Where are you now? ‘Cause I don’t want to meet you…
I briefly touched on this one a few years back in my Duranalysis of the band’s agreeably half-assed 1981 video for “Careless Memories”, but it’s worthy of in-depth scrutiny on its own. This is the delightfully bonkers anime-style video (we’re all calling it “Duranime” from here on out, yes?) that played on the screen behind Duran Duran while the band performed “Careless Memories” on the 2004 Astronaut tour.
“Do you know me? Of course you do. That’s because I’m famous!”
Be Somebody… Or Be Somebody’s Fool is an educational video from 1984 in which Mr. T—bouncer turned fighter turned actor turned pop-culture icon—provides kids with a series of life lessons. It was directed by Jeff Margolis, best known as a prolific director of awards shows; over the years, Margolis has won an Emmy and two DGA Awards for directing the Academy Awards, which is a nifty fact to have on hand if you ever find yourself trying to make the case that Hollywood can be, at times, just a tad insular and self-congratulatory.
This is a fascinating cultural artifact. Despite being almost an hour long (and currently only available via muddy VHS copies that various kind souls have uploaded to YouTube), Be Somebody… Or Be Somebody’s Fool is compulsively watchable, mostly due to the goofball charisma of its star. Mr. T expanded his fame by deftly exploiting the dichotomy between his outsized persona—his musclebound physique, his mohawk hairdo, his pounds of jewelry—and his sunny, softhearted nature; here, the latter serves him well.
Like a radio tune I swear I’ve heard before…
“Come Undone” is the second single off of the band’s 1993 self-titled album, which is known far and wide as the Wedding Album, because Duran Duran had already released a self-titled album back in 1981 and life is plenty confusing as it is, thank you very much. The video was directed by JulienTemple, who also directed the classic 1988 comedy Earth Girls Are Easy. It’s a very pretty video (just look at all those bright, colorful, exotic fish! Just look at all those bright, colorful, exotic Durans!), but I’m correct in assuming we’d all rather be watching Earth Girls Are Easy, right?
Fake television band alert! I’m a sucker for a good fake television band, whether we’re talking about The Monkees, or Jem and the Holograms, or today’s raison d’etre, Kidd Video.
A half-hour blend of live action and animation, Kidd Video aired for two seasons on Saturday mornings on NBC from 1984 to 1985. It was produced by Haim Saban for Saban Entertainment, who would later go on to create the Power Rangers mega-franchise. While Kidd Video never reached anything approaching Power Rangers-esque levels of enduring pop-culture impact—for starters, it’s never had a proper home entertainment release, most likely because securing the music rights would be prohibitively complex and expensive—it’s nonetheless remembered fondly by MTV-crazed kids from that era.
I came across this fascinating cultural artifact recently on YouTube: It’s an interview with Simon and Nick from October 1984 for a music news show called Kulture Shock, which apparently aired on Tyne Tees Television in North East England. There’s not much of an online record for Kulture Shock; after doing some hunting, I could only scrounge up a whopping total of four relevant search results. There’s this video, there’s a performance by Duran Duran of “Girls On Film” circa ’81 or ‘82, back when Andy had shock-white hair and everybody favored those blue-and-white striped shirts, there’s an interview with the members of UB40, and there’s a performance by UB40. That’s it. While there’s an obvious explanation for the lack of an electronic trail—not everybody held onto grainy VHS copies of local television programs for thirty years before uploading them to YouTube, more’s the pity—I prefer to think Kulture Shock catered to a very selective pop-culture niche and, indeed, only produced episodes that focused on either Duran Duran or UB40. Because that would be kind of awesome.
I first fell in love with the 1992 anime series Sailor Moon in 1996 when I was working at a soul-killing temp job and living for my nightly dose of the weirdly-dubbed episodes that were then newly airing on U.S. television. Last year saw the debut of a reboot, Sailor Moon Crystal; I watched enough of Crystal to realize it was a limp and charmless copy of the original (the characters are poorly defined, and worse, it’s not funny), which then sparked a renewed craving for the pure, uncut glory of old-school Sailor Moon.
