In this video, George Clinton is an alien who manufactures green cubes that cause who people who swallow them to enter into virtual reality. Thomas Dolby is force fed a cube and soon, he’s making out with Marilyn Monroe, bombing Washington D.C., and imagining himself as Marlon Brando in The Wild One. It proves Dolby with the type of rush that he couldn’t get just from going to the local video shop. Can you say LSD?
This video came out in 1985 but May The Cube Be With You didn’t actually appear on any of Dolby’s albums until 1988. That was when it was included as a bonus track on Dolby’s third studio album, Aliens Ate My Buick. People who bought the album on vinyl didn’t get the bonus track but those who purchased it on either cassette or CD did. Yes, there was a time when people bought cassettes for the extras.
The video shop at the start of this video was located in London. It’s now an internet cafe.
Peter Care co-directed this video with Dolby. Care is also credited with directing videos for R.E.M, New Order, Depeche Mode, and Bonnie Tyler.
71 years ago today, Andy Kaufman was born in New York City.
The self-described “song and dance man” often expressed his displeasure at being called a “comic,” but it can not be denied that he changed the face of American comedy. As Kaufman once put it, “I am not a comic, I have never told a joke. … The comedian’s promise is that he will go out there and make you laugh with him… My only promise is that I will try to entertain you as best I can.” Kaufman’s brand of performance art was featured on both Saturday Night Live and Taxi. When Kaufman died of lung cancer at the young age of 35, many refused to believe that he had died and instead said that, like Kaufman’s wrestling career and his Tony Clifford persona, it was just another elaborate hoax. To this day, there are Kaufman truthers out there who are waiting for Andy to come out of hiding.
R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe was one of those who spent his teenage years watching Andy Kaufman on Saturday Night Live. Man on the Moon was Stipe’s tribute to Andy Kaufman and the song is full of references to Kaufman’s life. Kaufman was famed for Elvis impersonations and Stipe even attempts to imitate the King himself when sings, “Hey, baby, are we losing touch?” Stipe has also said that the song was meant to be a tribute to Kurt Cobain and that the refrain of “yeah yeah yeah” was Stipe’s way of paying homage to Cobain’s frequent use of the word in his lyrics.
The video was directed over three days in Antelope Valley in California. The video opens with Stipe in the desert, catching a ride from Bill Berry and eventually reaching a truck stop where he and the other customers watch Andy Kaufman perform on TV.
Happy birthday, Andy, wherever you are!
On October 4th, 1986, CBS News anchor Dan Rather was attacked on the streets of New York by a man who, as he pummeled Rather, repeatedly shouted, “Kenneth, what is the frequency?!” When a doorman intervened to protect Rather, the man took off running. (Some accounts say that there were actually two men attacking Rather.)
Though he wouldn’t be identified for another 11 years, the attacker’s name was William Tager. Tager believed that the television networks were beaming signals into his brain. In 1994, he killed a stagehand while trying to force his way into NBC studios. In 1997, while Tager was serving a 25-year prison sentence, he was identified as the man who had attacked Rather. Tager was subsequently paroled in 2010.
The same year that Tager was arrested, R.E.M. released a song called What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? Though the song was clearly inspired by the attack on Rather, lead singer Michael Stipe has also said that the song was about an older man trying to understand the younger generation.
The video for What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? was directed by frequent R.E.M. collaborator Peter Care and features the band performing the song. The jacket worn by bassist Mike Mills once belonged to the legendary Gram Parsons.
Rumors that R.E.M. stands for “Rather’s Ear Muffs” were once popular but have been denied by the band. Instead, Michael Stipe selected the name after randomly coming across “Rapid Eye Movement” in the dictionary.
“It’s a subtle, political thing. Michael specifically mentions the term ‘bush-whacked’. But if you want to take it like ‘Stand’, that’s cool, too. You like to think that you can appreciate these songs on any level you want to. I have a lot of records I listen to when I’m just doing the dishes. Like Ride records. I really like Ride a lot. And I have no idea what the songs are about. And I really don’t care. I don’t even worry about it. Lyrics are the last thing I listen to, unless someone is hitting me over the head with it.”
— R.E.M.’s Peter Buck on Drive
Drive may have written to encourage young people to get involved in politics and to vote but I have always thought that the video was about the dangers of crowd surfing. The video was filmed over two nights at Los Angeles’s Sepulveda Dam. According to Michael Stipe, both Oliver Stone and actor River Phoenix showed up for the filming: “Oliver had been drinking and they got into a fight in my trailer. It was fun to watch. And it kind of fueled the energy that this video, from beginning to end, kind of carries through it.”
This video was one of several videos that Peter Care directed for R.E.M. Care also directed videos for Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Depeche Mode, and Fine Young Cannibals. Care has also directed one feature film, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys.
Supposedly, Adam Scott is an extra in the video. I have yet to spot him.