Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers (1988, dir. Paula Greif)


I don’t have much to say about this video.

It’s nice and simple. I like the use of the white dimension as I refer to it as when I see it in music videos. I wouldn’t be surprised if director Paula Greif was familiar with ABBA music videos because this does remind me of their white dimension videos in terms of the arrangement of people and the direction their heads are facing. My favorite part is how it bookends itself with the flower. At the beginning it is being handed by a child to an adult, and at the end of the video, the child hands it back to the adult.

According to Wikipedia, this song was voted in 2009 as the “85th Greatest One-Hit Wonder of the 80s” by VH1. It’s also worth noting that the album this song is from called Conscious Party was produced by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club.

Greif appears to have directed around 20 videos and produced a couple of them. Something particularly interesting about her credits is that she did enough with Duran Duran that she even has a page devoted to her on a Duran Duran fan Wiki.

Laura Israel and Glenn Lazzaro edited this video. She appears to have worked on about 15 music videos. All but one of them was either directed or co-directed by Greif. Israel went on to work as an editor on things such as Africa Unite: A Celebration of Bob Marley’s 60th Birthday (2008). She has also directed two documentaries called Windfall (2010) and Don’t Blink – Robert Frank (2015).

Enjoy!

Music Video of the Day: Push It by Salt-N-Pepa (1987, dir. Ted Demme)


Sorry I didn’t get this post up yesterday. I stupidly set the computer I realistically can only do these posts from to perform an all day and all night task that was both CPU and I/O intensive on Sunday. The last time I tried to interrupt it while doing something like that to do just about anything, the computer glitched out to you-need-to-restart-me levels. I was going to let it go. Of course, Lisa noticed, and jumped into action. I think a thank you goes without saying, but thank you nonetheless.

Okay, so it’s Black History Month. I already did Funkadelic last week. I hope to get in a variety of black artists this month. If I can, I am going to try to do one from all sorts of different genres, along with a few legends that I can find made it into some music videos despite their age. Doing nothing but rap would kind of miss the point of the month. Unfortunately, I can’t find a music video from country artist Charley Pride. Maybe I’ll find a way of sneaking him in anyways as a bonus on another post.

Up till now, I have hit Beastie Boys, N.W.A., and Run-D.M.C. That leaves me with just Public Enemy and Salt-N-Pepa in order to really hit the major groups of what I call the second-wave of post Rapper’s Delight rappers. The very first rap song I remember memorizing was Shoop. I learned it while I was in elementary school, and would have the lyrics playing on an endless loop in my head. Which of course is why I am not doing Shoop, but Push It instead.

The first thing I want to get out of the way is that director Ted Demme is the nephew of Jonathan Demme. This video is Demme’s first music video after starting Yo! MTV Raps, according to a quote from editor Glen Lazzaro on mvdbase.

Now lets get to the obvious. Salt-N-Pepa are known for songs about sex. In 1991 they would do a music video for their song Let’s Talk About Sex and would even follow that up a year later with the song called Let’s Talk About AIDS. That makes the GEICO commercial they did using this song especially perfect and extra hilarious. This early song talking about sex would, without changing anything, become a song about pushing one of the possibilities of sex back out of what this song was talking about putting something into. You have to love that. In fact, Let’s Talk About Sex brings up the possibility of pregnancy if you don’t practice safe sex, so it fits that they would be singing this song in a birthing class at one point.

According to mvdbase, this video was recorded live. It’s a pretty standard stage performance all things considered. You can tell that Demme, like his brother, knew the artists he was filming, and catered it to their style. There’s a little Easter Egg in here. At about 3 minutes and 9 seconds, you can see that they tilted the frame upwards toward the right.

Tom Demme would go on to direct a couple other feature films before passing away in 2002 at the age of 38.

James Neihouse was the assistant cameraman on this and at least two other music videos. He has gone on to do a fair amount of work as a cinematographer. It looks like a lot of them are documentaries such as those you would see on the Discovery Channel.

Glenn Lazzaro has done some work outside of music videos, but they seem to have been his primary thing. He has edited somewhere between 75 and 80 music videos. Not small ones either. We’ll see his work again. In fact, I guarantee we’ll see his work again come March Madness.

Enjoy!

Music Video of the Day: Your Love by The Outfield (1986, dir. John Jopson)


I must admit that at times I do pick out music videos or films to write about simply because I know that they will get hits. Despite that, I do tend to gravitate to things that at least other people aren’t talking about, but watch en masse. Today isn’t one of those days. This happens to be one of my favorite songs, that once again, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City’s soundtrack introduced me to.

The first and most obvious thing is the lead singer is a little person. At a time when they were either Ewoks, Leprechauns, Trolls, and/or Sorcerers on the big screen, we had Tony Lewis belting out songs like Your Love on MTV being broadcast into people’s homes. That’s something a lot of people who are anti-music video forget. These short films brought so much culture to people that they would have been ignorant of were it not for their existence.

Now, to be fair, we also had Phil Fondacaro in Troll (1986) delivering a surprisingly good performance when he was not in costume. But we aren’t here to talk Harry Potter today.

Aside from the size of the lead singer, and them playing that up, I like that this video has four layers of capturing reality built into it. The first is the plan vanilla flavored “have the band stand on a stage and play”. It’s been done to death, and would be repeated in one form or another again and again for decades without any foreseeable end.

The second is when we step behind the scenes of that video and see the camera, crane, and crew shooting that plain vanilla flavored video. We saw that in something like I Ran (So Far Away) by A Flock Of Seagulls as well. It’s the self-reflexive version of what we are looking at.

The third is that throughout this video there is a painting motif to the whole thing. This appears in the backgrounds. Sometimes paint literally is put across the frame. Then there is the girl who is presumedly painting a portrait of Tony as he sings. This is when the video has now stepped from the fantasy of the performance to the reality of the shooting of the video to the fantasy of representing something as a painting.

Then the video goes for one more when it returns the video back to reality once again by pulling the camera out to the street threw the previous layers to show the girl leaving the studio with the painting. It’s a very drab and boring shot to end on with some blue paint that runs down the frame till it cuts to black.

I love that none of these four different places are cleanly segmented from each other. An example is when we see the guitarist leave the stage to go over and look in on the girl doing the painting.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I doubt it. One, it is an 1980s video when they really seemed to get creative. Also, this is one of those videos where we know more than just the director. According to IMVDb, Glenn Lazzaro edited the video. He’s worked on his fair share of music videos and other films. Karen Bellone produced the video and seems to have done that for several music videos. Likely both Lazzaro and Bellone have directed or worked on more music videos that are just not properly documented.

I haven’t really strongly mentioned it before, but IMDb really does want submissions of music videos. These are highly undocumented short films that could keep me going till the day I died, and I still would barely get out of the 1980s. Even with Internet Music Video Database and mvdbase, this stuff is still full of holes, and belongs in the central repository that is IMDb.

That said, Mvdbase turns up a bunch more videos for all three of the people I mentioned. I had completely forgotten about that database and will be going back to clean up some of my previous entries. So, submit!