The selections are all over the map: There was one tape that consisted of all those insane animated versions of Dr. Seuss stories (upon further review, The Lorax is seriously fucked up, isn’t it?); another cassette featured a bunch of old episodes of WWF Primetime Wrestling, from when I was way into pro-wrestling (as opposed to now, where I’m only moderately into pro-wrestling).
But the real find over the weekend was a tape full of stuff ganked from MTV. Carbon dating and some feverish Googling demonstrate that most of the stuff was broadcast some time in the summer or fall of ’95. There was a live Green Day concert, a bunch of episodes of the London edition of The Real World (still my favorite of all time), and at least two cut-off episodes of my favorite bit of MTV programming of all time: The extremely weird video/interview show Superrock, hosted by Jackie Farry (who, if I’m not mistaken, was Frances Bean Cobain’s nanny, right?). One of them featured Farry interviewing Rob Zombie. They talk about comic books, how much Zombie hates drummers, and an insane contest that MTV held where you could submit your band’s demo and win an opening slot on White Zombie’s upcoming tour (if there is anybody out there who saw that tour and/or might have actually won that prize, please drop me some knowledge about the experience). The combination of videos shown is too weird to talk about, so I’ll attempt to review some of them below.
The other diamond in the rough was an episode of Alternative Nation taped pretty close to the show’s death knell (I’m pretty sure they harpooned it some time in early ’96, but I could be wrong). Hosted by the could-very-well-be-the-universe’s-most-annoying-harpie Kennedy, I’m pretty sure I taped this particular episode because it was recorded at the Meadows Music Theater in Hartford, and the special guests were Trent Reznor and David Bowie, who were touring together at the time. Bowie was plugging a very Trent-influenced industrial concept record called Outside, and Trent was on the last leg of his “Self-Destruct” tour for The Downward Spiral. It’s a crazy-ridiculous hour of television, where Trent and Bowie tell filthy in-jokes to Kennedy, and she retaliates by talking about her breasts a lot. Not much is mentioned about the actual tour, their respective albums, or anything at all, really. The one thing that stood out (and I’m not sure that my angst-ridden, Nine Inch Nails-loving middle school brain could fathom this at the time) was that Trent comes across as really, really fey. Like, he makes Bowie look like an alpha male. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but it made for an extremely weird dynamic (especially during their discussion of astrology and compatibility–shudder. In fact, the only thing weirder was the collection of videos played during the show. I will attempt to review/summarize this magic cache of genius (and in many cases, colossal failure) below. This is what MTV was in 1995? Damn, if this is what we could be getting, then I’m totally fine with endless airings of Singled Out and Sandblast as long as we can get back to the supreme weirdness of the following videos.
DAVID BOWIE, “THE HEART’S FILTHY LESSON
The song is a weird industrial-prog-story-song nightmare, but the video is scary as all hell in the sense that you can’t quite fathom that anybody could ever think of anything like this. There’s a lot of Bowie splashing around in some mud in a warehouse, a lot of goofy shots of a mannequin being held up by marionette strings being tossed around a drum kid, and at one point a falcon shows up. I may have hallucinated that last thing, which is wont to happen when you’ve got Sir David mumbling things about a “fantastic death abyss.” It gets an A- simply because I guarantee this airing was the only time it ever appeared on MTV.
FIGHT, “BLOWOUT IN THE RADIO ROOM”
See, this is what I’m talking about! Who the hell remembers Fight? Do the members of Fight even remember Fight? This video is tremendous: The song is annoying and too long, the visuals are all confusing and out of focus, and the band is not seen at all. It’s just like a Tool video, except not nearly as interesting. However, it’s absolutely compelling because I cannot fathom the logic behind putting this on the air. Video: C. Sociological and philosophical questions raised by the airing of this video: A+.
MONSTER MAGNET, “NEGASONIC TEENAGE WARHEAD”
Weren’t these guys supposed to be the next big thing? I seem to remember “Spacelord” getting some good play (mostly because they shot a hip-hop video for it), but this was from their weird transitional record where they attempted to make the transition from psychedelic stoner rock to a more straightforward arena rock. It didn’t really take, which is why we get a really spacey metal track that has a lot of weird sci-fi effects that don’t appear to be interconnected in any sort of meaningful way. That’s fine, especially considering that this has got to be the only clip ever shown on MTV that prominently features a static shot of some sort of space wizard staring at a rotating crystal ball for almost a minute. Too awesome. A
NINE INCH NAILS, “HEAD LIKE A HOLE”
Apparently made for all of eight bucks, this thing hasn’t aged well. Sure, the shots of Trent being hoisted by his feet up above the band while trying to play guitar are pretty amusing, but what the hell is up with that footage of those tribal warriors twirling their staffs? And what’s with the rotating head? Still, much love to the use of the negative effect on the shot of the dreadlocked guy whipping water out of a bucket. This is a video about whipping water around with your hair. This is industrial rock. This is industrial rock? This is industrial rock! B-
The moral? 1995 was the year meandering broke. Lose your focus, MTV Come back, Idalis! All is forgiven!