If you're ever looking for me Monday through Friday from 6:00 – 6:30 a.m., you can usually find me on the couch drinking my coffee and watching TV. I'll warn you that I'm not real lucid during that time so if you do find me, avoid asking me anything that requires an accurate or intelligible answer. Best to wait until after the coffee's had a chance to work its voodoo, then add another 2 -- shall we call them "courtesy" hours? and you may get something slightly more coherent than grunts and snorts.
Despite the funk that is my morning, I am at least a little discerning with my television viewing. First, gotta check out the weather -- that's a given. Then maybe a little Morning Joe on MSNBC to get the blood pumping (I don't care what your political bent is. Watching Pat Buchanan first thing in the morning is like snorting cocaine off a rabid badger's shaved ass). And during the commercials I like to check out VH1 Classic.
VH1 Classic is my guilty pleasure. Can't help it, make no apologies for it. I'm a sucker for music videos -- especially those from the 80s. In fact, if the playlist is really groovy, I might not even go back to MSNBC -- even when I know their commercials must be over. All cocaine, no badger, VH1 is.
But to know me is to know that something pisses me off about everything and, sadly, I have found the chink in VH1's armor: Whenever they're not playing music videos? And they decide to talk? They lie.
It took me a while to realize this since the only time I really watch VH1 is during the foggy time that is my morning coffee. But one morning I swore I heard someone refer to Guns N' Roses as one of the greatest bands in rock & roll history. Not that they managed to sell a surprising number of crappy albums to tone deaf, pre-pubescent boys who think they sound just like Axl in the shower and, ergo, must be cool, or that they managed to get any airplay for their abominable, god-awful remake of Bob Dylan's masterpiece "Knocking On Heaven's Door," but that they were one of the greatest bands ever. Funk or no, that got my attention -- attention I began paying to what had until then been flying under my morning radar.
Ordinarily I wouldn't mind much if they eulogized some has-beens in too-glowing terms. But what if one day after my death my kids, curious about what my childhood must have been like, tuned in and thought that perhaps I had been a GNR fan since, after all, they were one of the greatest bands in history? And what if subsequently they thought me a bigger ass than I was? Living it down would be one thing. Dying it down is impossible. Besides, I don't need VH1's help in making me look like an ass.
And so I consider it my duty to set the record straight on a few things that VH1 gets really wrong. For the kids. For (what's left of) my reputation. For the music.
In no particular order ...
1. KISS was never cool. Ever. The whole womanizers thing? Have you seen the Gene Simmons sex tape? And there's a fairly large body of evidence that supports the position that Paul Stanley is gay. No, KISS was for people who didn't have the balls to embrace GWAR.
2. Def Leppard are not tortured geniuses. They're idiots. Their name is not cool. They're just too stupid to spell deaf or leopard correctly. (See: Bill and Ted's Big Adventure.)
3. Motley Crüe blows. They are, however, interesting. I mean, it's not everybody who gets to fuck Pamela Anderson or who shot up their body weight in heroin in a single dose or whatever the fuck they're famous for. But let us not confuse "being interesting" for "being talented." Otherwise my favorite homeless guy, Mr. To Eat, who haunts the streets of Center City Philadelphia repeating the same chant/plea for money so that he may have something to eat, may be the most talented mother fucker on the planet.
4. The world was never on the edge of its seat wondering what Madonna's next incarnation would be. Nobody who actually knew shit about music cared. The whole "reinventing yourself" thing? That's what people who can't for the life of them imagine how they got famous do. Like "tomatoes never hit a moving target" or something.
5. While there are certainly talented individuals in the band, Joe Walsh is the only long-term palatable thing about The Eagles.
6. The Clash were possibly the farthest thing from a "one hit wonder" that music will ever know. Joe Strummer's work with the Mescaleros is the stuff societies are built on.
7. Legos did not make music. Queen deserves better. Love him or hate him, Freddie raised the bar.
8. The Beatles "Rock Band" videos are amazingly bad at conveying just how amazing and influential the band actually was. See the movie "Let It Be" for a more accurate record.
9. In fact, quite a few ultra-talented musicians managed to make some of the worst videos on earth. Don't judge them too harshly by their VH1 presence. Among some of the worst video-to-raw talent quotient misrepresentations: Yes. The Rolling Stones. Aerosmith. Stevie Wonder. Bruce Springsteen.
10. On the other side of the coin, there are acts that probably would never have succeeded were it not for the music video. Falco. Abba. Thomas Dolby. Falco.
There are today many media watchers who have pronounced the music video dead. While I agree that the current crop of artists seem to fall under number 10, once in a while the cosmos conspire to bring something so energizing as to renew your hope in the genre. And so I leave you with this video. It is one of the reasons that I will return again and again to VH1, despite their lies. Because artistry cannot be diluted, no matter how you piss on the backdrop on which it's presented.
"Art is making something out of nothing and selling it." -- Frank Zappa
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