That first night in Texas where Johnny had a chance to finally actually
see MTV at it's height changed the vector of his life. It
was probably the first video that really did it, even though they all made an impact, that first one was special. It was like BAM!,
here we are, deal with us. First it had bi-plane flying toward the
screen without any music, just the sound of it's engine whining -
followed instantly by the opening guitar chords and drums of the Van
Halen song Panama. David Lee Roth floating
through the air on a wire, boom box on his shoulder, pilots goggles on
his eyes, tiger striped pants and a giant Tom Baker/Dr Who scarf
trailing behind. From the very first moment to the last it was
a spectacle, and it was simply the band performing on a stage/set
without an audience. It was just them, nothing else.
They didn't need anything else.
They already had David
and his Samurai Sword act, They had Eddie sliding across the
floor on his knees while his fingers danced across the fret board like a
spider running down a wall.
"You can't play like that, so well, so
fast and so easily... that's just not fair', Johnny thought.
"How's he do
that?" It was like watching an attack of wild
weasles, only they didn't just make chaos, they made music. Really
Rocking Music. It really wasn't about what the song was
"I reach between my legs, and ease my seat back", Roth would say.
"Is he talking about a girl, or a car? Or is it a girl in a car? Is this song about sex or a small Central American country with a canal running right down it's.., oh wait that's still sounds like a girl..." Johnny wondered.
He wasn't really sure what the song was saying, if
anything, it really didn't matter - it was just fun. It was exciting. It made
him want to dance, shake his hips and bang his head in time to the beat
at the same time. He even tried, right there in his cousin's living room at 2 in the morning.
From that moment, Johnny was
He wanted to see the next video, and the next. And
hit after hit rolled by. John Cougar's "Jack and
Diane" with it's iconic handclaps, and sweet little story
about two midwest kids.
Kim Carnes and her "Betty Davis Eyes".
It was like old radio used to be when DJ's could pick and choose their own songs to play. Some would put together a string of songs that had something in common. The color red, a certain phrase or lyric. Singers all born in the same state. There was a bit of thought put into which song to play next and why. MTV at that time wasn't quite as thought out, but it had a similar effect as many of the songs were from the Pop/Rock market and charts. But every once in a while they'd feature something a little different. Once in a while there would be a Twisted Sister song like "We're not Gonna Take It' which had become a Top 40 hit. There might be Quiet Riots "Come on Feel the Noize" which had even gone to Number One on the hit charts.
Johnny just couldn't stop watching. He didn't stop watching. He was up literally all night just to see what video would be next. If there would be another as good as "Panama" had been. He wanted to feel that again. He wanted to Rock.
When he came home from his trip, he tried to figure out how he could get another look at videos like those. He didn't have MTV, but he'd just recently met a new friend named Daryl who told him that he could catch a lot of music videos on Friday Night Videos after 11pm. And that after there was Good Night L.A. He and Daryl would hang out for hours every friday night, watching videos, taping them to watch over again later. Arguing about them.
"I just can't get into that rap stuff" Daryl would say.
"Uh, you do know your Black right?', Johnny would joke back.
"What's that got to do with it, I like what I like".
"So, you're uh, not really into that 'Walk This Way" remake with Run DMC?" Johnny would chide, pushing his buttons.
"Oh, Fuck that - it's a should be illegal to do that to a great Aerosmith song".
"Yeah, but the new chorus is better than the old one. He doesn't just repeat the line, he changes it every other time. Goes down an octave."
"I've just had it up to hear with all the scratching nonsense, it's no music - it's just playing a recording of someone else music over and over again. Where the skill to that, where's the talent?"
"They're just taking the best advantage of what they have. In the 50's they used to just sing all the instrumental parts because the kids were broke. They called it "Doo woop" right? Now they use old turntables, because they can't afford instruments - look at us and our low-rent MTV here?. I don't know, I've been to some parties where they used it like a drummer, they were like playing it to change the rythm, like beats between the beats. It can be cool if you know how, but I agree with you - most of these guys are barely doing anything interesting with it. They could if they tried." finished Johnny.
The irony of the discussion wasn't lost on either of them, but it was always like that when Johnny and Daryl got together, always giving each other a good natured hard time. They understood each other. It why they hung out together.
On those long nights watching FNV they mostly saw pop bands like Duran Duran or INXS, But on GNLA things could get interesting. Where as FNV might show the banned version of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax", GNLA would show the much more controversial "Two Tribes".
Right after a video by violin soloist Jon Luc Ponte they got their first look at the video for "Round and Round" by Ratt, which featured Milton Burle in drag.
These guys had that Van Halen vibe, but were more sleazy, more sexy, more dirty. The video itself was actually pretty funny as it shows a family trying to have dinner party directly downstairs from he noisy band. Eventually the ceiling collapses dropping lead guitarist Warren DiMartini directly into the middle of the pate'
Then there was the video for Motley Crue, "Too Young to Fall In Love" - now that was sleazy. It was actually creepy, like watching a horror movie. And man what was with that crazy out-of-control drummer?
Finally though, a video came on that took Johnny back to the night in Texas. Good Night L.A. played "Alone Again" by an L.A. Hard Rock band called Dokken.
The tone of the singers voice just spoke to Johnny the way that the Temptations had. The term "Power Ballad" really didn't exist yet, but it was certainly a ballad and it had power. It was plaintive and filled with pain, longing and loneliness.
"I tried to so hard, to make you see but I couldn't find the words Now the tears, they fall like rain I'm along again, without you"
Simple. Beautiful. Clear and to the point. Yet it wasn't a "love song". It was an anti-love song, an un-love song. This was about how relationships can and do fail. They fall apart, leaving nothing but destruction and regret. Blame and recrimination.
"Wow, you can rock and make a point too. A heartfelt personal point", Johnny thought. And why not, you can do whatever you want to do, whatever you can imagine.
The slow motion photography, mixed with black and white also took the over-the-top stage moves of the band, which were clearly in the Van Halen vein, and made them seem more majestic, a little more magical. This was one of the first video Johnny had seen done this way, and it was the one that helped him make up his mind. He was going to Do This.