Sailor Moon centers around Usagi Tsukino, an adorably scatterbrained eighth-grade girl who discovers she’s a reincarnated super-powered princess from the moon. She fights an unending slew of villains and demons and miscreants from all over the galaxy with the aid of her four fellow reincarnated Sailor Soldiers: brainy Ami (Sailor Mercury), temperamental Rei (Sailor Mars), brawny Makoto (Sailor Jupiter), and glamorous Minako (Sailor Venus). Chief among Usagi’s non-Soldier allies are a talking cat named Luna and her much-older reincarnated boyfriend, Mamoru Chiba, who has his own secret identity: he’s Tuxedo Mask, a cape-wearing masked dandy who hurls roses as projectile weapons. A beautiful example of giddy, silly escapism, Sailor Moon is gonzo and hilarious, as well as boundlessly charming and often poignant.
Just that lately I’ve been so damn lonely when I think of you…
At long last! More Duranalysis! My original plan was to start tackling the Notorious videos—“Skin Trade” and “Meet El Presidente” along with the title track—but… well, look, nothing really happens in any of those videos, which makes them highly resistant to any attempt at in-depth quality Duranalyzing (“And then Christy Turlington wanders around while looking really pretty some more…”). So I’m speeding ahead to “Do You Believe In Shame?” off of the Big Thing album.
The video for “Do You Believe in Shame?” was directed in 1989 by celebrated auteur Chen Kaige, who, four years later, would receive the Palme d’Or at Cannes for Farewell My Concubine. It’s a gorgeous, evocative, melancholy video—a suitable accompaniment to a gorgeous, melancholy song.
Let’s take a look at another fabulous episode of the classic mid-eighties G.I. Joe cartoon, shall we? Here we have “Skeletons in the Closet,” a thrilling saga of retribution, espionage, ghosts, ancient cults, mystical creatures, and weird yet heartfelt attempts at Scottish brogues.
During a failed Cobra operation, the Baroness catches Destro canoodling in the bushes with a sexy blonde Cobra underling. Because the Baroness is awesomeness personified, she outwardly shrugs off Destro’s chronic infidelity, preferring instead to quietly plot terrible, elaborate vengeance against him.
Just in case anyone’s trying to make sense of all the pieces I’ve been posting, there’s no cohesive theme, unless it’s all under a nebulous umbrella of “Random Crap I Like.” Ergo, today we’ve got a recap of a 1985 episode of the syndicated G.I. Joe cartoon.
Not just any episode, though: “The Gamemaster” is probably the very best G.I. Joe episode, though I’m willing to hear arguments in support of “Skeletons in the Closet”, in which a negligee-clad Lady Jaye storms around her haunted Scottish castle wielding a golf club while hunting ghosts before getting offered up by a Druidic cult as a sacrifice to the multi-tentacled alien creature living in her basement. Oh, and she discovers Destro is her cousin or something. It’s an amazing episode. Still, I give a slight edge to “The Gamemaster” because the Joes and Cobra end up setting aside their differences and working together against a common enemy and, gosh darn it, I’m a sucker for that sort of thing.
So in 1986, Boy George appeared on an A-Team episode, and it was glorious.
For anyone who missed out on The A-Team’s contribution to the pop-culture zeitgeist of the eighties, it was a wildly popular hyper-macho action series about a wisecracking quartet of Vietnam veterans-turned-fugitives-turned-mercenaries: team leader Hannibal (George Peppard), pretty-boy con artist Face (Dirk Benedict), legally-insane pilot Murdock (Dwight Schultz), and muscle-bound softie B.A. (Mr. T). Airing on NBC from 1983 to 1987, it somehow managed to be witless and violent and inane and charming all at once. For anyone who missed out on Boy George’s contribution to the pop-culture zeitgeist of the eighties, he’s an androgynous English pop star known for his heavy makeup and penchant for cross-dressing, who, with his New Wave band Culture Club, had a number of catchy hits throughout the decade. So, y’know, obviously this was a synergistic pairing.