Sing a Song of Seeing

  • Share
  • Read Later

Rock videos are firing up a musical revolution

"Have you seen the new Michael Jackson song?"

—One ten-year-old to another, on a Manhattan subway

And you may find your self living

in a shotgun shack

And you may find yourself in

another part of the world

And you may find your self behind

the wheel of a large


And you may find yourself in

a beautiful house, with a

beautiful wife

And you may ask yourself—

Well. . .how did I get


—David Byrne, Once in a Lifetime

You may also find yourself in the Schaumburg Snuggery. For navigational purposes, it will help to know that you are 21 miles northwest of Chicago. Not the twilight zone exactly, but not the main stem either. With a little imaginative set decoration, the Schaumburg Snuggery could be converted to a roadhouse from a John O'Hara novel; a juke joint from the Big Band era; a belly-up beer parlor with a platform for a three-piece oldies combo; or the only place in America where no one has heard that disco is dead. A perfect period set—for any period—if it were not for those screens.

There are eleven of them, some as big as a wallboard, others as small as your home tube. They are not there to fill the Schaumburg Snuggery with guzzlers who want to watch a weekend of football. Those eleven piercing rectangles all over the place are strictly for music. People dance and drink and date, all while seeing music.

Yes. Seeing.

Michael Jackson. David Byrne and Talking Heads. Billy Joel. David Bowie. All of them, and dozens more, reeling and rocking across those eleven screens in a serenade of sensory overload. The place is packed. "We haven't played a record since last June," says the Snuggery's John Clausen, whose video disc jockeys play tapes the way radio deejays spin platters. So rock on, Schaumburg Snuggery. You may be just a secondary target in the great video blitzkrieg—the vidblitz—that has shaken up Hollywood, salvaged the record business and set up a whole new way of responding to music. But at least you're tuned in. Wired. When the global village starts to rock, you'll be right on the fault line.

Increasingly, and perhaps irreversibly, audiences for American mainstream music will depend, even insist, on each song's being a full audiovisual confrontation. Why should sound alone be enough when sight is only as far away as the TV set or the video machine? Whole generations have had their brains fried with a cathode ray tube, a condition that creates a certain impatience and shortness of attention when limited to aural input. Posterity can rest easy—as Billy Joel points out, "Beethoven didn't have no videos, and he's been hanging in there"—but for rockers, popsters and soul brethren, video will be the way to keep time with the future.

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. 8
  10. 9
  11. 10
  12. 11