Hooked on a Feeling, Vol. 1
This week, Stuck Between Stations combed through a Denny’s shortstack of YouTube bookmarks to find videos that simply will not escape the brain, no matter how many times you call the sheriff to force their eviction. The visual equivalent of ear-worms, these A/V train wrecks take up residence in the corpus callosum, either because of or despite their badness, and lodge there for keeps, like grains of sand in your Juicyfruit. There are elements of awe and sadomasochism at work here. It’s not just that these videos are “so bad they’re good” (though there’s plenty of campy indulgence); we’ve come to genuinely love these “bad” music videos, and offer no apologies. In Vol. 1, Roger and Scot subject themselves to South Indian breakdancing music, the bizarre-but-relevant soul stylings of Tay Zonday, a troupe of angry geriatrics covering The Who, an airborne David Hasselhoff, the worst Star Wars theme song cover ever taped, and Leonard Nimoy’s foray into Hobbiton.
Roger Moore’s Picks
There are days when the hurt just won’t go away, when thrashing your way through the loudest punk anthem still won’t pull you from your own useless puddle of anger and fear. These are the days that you want, and perhaps need, the lovingly processed cheese that is Vijaya Anand’s late 80s electro-raga mishmash, “Neeve Nanna (Only You Were Mine).” The song is a highlight of Dance Raja Dance: Asia Classics, Vol. 1, the oddly enduring 1992 Luaka Bop compilation of “musical director” Anand’s South Indian film music.
To experience “Neeve Nanna” in its full glory, watch the video below from Anand’s film Dance Raja Dance, which features breakdancers channeling their inner Michael Jackson and cavorting in the worst man-blouses this side of Jerry Seinfeld’s infamous puffy shirt. To comprehend the cultural wires crossed here, it helps to know that Anand posed for the CD sleeve wearing a Miami Vice t-shirt, and that the song’s actual singer, the legendary Sripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam, appears to have two chins and about a hundred pounds on the guy in the video. If this one doesn’t put a smile on your face, consult your doctor and pharmacist immediately.
Vijaya Anand, “Neeve Nanna”
It’s Raining Nerds
This year’s reigning homemade You Tube conversation piece, Tay Zonday’s “Chocolate Rain” has continued the grand tradition of Hank Ballard’s 1954 blues “Work With Me, Annie” and UTFO’s 1984 rap “Roxanne, Roxanne” by spawning a whole cottage industry of covers and parodies, including a rather smarmy version by John Mayer. Zonday’s improbably booming voice gets compared to both James Earl Jones and God (Old Testament version), and his trademark twitches deserve their own cartoon. But his rambling ditty gets closer to confronting everyday racism than anything mainstream soul has produced this year. And none of the video parodies can touch Zonday’s Nerd Hall of Fame original, which makes you think Jaleel White’s TV character Urkel has grown up, gone to graduate school, and composed a musical rebuttal to Hernstein and Murray’s dubious 1994 book on race, class and IQ, The Bell Curve.
Tay Zonday, “Chocolate Rain”
Dignified and Old
We were thrilled to learn that distinguished music writer Richard Gehr plugged Stuck Between Stations in his fine “Music for Grownups” column on the website of the AARP. While this has temporarily made us feel even older than we actually are, we’re viewing this as an opportunity. In an effort to reach out to our new demographic, here’s the Zimmers’ age-appropriate video version of the Who’s “My Generation,” featuring a nonagenarian lead singer, a chorus with a reputed combined age over 3000 years, and a new spin on DA Pennebaker’s poster concept for Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” video. It doesn’t matter that a BBC documentarian assembled the Zimmers as a novelty act; that doesn’t make them any less “real” than the Sex Pistols, or any less angry.
The Zimmers, “My Generation”
Scot Hacker’s picks
Hooked on Hasselhoff
My dusty collection of 1970s K-Tel and Ronco records includes among its sea of awesome singles not one, not two, but three copies of B.J. Thomas’ 1969 masterwork Hooked on a Feeling – a song that rang out in every summer school ceramics and leather working class I took as a kid throughout the 70s.
The classic jeremiad was bravely re-made in 1997 by the inimitable Knight Rider / Baywatch star David Hasselhoff, gleaming white teeth floating in a cardboard cutout sundown over classic 1980s bluescreen, Alaskan wilderness below him, angels all around, catching wild salmon between his teeth, riding a motorcycle (helmet-less, since he’s a bad-ass) through golden meadows, pogo-ing with African tribesmen in a joyous ritual dance, flying free with the seagulls in what I take to be a paean to the parody of Jonathan Livingston Seagull that I for some reason read repeatedly at 13, Jonathan Segal Chicken (this was around the time of Kentucky Fried Movie, remember). It’s clear that what Hasselhoff is really hooked on is himself. How Hasselhoff decided it would be a good idea to integrate a dancing bear in the “Ouga shocka ouga ouga ouga ouga shocka” intro from Johnny Preston’s even earlier “Running Bear” is anyone’s guess.
David Hasselhoff, “Hooked on a Feeling
It’s tempting to draw parallels between Hasselhoff and William Shatner — both has-beens mock their own stature as cultural icons. Rather than fade out and become irrelevant, both have decided that campy self-mockery is a more certain route to immortality in the public imagination. But Shatner has done the pomo self-promo thing with more taste and humor. Is this vid the last we’ll hear from Hasselhoff?
Star Wars on Ice… Without the Ice
We don’t know exactly which beauty pageant this comes from, but Stacy Hedger’s performance of the theme song from Star Wars takes musical self-flaggelation to whole new levels. As if her tarted up ice-rink getup and her poorly rehearsed cheerleader dance routine aren’t bad enough, Hedger starts off in the wrong key… and stays there.
Stacy Hedger, “Star Wars Theme”
You gotta feel for Stacy. She thought she knew that nothing could be worse than revealing your gaffe – to change key in mid-stream would have been to admit her initial chromatic mistake. So she chose to stick with the wrong key throughout the song. But it gets weirder – after the ‘droid dance break mid-way through, Hedger could have come back in on the right key, but she doesn’t — which changes the game. Could it be that Stacy actually had practiced the song this way? That these are the only notes she knew, and that switching it up wasn’t an option? Is she actually playing it here as rehearsed?
The clincher comes at the end, when the audience breaks into thunderous… silence. Not a single smattering of applause. Apparently they were completely shell-shocked from the consciousness-shattering performance – but unlike you, they had the privilege of witnessing this moment of supreme badness live.
The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins
William Shatner didn’t have a stranglehold on self-satire — Leonard Nimoy was every bit as willing to indulge, and taped this stunning homage to the outsider Hobbit with a gaggle of adoring Tolkein/Rodden fanboys and girls sometime in the late 60s.
Somewhere, there’s a line between sincerity and 4th-level irony; but Shatner doesn’t know how to find it. Drawing a parallel between Hobbit and Vulcan strap-on ears was a gesture of fantasy brilliance.
Leonard Nimoy, “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”
We’ve barely scratched the surface of the vast landscape of bad music videos. Got a particularly distressing one to share? Let us know, and we’ll wrap them up in Vol. 2.