Genesis in 1974: Very Serious Art

Yes, another Midnight Special video is posted below. Apparently, YouTube’s algorithm is pretty simple:

- Watch Video A
- Get recommendations for anything remotely like Video A for the rest of your natural life

So I now get a lot of Midnight Special video recommendations.

Genesis of the 1970s is a very different band than Genesis of the 1980s, which is probably what most people think of when they think of Genesis. In the 80s, they were led by Phil Collins and produced a string of pop music hits. When Gabriel was the lead singer, they were about Art.

There is a lot of Art in the performance for “Watcher of the Skies”. Peter Gabriel, dressed as a kind of sad space clown vampire, is soaking in it. On the one hand, you have to admire the dedication to the act. They bought into it, and played it to the hilt. And it was the early 70s. People were into prog rock. Everyone took it Very Seriously.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that when Peter Gabriel picked up the tambourine and starts holding it over his face, I lost it. I laughed harder than I have in a long time. It felt good.

My apologies to Peter Gabriel, sad space clown vampire.

The video:

The tambourine in question:

“How do I play this thing?!”

Everybody have fun tonight

In September of 1986 I turned 25 years old. A song by Wang Chung was also released that month called “Everybody Have Fun Tonight.” At the time, I thought it was pretty dumb. It even had this eye-rolling lyric where the band invokes itself as the personification of fun:

Everybody have fun tonight
Everybody Wang Chung tonight

I was a very serious person at age 25.

Today I realize that while this is a confection–a song you dance (and have fun) to, it’s also a brilliantly executed pop gem. The whole thing just moves (or slaps in the hipster parlance of 2023).

The official video is probably not a great choice for people prone to epileptic seizures, but this live version from 1987 not only captures the energy of the recorded song, it demonstrates that Wang Chung was a fantastic live band. And now that I am, ahem, not 25, I can better appreciate what they did.

I suggest we all Wang Chung a little tonight1You don’t need to DRESS like Wang Chung tonight, but if you can pull off 1980s fashion in the 2020s, rock your socks off.

Jeremy (in 2020)

As happens sometimes, I went to watch a video on YouTube and found myself going down the rabbit hole, bouncing from one video to the next and there goes an hour of time in what feels like seconds.

It started with watching a live version of “Live and Let Die” from 2009, followed by the opening credits version, then another live version from 1973. The song was a big hit, but I’m still surprised because structurally it’s a bit odd, with no traditional verse/chorus and several sudden shifts in tone (which McCartney was known for, especially in his early 70s songs).

This eventually, somehow, led to an “uncensored” version of Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy.” I love just about everything about this song: it’s catchy, evocative, haunting, it’s great fun to sing along with (“You too can be Eddie Vedder!”) and the video, which won MTV’s Video of the Year award in 1992, is equally effective, due to the young actor playing Jeremy, the striking art direction and, of course, the ever-intense Vedder howling away, veins on his forehead bulging.

I figured the uncensored part was the line “seemed a harmless little fuck” because MTV generally did not allow f-bombs to be dropped on air. But it turned out to be a mere second of footage right near the end, where Jeremy walks into the classroom, tosses an apple to the teacher, then turns to face his classmates. You see him make a motion as if he is raising a gun, then the shot cuts away to show the other children in tableau, with looks of shock and horror on their faces, many of them splattered in blood.

Some took this to mean Jeremy had shot up the room, but the uncensored version, in that one second of previously unseen footage, shows him raising the gun and putting it in his mouth. It’s quite chilling, and while I always thought that’s what happened, it was still stunning to see it. I get why MTV would not air it–probably out of fear of inspiring troubled kids to emulate Jeremy–but it’s good to see Pearl Jam finally make the original version of the video widely available. Its message of bullying, depression and suicide are probably more relevant now than they’ve ever been.

A sad coda in the comments (I know, never read the comments, but the ones I read are surprisingly decent) notes that the actor who played Jeremy died in a drowning accident in 2016 at the age of 36. The band went to his funeral.

Here’s the video: