When I was fifteen, I fell in love. A deep, all-consuming and pure adoration from which I’ve never really recovered.
When I was fifteen, I discovered music. I mean, really discovered it. Big fat basslines that rolled and rumbled in my stomach. Thundering drums which bucked and charged like wild horses through my veins. And the power chord. Always the power chord. Reverberating through every molecule and stripping away the static.
Last year, I discovered what has quickly become my favorite new band – The Gaslight Anthem. I’m no mathematician, but if I was — an equation would essentially go like this:
Gaslight Anthem = Bruce Springsteen + The Replacements x Tom Waits (The Clash)/ The Supremes.
Is it any small wonder that these four boys from Jersey are my musical soulmates?
Their music has been on permanent replay in my home, car and head for the past couple of weeks and has had me echoing Alex Chilton, “I’m in love/What’s that song?/I’m in love/With that song.” I’ve also been tracking down every video I can find on YouTube and watching them over-and-over-and-over-rollercoaster (and if you can complete that lyric, I owe you pizza, beer and my complete fealty).
Which brings me to my next point – When did the short form music video die? Dudes, I used to spend hours watching these things and the fact that MTV doesn’t have a single channel dedicated to videos (the old ones. I don’t care about Miley Cyrus singing about glitter or ponies or whatever the hell it is she warbles about) irks me to no end.
Also, what the hell, MTV? How can you possibly justify awarding video music awards when you don’t even show them anymore? If you want to give out awards for Most Orange Human Being or Dumbest Sperm Donor, by all means — do so, but awards for best art direction and choreography? Come off it.
MTV needs to bring back music videos. They need to bring back Idalis, John Sencio, Kennedy and Bill Bellamy. What? You think they’ve busy?
I loved the grandiosity of music video mini movies. Michael Jackson was a master of this, but he wasn’t the only one who knew a thing or two about creating an epic production:
November Rain by Guns ‘N Roses – The video’s based on a short story by this dude Del James and it suckers me in every single time. The roses on the casket, Slash’s helicopter-shot guitar solo, Axl’s fake wedding to Stephanie Seymour that everyone said wasn’t fake? It’s brilliant, it’s poetic, it’s actually pretty damn heartwrenching and it’s like, 87% better than most feature length films released in the past decade.
Rush Rush by Paula Abdul — Look, you know it’s awesome. Just admit it. I ain’t gonna judge. Keanu and Paula reenacting Rebel Without A Cause features the best spoken interlude in music video history:
Paula: Can I ask you something? Have you ever been in love?
Keanu: If I was I didn’t know it. You?
Paula: No. Isn’t that terrible?
Keanu: Terrible? No. It just reminds you that we’re all alone, that’s all.
Yeah. This is Dylanesque poetry. No, not Thomas. No, not Bob either. Yeah. That Dylan. Dylan McKay.
Janie’s Got A Gun by Aerosmith – As dire and dark as the subject matter is, I love the story behind the songs. Turn out that before Steven Tyler played everyone’s favorite lecherous uncle on American Idol, he was a bit of a rock ‘n roll legend. The self-described Demon of Screamin’ had the title stuck in his head and kept chasing it around – “Janie’s got a gun. Janie’s got a gun.” But why? Why does Janie have a gun and what the hell is she planning on doing with it? So, he starts reading about cases of child abuse in the United States and from there, a classic was born. I love the idea of chasing something around in your head for months and finally being able to set it free.
California Love by Tupac – Post-apocalyptic George Clinton, Tupac and Dr Dre playing Robbin’ The Hood and a pretty bad-ass take on Mad Max. Although, I gotta say that Pac and Dre are not the most terrifying Thunderdome competitors. Now, you throw early 90s era Ice Cube in the mix (complete with menacing sneer and jheri curl) and you’ve got a party. And by party, I mean bloodbath.
Keep It On The Down Low by R. Kelly – Ronald Isley cripples our boy Kels and leave him in the desert to die like a stray dog. I don’t think I need to say anymore.
As much as I love these, I’m a much bigger fan of performance and tour videos. No-one did tour videos better than the hair metal bands of the 80s. Home Sweet Home by Motley Crue and Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi are prime examples of the best this genre had to offer. The Crue and Bon Jovi aren’t just bands. Oh no. Oh no. They are wandering warrior poets riding steel horses and slingin’ six strings. They see your face amidst millions, they will rock it and then, they’ll get off this long and winding road and head home sweet home.
And then, you’ve got the performance video. Nothing more than the band and their instruments. No gimmicks, no tricks and no place to hide. I think that’s why I like The Gaslight Anthem’s video for Great Expectations so much. It’s raw, direct and damned if Brian Fallon doesn’t sing like he’s trying to excise demons, earn redemption and heal his wounded heart.
For a while, I’ve been worried that the passionate and idealistic part of me had withered. It’s been a long time since I fell in love with a band. I mean, true love. The way you’re supposed to. The way Sapphire explains it in Almost Famous – “They don’t even know what it is to be a fan. Y’know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts.”
But then, I discover this band of brothers from across the river who sing like Springsteen, scream like Strummer and remind me that when it comes to good music, love springs eternal.